The European Commission presents itself on Youtube as EUtube. Nearly two million users have watched a short clip with sex-scenes from EU-funded movies in the last three weeks. So, the EU considers these sex scenes as justification and advertisement for its funding of the European cinema...? WTF? Apparently Germans watch the wrong movies: 25% of Germans do not know the capital of the United States, writes Spiegel (in German) about an Emnid poll. [HT: David]
Russia and its president also are unpopular in many countries of the world. But criticisms of that nation and its leader are sharpest in Western Europe where many citizens worry about overdependence on the Russian energy supply. For instance, despite sharp declines in favorable views of the U.S. in France and Germany since 2002, Russia's image in those countries is no better. (...) Favorable views of the U.S. are in single digits in Turkey (9%) and have declined to 15% in Pakistan. Currently, just 30% of Germans have a positive view of the U.S. – down from 42% as recently as two years ago – and favorable ratings inch ever lower in Great Britain and Canada. (...) While opinions of Americans have fallen in most Western European countries, they remain generally positive. In every Western European country surveyed, far more people express positive opinions of Americans than they do of the U.S.; in Germany, for instance, 63% say they have a positive opinion of Americans compared with just 30% who rate the U.S. positively. In fact, in many countries, the American people get better ratings than does the U.S. generally. Latin America is a consistent exception to this rule. In this region, Americans get about the same ratings as their country; either both are mostly favorable, as in Venezuela and Peru, or both are quite low, as in Argentina.
A new Newsweek poll out this weekend exposed "gaps" in America's knowledge of history and current events. Perhaps most alarmingly, 41% of Americans answered 'Yes' to the question "Do you think Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was directly involved in planning, financing, or carrying out the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001?" That total is actually up 5 points since September 2004. Further, a majority of people couldn't identify Saudia Arabia as the country of origin of most of the 9/11 hijackers, even given the question in multiple choice format. 20% answered Iraq, while 14% believed the hijackers came from Iran.
Full numbers at Newsweek. The results of this Princeton Survey Research Associates International poll are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 adults, 18 and older, conducted June 18-19, 2007. "Results are weighted so that the sample demographics match Census Current Population Survey parameters for gender, age, education, race, region, and population density. The overall margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points."
Personal comment: I have seen these polls for quite a while now, but I still find them shocking. Likewise, many Americans are shocked when they learn about polls that say 45% of Germans consider U.S. more dangerous than Iran. Perhaps bloggers complaining about Anti-Americanism/Anti-Europeanism need to be more concerned about their fellow citizens' political views than with the political views across the Atlantic or at least notice how common ignorant perceptions are. Still, I am wondering whether in the next few months even more Americans will believe that Iran was responsible for 9/11.
Robert Gerald Livingston, a senior visiting fellow at the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C., writes in The Atlantic Times about an image survey commissioned by the German embassy in Washington:
In the ranking of a thousand Americans, Germany is one of the most important international partners for the U.S. – following Great Britain, Canada and Japan. Germans, like Americans but unlike the French, care a great deal about what other nations think of them. This should cheer them up: For Americans, Germany ranks ahead of all European countries except Britain, well ahead of France or Spain and, surprisingly, even farther in front of Italy, Poland, Ireland and Greece, the countries of origin of many immigrant Americans who retain links to their native lands and support active political lobbying on their behalf. (...) Only l5 percent of survey respondents consider themselves very or well informed about the EU, even fewer today than during the last survey in September 2005. This should be a bit worrisome for a Germany which makes the EU so central to its policy-making. Also worrisome is how much the Nazi past still afflicts the German image among Americans. When asked what the top interest about Germany is, 44 percent answered “history,” by which, clearly, they mean the Third Reich. Very few Americans (13 percent) consider Germany a reliable ally of Israel and only a third say that it has taken responsibility for what it did to Jews in the past.
