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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Does the US have an image problem?
The US is suffering from a serious image problem, according to a new report by an influential New York-based policy group.
The report by the Council on Foreign Relations says the US Government is in need of an urgent public relations overhaul to improve its image in the international community.
It says the Bush administration has significantly failed to capture the hearts and minds of non-Americans, blaming a dramatic decline in funding for government departments dedicated to promoting US policy and values overseas.
Snubbing Kyoto and the newly-established International Criminal Court did no favours for the Bush administration either, according to the report.
Do you think the US is suffering from a serious image problem? If so, does it matter? How can America's image be improved on the world stage?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Here's the facts. President Bush has a 70 percent approval rating in America. Why? Because Americans like what he is doing. We like it even though we are very aware of the opinions of non-Americans and all their arguments.
Isn't that just like an American to think that a marketing and PR campaign will fix America's world image. Judging from some of the earlier comments posted by some of my fellow Americans, it's crystal clear why we have an image problem. My experience is generally Europeans are better informed about America than most Americans. A PR campaign will be ineffective in changing America's image, if we continue with our parochial thought and education system. Improving the US image in the world will require the US to change its current trend of unilateralism and nationalism masquerading as patriotism.
Something has gone very wrong. Our government is totally out of touch, and out of control. People would be wrong to think that the UK and US are so different, however. We seem to do things in step. Take a quick look back: Reagan-Thatcher, Clinton-Blair... so who's waiting in the wings to set Britain back 50 years???
The comments on this forum prove that Europeans are just as misinformed about Americans as Americans supposedly are about the rest of the world. All it takes is a trip to any of our small towns off the beaten path and you will see the true spirit of America. And honestly, if the rest of the world would quit buying Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's etc. you wouldn't even be talking about us as an empire. The world has demand for our products, we don't force anyone to buy them.
Of course we have an image problem. When you have the US government acting unilaterally with virtually no concern for other countries, it is not just an "image" problem, it is a very real problem. I am totally embarrassed by our government's exit from the Kyoto treaty. Please keep in mind that a half million more Americans voted for Al Gore than voted for George Bush. He does not represent or speak for many Americans, but mostly represents the interests if big business and nothing more.
The comments of some of the European posters on this topic demonstrates that more outward communication -- marketing - may be just what is needed. They have a simplistic view of the US that sounds as if they derived it entirely from television. Cartoons, mostly.
I agree with Paul from the USA who suggests that better marketing is needed. The issue is not in the sell but in the substance of US foreign policy. The US acts unilaterally and in many cases against the wishes of the UN. It is often seen as pursuing a policy of economic expansionism. This is not a belief based on misinformation but one based on recent evidence.
God forbid we should become a state of America. We have enough of the bad things about America here already like fast food, guns, and obesity. I don't think the US has ever had a good image. They are intent on war and their actions will destroy the Middle East. Why can't they stay out of other folks' affairs?
I agree with Jean. We should stay out of other people's affairs. I think we should withdraw all foreign aid, troops, and support. We should just close our borders and let each country go to hell in their own way.
Only in the land of Hollywood and New York marketing firms could the perception of America be termed a "marketing problem". America doesn't need a Ministry of Propaganda (which is what the Bush Administration seems keen on creating). It needs far better policies and a better outlook on the world. Sadly, the world can expect neither from this administration or from the American Public.
Bill Healy, Ireland
I think it becomes much easier to understand the actions and attitudes of the USA when you really see it for what it is - an empire. No matter how much marketing you do to enhance its public image, it's still in the tradition of Roman, British, and Soviet empires before it.
Of course it has an image problem! After years of making a mockery of everything the bill of rights was supposed to stand for, even the strongest American supporters question whether the Bush administration is more like a corporation trying to please shareholders than a body to represent the country and its people.
I believe the US's international popularity took a huge dive shortly after George W Bush became president. The US has become associated with arrogance, ignorance, political naivety and short-sighted policies - the same traits seem to represent George W Bush as an individual.
I doubt if most Americans have a problem with the rest of the world not liking them. After all most Americans don't seem to be aware that there is a world outside of America.
So America shouts very loudly about its achievements to a very annoying degree sometimes, but I would still prefer to become the 51st state than be part of any European Union!
Jason, Manchester, England: No thank you. I do not want to be associated with a country that is so preoccupied with making money, causing wars and plundering the world's resources. If the world needs direction it needs to come from Europe. We have had enough war, poverty, and environmental plundering on this continent and others to have learnt from our past. The US is too young a nation to ever be able to understand this.
The fact that the US Government has no intention of altering its course or of paying any heed to foreign criticism, instead choosing to initiate a propaganda campaign to distort and distract from its actions speaks volumes.
I have lived overseas for many years and every time I return home I feel as if I have entered a bubble. It astounds me how little coverage there is on the major networks of events outside America. I used to wonder why my fellow Americans thought their way was the best, now I realise that the American media has its people convinced that it is the centre of the globe. No wonder people here seriously discuss invading Iraq while the rest of the world stands with its mouth wide open in disbelief at such a suggestion.
Marketing - are you joking? America should do what it believes is right, regardless of the opinions of the rest of the world. America has many problems, but I wouldn't live anywhere else. And to Cari, USA: If you are embarrassed to be an American, move somewhere else.
Many people in the US see Europe's approach as ineffective - all talk, no action. Europe has failed to solve problems in the world. Instead they just fuss about them. Americans see our approach as one that works.
The Americans take pride in their country and stand up for what is rightfully theirs. Contrast this to the UK, which gave away its now ruined fishing areas and is about to give away Gibraltar all in the spirit of 'co-operation'. I know who I'm more proud of.
If America wants to improve its image then it should look to its recent forays onto the world stage. If they were a bit more international and a bit less imperial they would make a lot more friends. In Europe a more measured and educated approach is taken to world issues; why doesn't America follow our lead for once?
Patrick, Philadelphia, USA
As an outsider looking in, which is what it feels like being an American who lives and works in the UK, the problem is that America is so parochial in its views that it's simply unaware of the wider world. Anyone who thinks otherwise ought to try and be critical of American policy at the moment. I thought I was going to be lynched for questioning the rationale behind the bombing of a wedding in Afghanistan.
America's image should not matter to them if they believe they are doing the right thing. I believe the US is taking the correct approach to foreign policy while most other countries have a very naive way of looking at the world, particularly Europe. This is coming from someone who has lived in Mexico most of his life. Politically correct rhetoric and appeasement has destroyed many countries, thankfully the US will not fall for it.
The thing about America since President Bush II came to power is that it seems to be intent on looking after number one at other countries' expense (Kyoto and the steel industries being just two examples). Only when they need help do they remember the existence of other countries.
If the American people need a thinktank to tell them that the world is not warming to their ways, maybe they should show a little more interest in what goes on beyond their own shores and how their government's actions affect others. No one likes to be dominated.
I don't think America's image will matter to them, but this is part of the problem. I think the US is a great country with great people who have their hearts in the right place - but sometimes they aren't as appreciative to their friends as they could be. The slating given to the Royal Marines in Afghanistan will always stick in my mind. America can't go it alone in this world, as much as they want to. Britain will always be a friend, but it does so because it chooses to. Not everyone will stand so firmly by them.
There is only an image problem if it presents a distorted picture of what is really going on. In this case, I think the image is pretty accurate.
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