Tag Archives: Barack Obama

No Courtesy Farts: Obama Effect Gives US Diplomatic Face-lift

Barack Obama silhouette isolated on a white Had enough of the Tea Party tirades against Barack Obama?  For some perspective, take a look at what the rest of the world thinks about the United States since Obama took office:

“People around the world today view the United States more positively than at any time since the second Iraq war,” says international polling firm GlobeScan’s chair Doug Miller, after a study conducted in partnership with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (Pipa) at the University of Maryland.  The BBC notes that there can be little confusion as to the cause for this surge in popularity as the uptick in approval ratings coincided (roughly) with Barack Obama becoming president.  The improvement has been drastic and unquestionable: “America’s influence in the world is now seen as more positive than negative,” (Click here for a look at the graph) says the BBC of the results of the survey of 30,000 people in 28 countries.

There are of course going to be the isolationist, deadbeat, know-nothing boobs who shrug at this and claim that world opinion and active diplomacy do not matter.  To a chump of this breed, “us and them” thinking dominates and the outside world is willed away.  Whether they are attention whores waving their home-made signs of xenophobic desperation at anti-immigration rallies or whether they indulge in Rush/Beck/Hannity bulimia – force feeding themselves with ultra-right propaganda and then projectile vomiting, booty grazing style, across their sturdy white picket fences – the viability of their shortsighted thinking is quickly fading.

“They’ll just say that this is further proof that Obama is selling America to his wicked, socialist brethren in the empire of Europe,” said a commenter on the Rachel Maddow Blog.  These antediluvian, paranoid wrecks are as quick to fire off the “s” word as a high school sophomore is to boyfriend drop in every hallway conversation.  Newsflash: Working for better quality of life at home and reaching out diplomatically abroad is not socialism.  It is common sense.

“The idea that a better reputation abroad is meaningless uplift is foolish. It helps the US leverage its power to greater ends. The more popular the US is, the likelier it is to have a positive impact on other countries’ leaders. ” (Andrews Sullivan, The Atlantic)

Sullivan makes the point that the American face-lift began in 2007 , “when Cheneyism was in retreat, when Rice and Gates were beginning to reorient the US away from militarist adventurism, when the surge was beginning to tamp down violence in Iraq, and when the Supreme Court had begun to push back on the presidential power to torture at will. But it’s also worth noting that the gain in respect endures and strengthens as Obama holds office, at a time when every other country’s reputation is declining.”

No courtesy fart was needed after the last administration’s train wreck of a foreign policy.  We needed change.  The massive work of diplomatic reparation was before us.  And in place of cowboyish black and white rhetoric came a more nuanced approach to international collaboration:

“We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.  The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history. … Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. … As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. … America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more. … To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”   – President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address.



Bjorn Karlman

European America Bashing Going Out of Vogue?

USA world dominationIn most of the countries I’ve lived in (including the United States), there is always a group of people that is hellbent on some quality America-bashing.  America’s global policing, its economic bullying, it’s worldwide export of popculture, George W. Bush – the list seems endless when it comes to beef with the United States.  Before living in the US, I would gladly participate in these bashing sessions.  It just felt right somehow –  a way to get back at the country equivalent of the chubby playground bully with too many toys.

After moving to the the United States for college, my views started to change.  Part of it was having American friends.  Instead of seeing America as summed up in the ideology of a certain political leader, I saw real people.  While l thought of Bush’s post 9/11 foreign policy in the Middle East as sheer lunacy, I was able to separate my thoughts on this very polarizing leader from the many conversations that I had enjoyed with American friends of mine that seemed very balanced in their views regarding America and its place in the world.

As I began to identify myself more and more closely with the United States, a sense of loyalty to my adopted country emerged and I caught myself defending the United States abroad.  When fellow Europeans would point out the death penalty and the huge economic disparities in America as evidence that the United States was a backward playground for cowboys, I would counter with the fact that huge parts of the American population are very vocal in their opposition to these very same things.

In a May 13, 2007 article from The Washington Post titled “4 Myths About America-Bashing in Europe”, William Drozdiak talks about what he calls the “love-hate melange” between Europe and the United States.  He asks: “Why has U.S. stature in the world eroded?  Opinion polls cite widespread dismay with the Iraq war, our dog-eat-dog social model and the arrogance of an imperial superpower that places itself above international law.”  Despite all this, Drozdiak claims that there is a “reservoir of goodwill waiting to be tapped among foreigners who would prefer to see the United States succeed rather than fail.”

He makes the point that European political leaders are actually fairly pro-American.  France’s Sarkozy is very supportive of the United States.  Angela Merkel in Germany has made a number of high-profile visits to America. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and the current PM Gordon Brown are both good friends of the US.  Also, especially young Europeans seem to want to study and work in the US.

As for social models, Europe is learning the pitfalls of running welfare states and is looking to the United States for ideas on possible reforms.  Of course, American popculture is all the rage.  Finally, Europe is not limited to liking only American Democrats.  Although most hated George W. Bush, nobody wants flimsiness in foreign policy à la Clinton’s early 90s policy that allowed the Balkan attrocities to take place more or less unchecked.

Since Drozdiak’s 2007 article and despite the ongoing strife in the Middle East, Barack Obama’s outreach to this part of the world does not go unnoticed in Europe.  Obama’s diplomatic overtures won him the Nobel Peace Prize.  The dramatic facelift he has given the United States in terms of international diplomacy and goodwill has made this one of the easiest times to travel as an American in Europe for decades.  So there’s hope for a warming of relations in the next decade.  Especially if baby boomer American tourists leave their ghastly white sneakers stateside when they hop the pond.


Bjorn Karlman