When Barack Obama took office, the world caught its breath, so we were told. He was going to restore America’s reputation in the world that reputedly was severely damaged during the George W. Bush administration. The global audience swooned, the president bowed, and he got a Nobel Peace Prize just for showing up.
Over three years later, things haven’t worked out as planned. A new study by the Pew Research Center finds, “global approval of President Barack Obama’s policies has declined significantly since he first took office.” This is because he failed to deliver on the hype that attended his entry in office. “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,” the new report explains. “As the current survey reveals, few now believe he has actually accomplished these things.”
Part of the problem is that the policies Mr. Obama most vigorously pursues are among the least popular. The White House consistently claims armed drones killing terrorist suspects has been its most important national-security triumph, but the targeted assassinations have been the least popular Obama program globally. “In nearly all countries, there is considerable opposition to a major component of the Obama administration’s anti-terrorism policy: drone strikes,” the Pew study found. “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.”
The drone effort is despised in Middle Eastern countries, which were supposed to be at the center of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy. His vaunted outreach to the Muslim world, which was kicked off in June 2009 with his speech in Cairo promising a “new beginning,” has long since failed. The Pew Survey shows confidence in Mr. Obama in Muslim countries has dropped 9 points since 2009, from 33 percent to 24 percent; favorability ratings for the United States have plunged from an anemic 25 percent to 15 percent; and approval of Mr. Obama’s policies dropped 19 points, from 34 percent to 15 percent. Other surveys reveal that in key strategic states like Pakistan, Lebanon and Egypt, favorability ratings for America are lower than in the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency.
This lack of repute for Mr. Obama, his policies and the country he leads has a negative impact on U.S. global leadership. Foreign leaders don’t take Mr. Obama seriously. European politicians openly chafed at White House lecturing about how to deal with their financial crises, noting that the current international recession started in the United States. Russia’s increasingly antagonistic President Vladimir Putin seems to be going out of his way to find means to test Mr. Obama’s will. Mr. Putin has his own reset button, but unfortunately it is set on “Cold War.”
The good news for Mr. Obama is that according to the survey, 92 percent of French citizens want him re-elected. Considering France recently elected its own socialist president, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.