Thursday, November 26, 2009

Behind Obama's overseas allure


Washington Times
A worrisome picture emerges. Mr. Obama's popularity abroad mainly reflects foreign perceptions of how well he suits their interests and values. Yes, foreigners like America better under Mr. Obama - not because they love the U.S. the way we do, but because they think he favors the retrenchment of American power and global influence.

The question is, do we Americans admire Mr. Obama for the same reasons? Do we recognize and want the image of Mr. Obama's America that foreigners have? Should we automatically gauge the value of our policies and interests by how much others like them?

Sometimes Mr. Obama gets alarmingly close to suggesting that. In China, he told CNN, "We've restored America's standing in the world, and that's confirmed by the polls ... before my election, less than half the people - maybe less than 40 percent of the people thought you could count on America to do the right thing. Now it's up to 75 percent."

Put aside the question of whether his popularity has gained international support for concrete American policies. What is interesting is that the foreign image of Mr. Obama's America is increasingly at variance with Americans' views. Many Americans, particularly independents who voted for him, are turning away from his policies because they don't conform to the America they envision. They may still like his personal story, but they are getting worried that he's taking the country in the wrong direction - the very direction many foreigners applaud.

If this trend continues, Americans may end up turning against Mr. Obama precisely for what makes him popular abroad - namely, pursuing policies that weaken America's position in the world.

Remember this the next time someone evaluates the success of the president's foreign policies by foreign opinion polls.

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