Congratulations, Mr./Mrs. President, on winning a long hard-fought election. But you inherit an America with disastrous approval ratings abroad and a world whose inhabitants light up American flags with the same gusto as they light up cigarettes. Here's 10 ways to restore brand America:
1) Close Guantanamo Bay. Sure, it might be tricky to find homes for all those detainees, but symbolically speaking, keeping the facility open is killing America's image abroad.
2) Ban torture, and not just for military personnel, but also for the spooks at the CIA.
3) Get serious about global warming. Whether America revisits Kyoto or adapts a cap-and-trade policy is less important than just signaling to the world that America will take steps to combat global warming, even if it harms American business in the short run.
4) Sign the cluster bomb treaty. Ninety-eight percent of those maimed from unexplored ordnance are civilians. 'nuff said.
5) Start dismantling our nuclear arsenal. This, of course, should be done in consultation with the Russians and Chinese, but if we preach nonproliferation we must also practice nonproliferation. Otherwise we come off sounding like hypocrites.
6) Talk to our enemies. Get on the phone with Raul and Mahmoud.
7) Ramp up efforts for a Middle East peace deal. Don't wait until your second administration to make overtures for peace. Also, restore our image as an honest broker -- that might mean angering some on Israel's hard right.
8) When you visit Africa, don't just visit states that support us like Liberia. Visit Zimbabwe or Sudan and talk to opposition groups.
9) Don't go fishing with Dmitry Medvedev. There's no reason to have a chummy Boris-and-Bill relationship with Russia's No. 1. Keep it professional, not personal. Let's not make him out to be a democrat. You don't rise through the ranks of Russia's political food chain by being a softie -- or a liberal.
10) Instead of wasting money on public (or soft) diplomacy and listening tours throughout the Arab world, let's change our policy there. There's this perception that VOA-or-RFE/RL-style newscasts will shift perceptions in the Middle East. It's not that they don't know us there or that they, like the Poles of a generation ago, can be bought with Levis jeans -- it's that they do know us and don't like what they see, especially given our failed policies in the region. No amount of cultural or education exchanges is going to shift this perception. Also, if U.S.-funded news does not interview Hezbollah, it will never be seen as "fair and balanced."