Montana Politics

Some Uplifting International Poll Numbers


Generally speaking, poll numbers regarding other nations’ perceptions of the United States tend to be on the depressing side. But this one in the BBC is quite interesting, and actually a bit of a relief.

Although the big news is about South Africa and Brazil, which have both seen their reputations soar, I know I was glad to see the US go into positive territory for the first time since 2005 and probably before. We still aren’t very popular with Muslim nations (Indonesia excepted), but we are more popular than China, and if you believe that size and influence generally breed resentment, that’s probably the fairest comparison. More importantly, we are finally moving in a positive direction.

I know a lot of progressives are disappointed with Obama’s performance, both domestically and in foreign affairs. I think, however, that the last few years have shown a real if not overly dramatic change. The internationally condemned war in Iraq is now less of a priority, the United States is far more cooperative in the United Nations, and, as recent events in Egypt have made clear, we have been more open to working to please the populations of foreign nations, rather than just their leaders. Public diplomacy, long neglected, can be immensely valuable.

About the author

The Polish Wolf


  • PW, meanwhile the number of Americans who think our country is on the wrong path is up sharply to 64%:… That's the highest number since Obama took office.

    But Egypt as an example? The other day something like 13 died in fighting between Coptic Christians and Muslims:

    Like many issues Obama is not leading. He is sitting the fence until he sees a political opportunity.

    • Yes, Mtantelop, there is violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims, as I sort of predicted at the outset of this revolution –

      Are you really blaming that on Obama? What is the US supposed to do about religious violence in Egypt? If we step in to protect the Coptic Christians, we will be trampling all over the sovereignty of the Egyptian people, and people in this country and that one will cry foul.

      All Obama did regarding Egypt was call for a corrupt and violent dictator to go, and he did. Bush had the same chance with Uzbekistan, but he failed to do so. Now, Obama can't magically make Egypt a better place – they have some things to work through that only they can work through. But Gaddafi is doing his best to prove that a dictator unconcerned with world opinion can brutally crush his own people and hold out for quite a long time doing it. Obama was a major part in crystallizing that world opinion against Mubarak, in a way that Bush failed to after Andijan.

      But I suppose you're right. Americans definitely know better than the rest of the world what sort of impact the US is having on the rest of the world.

  • …and your BBC pool regarding Egyptian perceptions: "In the 2011 survey – carried out before the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak – negative views rose 21 points to 50%, while positive views dropped 19 points to 26%."

    • I would be interested to see the polling number now, as I can't imagine that Egyptian polls regarding the roll of the United States taken before the revolution have any real merit now.

      But thank you for pointing something out – the specific actions Obama took during that event couldn't have had a causal effect on our poll numbers, since they poll was conducted previously. I merely used his handling of that event as an illustration of how US foreign policy has changed.

  • PW, both comments were mind. Been having some trouble with the sign in system. It doesn't always pick up my typed user name.

    And no Obama was not a major player crystallizing world opinion regarding Egypt. He was late to the party after Hillary took a more cautious tone. Again fence sitting until the political opportunity presented.

    "Washington, Feb 24(ANI): U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the Obama administration was “walking a balance” in Egypt because it wanted to make sure that its support didn’t lead to an outbreak of violence.

    “We wanted to see the aspirations of the Egyptian people, particularly young people, realized. And then we advocated from the very beginning for a reform process that would lead to an Egyptian model of democracy,” she said.

    “So I think that we were walking a balance, because we wanted to be sure that our message did not push anyone into doing something that we disagreed with, namely violence, which we tried to, in every way possible, prevent,” she added.

    Many critics had urged President Barack Obama to call for the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign, but Obama and his cabinet -including Clinton – instead had advocated for an “orderly transition that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people”.

    • I'm not denying the Obama is a politician, no less so in the international realm. It would have been disastrous for the Egypt no less than for us if he had called for the immediate removal Mubarak and it had turned out that he had the support he needed to stay. But do me a favor and read up on the American reaction to the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan, and compare it to how Obama treated Mubarak.

      In one case the US all but apologized on behalf of their brutal allies, but did it in such a way that we both lost our allies in the Uzbek government and invited scorn from the international community (minus the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with whom we were in almost total agreement). Obama was consistently clear that the situation in Egypt wasn't going to end with Mubarak still in power, though he wavered on the urgency of the transition. Can you imagine Bush doing the same, especially considering all the media attention given to the Islamic Brotherhood?

      That's what I mean by crystallizing world opinion. China and Russia will consistently stand with almost any government against the people of that country. The international community as a whole is generally more responsive to human rights. But the US wavers. With our support, some of the most heinous dictators can maintain power. The withdrawal of US support may not be entirely decisive, but it is often critical.

      • PW, the Arab world doesn't share your opinion and thinks Obama has been twiddling his thumbs:

        Where is Barack Hussein Obama? Why hasn't he done anything sooner and tangible to reassure the hundreds of thousands of freedom fighters marching in the Arab streets, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Gulf? The admirable new Arab generation has so far been successful in overthrowing two long-ruling Arab dictators, the first in Tunisia and the second in Egypt within weeks of each other…

        Has the American president been twiddling his thumbs while the Arab World has been gloriously experiencing an unprecedented revolution against these autocrats, often the favorite lackeys of key western leaders, probably because of the oil wealth in the region, estimated as 60 percent of the world’s output.
        ===end quote===

        • 1. That's not a poll. That's the opinion of one man.
          2. That man may be Arab, but he currently lives in Washington, DC
          3. While he criticizes Obama for 'twiddling his thumbs', he also points out that "What the Obama administration fails to realize is that no one in the Arab world is begging for American military intervention and there is a good reason for that." So, if we are not to intervene and we are not to twiddle our thumbs, what is there left to do but talk and play politics?
          4. You article does admit "Yet, Obama, unlike other recent American presidents, has a higher standing abroad than any U.S. president since John F. Kennedy"

          Precisely my point. But I am curious – do you support definitive action regarding Libya? If memory serves you had previously advised caution. Still? What I'm saying is, Obama is walking a tightrope between those who accuse him of fence-sitting and those who would accuse him of imperial overreach.

          • You are correct, I did advise caution regarding Libya. We don’t know who the good guys are yet. When one of the Lockerbie bombers returned how to a hero’s welcome, that sorta made an impression on me.

            My point is that Obama waits until the political winds blow to decide what side he is on. That’s different from taking precipitous action. Politicians do that, not leaders.

          • …and here is another view from the ME:

            As revolution has spread from the Maghreb to the Gulf region and back again, President Barack Obama has stuttered and fumbled and sometimes fallen strangely silent. What can explain this from a man whose manner has always been smooth and whose oratorical gifts propelled him from utter obscurity to the White House in just four short years?

            Upon entering office, Obama slammed the door on his predecessor’s policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East.
            ===end quote===

            I suggest reading the whole article.

            • Well…that article was published in Lebanon, but the gentleman who wrote it works for the American Enterprise Institute, and is an American. And he lambasted Obama for not doing enough to keep up Bush's legacy of spreading Democracy in the Muslim world. Yes indeed, the same Bush who vastly increased our connections with torturing regimes while labeling the most liberal country on the gulf part of the Axis of Evil. The same Bush who made Democracy synonymous with civil war throughout the Muslim world.

              What I'm saying is, the opinion this author presents is neither Middle Eastern nor particularly credible. And while I agree that Obama has been more reactive than proactive, given our current reputation and recent history I think for most Arabs that's a welcome change. At least we are on the right side of these conflicts, even if we are not on the leading edge of them.

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