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World Looks at Obamerica With New Eyes

The latest Pew survey indicating skyrocketing approval levels for the United States now that we’ve shifted away from the George W. Bush “act like jerks all the time” approach to world affairs is pretty interesting. You used to hear a certain amount of talk from Robert Kagan and others to the effect that European dislike for U.S. foreign policy and U.S. global leadership just reflected the structural situation in world affairs rather than any particularly judgment about the Bush administration’s conduct.

That, in particular, seems conclusively debunked by the extremely rapid turnaround in European views. Europeans, sensibly, seem to find to be generally a good thing that the mightiest military power on earth is a basically congenial country with a commitment to similar values. But they don’t like reckless policies of world domination. I wouldn’t necessarily attach any huge significance to it, but it does seem notably that France has really rocketed up the tables and became one of the most pro-American countries on earth.

The other thing you see here, that I find intuitive but that will still strike many in the American establishment as radical and dubious, is that people don’t really enjoy being subjected to coercive imperial domination. Thus Palestinians, Pakistanis, and to a lesser extent residents of Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and Mexico continue to be pretty skeptical of the U.S. role in the world. In the particular case of the Mexicans, they’re obviously right next door so a certain amount of American engagement in Mexican affairs is pretty inevitable. But a key U.S. proxy occupying and expropriating Palestinian land isn’t an inevitable feature of the universe. And I think it’s pretty clear that the Pakistan-U.S. relationship is really in a dysfunctional state. It’s hard for me to imagine anything we do over there really “working” as long as we’re that disliked.

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