The myth of the U.S.’s world popularity decline Posted by: McQ
on Monday, July 09, 2007
Tigerhawk takes a very interesting look at a dominant leftist myth that America has taken an horrible hit to its reputation and moral standing exclusively since George Bush has been in office (anyone with some understanding of history know that to be nonsense on a stick to begin with, but I digress).
This is a favorite theme of Glenn Greenwald, et. al. Tigerhawk takes an in-depth look at the latest Pew Global Attitudes Project which Greenwald uses to support his thesis. This will probably come as no surprise to most, but he finds Greenwald's conclusions are overstated and wrong:
Yes, the Bush administration was too damned arrogant in its relations with other countries during its first term especially and has all along simply sucked at waging the "information war". And, yes, various of its actions and omissions were destined to damage the reputation of the United States, especially among Muslims. It is not, however, at all obvious that this decline in popularity is of the great geopolitical significance that Glenn Greenwald (and, to be sure, many others on the left and in the permanent "foreign policy establishment") believes that it is. It did not prevent the election of the most overtly pro-American president France has ever produced, for example. More importantly, dislike of the United States has not prevented steep declines in the global public's regard for the likes of Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, or Osama bin Laden. American transnational progressives may prefer to claim they are Canadian at their confabs, but are we actually finding it harder to recruit enemies of our enemies? There is much less evidence of that.
Finally, Greenwald's argument that the errors of the Bush administration are the "one" reason for the decline in standing of the United States strikes me as a huge stretch and in any case not supported by the Pew Study. As the Pew Study makes clear, there are at least two other factors at work — the declining popularity of all great powers and an increasing difference of opinion between the American public and much of the rest of the world about which threats are the most pressing. That difference of opinion may one day narrow — Al Gore is working his tail off to see that it does — but until then not even a Democratic president will be able to cater to the world's preferences over those of his own electorate.
As Tigerhawk points out, the myth is based in the idea that only the US's reputation and standing have declined in these past years, while, in fact, the Pew study doesn't support that assertion at all. That, of course, would argue that perhaps the decline has little to do with Bush or his policies. However, presented in splendid isolation without the context of the entire study, such a picture can and has been painted. And that naturally leads to part two: the false expectations Greenwald and his ilk are building among US voters. Their implication - that the election of a Democratic president will fix everything concerning our reputation and standing in the world - is a false one. Per Tigerhawk, and I think he supports his point, that doesn't seem founded in reality either.
Go read the whole thing ... pretty interesting analysis.
Surprisingly, Tigerhawk overlooks what is, IMHO one of the key problems with the survey. It begins in 2002, which is probably the high point of pro-Americanism in my lifetime. Incidentally, 2002 was also probably the apogee of US go-it-alone-ness, having just withdrawn from Kyoto, ABM, making very clear that we would be willing to go-it-alone to defend ourselves, etc.
Far more interesting would be to compare the current numbers to early 2001, or to numbers from the 80s and 90s.
Oh and Glenn Greenwald is just a smarter version of Michael Moore. All the propaganda, twice the analysis.
I can’t speak of other regions, as I don’t study them as intensively, but in Central Asia the U.S. has faced a steady and quite rapid decline in popularity and sympathy. Most recently are worrying hints that we had to rely on the Chinese to pressure Pakistan to crack down on the Lal-Masjid mosque. Elsewhere, from the forced booting from K2 in Uzbekistan, to the growing pressure on Bakiyev to kick us out of Manas, to the recent signing of several gas deals in Russia’s favor in both Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the U.S. has seen its fortunes steadily wane.
Obviously the comparison should be to the Vietnam years. Then we could see how the Democrats under LBJ kept world support super high even as we carpet bombed various countries. Even France and Germany sent troops to Vietnam to allow us to pull our troops out gracefully. Ahhhh, and the UN teams made sure that the ex-South Vietnamese were not persecuted.
Again, I think the first commenter is correct in that you have to discount 9/11’s peak of support. What is the normal level of support for the US in Central Asia? I have no idea, but I doubt we were popular in 1947 through 1987, right?
Oh, and by the way, Central Asian regimes are not popular with me either. I assume they have been making changes based on my opinion?
It can also be pointed out that we now have a more pro american leader also in Australia, Canada, and Germany. On the other hand we lost Blair. but that was a long time coming He served longer than usual for a PM.
The U.S. was steadily gaining ground in Central Asia throughout the 90’s, especially on the military side with NATO. We saw a lot of positive changes happening, including the brief allowance of opposition parties in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Now, however, the U.S. get snubbed almost as often as Pakistan does, Kazakhstan changed its constitution to allow Nazarbayev to rule forever, we couldn’t muster anything more than a low level apointee to discuss Turkmenistan, and we’ve lost the land routes to Afghanistan we had from 1997 on.
So I’m talking about our peak of influence in the 90’s, not our other peak of influence in 2002. As for not approving of those dictators... well, who does, but the region is vitally important, and we can’t afford to just let it sip away.