U.S. gambles with global reputation
May 14, 2004
From the ashes of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and in particular, from
the ashes of the war fields in Afghanistan and Iraq, rises a new threat to the
United States that cannot be fought with weapons.
Actually, every shot fired from a United States weapon will give this conflict
nothing but new ammunition.
This threat does not come from any country or terrorist group, but from our
partners in international trade and diplomacy.
A survey conducted last year with 42 countries showed that anti-American attitudes
have increased since Sept. 11. The initial wave of sympathy has blown away with
the United States attacks on Afghanistan and even more Iraq.
Recently, the first results of a U.S. presidential election poll of people
in countries other than the United States shows President Bushs approval
rating at 4.5 percent.
But the increasing dislike of our country does not come from Bushs politics.
The United States is still respected and admired as the leader in technology
and economical achievement, but majorities in almost every country resent the
spread of American influence and culture.
And even nations that supported the United States in its strike on Iraq in
the beginning, like Spain, drew back their troops from Iraq.
The main reasons for this can be found in three fields: the U. S. politics
of isolation, the worldwide media-delivered view of the United States and the
fear of losing culture as a point of national identity.
The war in Iraq divided the world into pro- and anti-American with
the majority aligned with the latter - is the governments decision to
enter this war without the United Nations.
A major reason for that is the fact that Bush stressed from the very beginning
of his first speech in front of the United Nations that his country would invade
Iraq, no matter what the United Nations decided.
By this, Bush isolated his country from the decision process and started cutting
the ties between the United States and the rest of world.
Taking the diplomatic route, giving the United Nations inspectors more time
and working out a solution hand-in-hand with the international community would
have made the war easier and would have brought the world together.
But instead the United States went virtually alone against Saddam and
even worse asked the United Nations for help in building up the country
after defeating the enemy.
The second reason why Anti-Americans take over worldwide is the media-created
perception of the United States.
During the war, the picture delivered by the world-wide media was not of Americans
engaged in healthy debate, but the picture of a country full of ditto-heads
following their leader blindly.
European TV ignored those opposed to the invasion.
Americans were not portrayed as a thoughtful, divided public, but as people
in the streets saying, We dont understand this war, but he is our
president, so it must be right.
In addition to that, the arguments in favor of invasion were buried under
perception that Gulf War II was just unfinished business left by George H. to
George W., act two of their fight for oil.
Currently, images of the torture of Iraqi prisoners also leave a nasty aftertaste
that the U.S. troops might continue the very things they threw Saddam out for
torturing people without any regard for human rights and the law.
Besides all war-related reasons for the world to dislike the United States
stands the worldwide fear of culture loss as youth on every continent trade
their national identity for the new, hip and trendy American way of life.
For several centuries, American culture has run over the rest of the world
like an ice-cold Coca-Cola runs down a thirsty throat. Worldwide, the image
for youth comes from movies and music in English and from Hollywood and New
As part of the global anti-war protest which was huge and little reported
here youth in more and more countries get returned to embrace their heritage
and celebrate their own culture.
Of these three reasons, the back-to-culture movement is of little concern
to the United States, but the increasing isolation and negative media portrayals
Unfairness in the international media may be hard to fight. But opening our
minds and arms to other cultures and involving them in the world-issue decision
making processes is absolutely necessary.
We must stay a part of the world community, which is more than just the United
Globalization is not a short term win-win situation. To be part of the world
the United States will face short- and long-term sacrifices.
The benefits are solely long-term, but they might be the only way to fight
terror not with weapons that create more hate, but with open arms, minds
and mouths that create diplomacy and peaceful solutions.