Barack Obama’s Gallup approval rating of 52 percent may well be lower at this stage of his presidency than any US leader in recent times with the exception of Bill Clinton. But he is still worshipped with messiah-like adoration at the United Nations, and is considerably more popular with many of the 192 members of the UN than he is with the American people.
The latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey of international confidence in Obama’s leadership on foreign affairs shows strikingly high approval levels for the president in many parts of the world – 94 percent in Kenya, 93 percent in Germany, 88 percent in Canada and Nigeria, 77 percent in India, 76 percent in Brazil, 71 percent in Indonesia, and 62 percent in China for example. The Pew survey of 21 countries reveals an average level of 71 percent support for President Obama, compared to just 17 percent for George W. Bush in 2008.
As the figures indicate, Barack Obama is highly likely to receive a warm reception when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly today, whereas his predecessor in the White House was greeted with undisguised contempt and stony silence.
It is not hard to see why a standing ovation awaits the president at Turtle Bay. Obama’s popularity at the UN boils down essentially to his willingness to downplay American global power. He is the first American president who has made an art form out of apologizing for the United States, which he has done on numerous occasions on foreign soil, from Strasbourg to Cairo. The Obama mantra appears to be – ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do to atone for your country. This is a message that goes down very well in a world that is still seething with anti-Americanism.
It is natural that much of the UN will embrace an American president who declines to offer strong American leadership. A president who engages dictators like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez will naturally gain respect from the leaders of the more than 100 members of the United Nations who are currently designated as “partly free” or “not free” by respected watchdog Freedom House.
The UN is not a club of democracies - who still remain a minority within its membership – it is a vast melting pot of free societies, socialist regimes and outright tyrannies. Obama’s clear lack of interest in human rights issues is a big seller at the UN, where at least half its members have poor human rights records.
The president scores highly at the UN for refusing to project American values and military might on the world stage, with rare exceptions like the war against the Taliban. His appeasement of Iran, his bullying of Israel, his surrender to Moscow, his call for a nuclear free world, his siding with Marxists in Honduras, his talk of a climate change deal, have all won him plaudits in the large number of UN member states where US foreign policy has traditionally been viewed with contempt.
Simply put, Barack Obama is loved at the UN because he largely fails to advance real American leadership. This is a dangerous strategy of decline that will weaken US power and make her far more vulnerable to attack.
As we saw last week with his shameful surrender to Moscow over missile defence, the president is perfectly happy to undermine America’s allies and gut its strategic defences while currying favour with enemies and strategic competitors. The missile defence debacle is rightly viewed as a betrayal by the Poles and the Czechs, and Washington has clearly give the impression that it cares little about those who have bravely stood shoulder to shoulder with their US allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the wider war on terror.
The Obama administration is now overseeing and implementing the biggest decline in American global power since Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately it may well take another generation for the United States to recover.