Maybe you suspected it all along. But now an international survey by the Pew Global Attitudes project has come up with the evidence: The world in general hates us and fears us — more than ever — even though it likes what we have and wants some of it, too.
What a blow to our American ego. For decades, we have seen ourselves as saviors of the world, and the envy of it as well. We felt we earned that respect in World War I, when we rushed over there to save Europe from the Hun, and World War II, when we stopped Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tojo, and then came the Marshall Plan and the Truman Plan of aid even to erstwhile enemies, and Korea and Vietnam and Bosnia and the Cold War that strangled communism until it imploded.
Perhaps the tipoff came September 11, 2001, when suicidal terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into New York’s Twin Towers, Washington’s Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing thousands. Condolences poured in, but there were many acerbic comments, too, even in supposedly friendly countries that had long enjoyed our largess, to the effect of, “Now you know what it’s like.” After the United States invaded Iraq, the new study shows, uneasiness about us dramatically deepened to fear and hatred and, in the Muslim world, a thirst for revenge.
The Global Attitudes survey, published by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, comprises 16,000 interviews from April 28 to May 15 in 20 countries of Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, plus the Palestinian Authority. It was chaired by Madeleine Albright, now back to teaching and consulting after eight years as President Clinton’s secretary of state and United Nations ambassador. At a breakfast meeting with reporters, she pronounced herself “shocked at the numbers,” adding:
“We have seen American power as intervening on behalf of those who need help. I never thought I would see this fear of it, and, especially in the Muslim countries, a fear actually of American military power and not just the dominance of our ideas.”
The numbers she talked about were pretty jolting, worldwide. The report said “opinions of the U.S. were markedly lower” from last year, when our September 11 tragedy won sympathy, to this year, after we invaded Iraq. The “favorable view” of the United States fell in Great Britain from 75 to 70 percent, in Canada from 72 to 63 percent, in Italy from 70 to 60 percent, in South Korea from 53 to 46 percent, in Germany from 61 to 45 percent, in France from 63 to 43 percent and in Russia from 61 to 36 percent. People in most predominantly Muslim countries overwhelmingly oppose the United States: In Turkey and in Indonesia, only 15 percent have “positive feelings” toward us. It is 10 percent in Pakistan and just 1 percent in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Oddly, perhaps, the survey found people around the world, except for Muslims, tend to like Americans even as they disapprove of our government and its policies. “Majorities in 14 of the 21 publics express favorable views of Americans,” the report said. But 92 percent of Palestinians and 82 percent of Jordanians “feel somewhat or very unfavorably” toward us. Still, even while resenting American influence, the study showed: “The publics of most nations continue to admire the United States for its technological and scientific advances, and strong majorities in many of them also like American music, movies and television.”
Andrew Kohut, the Pew Center’s director, told reporters that strained relations work both ways: “Only 53 percent of Americans say they want to continue a close relationship with the Europeans.”
The United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization were big losers, too. The idea that the U.N. is less relevant is more widely held now (72 percent in Israel, 71 percent in South Korea, 65 percent in the Palestinian Authority, 61 percent in France, 60 percent in the United States, 58 percent in Russia and 57 percent in Great Britain, for example). And five of seven NATO countries surveyed support a more independent relationship with America on diplomatic and security affairs (76 percent in France, 62 percent in Turkey, 62 percent in Spain, 61 percent in Italy and 57 percent in Germany).
Another big loser was President Bush. In France and Germany, for example, nearly three-quarters of respondents say their opposition is to the president, not America generally (74 percent each). In friendly countries, Mr. Bush was rated on foreign-policy leadership behind Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder, France’s Jacques Chirac and Britain’s Tony Blair. Among Muslim countries, it may come as no surprise that al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden outranked Mr. Bush.
None of this is lost on the White House. We hear little these days of “unilateralism” and “preventive war.” What we see, instead, is an involved, energetic, peripatetic President Bush, calling on Russia’s President Putin and personally intervening in the Middle East, forcing handshakes among combatants. Live and learn.
Warren Rogers has covered the White House and national politics since the Truman administration.