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The Demise of Anti-Americanism…Hardly November 6, 2008

Posted by SV in Election 2008, President Bush, President Obama, U.S. Foreign Relations.
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Barack H. Obama has been elected president, so gone are the days of anti-American protests throughout the world, critical allies, and hostile rivals.  Right?  His election was greeted with glee in Western Europe, banner headlines from London to Tokyo, and with the slaughtering of goats and bulls in Kenya (I’m sure PETA was pleased).  Here is a sampling of the global ecstasy.  However, just because the president will no longer be a “cowboy” or “unilateralist” does not mean that we have seen the end of global anti-Americanism.

President George W. Bush was neither the beginning nor the end of a global antipathy to the United States.  A global distrust or envy of the US existed long before he ascended to the office in 2001 and will likely exist long after Obama’s term ends in 2012.  What, then, accounts for Obama’s seemingly unprecedented world popularity and “citizen of the world” status?  Well, his unique ties to Kenya and Indonesia certainly feed the impression that his ties (and hence, worldview) are not constricted to the United States.  He will very likely go through a honeymoon period with the world, after which, when they realize he is still an American (and hopefully he will act as such) their euphoria will transition to apathy or resentment.

Indeed, unless Obama intends to “spread the wealth” to the 3rd world, withdraw the US military from its overseas bases, and open our borders to unlimited immigration, he will face anti-Americanism just as frequently as President Bush has.  Do not expect the protests at the World Bank, G-8, or IMF summits to stop all of the sudden.  Global jihadists will still attempt to strike at the United States or its military forces at any opportunity they foresee.  And our rivals will clamor as loudly as ever, sensing weakness, that the US should not act as the lone great power and allow them to establish their own spheres of influence (i.e. Russia in Eastern Europe, China in the Western Pacific, Venezuela in the Carribbean, etc.).

Incredible to believe?  Its already started to happen.  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated he hoped Obama would engage in “constructive dialogue…on the basis of trust” in this news story.  In the same speech, he announced Russia would be deploying short-range ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, a discontiguous part of Russia in between Poland and Lithuania.  The idea that the Russians could be trusted in any sort of dialogue when they place offensive missiles (not defensive ones like the interceptors we are placing in Poland) next to our allies illustrates how different they believe Obama will be from Bush.

But our allies will like us a lot more, right?  Sure.  They’ve always wanted to feel they were more a part of the loop in US foreign policy.  A multilateralist Obama is a huge vindication of their calls for the US to stop “going it alone.”  However, with more conservative governments in charge in Berlin, Paris, and London (somewhat), they are likely to be frustrated by Obama’s foreign policy priorities.  Also, like our rivals, their elites and people will try to get as many concessions and “goodies” out of Washington as they can.  Though this may not seem to be the anti-Americanism Bush confronted, it certainly is.  Whereas Bush encountered anti-Americanism because of the strength  of the US, Obama will likely witness it as an effect of contempt for the US.  No more anti-Americanism? Hardly.