[Mb-civic] Speak softly and carry a smaller stick
harry.sifton at sympatico.ca
Sat Mar 25 05:19:48 PST 2006
Reprinted from the International Herald Tribune
Tracking American isolationism: Speak softly and carry a smaller stick
Andrew Kohut The New York Times
SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 2006
WASHINGTON 'We shouldn't allow isolationism and protectionism to overwhelm us," President George W. Bush said in his press conference last Tuesday. Recent opinion surveys affirm that isolationist sentiment has increased in recent years.
But while these trends represent significant shifts in attitudes, it would be a mistake to conclude that this country is becoming isolationist. There is no sign that most Americans want the United States to turn its back on the world or that anti-foreign sentiment in this country is rising.
Discontent with Bush's policies, notably on Iraq, has led to widespread public frustration. While it has also created more isolationists, they remain a minority.
A survey by my center and the Council on Foreign Relations last fall reported that the percentage of the public who said that the United States should "'mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own" climbed to 42 percent last year from 34 percent in 2004. These are levels seen during the mid-1970's, following the Vietnam War, and in the 1990's after the Cold War ended.
Now as then, however, most Americans disagree with this sentiment. Huge majorities, including many who express some isolationist sentiments, believe that the United States should consider the views of its allies in making foreign policy, and they acknowledge America's leadership role in the world.
Polls also find no rise in broad-based anti-foreign sentiment. Americans, in fact, rate most countries more favorably than people in other countries rate the United States.
A Gallup survey in February showed 54 percent of the public holding a favorable view of France and 79 percent a favorable opinion of Germany. In contrast, just 41 percent of the Germans and 43 percent of the French expressed favorable views of the United States in last year's Pew Global Attitudes Survey.
Further, there is no sign of increased alarm about rivals to the United States. Americans are less inclined now than in the past to view China as an adversary, and few express worries about its rising economic might.
Americans also favor a stronger European Union and closer relations with Europe. Fully 66 percent of Americans think the partnership of the United States and Western European on security and diplomatic matters should remain as close it has been the past. Only 26 percent of the French, 39 percent of the German and 42 percent of the British respondents felt the same way in our survey.
Even after the uproar over the bid by a Dubai- based company to take over facilities in American ports, Americans continue to welcome foreign investment and are much less worried about foreign ownership of American companies than they were at the end of the 1980s.
The rejection of the Dubai ports deal appears to reflect not xenophobia but a deep concern about Arab terrorism. While a narrow majority of respondents (53 percent) to a Pew survey last week expressed a negative view of foreign investors owning American companies, 70 percent did so in 1989, when high-profile acquisitions of American businesses by Japanese companies provoked widespread concern.
Moreover, by a 53 percent to 36 percent margin, Americans view foreign companies investing in the United States as a good thing. Two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) believe free trade is good for the United States. This view is largely unchanged since 2000, even though public concern about the outsourcing of American jobs has risen sharply.
All this shows that America's current mood is less a rejection of the rest of the world than it is a deep concern about terrorism and a growing wariness about America's own assertive foreign policy.
The American experience in Iraq has reduced support for pre-emptive wars. The belief that it is justifiable to use military force against countries that threaten us but have not attacked us fell from 67 percent in May 2003, when the war in Iraq seemed a success, to just 52 percent last autumn.
Unfortunately, the uptick in isolationism has the potential for dangerous political consequences. In an election year, politicians in both parties (each of which has significant isolationist minorities) may feel compelled to play to sentiments that do not reflect the beliefs of the majority, urging the United States to pull back on its global commitments, move away from free trade and close its borders.
(Andrew Kohut is president of the Pew Research Center and co-author of the forthcoming "Americans Against the World.")
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Mb-civic