August 13, 2007

Cultivating and advancing Pro-Americanism



I was uncertain as to the title of this post, ‘Dealing with Anti-Americanism” or ‘Cultivating and advancing Pro-Americanism’, in the end I chose the positive affirmation, pro-americanism.

No matter what part of the world one is in, anti-Americanism is widespread. Not that I have traveled recently to find out first hand, who needs to, just about every news media and web portal, and including any official body that’s left of center-right repeatedly, (and systematically) cultivates its share of anti-U.S. detractors. It’s not just the thousands of media commentators and journo’s that are banging this drum, statistical research shows that well over half of French, British, and Germans believe that the U.S. now exerts a damaging influence on the world. Hence, I suspect Italian, Spanish, and the Dutch would harbor similar views; attitudes and beliefs, which show no sign of abating. America may be leading the world but fewer and fewer appear to care.

What is interesting, and beckoning our attention, is that the statistics also reveal that on average some 35% of respondents in the aforementioned nations and including Australia have pro-American inclinations being partial to that which America has contributed to the world and their nation, as the case may be. They are a diminishing group of individuals (and groups of individuals) who although still influential, their capacity to lead and impact policy and opinion is, like there numbers, declining. These citizens identify with U.S. ideology, way of life, and its democratic principles and have deep-seated liberal values or otherwise, they may simply be persons who remain appreciative and indebted of U.S. support and assistance in times past. More recently, I refer to the people of Kosovo who fervently appreciate the U.S. position in relation to their independence drive, or middle aged and elderly (formerly anti-communist) Poles, who fondly recall President Reagan’s steadfast support in the 1980’s. Not surprisingly, and because they have little memory of communism, younger Poles do not have as strong an affinity for the United States.

Age patterns therefore are important, and raise pertinent questions about where anti-Americanism is heading. In most nearly all nations, those with the least anti American views are people older than 50. Europeans who, for example, still recall the devastation of World War II and America’s contribution to rebuilding the continent through the Marshall plan or Australians who remember how America, not Britain saved them from a Japanese onslaught in 1942. Here we have clear examples demonstrating the positive effects of U.S. foreign policy decisions in the past. These middle aged and elderly citizens are currently serving in the parliaments of nations, within higher management positions of corporate sectors and in all probability, exert noteworthy influence within conservative think tanks or comparable institutions and establishments. They apply pressure on Governments, organizations and institutions to support U.S. initiatives, enterprises, products and services, culture and policies. The concern however, is that in twenty years hence, a new generation in Europe and Asia will not have the pro American empathy to which I refer if only, because of attritional factors and a poor appreciation and/or understanding of history; a subject that is far from popular in schools today.

What then is the solution? Firstly, it is not all bad news for America, we need consider that there will always be a share of peoples who will defend it, again statistics show that principally they will be males and be socially and upwardly mobile, and possess typically American style, consumer driven aspirational values – a strong desire for success or achievement. Nevertheless, United States Ambassadors and diplomatic staff need to re-examine their function. Indeed, and notwithstanding extraordinary circumstances to counter such, it is my belief, that anti-Americanism is going to grow further in most nearly all parts of the globe unless its representatives in foreign nations make another study of there foreign engagements. The U.S. Department of State website, under the heading ‘Transformational Diplomacy, states that diplomats, ‘reach beyond the borders of the traditional diplomatic structures and beyond foreign capitals’, and ‘move out from behind their desks into the field, from reporting on outcomes to shaping them’, this is a start, but no methodology is provided. Where once an ambassador's function was to serve as the President's representative, ambassadors need to adopt a more active, dynamic local role, as if an inter-agency manager who can promote an idea of where a country should be going, what the visions are, and then move inter-agency processes forward to primarily serve U.S. interests of the day.

Ultimately, they need to adopt a practical, down to business role that advances and augments America’s interests by identifying and assisting through supplementation, individuals, groups, and establishments who share and advocate the vision. Ambassadors listen up, it is not merely about Foreign Government courting, not just about bringing progress and prosperity to nations, or to increase access to trade and relieve the burdens of debt, not just about building, and sustaining well governed democratic states. These are noble and very critical functions no doubt, and the State Department does an admirable job to achieve these objectives. However, the fundamental point remains; anti Americanism is highly prevalent within existing nations that already exhibit these principles and including good democratic governance, strong economic growth, rules of law and embrace U.S. style culture. The Department of State needs to up the ante in terms of the selling of America as a perplexing dilemma remains. Just because states harbor and fully embrace U.S. style culture and value’s does not mean their population is for America and highlights a need to study diplomatic staff function, in particular the need for broad based community engagement further down the social ladder of societies. As in good salesmanship, you can point out as many features of a product or service as you wish, but unless you convey the benefit of each feature to your customer, you are unlikely to make the sale...


