In increasing numbers, people around the globe resent American power and wealth and reject specific actions like the occupation of Iraq and the campaign against democratically elected Palestinian leaders, in-depth international polling shows, (information-restricted) Newshouse News Service reports Wednesday. Excerpts:
...In the past, while Europeans, Asians and Arabs might have disliked American policies or specific U.S. leaders, they liked and admired Americans themselves. Polls now show an ominous turn.
Majorities around the world think Americans are greedy, violent and rude, and fewer than half in countries like Poland, Spain, Canada, China and Russia think Americans are honest.
American People Seen As Greedy, Violent, and Rude
David Wood, of NewHouse News Service, who writes, World opinion of U.S. sinking: Dislike of everything American on the rise.
WASHINGTON -- The United States has often irritated the rest of the world, but lately it's gotten worse -- and more dangerous.
"We found a rising antipathy toward Americans," said Bruce Stokes of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which interviewed 93,000 people in 50 countries over a four-year span.
The dislike is accelerating among youths, Stokes said. For instance, 20 percent of Britons under age 30 have an unfavorable opinion of Americans, double the percentage of 2002.
American Foreign Policy Loses Credibility
And the dislike for Americans is not based just on misperceptions or minor cultural misunderstandings. But rather reflects well informed antipathy to our foreign policy and actions around the world.
Keeping the peace, winning the war on terrorism and other critical goals are achievable "only if people like you and trust you," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. Instead, Kohut and his associates find American credibility eroding, even among NATO allies.
Almost half of those polled in Britain, France and Germany dispute the whole concept of a global war on terrorism, and a majority of Europeans believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. More than two-thirds of Germans, French and Turks believe American leaders lied about the reasons for war and believe the United States is less trustworthy than it once was.
"There is great resentment at American power," Kohut said. "But being liked is important," he added, because public support goes either "to us or to the bad guys."
That support seems in flux. While allied governments generally support the United States, their citizens increasingly do not.
Even among the United States' newest friends, such as India, where President Bush in March signed an agreement on nuclear cooperation, there is "uneasiness about whether we have come too close to America and surrendered independence of judgment to the sole superpower," said Ambassador Salman Haidar, former Indian foreign secretary and head of its diplomatic corps.
Donald Rumsfeld Bemoans Lack Of Success Despite Spending Over $1 Billion A Year On Advertising And Payoffs To Foreign Journalists
Ever clueless Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld complains that we only get a "D" on our efforts despite spending more than $1 Billion a year in advertising and payoffs to foreign journalists. Apparently, oblivious to the insult to the intelligence of the many people around the world that have learned to read, and take offense that we should believe that they are incapable of forming their opinions of us based on our real foreign policies and true reports. The Pentagon's "investments" in paying off foreign journalists have no doubt hurt or image in the eyes of the people of the world more than help it.
And advertisements of American's singing Kumbaya around a camp fire do not change the perceptions that our foreign policy with regard to the people of Palestine are duplicitous and fall far short of our representations that we are an honest and fair broker.
Among others, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has bemoaned the state of America's image and the efforts to improve it.
The United States spends about $1 billion a year on international broadcasting and the public relations campaign it calls "public diplomacy," run out of the State Department by former top Bush campaign operative Karen Hughes. Separately, the Pentagon directs its own "information operations" and psychological operations programs that have included paying journalists in Iraq to write favorable newspaper articles.
"We probably deserve a D or D-plus as a country as how well we're doing in the battle of ideas," Rumsfeld said March 27 at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. "We're going to have to find better ways to do it and thus far we haven't."
There have been 30 reports in recent years on the need to improve public diplomacy, including one in May by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The GAO found that 15 percent of the critical public diplomacy positions around the world were vacant. Among those diplomats on the job, one in three lacked the foreign language skills to communicate effectively, the GAO said.
Few analysts expect more than marginal improvements in global public opinion, short of another 9/11.
"In my judgment, you're going to see a lot of this hostility disappear only when various countries really feel they need friendly relations with the United States, probably for their own security," said Solomon. "It will probably take some major event for that to take place."
Why should we expect world public opinion towards us to change if we do not change our behavior? And let's not kid ourselves. We cannot blame this entirely on President Bush, although, I will admit he has probably damaged America's image around the world more than any other 10 Presidents combined.
