Wednesday, December 11, 2002

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ANTI-AMERICANISM AS A CAMPAIGN TACTIC: A lot of attention has been paid recently to how the "Arab street" perceives the United States (click here as well). Last week's release of the Pew Global Attitudes survey suggests the problem is more widespread: "While attitudes toward the United States are most negative in the Middle East/Conflict Area, ironically, criticisms of U.S. policies and ideals such as American-style democracy and business practices are also highly prevalent among the publics of traditional allies."

A lot of this anti-Americanism is structural -- the U.S. is the world's hegemon and is currently projecting its power. This sort of behavior is naturally going to trigger resentment. It also doesn't necessarily mean the U.S. should alter the substance of its policies, if the alternatives are worse. However, a disturbing long-run trend is that among our allies, anti-Americanism is becoming a useful campaign tactic for those on the left that would otherwise lose elections on substantive grounds.

Gerhard Schroeder was the first example of this sort of behavior last fall in Germany. We may be seeing a replay of his tactics in South Korea. This New York Times story from last Sunday does a nice job of describing how anti-Americanism is affecting the current presidential campaign. Now this Financial Times story shows that the ruling centre-left Millennium Democratic party will repeatedly exploit the anti-American resentment as a way to win the election.

Two concerns: first, this phenomenon (obviously) is going to make life more difficult for American foreign policy for the next couple of years. Second, this could, in the medium run, lead to a lot of political alienation among our allies. Schroeder's tactics got him elected, but now he's more unpopular than ever. If leftist candidates use this tactic to get elected but then pursue unpopular dirigiste policies once in office, we're going to have allies led by politicians whose only mandate is to pseudo-balance against the U.S.


UPDATE: Nick Gillespie comments on the Pew survey over at Reason's new blog.

posted by Dan on 12.11.02 at 11:28 AM