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What the world thinks of us and our president

The Pew Research Center is out this morning with one of its massive samplings of global opinions about America. From the Pew summary of the results:

Global approval of President Barack Obama’s international policies has declined significantly since he first took office, but overall confidence in him and attitudes toward the U.S. have slipped only modestly as a consequence, finds a new survey of 21 countries by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project.

The Obama era has coincided with major changes in international perceptions of American power – especially U.S. economic power. The global financial crisis and the steady rise of China have led many to declare China the world’s economic leader, and this trend is especially strong among some of America’s major European allies.

 Even though many think American economic clout is in relative decline, publics around the world continue to worry about how the U.S. uses its power – in particular its military power – in international affairs. In nearly all countries surveyed, there is considerable opposition to a major component of the Obama administration’s anti-terrorism policy: drone strikes. In 17 of 20 countries, more than half disapprove of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Americans are the clear outliers on this issue: 62% approve of the drone campaign.

There remains a widespread perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally and does not consider the interests of other countries. In predominantly Muslim nations, American anti-terrorism efforts are still widely unpopular...

President Obama: Europeans and Japanese remain largely confident in Obama – albeit somewhat less so than in 2009 – while Muslim publics remain largely critical. Fewer than three-in-ten express confidence in him in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Jordan. And roughly a year after he ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, just 7% of Pakistanis have a positive view of Obama.

Obama and Bush: Obama consistently receives higher ratings than President Bush did in 2008. This is particularly true in Western Europe and Japan, but it is also true in several predominantly Muslim nations where Obama’s ratings are more positive than his predecessor’s.

Obama’s Policies: Among the EU countries surveyed in both 2009 and 2012, a median of 78% approved of Obama’s policies in 2009, compared with 63% now. Among Muslim nations, the median has slipped from 34% to 15%. The 2009 Pew Global Attitudes survey found that many believed the new American president would act multilaterally, seek international approval before using military force, take a fair approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and make progress on climate change. Few now believe he has actually accomplished these things.

Obama’s Re-election: Despite disappointment with Obama’s policies, there is still considerable support for his re-election in many countries, especially in Europe. Roughly nine-in-ten in France and Germany would like to see him re-elected, as would large majorities in Britain, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic. Most Brazilians and Japanese agree. But in the Middle East there is little enthusiasm for a second term – majorities in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon oppose Obama’s re-election.

United States: Majorities or pluralities in 12 countries express a favorable opinion of the U.S., while the prevailing view is negative in only five nations. Views are closely divided in three countries. Attitudes toward the U.S. are generally more positive today than in 2008. The biggest improvements in America’s image have occurred among Europeans, but some of the initial surge in pro-American sentiments that followed Obama’s election has waned in Western Europe. In a number of strategically important Muslim nations, America’s image has not improved during the Obama presidency.

Soft Power: Certain aspects of American “soft power” are often well-regarded. The American way of doing business is especially popular in the Arab World. In addition, majorities or pluralities in 18 of 20 countries admire the U.S. for its science and technology, and most of the publics surveyed embrace American music, movies and television. U.S. popular culture and American ideas about democracy are more popular among people under 30. Even as they embrace certain features of American culture, majorities or pluralities in 17 of 20 countries say it is a bad thing that U.S. ideas and customs are spreading to their countries.

China: Views about the economic balance of power have shifted dramatically over time Among the 14 countries surveyed each year from 2008 to 2012. In 2008, a median of 45% named the U.S. as the world’s leading economic power, while just 22% said China. Today, only 36% say the U.S., while 42% believe China is in the top position. Majorities in Germany (62%), Britain (58%), France (57%) and Spain (57%) name China as the world’s top economic power.

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Comments (5)

No longer super, duper power but...the bully on the globe?

The drone and the escalation of its use as approved by the Obama Administration, does not smell well with Obama's promise...the protection of civil liberties?

And if that isn't enough to be offended about, think of the 'world view', Republican foreign policy warrior stance...and one scarier alternative of a Romney in the big white house on Penn Avenue?

Note too, the boomerang effect out on the plains - Lakota North Dakota - where one family was accused of rustling cattle from his neighbor and the Wild West becomes the "new' Wild West as "authorities" used drone surveillance on the family farm...not the best way to milk the Homeland Security cow?

Is the boomerang effect coming to your hometown soon... theirs or ours?
(Minot Daily News online, June 12, 2012 AP..."North Dakota farm family wants charges dismissed.")

Drone Strikes

Back when W Bush was President, Guantanamo was heavily criticized because of civil liberties abuses. Basically, it was sometimes very hard to tell if someone who had been picked up on a battlefield was a combatant or an innocent bystander. The drone strike approach sidesteps this by adopting a 'kill them all, let God sort it out' attitude. Clearly, this isn't better.
The innocent bystander problem is a real one and I wish some serious skull sweat was being used to solve it. Obama announced that closing Guantanamo would be his first priority. However, without solving the very real problems that Gitmo was used to solve, he really couldn't do so. We need some place to put actual terrorists, after all.
So what should we do now?

Good question

Terrorists (by definition) don't obey the rules of international law or warfare.
Can we deal with them effectively on our own moral terms, or are we justified in fighting them on their terms because that's the only effective defense that we have.
Obama's problem is trying to do it both ways.
And it's not politically feasible to say that terrorism is way down on our mortality risk (alcohol and traffic accidents kill a lot more Americans), so rationally it would cost less to ignore terrorists beyond reasonable precautions and stop fighting the 'war on terror' that Obama inherited.

Mortality Risks

I don't think we can just look at a cold statistical table of mortality and figure out what to worry about. For instance, very few people are killed outside of bars in Wyoming but it still made sense to treat the Matthew Shepard case as different than, say, car accidents. Violence that is maliciously used against civilians shouldn't just be dismissed. Sometimes bad actions require big reactions.
And it's a bad strategy anyway. The history of Al Qaeda in the late 90's was one of an organization that tried bigger and bigger ways to kill people. We tried small things to deter them but nothing really worked until their biggest base of operation in Afghanistan was smashed and they were put on the run. And no, I'm not ignoring the costs but one of the unambiguous positives about the war in Afghanistan was a huge loss in effectiveness for Al Qaeda.
Either way, we're at war and we need to figure out the prisoner problem.

What those other global folks are saying etc...

Just a quick footnote:

Check out "Asia Times" online this humid morning..."Obama's six-point plan for global war" by Nick Turse...plus "Drive me down on the killing floor" by that wild wordsmith, Pepe Escobar.

If you sway toward moderate or conservative points of view; heck, read it anyway. But I sincerely and sympathetically suggest you wear a helmet. You may leave with a brain rhetorically wounded like a battered punching bag...enjoy.