Thursday, April 19, 2007

‘US cannot be trusted to act responsibly’

CHICAGO: There is widespread global concern that the United States cannot be trusted to act responsibly in the world, according to a multinational poll released here Wednesday.

But while there is broad international frustration with how the United States conducts its foreign policy, few people around the world want the United States to completely back off its role as a global policeman, the poll found.

“There’s clearly a trend in terms of deepening negative attitudes to the US in how it executes foreign policy,” said Christopher Whitney, executive director for studies at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs which helped coordinate the 18-country study.

The United States has long faced criticism internationally for its ‘interventionalist foreign policy’, Whitney said. This survey found that the frustration is broader in scope than previously thought and has deepened in the wake of the war in Iraq. But mixed with this frustration is an understanding that the US has a significant role to play internationally and should not withdraw completely, Whitney said.

He noted there was not consistent support for closing US military bases overseas and that many respondents felt that their bilateral relationship with the United States was improving. “It is not a consistent message of “we don’t want the US to be involved,’ it’s more nuanced,” Whitney said.

“They just want the US to play a more cooperative role and be a more constructive international player in terms of working through international organisations and listening to allies and friends when they have concerns.”

The starkest results were those showing a lack of trust that the United States would act responsibly and a sense that it had overreached on the global stage.

A majority of respondents in Argentina (84 per cent), Peru (80 per cent), Russia (73 per cent) France (72 per cent), Armenia (58 per cent), Indonesia (64 per cent), China (59 per cent), Thailand (56 per cent), South Korea(53 per cent) and India (52 per cent) and more than a third of those in Australia (40 per cent) and Ukraine (37 per cent) answered “not at all” or “not very much” when asked how much they trusted the US “to act responsibly in the world,” the poll found.

The Philippines and Israel proved the staunchest supporters with 85 per cent and 81 per cent of respondents, respectively, saying they trusted the US either a “great deal” or “somewhat,” followed by Australia at 59 per cent and Poland at 51 per cent.

More than three out of four Americans think their country tends to take on the role of international enforcer more than it should. Large majorities elsewhere also felt that way: France at 89 per cent, Australia at 80 per cent, China at 77 per cent, Russia at 76 per cent, Peru at 76 per cent, the Palestinian territories at 74 per cent, South Korea at 73 per cent, Indonesia at 68 per cent, Ukraine at 67 per cent, Armenia at 63 per cent, Argentina at 62 per cent and India at 53 per cent.

Only one country surveyed had a majority of respondents who disagreed: the Philippines with 57 per cent. Israeli respondents were split at an even 48 per cent. The study was conducted in 18 countries — China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Russia, France, Thailand, Ukraine, Poland, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Peru, Israel and Armenia — plus the Palestinian territories. Not all questions were asked in each country. These represent roughly 56 per cent of the world’s population.

The random sample surveys were conducted by telephone and in person from June 2006 to March 2007, with margins of error ranging from 1.5 to 4.0 percentage points.

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