The Obama Effect
One argument many of us made in favor of the election of Barack Obama was that he would instantly help the US recover from its nadir of global reputation in the Bush-Cheney pre-emptive war-and-torture era. No, I sure didn't argue that this would change everything overnight or somehow evaporate the real conflicts and tensions and disagreements in global politics. I simply noted that, especially in trying to defuse as well as defeat Jihadist terror, this kind of profound change could serve America's interests well. The idea that a better reputation abroad is meaningless uplift is foolish. It helps the US leverage its power to greater ends. The more popular the US is, the likelier it is to have a positive impact on other countries' leaders.
In one sense at least, the argument is over. Check out this BBC survey of global opinion:
Note that the rebound begins in 2007 - when Cheneyism was in retreat, when Rice and Gates were beginning to reorient the US away from militarist adventurism, when the surge was beginning to tamp down violence in Iraq, and when the Supreme Court had begun to push back on the presidential power to torture at will. But it's also worth noting that the gain in respect endures and strengthens as Obama holds office, at a time when every other country's reputation is declining.
Note too how Israel is grouped among the least popular countries - not far above Iran and Pakistan and ten points below Russia. I'm sure many attribute this to anti-Semitism and that may be a factor. But outside the neocon bubble, the world notices illegal occupations, the bombardment of Gaza and the stealing of other countries' passports in assassination bids. For what it's worth, Egyptians now have a higher opinion of the US than Canadians.