Barack Obama and the Perception of US in the World

Let me offer you a non-american perspective on this year's US election race between Barack Obama and John McCain. In this short article I want to explain to you - especially you, dear readers and friends from the US - why many Europeans such as me (and many other non-americans too) feel that Barack Obama would be a much better option for the US president than John McCain.

As I offer this perspective, I want you to have in mind that I have never lived in the US, I don't feel the economic problems of US personally (however interdependent the world has become, this has not influenced my life in any significant way yet), I am enjoying a universal health care (currently, in England) and I am not writing this particular piece out of my sympathy for many Americans who suffer problems because of bad US economy or the high costs of health care.

What I want to talk about is the image of US in the world and how electing Barack Obama would help to correct that image. It is very clear that, during the last decade, this image eroded to its lowest point (possibly in the whole history of US!) all over the world. America has never before been perceived in such an unfavorable light. Several American friends of mine have a hard time to even grasp how unloved their beloved country has become. Majority of the world has a grim picture of the US, said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) when he was commenting the large international poll for BBC. "Negative feelings about Bush are high and are generalizing to the American people who re-elected him", worries Kull.

Of course, this perception is much worse in the Muslim world than in Europe, and it produces a deep motivation to fight against US and its allies. But I am not the only European who feels that the behavior of US leadership in last decade has been really bad and has made the world more dangerous place. Unwise moves and oil-hunger-driven wars, a great lack of understanding of the mindset of the people whom US operations were supposed to help (like Iraqis or Afgans etc.) and turning a blind eye towards the regimes like Saudi Arabian or Pakistani, who happen to suit America's interests - all this has undermined the fair amount of trust US have once enjoyed, also in Europe.

The situation has left the world hoping for a significant change in the White House. Those who speculate and make theories out of Barack Obama's middle name never seem to get it: this Muslim-sounding name could actually reduce the number of the terrorist threats to USA, although all "Muslim theories" about this name are complete nonsense. And another seemingly superficial thing is significant as well: If Barack Obama will become president, the color of the president's skin will speak to many around the world about the victory over racism in USA (whether it would be true or not).

Remember: public perception of the president (at home but very much so also around the world) is hugely important factor for the success of his country on many fronts, even if he makes mistakes. Kennedy was - at his beginning at least - very popular in Europe and around the World also because of his youth and charming personality. And there can be no serious discussion about public perceptions of Barack Obama vs. John McCain in the world: Barack is doing much better! Even in Israel , he "leads" the republican candidate by a big margin. This alone is hugely important even if Barack Obama's political program would be up for grabs. But it isn't.

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Gorazd Andrejc is a postgraduate at Cambridge University. He writes on religion, ethics, philosophy and social issues. His Eco Friendly Lifestyle blog is for "ordinary people" (not necessarily activists) who want to change their lifestyle to live increasingly more environmentally friendly.

Comments (4)

Said this on 10-12-2008 At 10:24 pm
Said this on 10-17-2008 At 08:36 pm
As an American who has never had the pleasure of visiting the UK, I very much agree with your comments. There are never before seen divides between American perception overseas and that of the American populous. Barack Obama does posess a Kennedy-esque appeal that, unlike Kennedy, might be able to quell unnerved Muslims in the Middle East, but as far as Europe goes, he has won them over. The problem with European perception of America is that it is a mass generalization of a large population of people. Americans differ in so many ways, between region, state, city and, in some cities, buroughs. It is a complex structure of individuals who decide to group themselves into what they perceive would serve their best interests. After these groupings, their respective environments play the largest role in which candidate they will back.
Said this on 10-17-2008 At 08:40 pm
I forgot to mention that President Bush posesses the worst approval rating by U.S. citizens since President Herbert Hoover in 1928. The sentiment is not lost on American citizens.
Said this on 5-26-2009 At 12:02 am
You don't know what you're talking about...Barack Hussein eats babies and ruins economies and betrays a lack of spine in all important situations...even bowing to his fellow Muslims to disgrace the Christian USA.

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