Thursday, September 11, 2003

The War: Foreign Views of U.S. Darken Since Sept. 11

The New York Times reports the world is not so impressed with us.

In the two years since Sept. 11, 2001, the view of the United States as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world's sympathy and support has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force.

"A lot of people had sympathy for Americans around the time of 9/11, but that's changed," said Cathy Hearn, 31, a flight attendant from South Africa, expressing a view commonly heard in many countries. "They act like the big guy riding roughshod over everyone else."
Riding roughshod over a poor soul like Saddam Hussein, a genteel man who never did anything to bother anyone.

Yet I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Times found people who support the US.
Even at this low point, millions of people still see the United States as a beacon and support its policies, including the war in Iraq, and would, given the chance, be happy to become Americans themselves.

Some regions, especially Europe, are split in their view of America's role: The governments and, to a lesser extent, the public in former Soviet-bloc countries are much more favorably disposed to American power than the governments and the public in Western Europe, notably France and Germany.

[ * * * ]

Still, a widespread and fashionable view is that the United States is a classically imperialist power bent on controlling global oil supplies and on military domination.
Have you ever seen photos of what passes for fashion on the runways of Paris these days?

That mood has been expressed in different ways by different people, from the hockey fans in Montreal who boo the American national anthem to the high school students in Switzerland who do not want to go to the United States as exchange students because America is not "in." Even among young people, it is not difficult to hear strong denunciations of American policy and sharp questioning of American motives.

"America has taken power over the world," said Dmitri Ostalsky, 25, a literary critic and writer in Moscow. "It's a wonderful country, but it seized power. It's ruling the world. America's attempts to rebuild all the world in the image of liberalism and capitalism are fraught with the same dangers as the Nazis taking over the world."
Why am I not the least bit surprised that a Russian literary critic and writer sees liberalism and capitalism on par with the Nazi’s racial socialism? And I wonder if Dmitri Ostalsky has ever heard of Chechnya.

[W]hile the United States probably feels more threatened now than in 1989, when the cold war ended, Europe is broadly unconvinced of any imminent threat.

"There were deep structural forces before 9/11 that were pushing us apart," said John J. Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago and the author of "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics." "In the absence of the Soviet threat or of an equivalent threat, there was no way that ties between us and Europe wouldn't be loosened.

"So, when the Bush Administration came to power, the question was whether it would make things better or worse, and I'd argue that it made them worse."

"In the cold war you could argue that American unilateralism had no cost," Professor Mearsheimer continued. "But as we're finding out with regard to Iraq, Iran and North Korea, we need the Europeans and we need institutions like the U.N. The fact is that the United States can't run the world by itself, and the problem is, we've done a lot of damage in our relations with allies, and people are not terribly enthusiastic about helping us now."
I often hear that we must not blindly support the Neo-Cons because their vision is in fact to run the world. But is it? I think it is wholly legitimate for the US to respond aggressively to those who plot and act against it. After all, it is an axis of evil that threatens us. There is no honest motivation behind this axis. The Bush Administration has made things worse, not because it has unabashedly worked to protect America wherever she is threatened, but precisely because it hasn’t. The threat of North Korea remains unchecked. The threat of Iran remains unchecked. Al-Qaida is broken, but not eliminated. Our so-called allies in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan deal with to us with two faces. And we demand that Israel not defend itself from the terrorists that kill its citizens.

How did we slip so far out the world’s favor? I say, it is because of men like John J. Mearsheimer, professor of political science. One can forgive the man on the street though. One can not forgive the intellectuals—especially ours.

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