The last seven and a half years have seen the world in turmoil. Growth pains due to globalization, the rising challenge of China and India, a newly autocratic Russia, an EU increasingly going its own way economically, and related to that, the slow collapse of NATO as a viable coalition, dying a slow death in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan.
Oh…did I mention 9/11 and the American invasion and occupation of Iraq?
Those looking for a common thread may be tempted to lump all of these civilization altering changes under the rubric of “Bush’s incompetence” or “Bush’s stupidity.” But seriously now, are you really that shallow and stupid? All of those challenges have been developing for at least a decade or more. The growth and rapid advancement of globalization has resulted in unparalleled economic growth as well as massive economic dislocation. Bush policies have accelerated some of the local effects of globalization – some good some bad. China and India would be on the verge of economic superpower status regardless of anything America could do.
The EU is still trying to emerge from infancy, still unsure of itself politically. It’s economic performance is improving but nowhere near what was promised. Nevertheless, the EU seems willing to strike out on its own and become a separate entity from the US. Europe had always defined itself through its relations with America through NATO. No longer.
And NATO itself is dying. Unable to face the growing challenges in Afghanistan as most of its members refuse to commit combat forces to the fight, NATO’s reason for being is being challenged with no good answers emerging to give justification for its continued existence. It was thought adding former Eastern bloc countries to the organization would reinvigorate it. Instead, it has simply delayed the inevitable.
And then, there is Iraq.
To say that the Iraq War has made America unpopular in the world is something of a misnomer. It would be more accurate to say the war has made us more unpopular. In truth, it is a myth – one generated for obvious political reasons by the left – that post 9/11, the world was on “our side” and that we were an object of affection and that the world was with us.
Poppycock. I’ve been trying to debunk this myth almost since I started blogging. Much more of the planet celebrated the collapse of the WTC than wept. Those that laid flowers at memorial sites or wrote heartfelt missives to America were showing their solidarity with the American people, not our government.
This was made evident less than 48 hours after the attacks when audience members attending the BBC TV show “Question Time” brought the former ambassador Philip Laden to the verge of tears as they blamed America for the attacks:
Mr Lader had been attempting to express his sadness over the attacks when a number of audience members had shouted him down to voice their anti-US opinions. Mr Lader had looked close to tears.
At times, David Dimbleby struggled to control the discussion as voices and tempers became raised.
Some audience members said the US was ultimately responsible for the attacks because of its foreign policy.
William Shawcross, stuck in London following 9/11, reported what happened on the TV program “Question Time” and gave voice to the predominant view on the continent and most of the rest of the world regarding America:
But the response of some of the Question Time audience reveals a darker side and shows the awful truth that these days there is just one racism that is tolerated – anti-Americanism. Not just tolerated, but often applauded. Like any other nation, the US makes mistakes at home and abroad. (I wrote about some of those in Indochina.)
But the disdain with which its failures and its efforts are greeted by some in Britain and elsewhere in Europe is shocking. Anti-Americanism often goes much further than criticism of Washington. Too often the misfortunes of America are met with glee, a schadenfreude that is quite horrifying.
On Tuesday, I sat watching television numbed by the grief, wondering if anyone I knew had been murdered. Since then, I have been devouring newspapers, attempting to learn more and more of the details. Every day, the agony gets worse. The more details we read of the last phone calls, the emails, the relatives watching those they loved as they died on television, the more personal and intimate this catastrophe becomes – and the more the victims, their families and their society deserve our sympathy.
But I have an awful fear that the solidarity with the US expressed at the United Nations and in Europe this week will not last long. Fundamentalist anti-Americanism will again rear its head, as it did on Question Time. Philip Lader behaved with extraordinary dignity on saying, with tears in his eyes: “I have to share with you that I find it hurtful that you can suggest that a majority of the world despises the US.”
And the Wall Street Journal (“The Myth of Squandered Sympathy“) ices the case that the world was never “with us” after 9/11 with this scathing look at the French and the famous newspaper headline “We are all Americans” which was actually an anti-American editorial:
Thus are legends born. For the solidarity ostentatiously displayed in the title of Mr. Colombani’s editorial is in fact massively belied by the details of the text itself.
