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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 06:52 GMT
US feared by foes and friends

By Jon Leyne
BBC State Department correspondent

Anti-war protestors
US standing continues to deteriorate around the world
Discontent with the United States and its policies has intensified in the year following the war in Iraq, according to an annual poll of global attitudes towards the US.

On a miserable, drizzly day in Washington, Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Centre said: "The results of this survey were as gloomy as the weather outside."

The image of the United States is as negative as it was a year before, and even in the UK, arguably the closest ally of the US, approval of the world's lone superpower "tumbled".

And while the Pew Global Attitudes Project showed slight improvement in attitudes in the Muslim world towards the US, a great divide still exists.

And the report showed that those negative attitudes toward the US will fuel support for continued attacks against Americans.

Anger in the Muslim world

Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright said the numbers showed real concern about US foreign policy around the world, especially in the Muslim world.

"There is a huge chasm between the Muslim world and the rest of us," she said.

The survey showed high approval ratings for Osama Bin Laden and support for suicide bombings against the Israelis and against Americans in Iraq.

Support for Osama Bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
65% - Pakistan
55% - Jordan
45% - Morocco

And Mr Kohut said, "Anger remains pervasive in the Arab world."

A troubling figure from Turkey - a country set to join the European Union - showed that 31% of those polled thought that suicide attacks against Americans and westerners in Iraq were justified.

And in Jordan, a relatively moderate Arab nation, 70% of those polled thought that suicide attacks against Americans and others in Iraq were justified.

"It is a particularly chilling report," said Kurt Campbell of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

And in no place was this great divide between US opinion and Muslim opinion greater than with respect to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

In the US, a full 84% of those polled thought Iraq would be better off with Saddam Hussein gone.

In Jordan, only a quarter of those who responded thought Iraqis are better off now, and in Pakistan, only 8% thought the lives of Iraqis would be improved.

European views

But the divide was not just between the US and the Muslim world. Divisions remained unabated between Europe and the US as well.

The poll was conducted in February before the deadly attacks in Madrid, but at the time the survey was conducted, fewer Europeans backed the war on terror.

In 2004, 57% of those polled in France and 49% of those asked in Germany thought the US was overreacting to terrorism.

George Bush and Tony Blair were seen as lying about the reasons for going to war in Iraq.

And Europeans are increasingly sceptical of the US and its motives.

In Germany and France, the great majority (82% Germany, 78% France) say as a consequence of the war they have less confidence that the US is trustworthy

Majorities in six of the nine countries surveyed do not believe that the US-led war on terrorism is a sincere effort to reduce international terrorism.

Instead, many believe that the US wants to control oil supplies or dominate the world.

It helps explain why 90% of French and 70% of Germans surveyed thought it would be good if the EU grew into a powerful counterbalance to the United States.

Does America care?

But does the American government care about these numbers?

It's nice to be feared by your enemies, but it's not nice to be feared by your friends
Madeleine Albright, former US secretary of state
As Ms Albright asked: "Didn't the US government want to be feared?"

Patrick Cronin of CSIS was in the Bush administration ahead of the war in Iraq, and he said, "Iraq was a lot about putting bad actors on notice."

But Ms Albright countered, "It's nice to be feared by your enemies, but it's not nice to be feared by your friends."

The larger question is whether this is damaging US foreign policy.

Ms Albright said: "It's nice to be popular, but it's not a popularity contest. It's a matter of making sure that many other countries come along with your policies."

In the long term, many believe the US will have increasing difficulty in getting other countries to come on board.

Countries have no incentive to go along with a deeply unpopular America.

Even the Bush administration accepts that they need some kind of multilateral support for its policies such as expanding international support for the military commitment in Iraq.

Politicians in any country will not take the risk looking at the numbers in this survey.

The roots of anti-Americanism
06 Jun 03  |  Americas
New reality of American power
19 Apr 03  |  Middle East

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