Sunday, September 20, 2009

Decline of U.S. Reputation - Why?

On June 11, 2008, the United States House of Representatives, Committee On Foreign Affairs, issued a report titled: The Decline in America's Reputation: Why? It will be referred to in this post as "The Decline Report". Now that folks have had time to digest the report, perhaps revisiting it will remind us of the uphill battle to regain our reputation, which we may never do, or if we do it could take a generation.

The subcommittee chairman said this within The Decline Report, in an overall statement that summed it up:
The data presented at these hearings make it clear that people in other nations don’t “hate us because of our values”— but rather that they are disappointed with us because we aren’t always true to those values.
(The Decline Report, Preface, bold in original). Shortly after 9/11 The Decline Report points out that we attained the height of our popularity and reputation in the world:
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attack there was world-wide sympathy and support for the United States. This was best summed up in the headline in the French newspaper Le Monde — Nous sommes tous Americains. (“We are all Americans now.”)
(The Decline Report, page 1). Imagine the shock of the world, shortly after that, when they were told officially by Bush II, after they had publicly supported us to the maximum en masse:
Americans are asking, "Why do they hate us?" They hate what we see right here in this chamber—a democratically-elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms—our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
(Bush II Address To Congress, The Decline Report, page 1). Things have generally gone downhill for the reputation of the United States since then according to The Decline Report:
Since then, polls conducted by the U.S. Government and respected private firms have revealed a precipitous decline in favorability toward the United States and its foreign policy. The generally positive ratings from the 1950’s to 2000 moved to generally negative after 2002. As the very first witness in a 10-hearing series with pollsters and regional analysts told the Subcommittee — “We have never seen numbers this low.”

The reversal is unprecedented and widespread:

• A 45-percentage point drop in favorability in Indonesia; 41 in Morocco; 40 in Turkey; and 27 in the United Kingdom;

• Among Muslims in Nigeria, favorable opinion fell 33 points, from 71 percent to 38 percent, within an eight-month period;

• A 26-point increase in Europe of the view that U.S. leadership in world affairs is undesirable;

• Unfavorability rose to 82 percent in Arab countries and 86 percent of Latin American elites now rate U.S. relations negatively; and

• 83 percent of countries in 2002 had a plurality of citizens judging the United States favorably; by 2006 only 23 percent of countries had a plurality saying that U.S. influence is positive.
(The Decline Report, page 1). In other words, the Bush II ignorant mouthiness era resulted in an unmitigated disaster in foreign policy which destroyed a good name that had taken years of sweat and trillions of taxpayer dollars in treasure to attain.

The committee made eight specific findings which it discusses in detail, but will only briefly be mentioned here:
1. It’s true: U.S. approval ratings have fallen to record lows in nearly every region of the world. Generally positive ratings from the 1950’s to 2000 have moved to generally negative ratings since 2002. Approval ratings are highest in non-Muslim Africa and lowest in Latin America and in Muslim countries.

2. It’s the policies: Opposition to specific U.S. policies, rather than to American values or people, has driven this decline. The key policies are: The invasion and occupation of Iraq; support for repressive governments worldwide; a perceived lack of even-handedness in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute; and torture and abuse of prisoners in violation of treaty obligations.

3. It’s the perception of hypocrisy: Disappointment and bitterness arise from the perception that the proclaimed American values of democracy, human rights, tolerance, and the rule of law have been selectively ignored by successive administrations when American security or economic considerations are in play.

4. It’s the unilateralism: A recent pattern of ignoring international consensus, particularly in the application of military power, has led to a great deal of anger and fear of attack. This in turn is transforming disagreement with U.S. policies into a broadening and deepening anti-Americanism, a trend noted by the Government Accountability Office.

5. It’s the historical memory: U.S. domination remains a potent image for long periods — and that image is used to discredit current U.S. policies.

6. It’s the lack of contact: Contact with America and Americans reduces anti-Americanism, but not opposition to specific policies. Visitors to America—particularly students—and even their families and friends, have more positive views about America than non-visitors by 10 percentage points.

7. It’s the visas: Interaction with the U.S. immigration and the visa process is a significant source of frustration with America. Particularly among Muslim applicants, the experience with customs and border officials creates a perception that they are not welcome. This perception spreads across their communities through their “horror stories” about travel to the United States.

8. It’s the perceived war on Islam: The combination of all of the previous findings has created a growing belief in the Muslim world that the United States is using the “war on terror” as a cover for its attempts to destroy Islam.
(The Decline Report, pages 5, 6). This blog has many posts under the label "foreign relations" if you care to focus on them.

Read this post as an example of one that gives the general gist of The Decline Report in Dredd Blog fashion.


  1. It's because of America's superiority complex that the world hates us. Some refer to it as American exceptionalism. It did not start after 9/11. To the contrary, it was either always present in America, except it was kept in America. Then in and during WWI, America got a taste, or should I say the fascist millionaires, who liked the profits of war, and we never looked back, particularly after WW II where America got in bed with every corrupt and criminal regime throughout the world, usually we brought and kept them in power. The whole thing is a sick joke being perpetrated on many decent humans.

  2. jimbojames,

    Somebody hates any country.

    The report and the point of the post is maximum and minimum.

    The post shows that the U.S. popularity and reputation went from the ceiling to the basement in a short period of time, and why.

    What happened in the 50's and 40's is not covered.