US Drone Program Fuels Global Dismay with Obama Presidency

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Common Dreams

US Drone Program Fuels Global Dismay with Obama Presidency

Inertia on climate change and flawed economic path also cited as once popular president sees approval decline

by
Common Dreams staff

Barack Obama's 'new beginning' with the Muslim world has taken a hit with his authorization of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo)

President Obama is still vastly more popular internationally than his predecessor, George W. Bush, but after three and a half years of his presidency world opinion of US policy has fallen sharply, according to the 2012 Pew Global Attitudes survey released on Wednesday.  In particular, Obama's drone program in foreign nations -- including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia -- has fueled mistrust and anger among Muslim nations and even among countries more closely allied with the US.

"There remains a widespread perception that the United States acts unilaterally and does not consider the interests of other countries," said the Pew report which accompanied the survey.

The drone strikes are backed by 62% of Americans but have only minority support in every other country polled by Pew.

"In predominantly Muslim nations," the report continues, "American anti-terrorism efforts are still widely unpopular. And in nearly all countries, there is considerable opposition to a major component of the Obama administration’s anti-terrorism policy: drone strikes. In 17 of 20 countries, more than half disapprove of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia."

On a number of specific issues -- from climate change to economic policy -- the result of the Pew survey showed a sense that Obama has not lived up to the expectations people had for him when he first took office in 2009. The Pew Global Attitudes survey conducted that year showed that many believed the new American president "would act multilaterally, seek international approval before using military force, take a fair approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and make progress on climate change." As the current survey reveals, few now believe he has actually accomplished these things.

As Glenn Greenwald observes, the Pew survey is "consistent with numerous other international polls showing the U.S. under Obama as being deeply unpopular in the Muslim world." But, he notes, this reality is not the "by-product of some sort of reflexive, irrational anti-Americanism." In fact, he writes, "There is substantial favorability toward American cultural influences and political ideals, including in the Muslim world (especially among younger Muslims). The cause of this anger is clear and rational; as even a Rumsfeld-commissioned 2004 study explained: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedoms’, but rather they hate our policies.”

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The Guardian: Barack Obama's global popularity on the wane, poll says

The poll reveals particular hostility to US drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Although Washington claims the attacks are carefully targeted at major terrorists, they frequently kill civilians.

The drone strikes are backed by 62% of Americans but have only minority support in every other country polled by Pew. The strongest overseas support for the US strategy is in Britain, where 44% approve and 47% are against. But in France, China, Mexico and Russia there are large majorities opposed to it.

The US president's standing remains strong in Europe, where he has an 80% approval rating – down just 6% on three years ago. But it is a different story elsewhere. The sharpest drop in confidence in Obama has been in China, where support has fallen from 62% in 2009 to just 38% this year.

The cause of this anger is clear and rational; as even a Rumsfeld-commissioned 2004 study explained: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedoms’, but rather they hate our policies.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Obama's lowest standing is in the Muslim world, where fewer than one in four approve of his policies. That is still markedly higher than views of the US as a whole. Just 15% of people in Muslim countries have a favorable view of the US.

The poll shows foreigners feel let down by Obama on a range of policies. When he came to power, nearly half of non-Americans thought the new US president would seek international approval for the to use of military force. Just 29% believe he has fulfilled that hope. He was also expected to "be fair with the Israelis and Palestinians" and to confront climate change. Large majorities feel let down on those issues.

Still, the romance many Europeans developed with Obama, giving them a more sentimental view of the president than most Americans have, largely continued. Large majorities in Europe would like to see him re-elected, led by 92% of those polled in France.

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Glenn Greenwald: U.S. drones deeply unpopular around the world

It’s an article of faith in many progressive circles that Obama has “restored America’s standing in the world” — they’ll just state it as though it’s gospel — but it’s patently untrue. While it’s true that Europeans and citizens of long-standing American allies such as Japan and Brazil generally view Obama far more favorably than they did George Bush (though far less so than was true in 2009), and the U.S. continues to be viewed favorably in the West, the perception of the U.S. in the Muslim world is as bad as, or even worse than, the lowly levels of the Bush era [...]

Fortunately, caring about international opinion — like so many other things — is so very 2004, especially in Democratic Party circles (notwithstanding the fact that, as that Rumsfeld-era report documented, anti-American animus arising from American aggression is the greatest security threat and the prime source of Terrorism). Who cares if virtually the entire world views Obama’s drone attacks as unjustified and wrong? Who cares if the Muslim world continues to seethe with anti-American animus as a result of this aggression? Empires do what they want. Despite all this, these polling data will undoubtedly prompt that age-old American question: why do they hate us?

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