Thanks to new FOIBer but old friend of Ian Bell for this piece.
Global warmth for U.S. after 9/11 turns to frost Wed Aug 14, 8:33 AM ET Ellen Hale USA TODAY
OXFORD, England — On a packed train out of London recently to this historic college town, a young American woman struck up a conversation with her seatmate, a nattily dressed older British man. hey chatted amiably about Oxford until she worked up the courage to ask what was weighing on her mind:
”Why,” she blurted out, ”does everybody hate us?”
The man paused — but didn’t disagree — before proceeding to enumerate the reasons, from U.S. foreign policies to the seeping influence of American popular culture.
In the shock wave that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many Americans found themselves asking why so many people in Muslim countries hate the United States. But the anti-American sentiment has turned into a contagion that is spreading across the globe and infecting even the United States’ most important allies.
In virulent prose, newspapers criticize the United States. Politicians ferociously attack its foreign policies, especially the Bush administration’s plans to attack Iraq. And regular citizens launch into tirades with American friends and visitors.
Here in Britain, the United States’ staunchest friend, snide remarks and downright animosity greet many Americans these days. It’s not just religious radicals and terrorists who resent the United States anymore.
”Now, it’s everyone,” says Allyson Stewart-Allen, a consultant from California who has lived in London 15 years and heads International Marketing Partners, which advises European companies on how to do business with Americans. The sea change in attitude toward the United States, she says, has ”profoundly” altered her advice to clients:
She now must counsel them to resist ”taking digs” at her countrymen.
What happened, many Americans are wondering, to that wave of sympathy and stockpile of global goodwill they encountered after Sept. 11?
”It was squandered,” says Meghnad Desai, director of the Institute for Global Governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a member of the House of Lords.
”America dissipated the goodwill out of its arrogance and incompetence. A lot of people who would never ever have considered themselves anti-American are now very distressed with the United States,” he says.
Desai and others blame what seems to be a wave of new U.S. policies that they regard as selfish and unilateral, stretching back to President Bush ( news – web sites)’s refusal last year to support the international treaty on global warming ( news – web sites).
Many are enraged by Bush’s support for steel tariffs and farm subsidies, his refusal to involve the United States in the new international criminal court and what is widely regarded abroad as one-sided support for Israel and its prime minister, Ariel Sharon ( news – web sites).
The rash of corporate malfeasance and blanket arrest of terrorism suspects after Sept. 11 further fuels critics, who say the United States preaches democracy, human rights and free enterprise — but doesn’t practice them.
Growing gap with Europe
In a recent article in Policy Review magazine, Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, says the divide between the United States and Europe is getting wider than ever as the continents go their different ways — one operating on a foreign policy based on unilateralism and coercion, the other on diplomacy and persuasion.
Europeans, he says, have ”come to view the United States simply as a rogue colossus, in many respects a bigger threat to (their) pacific ideals than Iraq or Iran.”
The differences, he says, are deep and likely to endure.
”Why do people attack Americans?” asks Tiny Waslandek, a social worker in Amsterdam, Netherlands. ”Because they have a big, big mouth and they mind everybody’s business.”
Bush’s plan to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ( news – web sites) is stoking anti-American hostility to bonfire levels. In Germany earlier this month, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder launched his re-election campaign by denouncing what he derisively called Bush’s proposed military ”adventures” in Iraq. In England, the new head of the Anglican Church and other leading bishops circulated a petition proclaiming that any attack would be illegal and immoral.
Linked to Iraq and Israel
”My sense is that much of the rampant anti-Americanism we see now is very much linked to a war with Iraq and the Israel-Palestine issue,” says Mary Kaldor, a London-based scholar on international relations.
In the popular Straw Poll BBC radio show July 26, Kaldor debated with Washington Post reporter T. R. Reid whether ”American power is the power of the good.” She argued that the U.S. role as the sole superpower was a danger to the rest of the world.
At the end of the program, 70% of the studio audience said it agreed with her.
Anti-Americanism is nothing new. Surveys a decade ago in Britain showed that one in four people here are what pollster Robert Worcester, a transplanted Kansan who runs the Market Opinion Research Institute, calls ”culturally anti-American.”
