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Global warmth for U.S. after 9/11 turns to frost


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08/14/2002 - Updated 01:47 AM ET

Global warmth for U.S. after 9/11 turns to frost

By 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. They 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's refusal last year to support the international treaty on global warming.

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.

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.

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 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.

"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, which harbored Osama bin Laden 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 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."

Contributing: Steven Komarow in Berlin and The Netherlands

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And we give a rats *** what they think because.......................? Leadership, my friends, is not a popularity contest. But since I don't see any of the Eurowhiners stepping up to the plate, except maybe to surrender, somebody has to do what has to be done. Remember, before WWII, most of Europe was against fighting Hitler as well. I think we all agree now(even the French) that it was the right thing to do to knock him off his block.

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Originally posted by Air Sarge

And we give a rats *** what they think because.......................? Leadership, my friends, is not a popularity contest. But since I don't see any of the Eurowhiners stepping up to the plate, except maybe to surrender, somebody has to do what has to be done. Remember, before WWII, most of Europe was against fighting Hitler as well. I think we all agree now(even the French) that it was the right thing to do to knock him off his block.

It would take me hours, if not days, to explain to you how naive your statements are.

In a world that is far more global in nature than in the time of WWII, the U.S. relies far more heavily on its allies to protect its interests. You think we could have been successful in Kuwait without the Saudis allowing us to stage our attack from their soil? You don't think Pakistan's cooperation has been instrumental to the U.S. in its fight in Afghanistan?

Let me put it to you another way. Where do you think the money comes from in our fight against terrorism? It will utimately cost taxpayers billions just to fight al-Qaeda. Just how much do you think you'll be paying in taxes if the U.S. finds itself fighting terrorists all over the world who've evolved because of an intense hatred of Americans and U.S. policies?

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I think there is a lot of truth both to the article and to the perception of the U.S. around the world. We do seem to get involved only when it's to our best interest. What's more, we send others to do our dirty work.

I know the Republicans on this board will likely get on my case for saying this, but there are many ways we could have been more diplomatic. Let's take the war crimes tribunal that we are trying to get around signing.

Clinton did what I thought was a very bright thing. He signed it expecting it to never be ratified by our senate. Thus it would be no big deal. While it's in the spotlight, you go along becuase it's got the world's attention. Then when it's old news, you kill it. It winds up on the back page. Clinton did this time and time again. Everybody here will probably call him slick willy and bemoan his lack of honesty, but compare the perception of the U.S. under the two presidencies.

Contrast this with Bush's foreign policy approach which totally comes across as "no I'm not going to do it and you can't make me."

I doubt either president wanted the U.S. as the sole superpower being dragged into peace keeping missions to be put through a farce of a court. The difference is that one presidents approach while underhanded, protected the U.S. image abroad. The other's approach is the straight shooter approach, but unfortunately, our image gets shot for being in the way.

I compare it to my relationship with my girlfriend. There are times where I have to go along to get along. IN fact, I find that sometimes even if I give in occassionaly on stuff that I am right about or have legit reason for, I come out ahead in the long run because my partners peace of mind is a worthwhile comodity too. I'm not sure our foreign policy has put enough value on our partners' peace of mind. We're too concerned with doing what appears right to us.

Don't get me wrong, Clinton didn't actually go along much more than Bush is. He was just better at picking when to argue. Bush has been arguing loudly at a large party while Clinton seemed to always go along while at the party only to say "that's not how it really is" when he got a less public moment. Now ask yourself which approach you'd prefer from your partner.

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Having spent the last 17+ years going around the world and visiting some of our so called "allies", I can personnally attest to the fact that our allies need us far more than we need them.

In a world that is far more global in nature than in the time of WWII, the U.S. relies far more heavily on its allies to protect its interests. You think we could have been successful in Kuwait without the Saudis allowing us to stage our attack from their soil? You don't think Pakistan's cooperation has been instrumental to the U.S. in its fight in Afghanistan?

