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June 05, 2008

They Really Do Get It
Posted by David Shorr

The latest version of the Public Agenda Foundation's Confidence in US Foreign Policy Index reminds us how receptive Americans are to a change in the direction of our policy. I'll start with my personal favorite. As I've said before, I think that discomfort with America's negative image internationally is the most powerful lever available on the public's attitude. So here's what the Public Agenda survey found: roughly two out of three Americans believe the US is viewed negatively by the rest of the world AND that a positive international image is important for our national security. This survey question is coming up in a number of different polls (by different organizations); in fact, I believe every opinion research outfit should be asking this.

Similar two-thirds majorities believe that the US should use diplomatic and economic methods to combat terrorism (as opposed to military methods), relations with the rest of the world are on the wrong track, the US is doing a fair or poor job in creating a more peaceful and prosperous world, and the world is becoming more dangerous for the United States. Actually that last one is a three-quarters majority. Slight majorities agree that we should withdraw from Iraq even if it leads to increased violence, that it is very important for our foreign policy to take into account the views and interests of other countries, and that we can fight terrorism without ever resorting to torture -- with a bigger majority believing that our safety from terrorism does not depend on our success in Iraq.

Public Agenda is interested in Americans' confidence in our foreign policy, so their research tries to pinpoint what the public believes are the most effective approaches. Study coauthor Scott Bittle, who gave the briefing in which I took part, highlighted the public's interest in strategies whose leverage over threats is relatively straightforward: energy independence tops the list, followed by better intelligence collection, and immigration control. These results seem to cut against my stated belief that the public would back a broad-gauge strategy based on promoting overall increases in peace and prosperity. But wait, in a respectable fourth place among foreign policy strategies (with a narrow majority) was "showing more respect for the needs and views of other countries," which seems to validate my thesis about the perceived importance of getting back in synch with the rest of the world.

While I'm pleading for pollsters to ask my favorite questions, here's another that I've liked ever since the first time I saw it asked by the Program on Internationanl Policy Attitudes:

The United States should look beyond its own self-interest and do what’s best for the world as a whole, because in the long run this will probably help make the kind of world that is best for the US.

I think these kinds of questions touching on global interdependence, often drawing support from overwhelming majorities, show where the entry point is for progressive foreign policy. Now what does this really mean for the progressive message?  Well, here's a line from last night in St. Paul, where the Democratic nominee said it's time to

...rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century -- terrorism and nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease.

If you're only going to say one thing (aside from Iraq, Afghanistan, energy), this is what it should be, as often as possible.

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it's time to ...rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century -- terrorism and nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease.

No. It's time to change the US policies that have contributed to terrorism, nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty. The world won't rally to the world's leading miscreant unless it stops warring on other nations, brandishing nuclear weapons, refusing to reduce its world-beating environmental pollution and subsidizing its agricultural exports which ruin people in other countries.

The supreme arrogance and ignorance of America is that it erroneously believes it should be the one bringing freedom and democracy to the nations of this world.

I think this natural ignorance comes from inherent ultra-patriotism. This is the belief instilled in every American, from birth to death, that there is no greater citizen, no greater country, and no greater way of life than America.

This criminal Bush "administration" has deviously and immorally used patriotic propaganda, manipulating public perception into supporting its illegal aggressions. Anyone speaking against these policies is labeled unpatriotic. This is textbook historical fascism at work.

You want to end this war? Start by consistently showing the American public the daily effects on the Iraqi people. Without censorship. Show the blown-up bodies. Show the dead and wounded children. Show the grieving families. Anyone criticizing this as blatantly indecent, should question the decency of what America has forced upon Iraq.

If the American public was truly exposed to the realities of what their government subjects the peoples of other nations to, they wouldn't be so quick sending their children off to war, and they'd think twice about the decency of their own "Christian values".

The media is complicit to this unnecessary war. They've anesthetized the public to the horror of Iraq. They've conspired to manipulate U.S. public opinion. The media, the Congress, and the so-called Bush "administration" have failed the innocent citizens of America and Iraq, in whose blood their hands are soaked with.

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