The United States
The United States: Neither feared
Study of a survey
By The Voltaire
For the past three years,
Research Center has
regularly conducted surveys in about 50 countries to gauge the evolution of the
image of the United States. The latest version of that study shows the
no longer causes real fear or admiration.
The people surveyed
appear increasingly skeptical about the explanations of the terrorist threat
after Sept. 11. They think that the true objective of the wars unleashed by
Washington is not the elimination of terrorism but
domination of the world and control over the crude oil resources. They believe
that Bush and Blair lied about
and that the United States is no longer deserving of confidence.
At present, two opposite
schools of thought argue over the way to determine U.S. foreign policy. To the
must assume its imperial function and not hesitate to utilize force to bring
order to the world and prevent the emergence of a competitor.
To the Democrats, on the
exercise a flexible leadership through cooperation with its partners. In the
first instance, the U.S. must inspire fear; in the second, it must inspire
That's why, since summer
of 2001, the Pew Research Center has conducted opinion polls in about 50
countries and has compared the evolution of the image of the United States in
conducted study is directed by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K.
Albright, with the aid of a council composed of 27 personalities, from Leslie H.
Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, to Henry Kissinger, and
including the directors of AOL-Time-Warner and The International Herald-Tribune
and the directors of Greenpeace and Human Rights Watch.
Initially, the study was
to evaluate popular reaction to globalization, that is, to the integration of
the other countries to a single empire, but it adapted to reality by measuring
the impact of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Afghanistan. A
complementary study was carried out in late February and early March 2004 --
before the railroad bombings in Madrid -- to evaluate the consequences of the
war on Iraq.
One part of the
questionnaire posed is identical in each study; another is conceived in terms of
recent events. Of course, each questionnaire reflects Washington's political
concerns and applies the same logic to different cultures.
In the first place, to
neoconservatives one of the reasons for the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq
was to demonstrate the might of the Pentagon and inspire fear. However, the
answer to the question "After seeing the war in
is U.S. military might more important or less important than what you supposed?"
While Fox and other
patriotic TV networks convinced Americans that they are all-powerful, the rest
of the world -- with the exception of the Britons, who are also subjected to
military propaganda -- primarily saw that the U.S. needed 200,000 men to crush
the army of an underdeveloped country and eventually ran into domestic
resistance. It is true that the Iraqis were wiped out by the thousands of
missiles that fell upon them, but the theory of "shock and awe" failed on an
Secondly, to the
Democrats, the prestige of the United States comes from its image of "the nation
of liberty" and will be respected while "the American dream" persists and the
U.S. is seen as the country that liberated Europe from Nazism.
The question "As far as
you know, have the people from your country who have emigrated to the United
States improved their living conditions?" elicits varied responses. While
Americans retain positive family remembrances, the attraction over the rest of
the world is inversely proportional to the standard of living. That means that
people no longer see the
as a country where anybody can make a fortune if he has the necessary talent but
as a developed country with an above-average standard of living.
The question "After the
war in Iraq, do you trust the United States more or less to promote democracy
everywhere in the world?" achieves a very disappointing result. The Americans
are the only ones who still buy that story, although some Britons still cling to
that belief. Washington squandered the capital of sympathy it had earned by
liberating an occupied Europe, a sympathy it was able to build on in Allied
countries during the Cold War.
In sum, the United
States no longer inspires either fear or respect among those allies with a
comparable economic level. In that regard, the American ruling class does not
enjoy a decisive criterion that might allow to tilt the argument in favor of the
Republicans or the Democrats. One might even think that the soft strategy of
Kerry and Soros is today harder to apply than the rudeness of Bush and Rumsfeld.
The Pew Research Center
also evaluated popular support for the war on terrorism. The question "Do you
think that the United States is right when it feels responsible for the war on
terrorism, or do you think it reacts in an exaggerated manner?" is really
equivalent to asking indirectly if the respondents are convinced (or not) that
the United States was attacked by foreign terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, and that
terrorist movements have linked with each other and with some states.
While the Britons give
responses that are comparable to the Americans on this topic and others,
although with lesser frequency, the rest of the world sinks into skepticism,
with the exception of Russia and probably Israel, which develop, on their own,
the same antiterrorist discourse.
As to the question "Do
you think that the United States' war against terrorism is a sincere effort to
reduce international terrorism?" the result is disastrous. Again excepting the
Britons, the respondents -- including those who believe in the theory of an al-Qaeda
plot -- believe that Sept. 11 is being used to attain undisclosed goals.
Anticipating that type
of response, the Pew center included a secondary question for everyone who
questioned the sincerity of the United States: "Which of the following reasons
do you consider an important motivation for the United States to wage war on
terrorism? (a) Control Middle East oil; (b) Attack Muslim governments and groups
it considers unfriendly; (c) Protect Israel; (d) Dominate the world.
British and U.S.
respondents find here a difficult question to answer; to formulate the
motivation for a crime committed by their own countries continues to be taboo.
To the rest of the world, things are clear. The proposition "to protect Israel"
is much too imprecise, however; results perhaps might be very different if the
motivation were "to support Ariel Sharon's policies."
The Pew Research Center
also evaluated the consequences of the debate over Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction. The answers show that Britons and Americans think that their
respective governments chose the intelligence reports that suit their purposes,
while the rest of the world believes that Bush and Blair lied, in full knowledge
of the situation. In view of the outcome of the affair, most of the respondents
think above all that the United States is less worthy of confidence than before.
Under those conditions,
it shouldn't be surprising that the responsible politician who garnered the
largest number of favorable opinions in countries other than the U.S. and
Britain is not George W. Bush but Jacques Chirac.
 Council members
are: Lloyd Axworthy (Canada), Stephen M. Case, Hernando De Soto (Peru), Gareth
Evans, Leslie H. Gelb, Peter C. Goldmark, David Hannay (Britain), Carla A. Hills,
Henry Kissinger, Yotaro Kobayashi (Japan), Tommy Koh (Indonesia), Philippe
Lampreia (Brazil), Jessica Tuchman Mathews, Don McHenry, the Queen of Jordan,
John Pasacantando, Peter G. Peterson, Moeen Qureshi, Kenneth Roth, Jenny Shipley
(New Zealand), Peter D. Sutherland (Ireland), John J. Sweeney, Mgr. Desmond M.
Tutu (South Africa), Laura D’Andrea Tyson (Britain), B. Joseph White, Tadashi
Yamamoto (Japan), Charles Zhang (China).
 "One Year After
War: Mistrust of America in Europe is ever higher, Muslim anger persists," The
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press,
March 16, 2004.