Of course we rely on allies, but we do a lot more for them than they do for us. And of course, since there is such an inbalance, we expect that when we go to do something, that our allies fall in line. And don't think that our Saudi "allies" allowed us to come there out of the goodness of their little muslim hearts. They allowed us there because Uncle saddam wouldv'e made a right turn to Mecca at the first hint that the US wasn't going to show up to defend the oil fields. They know it..... and we know it. (Well, at least most of us know it. It's in most history books). And if we would have had to, with the military we had back then, we could've landed amphibiously in Kuwait and gone from there. Would've been a lot harder, but we could have done it. As for Pakistan, they help when it is convenient, but are at this moment harboring some of the very people for which we are searching.

As for your question about the financing of the war effort to fight people that hate us........I submit that they already hate us, (there's a big hole in New York and at the Pentagon as evidence) and I would much rather have my tax dollars spent doing something worthwhile like rebuilding the military, rather than spending it on stupid crap, like studies of the broke dicked cricket, or building watering stations along the Mexican border to facilitate illegals crossing into this country.

Now, I'm more than willing to stay around and set folks straight, but please tell me you've at least traveled outside the US ( on your own, not with a school or something) and have been overseas for more than a couple of weeks. Otherwise, I have to believe that you have formed your opinions of other cultures and places from news media or from listening to others. If that is the case, debating is of no use, because you have no real basis to form a position.

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Originally posted by Air Sarge

Now, I'm more than willing to stay around and set folks straight, but please tell me you've at least traveled outside the US ( on your own, not with a school or something) and have been overseas for more than a couple of weeks. Otherwise, I have to believe that you have formed your opinions of other cultures and places from news media or from listening to others. If that is the case, debating is of no use, because you have no real basis to form a position.

I spent 20 years living outside of the continental United States. And those 20 years ran consecutively starting at the age of 4. Good enough for you?

I would submit that my understanding of non-U.S. cultures is far more encompassing than someone whose paradigms have been largely shaped by living in the U.S. during their formative years and then traveling overseas with those beliefs already heavily ingrained in their personality.

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That's cool. So many times in this forum, I find I'm talking to someone who thinks they have the world all figured out, but has never been anywhere or lived among other cultures. So, where did you grow up? Granted, I have been in the military for a little over 17 years,with 14 years of that having been spent overseas. During that time, I went out of my way to get out into whatever culture in which I was currently living. Like most things in life, I liked some of what I saw and disliked some as well.

Most people find my opinions abrasive, and you know what, I could care less. In the military, we are taught to analyze all the facts objectively and then to make a decision. In today's "Do whatever world" where everybody's opinion is given equal merit, and people trip over one another trying not to offend anyone, it throws people for a loop when someone says he/she is going to do something then actually carries through with what they say. That's part of what is pissing people off overseas.

So, just so I know, where did you grow up, if you don't mind me asking? It helps to know what I can speak of that you will take for granted in talking about different European or Middle Eat cultures.

And what was the purpose in posting the first article anyway? Cheers

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Most of those 20 years was spent in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The rest of it was spent in Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands.

Most people who visit the V.I. don't realize how culturally diverse it is. Although it is less so today than when I grew up there beginning in the 60's.

I basically grew up in an area of St. Thomas known as Dorothea whose population was about 80% French. Most of the younger people spoke English, but their parents and more so their grandparents, spoke French. The rest of St. Thomas is made up descendents of Africans, Puerto Ricans, Danes, Dutch, U.S. continentals, and Middle Eastern Arabs, Indians, and Pakistanis.

When my mother died I was taken in by a family that was made up of a man who was French, his German wife who he met and married during WWII, and her mother who spoke mostly German.

In an attempt to earn my way I started working odd jobs the summer prior to entering 6th grade on Main Street in Charlotte Amalie. I continued to hold various jobs throughout high school and college while still on the island. About 30% of the stores on Main Street are owned and run by people of the Middle East. I worked for Indians, Pakistanis, and Saudis as well as storeowners born in the U.S.

