When the American public elected Barack Obama to serve as the 44th President Nov. 4, 2008, his supporters burst into celebration – not just on the Main Green of the University’s traditionally left-leaning campus and across the United States, but in the streets of Rome, Paris, Geneva, Hong Kong, Jakarta and even Kogelo village in Kenya, home to Obama’s step-grandmother.
For many of those celebrating, Obama’s election meant a fresh face for American foreign policy. From his predecessor President George W. Bush, Obama inherited the “war on terror,” a tangle of two unpopular military engagements and heightened tensions across the Middle East. Following the 2003 American invasion of Iraq and the Bush administration’s foreign policy, world opinion of the United States was largely negative, and Obama’s message of change seemed to resonate. During Obama’s European tour prior to the election in 2008, an estimated 200,000 people gathered in Berlin to hear him speak, according to Berlin police.
But some international supporters say they’ve found Obama’s performance in office underwhelming.
Over the last four years, the Obama administration’s decisions have had a profound effect on international affairs. Obama scaled back America’s military commitments – the last American troops left Iraq in December 2011, and American and NATO troops have begun to withdraw from Afghanistan in a process that will be complete in 2014.
Meanwhile, the Arab Spring, a series of revolutions in Northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula against undemocratic regimes, and the recent terrorist attack that killed four Americans at the Libyan embassy, have again brought the issue of American involvement in the Middle East to the forefront of national discourse. And Europe’s ongoing sovereign debt crisis means the next president will face a volatile global economy that could hamper domestic growth amid already high unemployment.
The winner of tomorrow’s presidential election will make policy decisions that will have broad repercussions on the global stage. Today, in reports by students studying abroad in Brazil, Cuba, England and South Africa, The Herald examines attitudes toward the coming election through the eyes of the world.
Havana, Cuba: Cubans: Republican victory would hurt U.S. relations
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Brazilians stay hostile to Republican foreign policy
Oxford, England: British public views election as ‘clash of ideals’
Cape Town, South Africa: Capetonians follow U.S. race closely, offer support for Obama