John Wixted interprets the significance of opinion polls showing strong anti-Americanism:
I know you’ve heard all about the fact that the world has turned against America because of George Bush’s imperialism, his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, his tendency to torture terrorist detainees, his refusal to endorse “we-are-all-in-this-together” proposals like the International Criminal Court, and on and on. Because of him, Americans cannot walk around with their heads held high anymore. We know this because polls often show that people in other countries have an unfavorable image of America. And to many on the left, that’s a big problem. I always ask them why, and I have not yet heard one good answer. Not one. In fact, people are invariably surprised by my question because they’ve never really thought about it. It sounds bad at first (“everybody hates us!”), but the concern tends to vaporize once you think through it a bit. It’s just a popularity contest, after all, one that translates into nothing of importance. Nothing at all. Surprisingly, this point applies to our standing in Muslim nations as well. Popularity polls there, as elsewhere, just don’t matter.
By contrast, a different kind of poll — the kind that France just took — really is important. And that’s the kind of poll that shows America’s true standing in the world. If America’s standing really were so low, presidential candidates should be able ride anti-Americanism to victory. This should be especially true in France and Germany — the two most anti-American states in Western Europe (according to popularity polls, anyway).
With today’s election in France, the advanced industrialized democracies of the world (i.e., the G7) have all had a chance to weigh in since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Who won those elections anyway, the anti-American hysteric, or the pro-American supporter of the war on terror? Here is the scorecard:
Pro-American supporters of the war on terror:
United States (George Bush, 2004)
Great Britain (Tony Blair, 2005)
Germany (Angela Merkel, 2005)
Japan (Junichiro Koizumi, 2005)
Canada (Stephen Harper, 2006)
France (Nicolas Sarkozy, 2007)
Anti-American opponents of the war on terror:
Italy — (Romano Brodi, 2006)
…Unlike popularity contests, which don’t matter at all, these polls reflect America’s actual standing in the major industrialized democracies of the world. Maybe Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is the one who is on the right track, while France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and Canada have all veered off onto the wrong track, but I somehow think it might be the other way around.
John includes an interesting Angela Merkel quote from the pre-Iraq war period:
…here are some words of wisdom from Merkel before the invasion of Iraq:
Two things have been highlighted once again by the EU decision. First, the danger from Iraq is not fictitious but real. Second, working not against but jointly with the United States, Europe must take more responsibility for maintaining international pressure on Saddam Hussein. As is argued in the EU summit declaration, this means advocating military force as the last resort in implementing U.N. resolutions.
It is true that war must never become a normal way of resolving political disputes. But the history of Germany and Europe in the 20th century in particular certainly teaches us this: that while military force cannot be the normal continuation of politics by other means, it must never be ruled out, or even merely questioned — as has been done by the German federal government — as the ultimate means of dealing with dictators. Anyone who rejects military action as a last resort weakens the pressure that needs to be maintained on dictators and consequently makes a war not less but more likely.