What I encountered growing up, and is still evident today, is an intolerance for U.S. tourists who by virtue of their wealth, thought they were entitled to be waited on hand and foot without any regard for local customs.

Why post this article? Because I identify with it. When viewed objectively from another culture, Americans by and large, are arrogant.

I am required as a term of employment with Lockheed Martin to take a cultural diversity class once every two years. I only wish all Americans were required to do the same by their employers. It certainly would make for a more peaceful world.

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Sounds like you ran into a lot of "Ugly Americans" during your formative years. But you know, there are a$$holes in every culture. They do have their uses though. I actually liked having ugly americans around in Europe during the 80's, when Acmed and his buddies were blowing stuff up back then, because they drew attention to themselves and away from me :D

Arrogant? I guess. But no more so than other world powers when they were on center stage. The English during their empire, the French, the Germans, the Japanese. The list goes on and on. But alot of it arises from the jealousy of being displaced from world power, or never having power to begin with. It has to suck to have once been on center stage and now be relegated to the sideline, but as the saying goes, you can't please everyone all the time. Before 9/11, I think you will agree we were a fairly benevolent superpower. Sure, we do sneaky stuff to people, but that stuff goes on all the time, and every country does it to one extent or another. That's just the way things are in the world.

I'm sorry you identify with people that hate America. There's a lot of them out there to be sure. But when it comes right down to it, I don't care if anyone likes us or not. As far as I'm concerned, it's just a bunch of whining. We do a lot good in the world, more than most people want to give us credit for doing. If you think about it,we could give the world something to whine and cry about. And when it comes down to it, who could stop us? To those that call us imperialist, I ask you.....if we were truly an imperial state, don't you think the Star and Stripes would have been flying over Bagdad after the Gulf War? Who could have stopped us?

We could still be in Europe.......... as rulers, not partners. He!!, we could own half the world if we wanted, but we prefer to let people fo their own way, as long as they act like they have some sense.

Having lived where you did, I'm sure you saw more than your share of poverty and general cultural stagnation. My suggestion is to look around and thank whatever God you worship that you live here. Nobody says you have to come over the the dark side Luke, and become an "Ugly" American, but I think most people will agree that our way of life is far better than what is being offered as an alternative, which is sitting in a cave recreating the 6th century and wanting to bring the rest of the world down to their level.

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I agree with AirSarge. It is becoming popular to jump all over America, but I don't buy it one bit. It's a case of jealousy, sour grapes, and subjective bias all mixed into one. We are the most visable and prosperous nation on the planet, the world's only true superpower. Of course they hate us. For the same reason I hate the Yankees and Lakers.

But at least i admit that I hate them because they are too dominant. The Europeans inevitably whiiiiiineee and complain- even to the extent of making up ridiculous accusations in order to portray America as an imperialistic bully bent on world domination, full of stupid, lazy people. This is very far from reality, though. We are rather content with ourselves, and only occasionally do the average Americans care about what's going on in other countries. Also, the reason that we are "#1" is NOT because we are stupid and lazy, but rather because we are smart and productive. Just like anything, you dont get to be #1 by being bad.

Let them have their European Union and socialist bureaucracies, and let their baseless hatred of the US create an artificial unity.

We'll continue to thrive with our true and worthy partners, Canada, the UK, and Japan. :)

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unilateral, code word by Euro whiners for policies that we dont agree with.

I was overseas in those spinelessmoney grabbing countries and kept reminding these fools that we were there because you begged us to come and the job needed to be done right since they cant clean up their own mess.

A good example is Bosnia.

There are/ were plenty example of ethnic cleansing around the world but the media used the pity images of orphaned white kids and women having their innocence taken to shame us into going there while the same could have been seen in plenty of countries in Africa and unfortunately I had to go to.