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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

To think that additional efforts by US Ambassadors rather than a substantial change in foreign policy by the White House could change world opinion seems rather simplistic. These high levels of Anti-Americanism have only come about since Bush was elected & implemented his confrontational foreign policies.To say that pro American empathy will subside due to the "POOR APPRECIATION &/OR UNDERSTANDING OF HISTORY" by Europeans & Asians rather than their understanding & interpretation of more recent events is just the sort of condescending US attitude that causes the problem in the first place

American Interests said...

Thanks for your comments. I would not be as foolhardy as to suggest that foreign policy decisions emanating from Washington do not impact on anti or pro U.S. opinions. The crux of my post seeks to address the effects of generational changes on existing attitudes, to what degree a lack of historical awareness impacts on it and what diplomatic staffs can do to contain this. Too often America is judged on decisions made by the current administration only, over the past 6 years.

WomanHonorThyself said...

hi there..thanks so much for the comment at my site..come more often eh!..as far as approval seeking..I dont think haters will ever approve of those on a higher moral ground than them..excellent read!

Elaine said...

I happen to think you've made a valid point in regard to generational attitudes and America being judged over the last 6 years.To the anonymous comment, should we all join hands and sing kum-ba-ya?

American Interests said...

WomanHThyself: You are right, haters will remain haters. I could handle it if they just hated but resorting to actions which kill innocents is another matter. Thanks for your comments.

Elaine: LOL ... How does it go? Kum ba ya, my Lord, kum ba ya ... Oh, Lord, Kum ba ya ... Someone's crying, my Lord ... Kum ba ya, my Lord, Oh, Lord, Kum ba ya ... Someone's praying, my Lord Kum ba ya,
Someone's hoping, my Lord etc ... Thanks Elaine...

RoxieAmerica said...

It is easy to point to America as the root of all evil, but it over-simplistic. Nevertheless, speading far of the big bad wolf helps the cause of others who themselves, with more power would prove to be bigger, badder wolves.

At some point the world will have deal with extremists who believe hey have a god-given right to spread barbarianism. Perhaps the world shall re-visit the dark ages, perhaps not.

David Schantz said...

"The concern however, is that in twenty years hence, a new generation in Europe and Asia will not have the pro American empathy to which I refer if only, because of attritional factors and a poor appreciation and/or understanding of history; a subject that is far from popular in schools today." Haven't the authors and publishers of some history books added to anti-Americanism by omitting parts of history (like how WW II started and what got the United States involved) and printing the parts that make the United States appear to be evil?

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

Incognito said...

Interesting AI, partic. because I grew up as a US diplomat brat.
There was much more expected of my dad (a Consul General) than just doling out visas. We were expected to entertain and interact with 'the locals' as ambassadors of goodwill.

I'd take it a step further and say that ALL Americans have the opportunity to act as ambassadors (when traveling to foreign countries) and that it is incumbent upon all of them to reach out to others in their travels.
I remember having dinner with my sister and parents in Salzburg, Germany several years ago, and chatting with a Middle-Eastern couple at the table next to ours. By the end of the conversation they commented on how we had changed their opionion of Americans.

American Interests said...

Roxie: I see no evil in bringing progress and prosperity to nations, or to increase access to trade, relieve the burdens of debt, building, and sustaining good governance and democracy. Strangely some do. Our capacity to deal with extremism is still meagre in terms of what they deserve. Aside from the British, Europeans are far too compassionate with Islamists. Wonder how the French would react, if a bomb went off at the Eiffel Tower killing thousands.

D. Schantz: Yes history has been distorted, one reason why the likes of us must be pronounced in our ways, our message must be disseminated widely. If you have any ideas let me know.

Incog: Travelling Americans are, for the first time in modern history, quite docile, and timid and apprehensive for fear of coming in harms way. I think that is sad and demonstrates a profound lack of gratitude by foreign peoples.

Incognito said...

But, on the other hand, the 'travelling American' was, at one point in time, quite obnoxious- hence the term "ugly American", even though I remember some of the Europeans I have encountered being even more obnoxious as tourists. But, perhaps this is a good thing because it has tempered some of that obnoxiousness.

I will never forget arriving in Japan once and the airport had some informationkiosks for foreign visitors. I was waiting to ask a question behind an older american couple. They were so rude with the poor young girl manning the kiosk, making no attempt to understand her (and she was quite understandable, just spoke very slowly). She was almost in tears but always remained cordial. I felt compelled to apologize for the couple.
Just my 2 cents. On the other hand, it is sad for those of us who have not acted brash and rude.

Chaar said...

Hi Otto.

You did attribute differences in anti-Americanism saliency partly due to age or 'generation' with people over 50 being pro American.

My family of old people lol.. over 50 yr olds, were very pro AMerican, but the interesting point is today they are very anti-American.

THey assert that America and Americans have changed. They used to be fun. They used to be good and noble and stuff. But now they are different.

Regardless of how people interpret history of what good things America has done in the past.

Perhaps you need to take into account the possibility of a change in America itself.. rather than just how the rest of the world has changed.

Not many things stay the same.. policy... history.. feelings.

Cheers

C