The Duck of Minerva

Is America cool again?

28 July 2009

According to the latest data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, “the image of the United States has improved markedly in most parts of the world reflecting global confidence in Barack Obama.”

Follow the Pew survey link to find data charting some dramatic American improvements throughout the world. The biggest upswings seem to have occurred in Western Europe, parts of Latin America, India, and in Indonesia and Nigeria. Note that in some of these states the U.S. image was already on the upswing the past year or so following lows achieved earlier this decade.

Data from Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Muslim Middle East do not reflect major changes. Indeed, the US image has actually declined in Israel post-Bush and is flat (with low marks) in Pakistan, Palestine, and Turkey.

What does it mean that major U.S. foreign policy initiatives of the past half year are most popular in other advanced states?

I think the results reflect rational thinking around the globe. After all, the Obama administration announced some important changes in the war on terror, escalated the war in Afghanistan, followed the path towards withdrawal from Iraq (starting with the cities), and started talking differently about global climate change.

Those are all relatively popular moves in Europe. Thousands of NATO troops are in Afghanistan, so even though Europeans are not especially hawkish on the war, many have reason to seek victory.

President Obama has personal connections to Indonesia and Nigeria, so the improvements in U.S. image in those states may only reflect favorable views towards a “favorite son.” Do the Pew survey results from the rest of Muslim world mean the famed “Cairo speech” didn’t hit its intended target audience?

I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

Apparently, much of the Muslim world is going to wait awhile for policy results before changing their impression of the USA.