- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2008

They’ve read polls claiming the U.S. image has dwindled overseas. They fret over finances, terrorist threats, military entanglements, immigration, job outsourcing, trade wars, diplomatic spats. Indeed, many Americans pine for a more isolationist nation.

But America’s place on the global stage seems permanent according to some research.

“The U.S. needs the world and the world needs the U.S.,” says a new Harris survey that suggests that foreign relations have been cemented by mutual dependencies.

We just can’t get enough of each other’s stuff, apparently. And the world continues to look to American military prowess and food supplies.

Eighty eight percent of Americans, in fact, said the rest of the world depends on the U.S. for military defense to one extent or the other. Eighty nine percent said the world continues to rely on American food supplies.

Yankee know-how appears to be a big draw as well.

A majority of the respondents - 53 percent - said the world continues to depend on our scientific research “a lot” while a third said “a little.” Half said our technology appealed to other countries while 36 percent said it mattered to a lesser extent. Majorities also said that U.S. industrial inventiveness and our money also attracts other nations.

The feeling is mutual, but for different reasons.

“Americans realize that the world role of the United States is a two-way street,” the survey said.

Ninety percent of us also say the U.S. depends on foreign fuel “a lot.” Eighty nine percent said the U.S. enjoys overseas products while 87 percent acknowledge the need for overseas markets to buy our own goods.

“As more countries around the world find reason to be displeased with the United States, especially for foreign policy reasons, does this dependency become something that can cause American harm - either physically or economically?” the survey asked.

The survey of 2,710 was conducted Aug. 11-17 and released Monday.

Other research reveals that wary Americans are reluctant to get too cozy with other countries, despite consumer ties. We’ve got our own problems to solve.

“Support for global engagement declines,” says a Pew Research Center survey of 2,982 adults conducted in mid-September and released Thursday, which revealed a “sharply diminished appetite” for foreign-based problems.

Sixty percent overall want the next president to focus on domestic policy; 21 percent favored foreign policy and 15 percent opted for both.

Four years ago, 72 percent wanted the U.S. to play a major role in reducing AIDS and other diseases; that figure has since fallen to 53 percent. Previously, 48 percent hoped to strengthen the United Nations. That figure now stands at 32 percent.

Numbers also have fallen in other concerns, including stopping genocide (47 percent then, 36 percent now); curbing nuclear weapons (71 percent then, 62 percent now) and promoting human rights (33 percent then, 25 percent now).

Our priorities? More than three-fourths want to reduce energy dependence, up from 63 percent, while 45 percent want to reduce our military commitments, compared with 35 percent four years ago.

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