Americans appear to be taking a cue from the Obama Administration on foreign policy and the U.S.’s role in global affairs. Much like President Carter’s contention that a “national malaise” had befallen Americans in the late 1970s, making everyone depressed if they were not so already, President Obama’s constant refrain that the United States has much to be humble about and should act accordingly, has taken a toll on Americans’ view of their role in the world.

The new opinion poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs suggests that Americans have deep concerns about global affairs in this second year of the Obama Administration. Of course, the global economic downturn has also had an impact on Americans’ attitude, as have the lengthy military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans have a deepened “sense of vulnerability and pessimism about the future,” states the foreword to “Constrained Internationalism: Adapting to New Realities,” the most recent study in an annual series published by the Council since the 1970s. Here are some of the Council’s findings that have to be of concern:

  • Only one quarter of Americans believe that the United States plays a more important role as world leader compared to a decade ago. In 2002, a solid majority believed America’s role in the world was increasing.
  • Looking ahead half a century, only one-third of Americans believe the United States will be the world’s leading power. (The major contender is seen to be China.)
  • Three quarters of Americans thinks that the country is more vulnerable to attack today than in 2001.
  • Americans who believe that conflict with the Islamic world is inevitable has grown from 27 percent in 2002 to 45 percent today.
  • A large majority of Americans believe that if current trends continue, their children will not be as well off as they are.
  • Half of Americans believe that America should try to slow down globalization or reverse it, the main cause being seen to be the loss of job security and job creation in the United States.
  • A large majority thinks that the United States is playing the role of the world’s policeman more than it should, and favor a more selective engagement and staying on the sidelines where conflicts are not directly threatening the United States. their country’s standing in the world.

The good news is, however, that Americans to remain committed to international engagement, and at some level “strong leadership.” And two-thirds believe that America should take an active role in global affairs.

And Americans also remain committed to long-term military bases and two-thirds remain supportive of NATO.

So, while Americans have lost some faith in their country’s standing in the world, they have at least not turned into isolationists. And it could well be argued that the new reality to which Americans are adapting is actually just a White House obsessed with managing American decline, rather than a change in American global power, which remains preeminent economically and militarily.

Managing the post-American century is at the heart of the Obama doctrine. The Obama tenets in foreign policy were recently laid out in Defining the Obama Doctrine, Its Pitfalls, and How to Avoid Them, a report by the Heritage Foundation’s Kim R. Holmes and James Carafano.

The tenets of this doctrine are as follows:

1)      Emphasizing international treaties and working through international organizations, often before turning to friends and allies,

2)      Placing diplomacy and “soft power” before military power,

3)      Adopting a more humble attitude in state-to-state relations,

4)      Playing a more restrained role on the international stage.

These tenets, write the authors, “do not reflect history, nor the threats we face. They will serve to undermine America’s strengths.”

The Obama doctrine and its message of decline and humility has taken its toll on the America people. Yet, as in the case of Jimmy Carter’s “national malaise,” Americans’ views of their country, could change dramatically with a different man at the helm, someone who had faith in this nation and who could inspire Americans’ to believe that it is still “morning in America.”