I hope the other two thirds responded "I can't answer this question, because I don't know anything about Germany." I wonder whether Japan's refusal to confront its own history is of any concern. Please don't interpret this snarky comment as a comparison of German and Japanese crimes. It is only a comment on confronting history (Vergangenheitsbewältigung). Americans probably consider Japan a more important ally than Germany because Japan has sent tens of thousands of combat troops to fight in Southern Afghanistan... The article about this survey ends on a positive note:
Those Americans who have actually been in Germany have a far better opinion about it than those who have not.
Bogdan Kipling's article in the Canadian Chronicle Herald (published March 27, 2007) has a creative headline: "Prescription for political success: take 2 Antiams, call me in morning."
IN COUNTRY after country, anti-Americanism is the magic potion for political weakness. If you’re the president of Upper Slovobia and your popularity is sinking, take a swig from this bottle. You’d be surprised how effective the concoction is. Countless polls, elaborate or basic, confirm that Yankee-bashing works. To name the most obvious example: Five years ago, Gerhard Schroeder, Germany’s chancellor then and Vladimir Putin’s hired hand now, refloated his political wreck of an election pumping this noxious liquefied stench.
If Anti-Americanism works like magic "in country after country" why does Mr. Kipling need a five years old example?
"When you've got absolutely nothing, reach for Munich" said blogger Robert Farley, speaking about the propensity of American right-wing ideologues to use the historical analogy of Munich 1938 to punish their adversaries on the left and promote perpetual war as the only solution to geopolitical conflicts. It's always Munich 1938 in the bizarro-world of right-wing America; every perceived enemy is Hitler and every individual who advocates diplomacy over war is a Chamberlain.
When President Bush, in his second inaugural address, pledged to "support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," he seemed to be speaking for the whole country. But two years later, a disillusioned American public, sobered by the war in Iraq and still fearful of more terrorist attacks here at home, is ready to settle for a less idealistic goal: protecting the United States and its vital interests. (...) Large majorities -- including most Republicans -- reject Vice President Cheney's contention that the absence of a second attack means we are safer. Instead, they say that the threat of terrorism has increased since 2001, and they believe that the war in Iraq has made us less safe, not more. One victim of that psychology is Americans' belief in the worldwide democratic mission that Bush invoked so powerfully on Jan. 20, 2005. Now, by 58 percent to 36 percent, the voters say that "it is a dangerous illusion to believe America is superior to other nations; we should not be attempting to reshape other nations in light of our values." By an even greater proportion -- almost 3 to 1 -- they say the main goal of American foreign policy should be to protect the security of the United States and its allies, rather than the promotion of freedom and democracy.
Overall, independents have moved closer to Democratic positions on foreign policy, meaning that the Republicans' almost-automatic advantage on national security issues may be a thing of the past.
Personal comment: I doubt whether President Bush was indeed "speaking for the whole country" when he talked about ending tyranny in our world, as Broder claims. I doubt whether democracy promotion is on top of the agenda of the average American or European. It seems to me that many pundits and politicians exaggerate the general public's appetite and support for democracy promotion. Two examples in related posts in the Atlantic Review: • The Need for a New Transatlantic Ostpolitik quotes Ronald D. Asmus (GMF) as saying: "Americans have traditionally been more committed to democratic transformation -- in part because we are more powerful, more distant and have a different foreign policy ethos." • American Moral Principles and European Giggles quotes Secretary Rice as saying: "There cannot be an absence of moral content in American foreign policy. Europeans giggle at this, but we are not European, we are American, and we have different principles."
The graphic below is from Transatlantic Trends Survey of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. The perception of various threats does not seem to be very different in the United States and Europe. Certainly the differences are not so big to suggest that Europeans and Americans do not share many common interests anymore, as more and more bloggers claim these days.
