- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2002

The ugly American apparently has become uglier to much of the rest of the world, if a major survey of global attitudes is correct.
With apologies to Kermit the Frog, it isn't easy being green if green stands for money, and it is even tougher if you are the only true superpower on a planet where everyone else is envious. Unquestionably, there was less antipathy toward the United States when the hate could be split between America and the Soviet Union, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it.
The facts can be found in a new survey published by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Demographers conducted 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 44 nations to come up with their conclusions that America is admired for its technological achievements and its cultural exports, but disliked for its spreading influence.
Among the more dramatic findings of the survey, chaired by Mrs. Albright, was increased discontent with the United States around the world among NATO allies, Eastern Europeans and, most dramatically, among Muslim societies. Before anyone gets too alarmed and cancels business and vacation trips abroad, it should be noted that the survey found strong majorities in 35 nations who are still favorable to the United States and particularly its citizens.
One of the more startling discoveries, in fact, is a remarkable growth in favorable Russian attitudes toward the United States. The survey found 61 percent of Russians now have a favorable opinion of this nation as compared to 37 percent two years ago.
The percentage of those who regard America favorably is down by 17 points in Germany, 8 in Great Britain and 6 in Italy. But this becomes less of a worry when one realizes that a majority 61 percent, 75 percent and 70 percent, respectively of Germans, Britons and Italians still are supportive of the United States. In France, the number favorable to America and Americans actually has grown, from 62 percent to 63 percent.
If there is any immediate cause for alarm for U.S. foreign policy, it is in the survey's findings in Turkey and Pakistan where Mrs. Albright says there is a dramatic gap between the official government attitude toward the United States and that of the average citizen. Although the White House has just secured official Turkish support for limited use of bases and airspace for any action against Iraq, Turks generally don't support even that position, according to the Pew report. Eighty-three percent of Turkish respondents, who were asked specifically about permitting U.S. use of bases in their country, opposed it.
Only 30 percent of Turks interviewed are at all favorably disposed to the United States, down 22 percent from 2000. The report says most Turks see a new conflict with Iraq as an attack on a Muslim state.
In Pakistan, which has had a major role in the war on terrorism, the survey found only a 10 percent favorable rating for this country a decline of 13 percent.
Unsurprisingly, the survey found that true dislike, if not hatred, of America is concentrated in the Muslim nations of the Middle East and reflects the growing belief that Americans aren't interested in their welfare. Some of this feeling, if not most of it, stems from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mrs. Albright said. The survey said sizable percentages of Muslims in many countries believe suicide bombings can be justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies.
It is difficult to become upset over these findings, considering that there seems to be a broad acceptance of America's global role, including the fact that majorities in most other nations, including Russia, believe the world is a safer place with only one superpower and reject the emergence of another. At the same time, the war on terrorism, outside the Muslim nations, continues to enjoy global support.
In a sort of "maybe it will just go away" attitude, the survey found that while huge majorities in Britain, France and Germany believe Iraq poses a sizable danger, only 47 percent, 33 percent and 26 percent, respectively, favor using force to remove Saddam Hussein. In fact, demographers say only 62 percent of Americans support military action against Iraq.
Overall, the report's significance seems to be that Americans are less safe in their travel and business projects overseas, but not appreciably so except in Middle Eastern hot spots. The souring attitudes toward America, however, are more than matched by the discontent with world conditions. Unhappy people are looking for someone to blame, so why not the big guy on the block?

Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.

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