This time, it’s the Gallup organization that finds that in most regions of the world, U.S. standing in President Obama’s fourth year in office has slipped. In Europe, respondents were asked if they approved/disapproved of U.S. leadership. That score dipped from 42% in 2011 to 36% last year. The Gallup Poll of 130 countries showed median approval dropped last year from 49% to 41%.
This is no partisan view on our part. We certainly do not take comfort from low ratings given for our country and its leaders by people abroad. We recall with fondness those times when it was said: “Politics stops at the water’s edge.”
The fact is President Obama’s standing in the world is still higher than that enjoyed by President Bush. But this much should be clear: Obama has been no panacea. The over-the-top nonsense that was typical of too many writers in the run-up to the 2008 election has proven to be unfounded.
Our country's Founders appealed to “a candid world” in our Declaration of Independence. They showed “a decent respect for the opinion of mankind.” We should care about what our neighbors around the world think of us.
But we should not let their view determine our policy on such vital questions as whether to stop Iran building a nuclear weapon or whether to back an Egyptian government that shows no regard for human rights, especially the freedom of religion.
What we are likely to find—as President Eisenhower and President Reagan found—is that a strong policy of the United States that forthrightly confronts the enemies of freedom but avoids “nation building” is the best policy.
Better a Big Stick than a series of big and sticky interventions. Afghanistan, for example, is no more likely to be a functioning democracy after 12 years of U.S. entanglement than it was after six. Nor would Afghanistan be “stable’ if we stayed there a hundred years. The refusal of this country to respect freedom of religion will condemn it to more centuries of barbarism. No amount of U.S. aid can help if a people believe their neighbors who worship differently should be killed. And that, unfortunately, is what Afghans do believe.
Liberals have clearly gotten it wrong on foreign policy. It’s a challenge to conservatives to get it right.