See Sonny Bohanan’s answer to this question on Quora.com: In the world’s eyes, is President Obama hurting or helping the image of the USA?
By Sonny Bohanan
Without a doubt, President Obama has helped the image of the United States during his two terms in office. He’s repaired America’s relationship with her Western allies, who were lied to, just as the American people were lied to, and fed faked intelligence by the George W. Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq War.
The world opened its heart and its arms to America after the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld squandered that goodwill by bullying our allies into a bogus war that cost those nations the lives of their soldiers and siphoned away their money, just as it did ours in the United States.
Obama has removed American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and he’s done his best to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba (unfortunately Bush created such a legal nightmare that it’s almost impossible to fix now). He stopped the routine practice of torture instigated by Bush and his Office of General Counsel.
Further, Obama has resolutely refused to commit American ground forces to the war in Syria, another unwinnable Middle Eastern quagmire that the Republicans are eager to wade into, at a future cost, if they had their way, of thousands of dead American soldiers. Eventually, we would be forced to leave Syria in defeat, unable to solve the problems that caused that war, just as the Iraq war did nothing to improve the lives of the Iraqi people or to spread democracy in the Middle East, as Bush promised.
Obama has been a strong leader in two areas that perennially leave our Western allies shaking their heads over the stupidity of Americans: Universal healthcare and gun control. Until Obama pushed through the Affordable Care Act, the United States was the only Western democracy that left huge swaths of its population uncovered by health insurance, which put humane medical care out of the reach of many poor Americans. The Affordable Care Act brought the United States into line with the rest of the West in providing a healthcare safety net for its citizens, regardless of their ability to pay.
And Obama has called on Congress to pass common-sense gun control laws that would require universal background checks for all gun purchases. Though the Republican Senate rejected such legislation following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre three years ago, President Obama may be considering an executive order that would help close some of the loopholes that allow gun purchases without a background check.
(Update: On January 4, 2016, President Obama signed an executive order closing the loophole that allowed some gun sales without a background check — those conducted at gun shows and online, for example. The order specifically requires a background check of the buyer for all gun sales. The order also dedicates money and additional FBI agents to improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — NICS — so that it will operate 24 hours a day and will finish background checks more quickly. It also dedicates more money and additional ATF agents to enforcing the existing gun laws, and he called on prosecutors to go after violent felons who try to buy firearms illegally. A fact sheet on the executive order.)
Because of its lax gun laws, the United States is the only Western democracy that experiences almost daily mass shootings, and most of the world is frankly sickened by the mindset that has allowed this situation to fester and grow more dire with each passing year. It’s a stain on the nation’s reputation that Obama has worked to eliminate, but the Republican Congress, grown fat off NRA campaign contributions, is too addicted to the money to do its job and protect American children from the scourge of the nation’s deadly gun culture.
Obama also has stabilized an economy that was in free-fall, the financial sector teetering on the brink of collapse, as George W. Bush fled the White House. We’ve now had an unprecedented string of month-over-month economic growth, and the unemployment rate stands at 5 percent after reaching double digits as Obama took office.
By any objective measure, President Obama has improved the image of the United States, which was in tatters, fully engulfed in flames, when he was sworn in as President in January 2009. He’s been the best American president of the last half-century, hands down.