CULTIVATING LIBERALISM
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Damn

Neighborhood Bully
Around the World in 80 Spittoons

At least we still have the Ivory Coast, Kenya and Ghana. And Mali and Israel of course, plus Ethiopia and Nigeria for good measure. Those are the places that still like us—us, the United States—by a good popular margin of 70 percent or more. Beyond that, it gets a bit iffy with Senegal in the high 60s, then a drop to the low 60s for South Africa and Poland and, after a few countries whose people either don’t want to offend their future employers (India, 59 percent) or borrowers (South Korea, 58, Japan, 61) with negative reviews, or whose people must think that negative reviews might mean a later crack at seeing that latest “Diehard” flick (Peru, Uganda), we find, amazingly, Venezuela and Mexico with still 56 percent of the people having a favorable opinion of the United States. But when even support in Britain has sunk to 51 percent, it’s time to worry.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project has just released its most extensive survey of world opinion since 2002 — 45,000 people in 47 nations. The results are a dismal vote against Bush’s America. Not to mention a disturbing, contrasting confidence vote in Vladimir Putin. As the London Times summed it up in its headline, “World crisis of confidence in Bush.” Anti-Americanism is at its most acrid yet, getting worse in Latin America, Eastern Europe and China, although improving slightly in the Middle East, where previous surveys had approval figures in the 1 and 2 percent range. Still, aside from Lebanon, which has slightly more dislike for the United States than Britain and Italy (but still manages to lump about half its people in the “we still love you” column), and aside from Kuwait, where that playboy caliphate’s pashas are still grateful for the 1991 “liberation,” we have Egypt at just 21 percent approval, Jordan at 20, Morocco and Pakistan at 15, and Turkey even lower than the Palestinian territories (13), at 9 percent approval. What, exactly, is up Turkey’s Ankara, it’s a bit difficult to say.

What’s remarkable with these numbers is that these Arab, Mid-eastern and sub-continental countries are supposed allies of the United States. Pakistan could not have functioned as repressively as it has functioned in the last six years without the infusion of $10 billion in mostly military U.S. aid. Egypt remains Number 2 on America’s list of most-lavished nations, in terms of foreign aid, barely behind Israel. Morocco and Jordan are constantly referred to as friends. Such friends that the Bush administration has used their prisons and torture dungeons for special cases in the “global war on terror.” And Turkey? A NATO ally?

Should we be surprised? It’s almost pointless to repeat the obvious, but these numbers compel it. The Bush years have taken the United States to a place we’ve never known, a sort of reverse exceptionalism: from admired to reviled, from respected to feared.

At least Canadians still have a favorable view of American movies and television (what choice do they have, given the locust-like infestation of their airwaves and cable systems with programming from down under? I’d like American cable and satellite channels to have a bit of a Canadian infestation in return. But no: this may be the age of globalism, but not in this country.) So do Swedes and, once again, those Lebanese (70 percent have a positive view of American movies, television and music). Some things never change: growing up in Lebanon ion the early 70s, we were crazy about Mannix and Colombo on TV and Tom Jones on the radio (I can still hear “She’s a Lady” on Sunday drives to the mountains).

Let’s not mistake the admiration of pop for admiration of American ideas: “Despite near universal admiration for U.S. technology and a strong appetite for its cultural exports in most parts of the world, large proportions in most countries think it is bad that American ideas and customs are spreading to their countries. The percentage expressing disapproval has increased in many countries since 2002 – including Great Britain (by 17 percentage points), Germany (14 points) and Canada (13 points). Israel, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are the only countries (aside from the U.S.) in which majorities say they like the spread of American customs.” The numbers don’t improve in the rest of Europe and fall dismally in that crescent of crabbiness from North Africa to the Himalayas.

Obviously, by tomorrow the Glenn Becks and Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaughs of our self-important by-world will have denounced those figures as proof that the rest of the world doesn’t know what it’s talking about, doesn’t know what it’s missing, and only feels jealous over what it lacks. Right. All of which recalls once again what Bush sop stupidly told Bob Woodward back in 2002, when he was sharpening his knives for his long nights ahead in Iraq: “At some point,” he said, “we may be the only ones left. That’s okay with me. We are America.” That means nothing whatsoever anymore. We are America. Except for its pejorative connotations. We are, unfortunately, Bush’s America.

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