By the fifth paragraph, Mr. Colombani is offering his general reflections on the geo-political conditions he supposes provoked the attacks:
“The reality is surely that of a world without a counterbalance, physically destabilized and thus dangerous in the absence of a multipolar equilibrium. And America, in the solitude of its power, of its hyperpower, . . . has ceased to draw the peoples of the globe to it; or, more exactly, in certain parts of the globe, it seems no longer to attract anything but hatred. . . . And perhaps even we ourselves in Europe, from the Gulf War to the use of F16s against Palestinians by the Israeli Army, have underestimated the hatred which, from the outskirts of Jakarta to those of Durban, by way of the rejoicing crowds of Nablus and of Cairo, is focused on the United States.”
In the following paragraph, Mr. Colombani went on to add that perhaps too “the reality” was that America had been “trapped by its own cynicism,” noting that Osama bin Laden himself had, after all, been “trained by the CIA”—a never substantiated charge that has, of course, in the meanwhile become chapter and verse for the blame-America-firsters. “Couldn’t it be, then,” Mr. Colombani concluded, “that America gave birth to this devil?”
So much for “solidarity.” The world may have pitied our people. But the record is crystal clear that anti-American feelings were hardly dampened by the attacks on 9/11.
The fact is, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has replaced Russia as the superpower foreigners love to hate. Given all of this, it should come as absolutely no surprise that Barack Obama, according to a massive study by Pew, is favored overwhelmingly by the peoples of the world.
Unfortunately for Barack Obama, citizens of Australia, Japan, Spain and Tanzania won’t have a vote in the November election.
A new survey of 47,000 people in 60 languages by the Pew Global Attitudes Project shows that around the world, people who follow the US election view Obama more favourably than Republican nominee John McCain.
The survey in 24 countries confirms Obama as the candidate of choice among those not entitled to vote in the November election.
From gleeful villagers in his father’s native Kenya to a troupe of hula dancers in Obama, Japan, the international community has embraced the Illinois senator in a way unseen in past presidential elections.
While the US electorate is divided about evenly between the two candidates, with Obama currently enjoying a slight lead over McCain in recent polling, 84% of Tanzanians who have been following election news say they have confidence in Obama, while 50% say they have confidence in McCain. Seventy-four percent of Britons expressed confidence in Obama, while only 44% do in McCain, according to the survey.
Those results are reflected in every other country surveyed save Jordan, where 23% surveyed have confidence in McCain, compared to 22% for Obama.
There are many reason why Obama is more popular than McCain. His race gives hope to many. Then there’s 8 years of Bush and Republicans that have soured the GOP brand even overseas.
But the major reason given for preferring Obama is that he will “change American foreign policy.” In fact, Obama is the perfect candidate if you hate America. Not that Obama hates America, just that his policy proposals will enable the America haters around the globe.
It’s no accident that the Iranians, Hamas, Syrians and others who hate the United States prefer an Obama presidency. Obama promises a more compliant America, a less bellicose America, a more deferential America, and a more cooperative America. Some of these changes would be welcome. Others, not. But what has Iran and Syria salivating at the prospect of an Obama presidency is a lot less pressure placed on them by the US to act like responsible international citizens and not the brigands and thugs they wish to be.
Obama – a good and honest liberal – would work within the confines of the United Nations to resolve the various crisis at large in the world today. Bush, in his second term, has tried this and has a spotty record. The biggest failure for the UN in the last few years has been Lebanon where UN forces – UNIFIL - were supposed to stop the resupply of Hizbullah and enforce Security Council resolutions which included the disarming of the terrorist militia.
The result? Utter, total, complete, and embarrassing failure. Same goes for Darfur. The same goes for any and every problem the UN insists it must address with the US in a subservient role.
The world can hate us all they want. Only little children and liberals believe that to be important. What matters is are threats to the peace dealt with or swept under the UN rug? Obama would give it the old college try at the UN but run into the same anti-Americanism, the same bureaucratic inertia that has made problems like Darfur, Lebanon, and the Congo unsolvable. So the choice is America standing in the way of the designs of Syria and Iran (and North Korea) virtually alone or as a “partner” with the UN. Since Obama has been making all the right noises about “multi-lateralism” – not as a policy but almost as religion – the world breathes easier. They can all go back to doing nothing and letting problems like Darfur fester and genocide occur.
Obama would be the perfect post-Bush president – for a large segment of the Anti-American world. Not that it matters. Americans don’t vote for a candidate because of how he is perceived overseas. But perhaps we would do well to ask why our enemies are so anxious to see Obama as president?