Foreign Policy Blogs

Election Countdown: Collection of Commentary

In the run-up to the election, there are so many relevant commentaries, polls and musings that it is best to just list a few of them below.

  • Sunday's reporting by Colum Lynch, the Washington Post's UN correspondent, is titled “At the U.N., Many Hope for an Obama Win:”

“There are no “Obama 2008” buttons, banners or T-shirts visible here at U.N. headquarters, but it might be difficult to find a sliver of territory in the United States more enthusiastic over the prospect of the Illinois senator winning the White House.

An informal survey of more than two dozen U.N. staff members and foreign delegates showed that the overwhelming majority would prefer that Sen. Barack Obama win the presidency, saying they think that the Democrat would usher in a new agenda of multilateralism after an era marked by Republican disdain for the world body.

Obama supporters hail from Russia, Canada, France, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere.

…”It would be hard to find anybody, I think, at the U.N. who would not believe that Obama would be a considerable improvement over any other alternative,” said William H. Luers, executive director of the United Nations Association. “It's been a bad eight years, and there is a lot of bad feeling over it.”

Conservatives who are skeptical of the United Nations said they are not surprised by the political tilt. “The fact is that most conservatives, most Republicans don't worship at the altar in New York, and I think that aggravates them more than anything else,” said John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “What they want is the bending of the knee, and they’ll get it from an Obama administration.”

  • John C. Freed of the International Herald Tribune penned an interesting article exploring why (rather than declaring that, like many others have done) foreign publics, in the case, Western Europeans, favor Senator Barack Obama by such large numbers. In discussing a Harris Interactive poll conducted for the IHT, Freed reports:

“While support for Barack Obama is broad and deep among Europeans, their reasons differ substantially from Americans who support him for president… the main reason [that Americans and Europeans support Obama] is the same: Obama's capacity for change from the policies of President George W. Bush.

But from there the two continents differ. Respondents in the five European countries surveyed are far more likely to cite Obama's personality or his youth, while Americans are more likely to cite his approach to health care and the economy…”

  • An American and former diplomat living in Brussels points out in his blog that the Obamania in Europe is due, in some part, to the blood sweat and tears of some democrat expatriates “campaigning” on the Democratic candidate's behalf:

“If the reaction of Belgians to the US presidential campaign is typical of publics throughout Europe and the rest of the world – a recent multi-country poll commissioned by The Guardian and other papers shows that Belgians are among the world's most pro-Obama and anti-Bush – then the United States is enjoying a massive public diplomacy bonanza. For free. Thanks to overseas Americans.For the past several months, but especially in the last weeks leading up to November 4, the services of the Democrats Abroad Belgium (DAB) “Speakers Bureau” have been much in demand. It might sound impressive, but the “bureau” is just a handful of regular American citizens who happen to be conversant in one or more of Belgium's three official languages: Dutch, French, or German. English too: in this international atmosphere, it is often the lingua franca of think tanks, educational institutions, discussion groups and news media following the US election…

…This year, the positive impact of the Obama phenomenon is being multiplied many times over by the kind of citizen public diplomacy us Democrats (and that sole Republican!) are waging on our own dime here in Brussels. If the Democrats led by Obama win – and especially if the election is shown to be fair and square – the beneficiaries will be all Americans, for the world will see that American democracy is not just a PR story.”

  • Last week New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof opined that Obamania could facilitate the “rebranding” of America. After recounting a conversation he had with a Chinese friend, who reacted incredulously to the news that Obama-a black man–is leading the race for president, he writes:

“We're beginning to get a sense of how Barack Obama's political success could change global perceptions of the United States, redefining the American "brand" to be less about Guantanamo and more about equality. This change in perceptions would help rebuild American political capital in the way that the Marshall Plan did in the 1950s or that John Kennedy's presidency did in the early 1960s.

In his endorsement of Mr. Obama, Colin Powell noted that "the new president is going to have to fix the reputation that we've left with the rest of the world." That's not because we crave admiration, but because cooperation is essential to address 21st-century challenges; you can't fire cruise missiles at the global financial crisis.

In his endorsement, Mr. Powell added that an Obama election "will also not only electrify our country, I think it'll electrify the world." You can already see that. A 22-nation survey by the BBC found that voters abroad preferred Mr. Obama to Mr. McCain in every single country ‚ by four to one over all. Nearly half of those in the BBC poll said that the election of Mr. Obama, an African-American, would "fundamentally change" their perceptions of the United States.

Europe is particularly intoxicated by the possibility of restoring amity with America in an Obama presidency. As The Economist put it: "Across the Continent, Bush hatred has been replaced by Obama-mania…" Finally, it's time to revisit the Economist's “Global Electoral College” map:


It does appear that the only public to strongly favor McCain is Iraq (67% to 33%). Here's an explanation of how this global presidential election works.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.