Some of America's problems go much deeper. And world opinion is not based on misperceptions. I remember from decades back from some work I once did on one of the global simulation models of world population, resource consumption, pollution, and economic growth that although we constitute 5% of the worlds population we still consume almost 25% of the worlds non-renewable resources and generate similar disproportionate percentages of pollution.
Yet, we have defied the 140 other nations that have attempted to enact the Kyoto Treaty, the most comprehensive international treaties to address global environmental issues. Our notorious UN representative John Bolton has focused on undermining virtually every UN measure aimed at remedying injustices of the past, and the Millennium Goals focusing on helping underdeveloped countries eliminate poverty, hunger, diseases such as diarrhea, HIV, and improve health care.
People around the world are shocked that a country and a people that thinks as highly of ourselves as we do, appears callous to the plight of hundreds of millions of the worlds children around the world dying of diseases such as diarrhea, wasting disease, or lack of clean water that sometimes can be remedied by pennies a day per child in salt tablets. While the people of many more developed countries in Europe and South East Asia show similar levels of disinterest and lack of compassion as Americans for children dying in third world countries, the United States is unique in having an ambassador such as John Bolton, who gives speeches showing pride in his efforts to actively disrupt the few paltry programs the world has put together to aid these children.
Can Al Gore Help?
I am sad to say there are days I am ashamed to be an American. The only encouraging news I can report on this topic is that Al Gore has courageously stood up to call more attention to this shame and the urgent need for major changes in the choices all Americans and people of the world will need to make to survive in the emerging future we all will face.
With the upcoming release of his movie on Global Warming issues called An Inconvenient Truth, some of these issues will be receiving more attention than they have in a long time. But will this make a difference? My concern is that once the excitement of having a politician speaking passionately about real principles wears off, too many, even Democrats, are not going to be willing to make the required changes rapidly enough.
The deeper question you can ask yourself as a harbinger of wider opinion. "How much would you be willing to voluntarily reduce your consumption of non-renewable resources, and generation of policy such as carbon dioxide for the benefit of other people of the world or future generations? Probably not enough.
And the worse news these sad polls about world opinion towards Americans indicate that many throughout the world are not optimistic that we have the right stuff to become more responsible citizens of the world. And they may be right.
This doesn't mean you will get to refuse to change, merely that we collectively will probably give up or highest leverage most convenient options we could initiate voluntarily and will wait until the rest of the system forces less desirable truths on us.
An "inconvenient truth indeed." But a truth none-the-less. Fasten your seatbelts. Turbulence ahead.
And I see very few people anywhere recognizing that all of the many global issues are connected as part of one bigger world system. Leaving me to expect that we will all continue to follow in the steps of Donald Rumsfeld and President George Bush and try to solve these problems with increasing military expenditures. Without realizing that it is exactly this tendency which most drives world opinion against us.
I no longer have all the facts at my fingertips but to make the point let me suggest that it is my belief that for fraction of the over $ trillion dollar full life cycle cost of the failed war in Iraq we could have eliminated most of the deaths of children around the world from diarrhea, and had plenty left over to do many other valuable and constructive things that would create real good will and credibility around the world.
The fact that we no not, damages our reputation more than most realize. And is a direct causal factor in the minds of the millions of Arab poor youths who each year face the decision of how to best serve the interests of their own people, their families and themselves. We are losing the battle of perceived relative legitimacy. The "battle" for the hearts and minds of the people. Not because we have failed to spend enough money on advertising programs that insult the intelligence of the viewers or because we have yet to find more effective ways to buy off or intimidate foreign journalists. But because or foreign policies are stupid, destructive, callous, blatantly damaging to other people of the world.
And with very few exception, such as Al Gore, not even Democrat leaders are saying anything that would give hope that we will soon change.
But the old adage, "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" come with a package of other insights American will not like to hear. But will soon learn. "If we do not set our own limits, someone else will set them for us." One does not need fancy computer simulation models to predict that unless we voluntarily change course soon, the rest of the system will take care of this problem for us. And it does not appear the other 95% of the world's population is going to be in much of a sympathetic mood when they do it.