June 28, 2005

In Search of Pro-Americanism: There has never been a more popular time to be anti–American. From Beijing to Berlin, from Sydney to São Paulo, America’s detractors have become legion. But not everyone has chosen to get on the anti–American bandwagon. Where—and among whom—is America still admired, and why? Meet the pro–Americans. (Anne Applebaum, July/August 2005, Foreign Policy)

Anecdotally, it isn’t hard to come up with examples of famous pro–Americans, even on the generally anti–American continents of Europe and Latin America. There are political reformers such as Vaclav Havel, who has spoken of how the U.S. Declaration of Independence inspired his own country’s founding fathers. There are economic reformers such as José Piñera, the man who created the Chilean pension system, who admire American economic liberty. There are thinkers, such as the Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya, who openly identify the United States with the spread of political freedom. At a recent event in his honor in Washington, Makiya publicly thanked the Americans who had helped his country defeat Saddam Hussein. (He received applause, which was made notably warmer by the palpable sense of relief: At least someone over there likes us.) All of these are people with very clear, liberal, democratic philosophies, people who either identify part of their ideology as somehow “American,” or who are grateful for American support at some point in their countries’ history.

There are also countries that contain not only individuals but whole groups of people with similar ideological or nostalgic attachments to the United States. I am thinking here of British Thatcherites—from whom Prime Minister Tony Blair is in some sense descended—and of former associates of the Polish Solidarity movement. Although Lady Thatcher (who was herself stridently pro–American) is no longer in office, her political heirs, and those who associate her with positive economic and political changes in Britain, are still likely to think well of the United States. Their influence is reflected in the fact that the British, on the whole, are more likely to think positively of the United States than other Europeans. Polish anticommunists, who still remember the support that President Ronald Reagan gave their movement in the 1980s, have the same impact in their country, which remains more pro–American than even the rest of Central Europe.

In some countries, even larger chunks of the population have such associations. In the Philippines, for example, the BBC poll shows that 88 percent of the population has a “mainly positive” view of the United States, an unusually high number anywhere. In India, that number is 54 percent, and in South Africa, it’s 56 percent, particularly high numbers for the developing world. In the case of the first two countries, geopolitics could be part of the explanation: India and the Philippines are both fighting Islamist terrorist insurgencies, and they see the United States as an ally in their struggles. (Perhaps for this reason, both of these countries are also among the few who perceived the reelection of U.S. President George W. Bush as “mainly positive” for the world as well.) But it is also true that all three of these countries have experienced, in the last 20 years, political or economic change that has made them richer, freer, or both. And in all three cases, it’s clear that people would have reasons to associate new prosperity and new freedom with the actions of the United States.

These associations are not just vague, general sentiments either. New polling data from the international polling firm GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland break down pro– and anti–American sentiments by age, income, and gender. Looking closely at notably pro–American countries, it emerges that this pro–Americanism can sometimes be extraordinarily concrete. It turns out, for example, that in Poland, which is generally pro–American, people between the ages of 30 and 44 years old are even more likely to support America than their compatriots. In that age group, 58.5 percent say they feel the United States has a “mainly positive” influence in the world. But perhaps that is not surprising: This is the group whose lives would have been most directly affected by the experience of the Solidarity movement and martial law—events that occurred when they were in their teens and 20s—and they would have the clearest memories of American support for the Polish underground movement.

Younger Poles, by contrast, show significantly less support: In the 15–29–year–old group, only 45.3 percent say they feel the United States has a “mainly positive” influence in the world—a drop of more than 13 percent. But perhaps that is not surprising either. This generation has only narrow memories of communism, and no recollection of Reagan’s support for Solidarity. The United States, to them, is best known as a country for which it is difficult to get visas—and younger Poles have a very high refusal rate. Now that Poland is a member of the European Union, by contrast, they have greater opportunities to travel and study in Europe, where they no longer need visas at all. In their growing skepticism of the United States, young Poles may also be starting to follow the more general European pattern.

Looking at age patterns in other generally anti–American countries can be equally revealing. In Canada, Britain, Italy, and Australia, for example, all countries with generally high or very high anti–American sentiments, people older than 60 have relatively much more positive feelings about the United States than their children and grandchildren. When people older than 60 are surveyed, 63.5 percent of Britons, 59.6 percent of Italians, 50.2 percent of Australians, and 46.8 percent of Canadians feel that the United States is a “mainly positive” influence on the world. For those between the ages of 15 and 29, the numbers are far lower: 31.9 percent (Britain), 37.4 percent (Italy), 27 percent (Australia), and 19.9 percent (Canada). Again, that isn’t surprising: All of these countries had positive experiences of American cooperation during or after the Second World War. The British of that generation have direct memories, or share their parents’ memories, of Winston Churchill’s meetings with Franklin Roosevelt; the Canadians and Australians fought alongside American G.I.s; and many Italians remember that those same G.I.s evicted the Nazis from their country, too.

