Nearly six months into his second term, Obama has made scant progress towards one of his key goals from his first campaign, which he described in 2008 as “restor[ing] that sense that America is that shining beacon on a hill.” The idea was to revive the idea that America represents values like freedom, human rights and peace.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Worldwide supporters of the fugitive former NSA employee Edward Snowden have depicted him as a heroic crusader against a nefarious surveillance state reminiscent of the East German Stasi. The European parliament recently adopted aresolution critical of the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, which noted that “the fight against terrorism cannot be waged at the expense of established basic shared values, such as respect for human rights and the rule of law.” Recent polling shows America more unpopular than ever in Muslim countries, enraged by Obama’s heavy reliance on drone strikes against suspected terrorists. Though occasionally cooperative, Russia and China are content to speak about America with borderline hostility. Even a bite-sized nation like Ecuador is thumbing its nose at the U.S. over Snowden’s fate.