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What the world thinks of America and why it matters

What the world thinks of America and why it matters

One of the first messages Joe Biden sent to the world after the 2020 elections was that the United States would be led “not by an example of our power, but by the strength of our example.” Yes, the American example is a powerful tool of influence. But how is this example viewed around the world?

The Eurasia Group Foundation seeks to answer this question in its third annual international study. More than 5,000 people from 10 countries were interviewed, including allies such as Japan and Germany, and adversaries such as Russia and China. The March referendum is an early overview of America and American-style democracy under Biden.

I noticed three trends in the survey results. It is good that the Biden government is considering them to change our country’s commitment to the world.

First, because of the non-military influence, the U.S. buck is the best bang. A survey of respondents from all ten countries asked whether certain types of US involvement would have a positive or negative impact on their countries. This list includes sales of weapons and military vehicles, military cooperation, American style education, American private foundations, American ambassadors, American development aid, American culture (movies, music and television), American companies and consumer goods.

Both forms of military assistance are minimal in terms of positive impact. What this means is that non-military tools, often referred to as “soft power,” bring the United States goodwill and influence around the world.

Knowledge and relations about America and its culture were strong positive factors. Those who have recently moved to the United States or have a friend or family member are more likely to speak positively about the United States, while those who have little or no connection to the United States or its culture are more likely to be against Americans. feelings.

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Why is the US spending so much money and effort on military equipment and commitment? Cultural, Economic and Educational Relations – How can we develop relationships that ultimately affect our local economies and businesses? Here are some questions that Biden management should ask.

Second, our costly military obligations to our treaty allies do not build our reputation. In the United States, 55,000 soldiers are stationed in Japan, 36,000 in Germany and 5,500 in Poland. These outposts may promise the governments of our allies, but they do not satisfy the local people. Citizens of Germany, Japan and Poland were not enthusiastic when asked if US military involvement was conducive to stability in their region. Most in Germany and Japan disagree or disagree. U.S. military involvement was highly valued in Poland, but not because of landslides. Only 53.2% agreed that it promotes stability.

Respondents were similarly indifferent to whether the United States had had a positive impact on their region over the past 20 years. In Germany and Japan, more than half believed that American influence was slight or not at all negative. Poland was still equally divided, with a small majority considering it positive.

Of the 10 countries surveyed, the two countries with the largest military bases in the United States – Germany and Japan, longtime US allies – had the lowest ratings of support in the United States as one country and less than those who responded in Russia or China.

This is my third trip. Biden was right when he told Congress that the United States must prove to the world that our democratic style still works.

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All of this suggests that we need to build what the world already wants in the United States, from growth and diplomacy to culture and trade. For example, we can reduce the involvement of our players in friendly countries and use the money saved to expand our educational and cultural involvement.

Studies are incomplete. But that is in line with my experience as a US foreign diplomat.

Everywhere I have represented the United States, even in difficult years, there has been sympathy for the United States, despite growing fears about our military adventure. In Nigeria, I interviewed students who wanted to study in American schools. In South Sudan, activists consulted on how to preserve a free press and how to create an active civil society. In Somalia, politicians sought to rebuild the US House and Senate. (I had my own doubts that our Congress was something that others would want to follow.)

The strength of our example was clear to me then, even though it was more convincing than reality. If President Biden is serious about leading by example, we can improve not only our reputation but also our influence around the world.

Elizabeth Shackford is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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