By one global measure, President Obama's first year in office has been a resounding success. International attitudes toward the U.S. have been transformed. "Belief that Obama will 'do the right thing in world affairs' is now nearly universal in Western countries, where lack of confidence in President Bush had been almost as prevalent for much of his time in office," reported the Pew Global Attitudes Project last summer, as part of a poll that showed positive movement in all the countries surveyed, except for Israel. As a cherry on top, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.
In terms of substantive successes on the world stage, however, it has been a trying year for Obama. Israeli relations with the Palestinians have deteriorated, after some initial optimism. Iran remains defiant, and the international community is still undecided on the way forward with that nation. Afghanistan has required not one but two strategic reviews, while the death toll of U.S. troops remains painfully high. Iraq, though improved, is on the verge of a political crisis that could purge hundreds of Sunni politicians from election ballots. There has been progress in nuclear disarmament talks with Russia, but initial deadlines for signing a new agreement have slipped. Talks in Copenhagen in December over a new global-warming pact ended in broad disappointment.
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