Does America's popularity abroad really matter?
In "Lonely at the Top," Joseph S. Nye, Jr. discusses the importance of soft power -- the ability of a nation to influence potential allies through attraction rather than coercion. Has declining global public opinion of the United States underminded our foreign policy effectiveness? Or is the Bush administration right to emphasize military strength and other forms of "hard power" in pursuit of its goals, whatever the rest of the world thinks?
Long gone are the days when a "superpower" could operate in a vacuum and be totally self-sufficient. That may have worked in the 50s and 60s, but the America today is a completely different story. We live in a time when our economy is intertwined with those of every other country in the world. What if we had a serious trade dispute with China? Everything we buy at WalMart would suddenly either disappear or skyrocket in price. The ripple effect of that on our economy would be disasterous. The point being, this administration's policy of "damn them all" is one-sided, immature and too simplistic. We live in a much more complex world and we need our allies more than they need us right now.
Tim , Boston, MA
Our military might is to be used in the defense of Americans' liberty. When it is used thus, such as with the all-too-weak effort to eliminate terrorist states, it is self-defense, not coercion. Also, there is no need to "attract" favor of those counries that want to make peace with those out to kill us. America is the freest country on earth, only a consistent and comprehensive defense of our constiution's ideals will do.
Catherine , Melrose MA
First, most people around the world are still in love with America. I travel frequently and people are ALWAYS excited to talk to Americans. Older Europeans in particular do not hestitate to declare their apprecation for this nation. Immigration figures -- which include the "brain drain" out of Europe --prove that America continues to have a profound hold on the imagination of millions of people. America is unpopular among large segments of world society, typically socialists and communists, who play a large role in European politics. The lessons of history prove that these people are misguided. These people hold America to a higher standard than their own countries, and no matter what we do, these people will be critical. George Bush could cure cancer, and they will say it's a right-wing conspiracy. America's unpopularity among these people began long before Bush came to power, so to blame him is simplistic at best. Finally, Americans have spent billions of dollars out of their own pockets, sacrificed their young, and even risked their own nuclear destruction, to preserve freedoms that Europeans in particular today take for granted. If these sacrifices have not earned popularity from our "allies," then this popularity will never be earned and is not worth having.
"Islam is all about tolerance and coexistence." Yeah, that's why every Islamic terrorist downplays his religion and claims he acted for his country - NOT. If this were true, why don't any of these ISLAMIC terrorists ever say they did it for their country, or for some reason OTHER than religion? Simple, because they're doing it for ISLAM, just like they always say 100% of the time. "God has mentioned clearly in the Koran that he purposely created us from different tribes so that we could meet and get to know each other." In that case, then God should have been smarter and created just one tribe to begin with, huh? Why can't you religious nuts see a fairy tale for what it is? "I found that some of Rmadan's views is all about enforcing this critical belief. Islam, while scary to many westerners, does bring an inner peace to all." There's the problem right there. When Muslims talk about Islam being a religion of "peace" they're talking about INNER PEACE - that is, where one is at peace with one's self. Not peace as in coexistence! Taken one step further, the Koran already says to kill everybody who isn't a Muslim. That apparently brings the "peace" the Koran speaks of to many Muslims, if not most Mulims. "People just have to open their heart and mind and learn about it without having any pre-perception about it." This statement is so typical of Muslims. I do not HAVE "learn about it" at all. Before 9/11, the only pre-perception I had about Islam is that it was a religious terrorist organization, and nothing in recent years has given me cause to change my mind about that - in fact, quite the opposite has happened. By contrast, Muslims DO have to learn about things like religious tolerance and a culture based on something other than religion.
Americans have spent billions of dollars out of their own pockets, sacrificed their young, and even risked their own nuclear destruction, to preserve freedoms that people around the world today, European socialists and communists in particular, take for granted. If these sacrifices for others, unmatched in human history, have not earned popularity from our "allies" then this popularity will never be earned and is not worth having.
Declining?' The International opinion of the United States has been down for a long time, longer than GW's time in office. Lack of effective action from the United Nations has forced our governments hand to show the fist more. This article is positioned in the here and now, funny there seems to be something going on this year, some big convention, I think it's political. What will the history books say about this time in American History. I hope that the author of this article does not go into educational publishing.
Matthew , Dover
American "popularity" abroad matters much less than respect for American integrity in foreign policy. Respect rarely results from naked force. The achievability our national goals remain compromised when the majority of citizens among our allies and enemies see the USA as hypocritical, overbearing, self-absorbed, and arrogantly mindless of global concerns. We may not running to head up a cheerleading squad on the world stage, but we certainly need to have the credibility that befits a great power with incalculable global responsibility.
John , Acton MA
Of course it does. Two simple, important easy to comprehend facts are that eighty per cent of the profits for a company like Coca-Cola derive from abroad. Also a good amount of American foreign debt is held by foreign nations from bonds for example. Where they to ever relingquish that debt America would be in deep trouble. Some Americans want to forget this and think America first last and always no matter what. At this point you are not dealing with facts, common sense or anything else however. Such people typically don't represent what should be a solid high school education, let alone a Harvard professorship however..
Mark , New York City
It does not matter. We are americans. The other countries do what is in their own best interests. They all have their own agendas. If we sit around and worry about what France or Russia think about us we are in big trouble.
When you are a leader you are usually alone at the top. Only the US under Bush's leadership can lead the way to a civilized world. Appeasement, ie: (SPAIN) (Chamberlin) takes no backbone and is the easy expedient way out. It always fails.. If we believe in our Democracy and our Country we must be willing to defend it with hard choices which sometimes results in the ultimate sacrafice. Being "Popular" abroad is not the goal nor the measure.
George , Mashpee Ma