The Reader’s Digest has revealed that of 17 countries polled about the US elections, 16 would like to see Sen. Barack Obama win. It polled 17,000 people.
Only the US was divided between Sens. Obama and McCain.
At the ofﬁce today: ‘Maybe these countries should get a say. America keeps poking its nose in where it’s not wanted.’
While I know we don’t have one-world government and national constitutions would prevent that, this point isn’t unique. I have heard it often enough, regardless of whether the president is Democratic or Republican.
Just as Great Britain has been forced to become a collaborative partner in European affairs since the decline of the Empire, perhaps the decline of the US’s soft power will mean a more even-handed approach to international relations in the next term, regardless of who is elected president.
We’ve seen the US rank very poorly in such scales as the Anholt Nation Brands’ Index, notably the cultural heritage measure, where it was at the bottom in 2005. In the 2008 summary of the top 50 nations, the USA does not even appear. (New Zealand should not be smug: it is 25th, one up from Belgium.)
By being more collaborative—which is happening, anyway, thanks to technology, and the diasporas in the US—the country could well improve its cultural measure.
The US’s weak culture, which its style-over-substance image propagates, especially through its television programmes and media, is perceived to be at odds with its hard power, including its military might.
The perception is not due solely to the Republicans, George W. Bush or Sarah Palin, contrary to what Democratic supporters are keen to point out. This takes years to earn and it has come through the abuse of globalization outside the political sphere as much as anything that successive White Houses have done or failed to do.
It may be crudely grouped with concepts of nation envy under the banner of anti-Americanism, which spurred everything from the terrorist attacks on the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000, during the Clinton administration, to 9-11 itself during the Bush years.
It is then no wonder the candidate who has best claimed the area of ‘Change’ so well captures the imaginations of nations outside the US.
The son of a Kenyan immigrant is perceived to be far closer in mindset to the citizens of 16 nations, some of whom might see themselves emigrate to the United States. The Reader’s Digest survey indeed reveals that many people still view the American Dream favourably, expressing a desire to emigrate to the US. This includes a majority of Indians and French surveyed.
They see the potential for an immigrant’s son to enrich a nation so that its might will be used for moral purposes rather than for its institutions—including oil companies. Sen. Obama may have been charged with lacking experience in foreign policy, but he is a man of mixed race, born in Hawai’i (itself a multicultural place), raised in part in Indonesia, and with close ties to his father’s homeland in Kenya.
The Reader’s Digest also points to largely liberal media—considerably more so than in the US—that have supported Sen. Obama consistently during his campaign. I can conﬁrm this positive spin from the countries where we have a presence, the US aside.
I wonder about how much we, as non-Americans, know. There are a lot of bad things about the US, as we have seen from the ﬁnancial crisis, that are systemic. The everyday American is victimized by corrupt institutions. Even those who have pursued the mantra of greed that Wall Street is stereotypically known for may have played their part unquestioningly, even without malice.
Can a president truly change that? Certainly, the 16 of 17 nations see Sen. Obama as an agent of change as far as US foreign policy is concerned. He has been marketed that way by many nations’ media. But of its questionable corporate behaviours (‘It’s the economy, stupid,’ as then-Gov. Clinton said on his campaign trail), is one better senator than the other sitting in the Oval Ofﬁce, never mind less than stellar choices for running-mates? Or is it going to be up to everyday citizens reaching out themselves, solving the world’s problems in spite of their political leaders? Posted by Jack Yan, 08:19
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