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Published: Tuesday, 3/16/2010

Obama not trusted by allies, or feared by adversaries

PRESIDENT Obama's national security policies are more popular than his domestic policies, according to a new poll by Democratic pollsters James Carville and Stanley Greenburg.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans approve Mr. Obama's policies on national security, 54 percent approve his policies on fighting terrorism, and 52 percent approve his conduct of foreign policy, the Democracy Corps said. This compares to an overall approval rating for the President of 47 percent and just 42 percent approval on his handling of the economy.

A datum that must be galling to left wingers is that the President's most popular policy is his prosecution of the war in Afghanistan, of which 58 percent approve.

But Mr. Obama's higher marks on foreign and national security policy seem to come mostly because Americans haven't been paying attention. On two issues that have received much coverage in the news media, Mr. Obama scores poorly.

Only 44 percent of Americans approve of his policies on the interrogation and prosecution of terror suspects, and only 42 percent approve of his handling of Iran. Fifty-one percent think our standing in the world has declined on Mr. Obama's watch.

"This is surprising, given the global acclaim - and Nobel Peace Prize - that flowed to the new President after he took office," Mr. Carville and Mr. Greenburg wrote.

It isn't surprising to those who have been paying attention.

"I recently asked several senior administration officials, separately, to name a foreign leader with whom Barack Obama has forged a strong personal relationship during his first year in office," Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post, wrote recently. "A lot of hemming and hawing ensued."

One official named French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but his contempt for Mr. Obama is an open secret. Another named German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

U.S. presidents traditionally have had close relationships to Britain's prime minister. But none of the officials Mr. Diehl talked to named Gordon Brown.

This is understandable, if you know the extent to which the Obama Administration has offended America's foremost ally. The most recent blow to the special relationship came March 1, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, a Hugo Chavez ally, offered to mediate Argentina's specious claim to the Falkland Islands.

The Falklands have been a British possession since 1833. The people who live there, all of whom speak English, want nothing to do with Argentina. When an earlier Argentine regime invaded the Falklands in 1982, the British - with crucial support from President Ronald Reagan - threw them out.

"Imagine if Britain told us we should negotiate the status of Puerto Rico with Hugo Chavez," wrote Ralph Peters, a retired military intelligence officer. "This story isn't going to have a happy ending."

Mr. Obama seems to have a special animus towards the British.

But as Commentary's Jennifer Rubin noted, Poland and the Czech Republic (betrayed on missile defense), Honduras, and Israel also can attest that he's been an unreliable ally and an unfaithful friend.

When Mr. Obama hasn't been sticking it to our allies, he's been attempting to appease our adversaries, so far without success. The ever chimerical Middle East peace is further away now than it was when George W. Bush was president. Our relations with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have never been worse.

Russia has offered nothing in exchange for Mr. Obama's abandonment of missile defense in Europe. Russia and China won't support serious sanctions on Iran.

Syria's support of terrorism has not diminished despite efforts to normalize diplomatic relations. The reclusive military dictatorship that runs Burma has responded to our efforts at "engagement" by deepening its ties to North Korea.

For the first time in a long time, the President is not trusted by our allies or feared by our adversaries, and is respected by neither. But Americans, understandably focused on the dismal economy and Mr. Obama's efforts to nationalize health care, have yet to notice.

Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: jkelly@post-gazette.com



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