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US: Image around the world

The masses around the world may be stupid, ignorant, violent and thoughtless, but they are they are there, and their opinion must be taken into account in formulating US foreign policy. The important Pew Global Attitudes Project has released an extraordinary survey of world opinion of the US, and it is not encouraging. It is not surprising that the Iraq war has increased hostility toward the US in Muslim countries, each of which wonder if it will be the next target of US attention. World respect for the UN has also suffered badly, since the US simply disregarded it. Across much of the Muslim world Osama bin Laden inspires more respect than President Bush. The scope of the inquiry was impressive. Some 16,000 interviews were conducted in 20 countries (plus Palestiians) in 31 languages. In Turkey 71% feared an attack by the US, while even in Kuwait 53% did. In every country but the US the public believed that opinion American policy favors Israel too much. Europeans think that Europe should become more independent of the US: : 76% of the French, 57% of Germans, 62% of Spaniards, and 45% of the British. This survey gives rise to two questions. In terms of US foreign policy, should the US pay attention to it or disregard it in terms of realpoliti?. Foreign policy decisions ae often unpopular. As for US domestic policy, Bush will pay no attention to world opinion. He will be buoyed by the fact that the Iraq war has increased voter approval of him. Whether that approval will survive depends on the US success in establishing a new order in Iraq. Nation building has none of the glamor of war or the thrill of victory.

Ronald Hilton - 6/5/03