Is America the 'good guy'? Many now say, 'No.'
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And in South Korea, for the first time, anti-Americanism is no longer a fringe emotion, fashionable on the political extremes. It has become a mainstream current of respectable opinion.Skip to next paragraph
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Fault-finding with America is becoming an instrument of national solidarity, especially among younger people like Yonsei University student Ham Chang, who thinks older generations that fought alongside US troops have been "brainwashed."
"My friends feel like the US acts as boss of the world," says Mr. Ham, who is studying literature. "Sept. 11 was terrible ... but the US is using it as an excuse to do what it wants. The US government is in Korea to divide us. The US wants us weak and divided. They are not here for our security."
In an unusually candid acknowledgement of the problem, President Kim Dae Jung told reporters last Friday that he's worried by "a growing trend toward anti-American sentiment."
"It may be difficult for us to sustain the same mood we grew up with," says one older Korean diplomat who served in Washington. "We know the US helped us. But those under 40 ... aren't swayed by what we think. Their human nature is anti-US."
Respect for American values freedom and democracy persists, as does admiration of its free-enterprise prosperity. A visa for the US is still prized. But because of the way the US is wielding its military and political clout more than its cultural hegemony that admiration is increasingly overlaid by mistrust, misunderstanding, resentment, and even hostility across a broad spectrum of countries and citizens. There's a feeling that Washington doesn't care about them or their concerns.
"Foreign perceptions of the United States are far from monolithic," found a recent task force on public diplomacy set up by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York. In Afghanistan and the Philippines, for example, US soldiers are generally well received. "But there is little doubt that stereotypes of the United States as arrogant, self-indulgent, hypocritical, inattentive, and unwilling or unable to engage in cross-cultural dialogue are pervasive and deeply rooted."
That is a far cry from the average American's perception. Sixty-six percent of Americans regard their country's actions as "usually or almost always" beneficial to the world according to a Monitor/TIPP poll taken in the past week.
"I'm amazed ... that people would hate us," President Bush said last October. "Like most Americans I just can't believe it. Because I know how good we are."
Some say that is enough. "The rich hegemon will usually be unpopular, deservedly or not," says Lewis Manilow, a veteran public diplomacy specialist who dissented from the CFR report. "Americans want to be loved, but isn't it more important that we tell the world where we stand and follow up with appropriate action?"
Certainly, the US now holds greater economic, political, military, and cultural sway over the rest of the world than any power since the Roman Empire. It is the only military power with global reach, spending more on guns and soldiers than the next 11 countries combined. It has 27 percent of the world's economic output, equal to the next three biggest countries combined. And it is in a league of its own when it comes to film and TV exports.
But brute strength does not always add up to leadership, and raw power rarely fosters the sense of international common purpose needed to address problems with the environment, disease, immigration, or global economic stability.
"Military power is necessary but not sufficient," argues Joseph Nye, dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. "The US should pay more attention to its ability to attract others to work with it."