For the past eight years, I regularly argued against the claim that anti-Americanism was on the rise in Europe and beyond. On the contrary, I said, most Britons and Europeans remained remarkably well-disposed to the United States: it was just the Bush administration they couldn't stand.
The global reaction last week suggested I wasn't wrong. Witness the sheer speed with which - once George Bush had been dispatched - the citizens of the world rushed to embrace America once more. It turns out the world was not just ready but eager for the US to lead again; it just didn't want Bush to do the leading. -Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
That's the position I've been defending those past years, which wasn't a very popular argument a few years back. The deep unpopularity of the US in the rest of the Western World* was due to Bush administration's attitude. It wasn't necessarily the actions of the US government but the tone, the attitude, the lack of considerations for allies and the general arrogance of the administration. Europeans and other westerners understand that the US is the leading superpower, but they do not want to have their face rubbed on their subordination and their general powerlessness. If, prior to the Iraq war, after having failed to convince most of his European allies of the need to invade, Bush had said something along the lines of "I understand that we have disagreements and I respect your position on this issue. However, I believe that it is in the world's interest to remove Saddam Hussein from power and I hope that in the months to come we will be able to convince you that it was the right decision.", you can be sure that very few would care about Iraq.
I predict that despite a very similar amount of involvement in the world's affair, an Obama administration will have a much easier relationship with Europe and the West just by changing the general attitude emanating from Washington.
* Russia and the Middle East's relationship with the US have deteriorated for reasons other than mere attitude, but that'll be the subject of another post.