These differences in age groups are significant, not only in themselves, but because they carry a basic but easily forgotten lesson for American foreign policymakers: At least some of the time, U.S. foreign policy has a direct impact on foreigners’ perceptions of the United States. That may sound like a rather obvious principle, but in recent years it has frequently been questioned. Because anti–Americanism is so often described as if it were mere fashion, or some sort of unavoidable, contagious virus, some commentators have made it seem as if the phenomenon bore no relationship whatsoever to the United States’ actions abroad. But America’s behavior overseas, whether support for anticommunist movements or visa policy, does matter. Here, looking at the problem from the opposite perspective is proof: People feel more positive about the United States when their personal experience leads them to feel more positive. […]

There is, finally, one other factor that is associated almost everywhere in the world with pro–Americanism: In Europe, Asia, and South America, men are far more likely than women to have positive feelings about the United States. In some cases, the numbers are quite striking. Asking men and women how they feel about the United States produces an 11 percent gender gap in India, a 17 percent gender gap in Poland, and even a 6 percent gap in the Philippines. This pattern probably requires more psychological analysis than I can muster, but it’s possible to guess at some explanations. Perhaps the United States is associated with armies and invasions, which historically appeal more to men. Perhaps it is because the United States is also associated with muscular foreign policy, and fewer women around the world are involved in, or interested in, foreign policy at all. Perhaps it’s because men are more attracted to the idea of power, entrepreneurship, or capitalism. Or it may just be that the United States appeals to men in greater numbers for the same intuitive reasons that President George W. Bush appeals to men in greater numbers, whatever those are.

Men are simply more likely to favor freedom, women to favor security.


June 24, 2005

Empire of Liberty: The Historical Underpinnings of the Bush Doctrine: n reelecting George W. Bush, Americans voted to continue foreign policies often caricatured at home and abroad as militaristic, expansionist, and unilateralist. The question is why a majority of voters backed Bush in the face of these charges. Does the Bush Doctrine, which urges the transformation of the political order in the greater Middle East and the broader international order in ways that defend and promote human freedom, constitute a radical break in the practice of American statecraft? Or is the Bush administration’s approach–and the general public’s acceptance of it–better explained by the “strategic culture” of the United States, the precepts of which can be traced through the history of U.S. foreign policy to the founding of the republic? (Thomas Donnelly, June 24, 2005, AEI: NATIONAL SECURITY OUTLOOK)

Above all, American strategic culture is notable for the disproportionate role played in it by American political principles, or, to use the modern term, by ideology. We have sought to make an empire for liberty, to wield power not for its own sake but for the sake of securing the natural political rights “inalienable” to all mankind and which, alone in the American imagination, legitimize power.

This is not to say that the United States has pursued an entirely altruistic course or been unconstrained by the realities of statecraft and the limits of power throughout its history. Rather, it is to assert that American strategy-making and war-making have been informed by a belief that long-term security can be achieved, and only achieved, by the spread of liberal governance, and that American liberal governance is in turn impossible absent the exercise of American military power. In the case of the Revolutionary War, Americans understood themselves as Englishmen in America, and they would have preferred to remain within the British Empire had the price of security been accompanied by the liberties that were their rights as citizens of the empire. But what Americans wanted, London would not give. Increasingly, the colonists understood that only their own power could guarantee their natural political rights.

From the willingness of the revolutionaries to shed blood on behalf of what they held to be “self-evident” truths about human political equality to Lincoln’s declaration at Gettysburg that the Civil War, more than a struggle over states’ rights, would result in “a new birth of freedom,” America’s wars have consistently been shaped by the desire to create a balance of power that favors freedom. As American power and the empire of liberty–now including Europe, maritime East Asia, and new footholds in Afghanistan and Iraq–have grown, so the definition of an acceptable balance of power has shifted. The Bush administration’s focus on the greater Middle East is a natural step in this evolution.

The second source of American strategic conduct has been a belief that we stand at the center-point of international politics; the United States regards itself as a kind of “Middle Kingdom.” American strategic horizons have always extended in many directions: east, west, north, and south. Far from being natural “isolationists,” Americans have always felt themselves exposed to threats and dangers, with little strategic “depth.” When the United States reached its supposed natural frontier with the settlement of the American West, the American strategic imagination leaped over the oceans, first in the Pacific and then the Atlantic, believing that the homeland was only as safe as the farthest frontier. As the “rimlands” of Europe and the western Pacific were secured, the American security perimeter has moved forward into central and eastern Europe, the Middle East, central and south Asia.