Whenever I encounter Euro or ignorant americans from berkeley like environs I just laugh at them and wish we could isolate true americans from them then realise I should just sow them pity and understand that stupid wimpy and cowardly as well as envious are traits that wont go away when you are talking about Europeans and the extreme left.

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Ok i keep starting to respond to this but keep getting interupted, perhaps that is a sign i shouldnt even be getting this debate.

As a non-American I will try to give what I see as why some people have anti-American sentiment. In my humble opinion Canadians are as close as you get to Americans, and not just cause we share a border. Yet there is Anti-Americanism in this country. Why one asks?

Here in Britain, the United States' staunchest friend

Well let's look at this sentence. Many Canadians would be offended by this, including to a small degree myself. Why? As a country that is so intertwined with America we are often forgotten and disregarded, yes i know we are small, have no army, whatever you want to throw at us, but Canada has been a closer friend to the US for a longer period of time then Britain ever has. Yet when Americans talk about their neighbours they talk about Mexico. When they talk about their allies they talk about Britain. Example of this is when George W failed to mention Canada in his Post 9/11 Speach thanking his allies. Even though Canadians took in thousands of stranded American passengers after all the planes were diverted to Canada.

I have to prefice all of this by saying I am not anti-American, even though many of you will surely accuse me of being so. Im just trying to make you understand why some Canadians would be anti-American.

As America's little brother, which almost all Canadians HATE being called, we have an inferiority complex. Canadians are the forgotten little brother when he goes off to play with the friends down the street. So yes most of the anti-Americanism from Canadians is rather petty. Sadly many Canadians identify themseleves by saying they are not Americans. That pisses me off because Canada's national identity has essentially become this rather then have a positive national identity we have a negative one. But even with all of this Canadians dont hate Americans. Canadians would never bomb, attack, discriminate against Americans. Its just lots of barking with no bite. Why? because in the end most Canadians do feel like we are brothers. On a one to one basis Canadians love Americans. The only anti-Americanism is more against the govt and the fact that your culture dominates our country (which to I say well if Canadians didnt want to watch American tv then there wouldnt be any here, simple economics).

In regard to the rest of the world...well I think one can extend Canada's problems with America to other parts of the world to an extent. The American System is seen as self-absorbed-mostly because of past isolationist tendencies and because the average American is seen as not knowing what goes on in the world. There is probably very little reality to this belief. Im sure if tests were done there would be little difference between most countries about who's people know more about international affairs. The whole culture issue. I think people around the world are afraid of losing their distinctness with Americanization. This has happened in Canada for decades and has now spread to the rest of the world. Well I go back to what I said before if people really want to keep their unique culture they will. They will not watch American tv, they will foster their unique culture in whatever way they can. Its not America's fault other places want American goods and culture. But most people seem to think it is. It is rather ironic considering many of these places condemn America for its isolationism yet they, in their anti-Americanism, are being isolationists.

On a side note I have a friend who was born in Britain but grew up in Canada living in Holland. I asked him what nationalities of people did he like the best. His answer was North Americans. He found the British to be stuck up, the Dutch to be rigid etc...

Well I hope I got my point accross and didnt offend too many people.

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kurp....i guess i will break my self pledge not to post on tailgate any longer......

so.......may i venture to suppose that your proclamations as extrapolations from the gulf war 10 years ago are built upon a particular and detailed knowledge of how the American military presently fights its wars, its force structure, its technologies, its resources....etc.....etc.....? its planning options?

war is costly. that's not a novel idea. so is social security. so is health care. the electorate and elected representatives make decisions based on prioritized requirements (one hopes!).

it would be nice to adopt a collegial approach to ensuring our security. there are huge advantages to coalition warfare (most of the time) mostly political. having lived thru the Viet Nam era, I can pass that what we are seeing now is nothing compared to the hatred and enmity that existed then. we survived and pressed onward. our leadership has an obligation to consult and cooperate with our allies. however, our security is no one's responsibility but our own.

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