The Obama effect on America

President Barack Obama’s efforts to turn around his country’s battered and bruised image after eight years of George W Bush appear to be showing results.

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Published: Wed 21 Apr 2010, 9:17 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:34 PM

For the first time in years and since the BBC started conducting an annual global survey in 2005, it says the world opinion about the United States has dramatically changed and the world sees America’s influence as “more positive than negative”.

While as last year, Germany remains the most popular and favourably viewed nation, Iran and Pakistan have the dubious distinction of being the countries with “most negative influences” with 15 and 16 per cent popularity ratings respectively.

We would have thought that honour should go to Israel -- 19 per cent – given its endless persecution and victimisation of Palestinians. If Germany, responsible for two Great Wars that destroyed Europe and sent tens of millions of innocent people to their deaths, is today viewed as a paragon of virtue, the credit goes to its post-World war, peaceful, non-interventionist foreign policy and a model welfare state. No wonder the continent’s biggest economy enjoys equal popularity in the Middle East and larger Muslim world.

Returning to the highlight of BBC survey, it’s no surprise that the turnaround in the US image is recorded from the day the first black man entered the White House. Obama took over amid great expectations as well as unprecedented challenges. Perhaps no US president has inherited the kind of mindboggling, all-round mess Obama has inherited.

The world’s biggest economy was in freefall, dragging the global economy with it. And the country was mired in two disastrous, debilitating wars in Muslim world adding to the nation’s economic woes and fuelling anti-US sentiment around the world.

Fifteen months into the Obama presidency, America is still stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, this president is trying hard to get out at the earliest possible with some dignity intact. However, it is not what the US has done but what it has sought to do that appears to have made all the difference in changing the world’s view of America.

Obama offered a “new way forward” to the world’s Muslims in his Inauguration speech. He has repeatedly underscored this message, reaching out to the alienated Islamic world after years of confrontation under Bush. He has travelled to three leading Muslim countries – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – with his hand stretched offering friendship and a new start.

More important, Obama appears to have sincerely and courageously tried to tackle the issue that has been at the heart of America’s explosive rift with the Arab-Islamic world. Of course, with Israel stonewalling as ever those efforts have yet to succeed. But the message has gone to the world that Obama is trying – and trying hard. Added to this is his bold initiative to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Again, success on this front is still uncertain. But at least he’s trying. In the end maybe he will succeed, maybe we all will. Don’t underestimate the audacity of hope.

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