Monitor Breakfast

Selected quotations from a Monitor breakfast with Madeleine Albright and Andrew Kohut

Wednesday's breakfast guests were the leaders of the Pew Global Attitudes project, a series of public opinion polls spanning 44 nations.

The project's chair is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Among other activities, Secretary Albright is now a principal in her own strategic consulting firm, the Albright Group, as well as a professor at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and a distinguished scholar at the University of Michigan.

Andrew Kohut is the project director for the Global Attitudes effort. He has had a long and distinguished career in polling and political analysis and currently is director of the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press.

On key poll findings:

Kohut: "The image of America is slipping all around the world, not just in the Muslim countries. It is a matter of America being regarded less favorably in all kinds of countries, NATO countries, eastern European countries, emerging nations, and certainly Muslim nations where there is true dislike of the US.

"True dislike of the United States is concentrated in the Muslim nations. Unfavorable ratings are in the 60s and 70s in five of the six Muslim countries. The most disturbing is the decline in favorability ratings in Turkey and Pakistan.

"In large part, the unfavorable attitudes toward the US in Muslim nations reflects our policy toward Israel. But there is also some strong indications in this survey that there is backlash against the war on terrorism ... the war on terrorism is well-regarded all around the world except in these Muslim nations.

"One of the other troublesome findings of this survey is that there are significant numbers of people in Muslim countries that feel suicide bombing is justifiable: majorities or near pluralities in four or five of the countries. People all around the world embrace things that are American at the same time...yet they say the influence of America is too great in their country."

On the policy implications of the survey:

Albright: "The thing that strikes me the most in this is that the United States - I don't believe that we are isolationist but I believe we are being isolated by the others. Because they see us as out of step. The complete disconnect between the way we see ourselves in the world and the [way the] world sees us is a bad [sign].

"First of all, we need to be explaining much better what our policy is about and not have it seen so much as if it is only US national interest. We think we are taking other country's national interests in consideration as we make policy. They don't see that at all. Which means we are not explaining ourselves properly.

"The most serious problem is...obviously with the Muslim world and our inability to understand what they are up to. Underlining that is that we have to adjust our policy to Turkey and Pakistan. Those are the headlines for me. The Turkey issue as you look at the front page story [Wednesday] - the inability or difficulty to get a real kind of base agreement or force agreement that we wanted with a NATO ally, an absolutely key country, all the underlying numbers are here for that.

"My prescription is that we have to understand the need for the United States to be a part of the world rather than just telling everyone what to do."

On the domestic political impact of the poll results:

Kohut: "I think the issue for domestic politics is what would happen if Americans came to really understand the way America is regarded around the world. There is such a big gap between how America sees itself in the world and the way it is seen by longtime friends, important allies, and others. If the public becomes discouraged with the way America is viewed it might make it more difficult to get it to do things that require sacrifice. I think that is the biggest policy implication."

On impact dislike of America could have on US citizens and companies:

Albright: "Americans like to travel and they like to invest abroad. If we are disliked, it makes it a more dangerous investment climate and it certainly makes it more dangerous in terms of travel advisories. So it limits our capability as a country to live in the world which limits our own economy. So there is a spillover effect to it."

On impact a war with Iraq would have on the worldview of the United States:

Kohut: "The odds are very great it is going to get worse. The only qualification I would add to what could make it not get so worse is low civilian casualties and reporting that reflects that."

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