Related: Prof. Drezner of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University discusses the assumption of American exceptionalism in his book review "Mind the Gap" for the The National Interest. The first book is Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes' America Against the World (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), which "compares and contrasts the attitudes of Americans and other nationalities, relying primarily on the Pew Global Attitudes project. The second is Benjamin Page and Marshall Bouton's The Foreign Policy Disconnect (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), which compares and contrasts the attitudes of Americans and foreign policymaking elites." The book review in The National Interest is available for free, but Dr. Drezner also has an excerpt on his blog "Taking exception to American exceptionalism?":
In detailing the patterns and gaps between the American public and others, these books nicely complement and occasionally contradict each other. Both The Foreign Policy Disconnect and America Against the World will add grist to the mill for those who profess faith in the wisdom of crowds and doubts about the judgment of foreign policy experts. After cogitating on both books, it would be difficult for the informed reader to believe that Americans hold irrational or flighty views about foreign policy. Most Americans, on most issues, articulate what George W. Bush characterized as a "humble" foreign policy during the 2000 campaign. They want a prudent foreign policy based on security against attacks and threats to domestic well-being—though American attitudes about multilateralism remain an open question. The gaps between American attitudes and the rest of the world are overstated; the gaps between Americans and their policymakers might be understated. The biggest question—which neither of these books answers satisfactorily—is to what extent these views, and gaps between views, matter.
Emphasis in bold added, because I think this is important for the frequent debates about transatlantic disagreements.
Related: Prof. Drezner December 2006 article in the Washington Post: "The Grandest Strategy Of Them All."
"The global view of the United States' role in world affairs has significantly deteriorated over the last year according to a BBC World Service poll of more than 26,000 people across 25 different countries:"
The poll shows that in the 18 countries that were previously polled, the average percentage saying that the United States is having a mainly positive influence in the world has dropped seven points from a year ago--from 36 percent to 29 percent— after having already dropped four points the year before. Across all 25 countries polled, one citizen in two (49%) now says the US is playing a mainly negative role in the world.Over two-thirds (68%) believe the US military presence in the Middle East provokes more conflict than it prevents and only 17 percent believes US troops there are a stabilizing force. The poll shows that world citizens disapprove of the way the US government has handled all six of the foreign policy areas explored. After the Iraq war (73% disapproval), majorities across the 25 countries also disapprove of US handling of Guantanamo detainees (67%), the Israeli-Hezbollah war (65%), Iran’s nuclear program (60%), global warming (56%), and North Korea’s nuclear program(54%). (...) Some of the sharpest drops in positive ratings over the last year came from four countries that have tended to be quite positive about the United States. Poland’s positive ratings dropped 24 points from 62 percent a year ago to 38 percent.
Does this indicate Anti-Americanism? Not necessarily. Americans have pretty negative and deteriorating opinions on US foreign policy as well. Can Americans be Anti-American as well?
Majorities [of Americans] disapprove of how the US is handling the war in Iraq (57%) and global warming or climate change (54%), while pluralities disapprove of US treatment of detainees in Guantanamo and other prisons (50%) and its handling of Iran’s nuclear program (50%). Views are divided on US handling of the war in Lebanon. The one area that receives plurality endorsement is the US handling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program (50%). A majority of 53 percent of Americans say that the US military presence in the Middle East “provokes more conflict than it prevents,” with just 33 percent saying that it is a stabilizing force. More broadly, a majority of Americans (57%) say that the US is having a mainly positive influence in the world. This is down from 63 percent a year ago and 71 percent two years ago.
Germans, however, seem to be more critical of US foreign policy than the average world citizen:
German views of US influence have worsened significantly over the last year, with negative attitudes increasing from 65 to 74 percent. Only 16 percent of respondents say they have a mostly positive view of US influence in the world, down from 21 percent. Negative attitudes about the US are also reflected in German views of US handling the war in Iraq, with an overwhelming 88 percent disapproving of the US approach to this issue. Germans also judge the United States harshly on its handling of the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo (89% disapprove), global warming (84% disapprove) and the Israel-Hezbollah war (74% disapprove). Significant majorities disapprove of the approach to Iran’s nuclear program (64%), as well as to North Korea’s nuclear situation (56%). Nearly three in four Germans (73%) believes the US is a destabilizing force in the Middle East, with just 17 percent saying the US military presence is a stabilizing element.
Comparable surveys suggest that there is still strong support around the world for the values enshrined in US society. But it looks as though America itself is seen to be living up to those values less and less. As a result, America's soft power - its ability to influence people in other countries by the force of example and by the perceived legitimacy of its policies - is weakening.