The third theme of American strategy is the habit of expansionism. Believing ourselves to be safest not only when our outer perimeter is secure but also free, Americans have felt a necessity to project power unto the farthest reaches of the globe. In the period from the Monroe Doctrine to the Spanish-American War, the habits of expansion and preemption became more than rhetoric, and the commitment to individual liberty, wrenched from the fire of the Civil War, became an ingrained reality. In sum, American strategic culture came of age during this period, and, at century’s end, was no longer content to simply stand behind its ocean walls. Increasingly, a North American empire of liberty could not be separated from the larger world of empires abroad.

A brief taste of European-style imperialism in the late nineteenth century sufficed to sour Washington on direct conquest and rule, yet U.S. leaders have insisted for more than a half-century on exercising a de facto hegemony over defeated foes even well after they become formal allies. The United States cannot be said to “rule” Germans or Japanese, yet America asserts its desire to make the rules by which the international system operates and in which these nations are embedded; the phenomenon of economic globalization rests on a phenomenon of political and strategic Americanization. By incorporating past enemies into the ever-growing empire of liberty, the New World fundamentally changed the Old, and American strategic culture not only proved its enduring strength, but its fundamental flexibility and adaptability. At times, as during the late-Cold War period of détente, that flexibility proved so great as to call into question the basic tenets of American strategic culture. Yet though they bent, these tenets did not break.

Finally, as observed by Yale University historian John Lewis Gaddis and others, Americans have long had a predilection for preemption, prevention, and for what has lately been called “regime change.” Contrary to conventional wisdom, the concept of the “failed state” is one Washington policymakers have recognized throughout history; moreover, Americans have often moved rapidly to address these perceived dangers when the balance of forces appeared to be in our favor. Thus, as American colonists grew in strength vis-à-vis neighboring Indian tribes, their approach became strategically preemptive, preventive, and decisive–likewise with Spanish and Mexican competitors for the North American continent. When, during the twentieth century, the cost of preempting European great powers or preventing their wars seemed too great, the United States initially settled for a return to the status quo even while–in the voice of Woodrow Wilson–preaching revolution and regime change. Further involvement in Europe hardened American attitudes. Now, as the guarantor of a global order, the old habit is hard to break: acting to prevent weak, corrupt, and illegitimate governments from making mischief is central to American strategic thought and practice. And we most often regard wars as successfully concluded when failed states have been replaced with stable ones constructed on an American model.

In sum, there has been a more or less consistent purpose to American power and a strategic culture that remains a source of American conduct. It is at once “realistic,” in the sense of being a keen calculation of power, especially military power, and at the same time “idealistic,” in the sense of being motivated by a set of transcendental claims about the nature of the good society.


June 1, 2005

King Abdullah II: “Iraq is the Battleground – the West against Iran”: On January 11, 2005, Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, interviewed King Abdullah II at his private office in a secluded compound outside of Amman. (Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2005)

Middle East Quarterly: How do you identify and energize the “silent majority” of Muslims that opposes Islamist extremism?

Abdullah: It’s just not good enough to say, “Fine, we are God-fearing Muslims, this is what we believe in and this is the line that we draw in the sand.” The real question for us is how do we take the battle to the street and start winning the street war. It’s not just inside the Muslim world. It’s also a battle for our friends in Europe and in the West.

MEQ: What is the best way to fight against the extremist ideology that motivates Islamist terrorism?

Abdullah: One of our top priorities for addressing the “hearts and minds” question is to tackle the issue of extremist clergy and how they operate inside Muslim communities. We are currently working on setting up pilot projects with our friends, the British, to get Muslim clergy from our part of the world to give the clergy in British society the ammunition to start winning back the street. This is not something that happens overnight; this will take five, ten years. If we can get the mechanism working in England, we can then duplicate it in Europe and other countries. We’re starting our work in England. If we can succeed there, then we can multiply the effort and apply it to the United States. I’ve talked to the president about this; I just had a long talk with John Kerry about this, too. This is different than the work of interreligious organizations. Our challenge is how to get these ideas down to the average Muslim. […]

MEQ: Do your neighbors have the same approach?

Abdullah: In private, they do. At the time of the Beslan school massacre in Russia, all of us were disgusted. But it’s just not good enough to sit in the privacy of one’s home and say how awful this is and condemn these people who are defaming Islam. This was a crime against humanity, and we have to be much more vocal, in public. In my view, Islam is going in a direction that’s very scary, and as the Hashemite Kingdom, we have a moral obligation to stand up. Yes, there are a lot of other things that are happening inside the Muslim world, but we have to draw the line. If we don’t, then these people are going to win.

Even the Saudis have started talking more openly. They were supportive of the conference that we had here in Jordan for Iraq’s neighboring states where we issued a clear and unambiguous call against extremism.[1] They were vocal in Amman. They are more vocal in their own country, now. But there are still some in Saudi Arabia who think that the problem of these bin Ladin supporters is a passing threat and that six months from now the extremists won’t have a leg to stand on. That’s just not the case and to think so is to sugarcoat the problem. It doesn’t solve the problem that they have inside the country, nor does it solve the problem that we in the Muslim world have.