She's certainly right that we've been a stabilizing force for decades, at least for the big issues. She may also be right about permanent damage - what's going on with our diplomacy with the UK right now is a travesty. But time will tell, and that's not what I'm wondering about. Is America the world's "rock"? If so, why so much anti-Americanism?
I think the worst damage Obama has done is that, until now, America has always been a solid and somewhat predictable commodity, both domestically and internationally. There have been many fluctuations, of course. Presidents came and presidents went. Some were Republicans and some Democrats, some conservative and some liberal. But there remained a certain commonality and dependability that Americans and the rest of the world—our allies and our enemies—could depend on.
... But Obama has become a loose cannon, and American is suddenly not the rock it used to be. And I wonder if we ever again will be regarded in the same way.
Anti-Americanism is a disease that permeates Europe, so much so that it's institutionalized. It's not at all a "left" vs. "right" thing - I stopped subscribing to the London Times when we lived over there because the editorial page was a sewer of anti-Americanism.
Latin America has a long and sordid history of Anti-Americanism, too. We certainly have a sorry history of messing in their affairs, but this is actually an excellent illustrative point: Anti-Americanism isn't driven by American foreign policy.
Case in point: Western Europe. We saved them from the Soviet Union, after rescuing them from Hitler. We based hundreds of thousands of our young men in harm's way - and at our expense - to stare down the Soviet Bear. Then we got out of their affairs. While we didn't draw down our troops as fast as most of us would have liked (mostly at the request of European governments, who liked the infusion of American cash), we left the Balkans to the Einsteins of Brussels to deal with. That turned out poorly, but it was the Europeans who screwed that up, not us.
Case in point: Latin America. Yes, we intervened to a shameful level, to build canals and prop up fruit companies. But head south - Argentina, Brazil, Chile - what's with them? These are the powerhouses of South America, and anti-Americanism is alive and well there without anything like the history further north. OK, for Chile, I'll see your Allende bid and raise you one Prague Spring. Where's the matching anti-Russianism?
You don't see it. So back to my question: what's with the hating on America? I have a theory, which is that anti-Americanism pays, which is why it doesn't go away. We make a handy "other" for local elites to use to keep in power. From Kensington to Buenos Aires, from Brussels to Brasilia, there are many comfortable elites who don't want their cozy power structures shaken up. The USA is the "land of opportunity", where power structures are shaken up all the time (look at Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, Sam Walton, and Steve Jobs for examples spanning the 20th Century).
If you're a comfortable elite, change is by definition bad. Can't have the proles wanting what Americans have.
Also, a common external adversary goes a long way towards rallying the undecided middle to your cause, whether you're a Brussels apparachik with visions of a super state, or an Iranian Mullah. We're a convenient target.
If this is true, then anti-Americanism will not go away. We don't want to change our national dynamism (although the Obama administration seems to be trying its best). Foreign elites don't have any other plausible replacement for us.
As someone who likes Europe and Europeans (and South America and Latin Americans), this is dismaying. Quite frankly, if most Americans knew the type of casual, unthinking, dare I say viscous anti-Americanism that's the daily ration in the European media, you'd see a repeat of the 1920s, where we turned our backs on the rest of the world.
And so, the real question to ask Neo-neocon is would it be such a bad thing for America if you're right?
And this isn't hurt feelings, or sour grapes. Do we have any business in being a permanent punching bag for foreign elites with a stake in bringing us down? Feel free to discuss. Don't forget that some of them - especially the Brits, but the Aussies and others - are shedding their blood with us in the war.
UPDATE 8 March 2010 17:51: If this is true, then there's one "ally" who doesn't deserve our help.