human behavior

Nobody likes Americans?

Posted in American Culture & Politics, Anti-Americanism by humanb on October 4, 2009

george_baileyIn a NYT op-ed a former Republican State Department ambassador argues that international opinion of the US, and Western European opinion in particular, have historically been low – irrespective of the nature of US international actions and the man in the White House at any given time. He also notes that Western European approval has increased in times of US withdrawal from the international community – not just military withdrawal, but financial and diplomatic. Even during periods in which the US was the most benevolent in its involvement in the world, disapproval rates were high, because we were involved.

He gives only one reason for anti-Americanism: resentment of the most powerful nation, for being just that. He concludes that America should only concern itself with international opinion to the extent that it hampers its own interests. Otherwise, fu*k it. [I paraphrase.]

I’m not a historian, and I haven’t seen the results of any surveys of international sentiments, so I base my opinions on the purely anecdotal evidence that can be accumulated by one woman who has spent time in a few countries.

My conclusion: America is indeed the least popular nation on the planet, and for a host of reasons – including, because we are supposedly the ‘only remaining superpower’. And we should care about this.

This subject is too big for one post. I have too much evidence of anti-Americanism from my five years in Australia alone to make sense of. So I’ll tackle the smaller argument here now, on why we should care about international opinion.

Constructive Criticism: There is far too much uninformed, reflexive anti-Americanism in the world – so pathetic – that it leads Americans to ignore the constructive criticism based in truth and offered with sincerity. America has an enormous amount to learn from the world – particularly with respect to domestic policy on public health, safety (guns), education, labor rights, clean energy, environmental protection, and ensuring general social welfare. We could learn heaps from Australia alone. We also have a great deal to learn about how to interact most effectively and most respectfully with other nations, from the nations themselves. When disapproval ratings of the US skyrocket, we should prick our ears up, not turn our noses. Obama has done this, and some Republicans despise him for his ‘unpatriotic’, ‘self-hating’, ‘pandering’ to international critics.

Military Support: The leaders of nations base their military decisions not solely on the advice of generals, but on the tides of public opinion. Consider Spain’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2004 which was certainly in large part due to the Madrid bombings, but which may also have been due to public opinion of the United States. The BBC reported at the time:

Spain’s new prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has given orders for Spanish troops in Iraq to be brought home in “as short a time as possible”. In a televised address to the nation, he said he could not ignore what he called the will of the Spanish people.

Perhaps if there was any affection for the United States, Spain and other countries would not have withdrawn their troops so readily. Yes, there were plenty of reasons to object to the Iraq invasion and to change course on supporting it. I merely argue that public attitudes to the US would have played a part as well. The more the world likes us, the more it will cooperate with us – if not directly support us with troops – in our military efforts abroad.

Financial: This is a no-brainer. America imports more than it exports, and to our detriment. The more the world likes us, the more it will want our products, import our television and film, and welcome more golden arches along its highways [this last, not a good thing, mind you]. This translates into jobs at home, which are currently in short supply.

The more the world likes us, the easier it will make it for Americans to travel and work abroad, which I personally consider invaluable to the cultural and political growth of our nation. I’m not just talking visas here, but the experience of being abroad. I feel more prejudice as an American in Sydney, than I feel as a black woman in Virginia.

And on the flip side, the more the world likes us, the more tourists we get pumping money into the economy, the more graduate students we poach from India and China to advance our cutting-edge research and build our next Silicon Valley juggernaut, and the more skilled migrants we get to fill our doctor, nursing and other work shortages.

Don’t forget: George Bailey was “the richest man in town” because he had friends.

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P.S. Many in the US media have speculated about whether anti-Americanism fueled Chicago being the first eliminated in the bid to host the 2016 Olympics. I won’t insult the Olympics committee by suggesting this was the case for them, but there were certainly plenty of Republicans praying for Chicago’s defeat and rejoicing over the results.

Chicago never had a chance. I knew Rio would win. I mean seriously, who wouldn’t rather go to Rio than Chicago? Sorry Chicago. The Olympics there would have been good for the city, and it may have promoted the US image abroad, but South America’s opportunity was overdue.

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2 Responses

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  1. bcrowderjackson said, on October 4, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Well, good post. But, how can we expect another country to like us when we don;t even like one another. The east coast hates west coast,the north hates the south, whites hate blacks, blacks hate everybody! LOL We are so divided as a nation that the idea of coming together as a nation in an effort to befriend the world is just not realistic!

    • Tillman said, on October 5, 2009 at 9:45 pm

      I know.

      Look at Biggie and Tupac.

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