(According to a survey taken in 1989, one in five said they found American accents irritating.)
To some degree, the resentment against the United States is inevitable now that it’s the only remaining superpower. Even so, Desai, who says that he is ”very, very pro-America” and that people forget the United States saved Europe from itself twice in the past century, notes that America has been on top for a long time. ”So what is happening now is not the inevitable result of being No. 1.”
(Desai and many other Europeans give Washington credit for dismantling the hard-line Taliban regime in Afghanistan ( news – web sites), which harbored Osama bin Laden ( news – web sites) and his al-Qaeda terrorist network).
In recent months, polls have shown a less-than subtle change in attitudes toward Americans, U.S. foreign policy and, in particular, the president from Texas. British newspapers reported Thursday that secret polls commissioned by Prime Minister Tony Blair ( news – web sites) revealed ”spectacular unpopularity” for Bush among voters here.
In April, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that less than half (48%) of Germans consider the United States a guarantor of peace in the world, compared with 62% who did in 1993. Nearly half — 47% — rated Americans as aggressive rather than peaceful (34%). And 44% called them superficial.
Meanwhile, in an April poll for the Council on Foreign Relations, based in Washington, Europeans proved highly critical of Bush and what they label his unilateral approach to foreign policy: 85% of Germans, 80% of French, 73% of Britons and 68% of Italians said they believed that the United States is acting in its own interest in the war on terrorism.
Philadelphia transplant Susan Steele, head of Forum management company in London, has noticed that many Europeans have started using the phrase ”that’s American,” which is shorthand, Steele says, for ”not taking anyone else into consideration.”
”People here were truly shocked and horrified by Sept. 11,” says Marjorie Thompson, an American who runs the consulting group C3I in London. ”But since then, they’ve come to believe that the United States is using that as an excuse for a unilateral foreign policy, and they’re starting to make sweeping anti-American comments.”
Even British pop star George Michael and tennis pro Martina Navratilova have taken swings at the United States. Last month, Michael declared he was ”definitely not anti-American” after receiving criticisms for his new single, Shoot the Dog, which lampooned the relationship between Bush and Blair.
In June, Navratilova, a Czech native who became a U.S. citizen 20 years ago, had to defend herself after writing an article for a German newspaper in which she said that the United States now ”oppressed opinion” and that decisions there were based ”solely on how much money will come out of it.”
That the United States is suffering an image problem abroad has become obvious at home. Two weeks ago, the White House announced it would create a permanent Office of Global Communications to enhance America’s image around the world. At the same time, the House of Representatives approved spending $225 million on cultural and information programs abroad, mostly targeting Muslim countries, to correct what Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., called a ”cacophony of hate and misinformation” about the United States.
Meanwhile, the Council on Foreign Relations simultaneously issued a biting report warning the Bush administration that it urgently needs to upgrade its efforts at public diplomacy to counteract the country’s ”shaky” image abroad.
It called for a range of actions, from increased spending on polling of foreign public opinion and more training of foreign service officers to giving journalists from other countries access to top U.S. government officials.
The consequences of neglecting such public diplomacy are ”ominous,” warns Peter Peterson, chairman of the council and of The Blackstone Group, a New York private investment bank. He says bin Laden has ”gleefully exploited” the United States’ poor public image.
”Around the world, from Western Europe to the Far East, many see the United States as arrogant, hypocritical, self-absorbed, self-indulgent and contemptuous of others,” Peterson says. ”This is not a Muslim country issue. It has metastasized to the rest of the world and includes some of our closest European allies.”
New Yorker Julia Magnet, a journalist who just moved to London, found that out when she decided to throw a Fourth of July party for British friends. Between grilled sausages and chocolate cake, her friends launched an attack on Bush and the United States. They called Bush a ”homicidal maniac” and ”stupid” and the United States the ”world’s biggest terrorist.”
Magnet, 22, was forgiving, and she labeled their assault ”uninformed” and ”ignorant.”
Nevertheless, she was surprised by the venom in their words.
”What I hear from people all the time now is that we’re going to go to war with just about everyone and we don’t need a coalition to do it,” Magnet says.
”It’s obvious they are very, very disturbed by the power America now has.”