Polls reveal international dissent over war

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The United States has lost the trust of citizens in countries around the world since the start of the Iraq War two years ago, according to a recent poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes.

According to the poll, which was released in January, 47 percent of the 21,953 people polled from 21 countries said they now have an extremely negative view of the United States’ influence in the world and view Americans negatively as well.

The poll also found that on average, 58 percent of the people polled felt President George W. Bush’s reelection to the White House made the world a more dangerous place.

“There’s resentment around the world (toward the United States),” said James Mitchell, CSUN political science professor. “In comparison with other countries, we’re an infant, and we’re trying to tell the rest of the world what to do.”

Mitchell has been traveling around the world since the 1970s, and said the world “has always viewed Americans suspiciously and skeptically. They see us as aggressive. That’s nothing new.”

A poll commissioned by the Arab American Institute, which was released in 2004 and polled nearly 3,300 Arab citizens in six Middle Eastern countries, found that 98 percent of Egyptian citizens have a negative view of the United States. Similarly, 78 percent of citizens in Jordan had a negative view of the United States, and 70 percent of respondents in Lebanon said they held a similar view.

Mitchell was teaching overseas at the University of Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

“People in Kyrgyzstan would say, ‘We feel bad about what happened to your government. We’re sorry,'” Mitchell said. “They felt the need to reach out. Sept. 11 brought us an opportunity to bring goodwill. We had a positive (moment following the attacks), but we squandered the goodwill.”

Following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, worldwide protests formed in opposition to the United States invasion of Iraq.

“Bush disregarded overwhelming protest,” said Susan Fitzpatrick-Beherens, CSUN assistant professor of history. “He didn’t even feel obligated to acknowledge that the protests (against the war) even happened.”

The unilateral approach the United States took when deciding to go to war represented a fundamental change in international politics, Fitzpatrick-Beherens said.

“The decision to go to war was done with little sanction,” Fitzpatrick-Beherens said. “Bush has established a doctrine of preventative war. This is a change, because the United States has given itself the right to intervene.”

The United States may erroneously perceive the notion of a threat, but under the doctrine of preventative war, the United States is allowing itself to invade anyway, Fitzpatrick-Beherens said. She pointed to the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found, even though they were cited as the reason for invading Iraq.

Rachel Howes, CSUN assistant history professor, said one of the biggest gripes other countries have with the United States is the hypocrisy in the constant allusion to democracy.

“We say we want to promote democracy, but there’s disregard for any international protest and a lack of concern for international safety,” Howes said. “The war is undermining the safety of people (in Iraq). The biggest complaint is that the United States is threatening international peace.”

There is a feeling that the United States applies a double standard to foreign policy, Howes said.

“We ignore the faults of our allies, and punish the faults of our enemies,” Howes said.

Examples of this policy include the way the United States has dealt with Israel, and the way it has handled Iraq, Howes said.

“The United States preaches democracy, but doesn’t demand its allies to practice it,” Howes said. “We need to hold our allies to the same standards as our enemies.”

Kassem Nabulsi, CSUN political science professor, said the United States, being the most powerful country in the world, has an obligation to the international community to react.

“There’s absolutely necessary reasons for invading Iraq,” Nabulsi said. “From the president’s point of view, he’s arrived at this decision because of the Sept. 11 attacks. But (despite that), the Middle East must be reformed.”

Some say the interests of the United States are out of sync with those of the rest of the world, causing the rest of the world to view the United States as a self-interested nation, instead of acting cooperatively in the international arena.

“The United States is emphasizing terrorism as the main issue,” Fitzpatrick-Beherens said. “But the rest of the world is concerned with global warming.”

In 2004, Bush reduced funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by 7.2 percent, while increasing defense spending by 7 percent, and increasing spending for Homeland Security by 10 percent, according to figures released by the White House last year.