The nation’s global standing

THE NATION’S GLOBAL STANDING…. It was fairly common last fall to consider America’s standing in the world in the context of the U.S. presidential election. It was largely a given that the Bush/Cheney administration was not respected in much of the world, and had done considerable damage to our reputation. President Obama was poised to improve our standing and undo some of what went wrong.

Obama has only been in office for six months, but for the most part, it seems the early international signals are encouraging.

A new global survey has found a vast improvement in views of the United States since the election of President Barack Obama. But it also finds broad opposition to one of his key policies — sending more troops to Afghanistan — and confirms a drop in confidence in the United States among Israelis.

Mr. Obama, according to the survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, enjoys greater confidence among Germans than does Chancellor Angela Merkel, and among the French than President Nicolas Sarkozy. His election in itself, pollsters found, helped restore the United States’ image abroad to levels unseen since the Clinton years.

Improved attitudes toward the United States were most marked in Western Europe, but also evident in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as some predominantly Muslim countries.

In some cases, the improvements in American credibility were almost hard to believe. In England, for example, just 16% of Britons trusted the U.S. leaders to do the “right thing” in world affairs last year. Now, the number is 86%. The increase “was slightly larger in both Germany and France,” the NYT added.

The results were not universally positive, and in some Middle Eastern countries, anti-American animosity remains high. However, confidence that the United States will do the “right thing” improved in every Middle Eastern country involved in the study — except Israel, where the numbers were largely the same as last year — and for the first time since Pew began asking, “people in Turkey, Egypt, and Indonesia — all predominantly Muslim nations — expressed greater confidence in the American president than in Osama bin Laden.”

Obviously, those numbers can change. What’s more, while Americans have transitioned from post-election excitement to the hard slog of governing during a deep recession, international audiences are very likely immune to the day-to-day challenges in U.S. politics.

That said, for those who hoped to see America’s standing improve with the change in administrations, we appear to be taking steps in the right direction.