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Letters

December 9, 2002



Assessing US popularity abroad

In response to your Dec. 6 article "US unpopular among key allies": As an American professional who works internationally on issues of sustainable development with many experienced scientists and technical experts employed by federal agencies, I see frustration rise as expertise is ignored and overridden by political policy.

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Unjust and ill-conceived US policies and programs exact an enormous cost, globally and locally. Their harmful human and environmental impacts damage the credibility of American expertise, and endanger ordinary Americans.

In my travels, I encounter a common rise in frustration and resentment toward the US government for its aggressive pursuit of overtly selfish, unjust, and globally harmful policies and actions. Resentment is not confined to intellectual, scientific, technocratic, or development professionals; it crosses ethnic, cultural, economic, and even political lines. For our own benefit, and for the rest of humanity, it is time to challenge the narcissistic reflection we see in a distorted media mirror.

Homeland security should mean more than militarizing police and creating a surveillance society that threatens the personal dignity and civil rights of every American. Security for our homes demands a greater investment in social and economic justice. Security for our land requires greater environmental protection and regulation of industry, as toxic wastes threaten each and every one of us far more than foreign terrorists. Callous speculative commerce, such as Enron and its political supporters, might be viewed as domestic terrorists who threaten the very fabric of our social, economic, and environmental security.
John A. J. Brownson
Iowa City, Iowa

Regarding "US unpopular among key allies": You report on the US's decreasing favorability rating in Muslim countries. Yes, this is true as evidenced from the polls, but your article fails to emphasize important elements that cause these skewed opinions - namely, that these are the countries which have neither democracy nor freedom of the press.

These countries are fed nothing but government-sanctioned opinion, and they have no alternative media sources. While you did include part of the poll at the end of the story, you didn't even mention our 23-point increase in favorability in Russia. Has our favorability rating been this high since the end of the cold war? Certainly not. And isn't Russia an important "key ally" in our war against terrorism?

It is important to talk about all elements of the poll, and it is equally important to dedicate the same amount of time and emphasis to the many positive aspects of the US and its current relationship with key allies as any negative aspects or lack of favorability.
Kevin Angstenberger
San Francisco

In response to "US unpopular among key allies": Recent polls show that the American public is much more concerned with US foreign policy than one might think. Newsweek conducted a survey in late September 2002 in which 86 percent said they feel it is somewhat important for President Bush to "get support from most of our European allies before taking military action against Iraq," and 58 percent said it is very important.

So, it seems, Mr. Bush must - however grudgingly - at least go through the motions of appearing to be a multilateralist, despite his statements in favor of and proclivities for unilateralism. Let's hope he pays attention to these polls and doesn't prosecute a war on his own without approval from allies or the American public.
Sean Patrick Murphy
Dracut, Mass.
World Federalist Assoc. of New England

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