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Anti-American Sentiment Grows Worldwide
Forbes
Oxford Analytica
August 23, 2007

European and world views of the United States and President George Bush have dramatically worsened since 2000; the trend has intensified since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. There has been a decline in perceptions of the United States throughout the European Union, including in such traditional U.S. allies as the United Kingdom and Poland, and in Muslim and Latin American countries, according to annual polls undertaken by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Pew Research Center and the BBC World Service.

--Whereas most people in the world have a positive view of the E.U., U.S. influence is in noticeable decline, even among formerly staunch allies.

--Divergent views within the E.U. on U.S. policy have their roots in the 1980s East-West split in Europe on the respective threat from Soviet and U.S. military power.

--Contemporary anti-Americanism derives largely -- but not entirely -- from President George Bush's Iraq policy.

--It has waxed and waned before and is likely to subside again, in parallel with changes in the Washington administration and its foreign policy.

In a March 2007 survey of 28,000 people in 27 countries conducted for the BBC World Service by GlobeScan and the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, only Israel, Iran and North Korea were perceived as having a more negative influence than the United States on world affairs. During 2002-06, European views of the desirability of U.S. leadership in world affairs has declined from 64% to 37%, while its undesirability has risen from 31% to 57%. Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski gives Bush an "F" for his "catastrophic leadership" in world affairs in his new book, Second Chance.

Particularly dramatic are E.U. and world perceptions of Bush. Confidence in the U.S. president has declined in all countries, mirroring similar declines in the United States itself.

Bush's standing is as low as 8-20% in the U.S. Muslim allies Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia. In the United Kingdom, a long-standing U.S. ally and supporter of the Iraqi invasion, only 30% have confidence in Bush. In Germany and France, this figure is 25% and 15% respectively. In Spain, it is as low as 7%, a consequence of the 2004 Madrid train bombing. Only in India does Bush's rating exceed 50%. In China, confidence in Bush (34%) is higher than in most West European E.U. members; Russia is similar (21%).

The most dramatic decline is in long-time U.S. ally and NATO member Turkey, where only 3% have confidence in Bush. However, Turkish views of the E.U. have also declined, in response to what is seen as the E.U. stalling over Turkey's membership. This mirrors declining support for NATO, now at 44%. Another U.S. ally, South Korea, also shows strong anti-Americanism, with 60% having negative views of the United States as a "colonial power." Anti-Americanism has become fashionable among young South Koreans.

Large majorities believe the United States is acting in its own interests while ignoring the interests of its allies. Such views reflect widespread opposition to U.S. unilateralism in world affairs. The Bush administration is perceived as over-reliant on hard power while ignoring soft power, whereas the E.U. is perceived as good at using soft power.

The U.S. Council on Foreign Relations' Task Force on Public Diplomacy has pointed to a perceived lack of U.S. empathy for other people's pain and hardship (for example, U.S. reluctance to intervene in Liberia's civil war), arrogance and self-indulgence. The E.U. is the world's largest bilateral aid donor, providing twice as much aid to poor countries as the United States.

Iraq has played a major role in mobilizing anti-Americanism. In one survey, there were majorities in 10 out of 14 countries supporting the view that Iraq had made the world a more dangerous place. Even in the United Kingdom, which has the second-largest military contingent in Iraq, 60% agree with that proposition.

Abuse of prisoners both in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay has damaged the image of the United States. More European than U.S. citizens have heard about incidents there, shaping their views. Brzezinski observes that the most powerful image of the United States is no longer the Statue of Liberty, but Guantanamo.

Support for NATO has declined in parallel with the fall in the U.S. image. Many countries see NATO as a U.S.-dominated organization. Like the anti-nuclear campaigners of the 1980s, countries conflate NATO with U.S. military power.

The latest wave of anti-Americanism has a number of likely consequences:

--Turkey. It may reorient this U.S. ally away from the United States, NATO and the E.U., and towards Iran and the Middle East.

--Middle East. The already widespread perception is increasing that the United States is biased and far too pro-Israeli.

--E.U. foreign and security policy. Support is likely to rise within the E.U. for a foreign policy and a military that are independent of the United States and NATO.

--NATO. Public support for NATO is ebbing as it transforms itself from a military to a security organization. Leftist members of ruling coalitions, such as Romano Prodi's administration in Italy, have blocked plans for the expansion of U.S. bases and opposed Italy's participation in Afghanistan. Bush's goal of bringing Ukraine into NATO has been undermined by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

--Democracy promotion. The invasion of Iraq has undermined the credibility of U.S. democracy promotion programs. After the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the United States and United Kingdom described the invasion as bringing democracy to Iraq, in turn having a domino effect of democratization in the wider Middle East.

Anti-Americanism has ebbed and flowed in the past. The current wave has arisen in reaction to the perceived and actual policies of the Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq. In the 1980s and again today, anti-Americanism became mainstream. In the 1990s, anti-Americanism was marginalized, and this is likely to happen again, with the arrival of a new U.S. president and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.

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