In all of our briefings, our authors aim to make a reasonable case and supply the facts and referencing to support the argument made. But some briefings make a more controversial case than others. We consider this one of our more controversial briefings.
Most surveys of global opinion suggest that Barack Obama is the world’s preferred candidate to replace George W Bush. This has led many observers to believe that a victory for Barack Obama will largely end the anti-Americanism of recent years. The reality is more complicated.
Any new President has an opportunity to begin restoring America’s standing in the world
Whoever is elected on Tuesday 4th November 2008 most of the world – rightly or wrongly - will be glad to see George W Bush’s presidency come to its end. His international approval ratings are very poor. Any new President will have an opportunity to give America a fresh start. John McCain’s differences with the Bush administration on environmental policies, Guantanamo Bay and aggressive interrogation techniques such as waterboarding make him better placed than almost any other Republican to appeal to fairer-minded international citizens.
Barack Obama is in a particularly strong position to challenge anti-Americanism
But it is the election of Senator Barack Obama that is likely to have the most electric effect on world opinion (at least in the short-run). Opinion surveys suggest that the Democrat nominee is the favoured choice of the average citizen in nations across the world, especially Europe. His opposition to the Iraq war, his support for multilateral institutions like the UN and his sophisticated speaking style will appeal to many of the people who have been the loudest critics of George W Bush. The election of America’s first black President will also have a dramatic effect. This has even been acknowledged by Senator Obama’s political opponents. Mike Gerson, for example - former chief speechwriter to President George W Bush, has talked of the “dramatic” power of President Obama’s election.
But anti-Americanism did not begin with George W Bush and it wouldn’t end with Barack Obama in the White House
The attacks of 9/11 were the ugliest and bloodiest ever manifestation of anti-Americanism. They may have happened when George W Bush was in the White House but they were planned when President Clinton was Commander-in-Chief. They were executed when Bush was still promising a humbler, less interventionist foreign policy. Although most of the world grieved with America in the weeks after 9/11, many of its critics rejoiced. Le Monde did publish the headline ‘We Are All Americans’ after 11 September 2001 but noted in the text below: “[T]he reality is perhaps also that of an America whose own cynicism has caught up with [it]”. The US Ambassador to London was reduced to tears after a hostile BBC Television audience attempted to blame American foreign policy for the attacks on Washington and New York. Anti-Americanism was alive and kicking before the invasions of either Afghanistan and Iraq.