Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2585

United States Global Image on the Decline: Interaction with others is Monologue not Dialogue

By Daya Gamage – US Bureau of Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 18 June, ( With limited success with its revamped Global Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs campaign with the inauguration of a special bureau in the State Department fifteen months ago, the United States global image has slipped further, an indication that, since September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the American soil, U.S. is still to come out of its monologues posture to engage in a dialogue with the international community especially the Third World nations.

A new Global Opinion Poll to assess America’s image overseas, released last week by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, contends that in both allied nations and other parts of the world the U.S. suffered adverse effect on its global image.

Countries where positive views dropped significantly include India (56 percent, down from 71 percent); Russia (43 percent, down from 52 percent); Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation of the world, (30 percent, down from 38 percent, and Turkey, only 12 percent said they had a favorable opinion, down from 23 percent last year.

As the war in Iraq entered the fourth year, the global image of the United States has slipped further. There were no indications that Bush Administration’s ‘Promotion of Democracy Worldwide’ has brought much dividends.

“Obviously, when you get many more people saying that the U.S. presence in Iraq is a threat to world peace as say that about Iran, it is a measure of how much Iraq is sapping good will to the United States,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center that released the report last week after a global survey.

Pew surveyed 16,710 people from March 31 to May 14, 2006 in Britain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

The global image of America slipped even among people in some countries closely allied with the United States, the new opinion poll of Pew Research Center disclosed.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice realized this global setback when she told her department staff announcing the Bush Administration’s nominee Karen Hughes as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs on March 14 last year that for the “U.S. to be successful (in overseas public diplomacy) we must listen. An important part of telling America’s story is learning the stories of others. Our interaction with the rest of the world must not be monologue. It must be a conversation.”

In November 2004, American and Asian professionals and experts, under the auspices of the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation symposium, which reviewed U.S. relations with the Asian Region, in a joint report, charged that the United States acts unilaterally when it comes to dealings with other nations particularly developing nations.

In this report “America’s Role in Asia” issued on November 15, 2004 in Washington for the benefit of the U.S. policy-makers said in part, “The United States tendency to use regional consultations, principally as an occasion for pressing Asian participants on U.S. priorities rather than listening carefully to their concerns will surely reinforce a growing desire of Asians to meet on key issues – particularly economic issues – without the U.S. at the table.”

Secretary Rice advocated last year that “the challenges of today are much different than the challenges of yesterday and when it comes to our public diplomacy we simply must do better. Indeed, one key conclusion reached by the 9/11 Commission was that our nation must improve how we engage with the rest of the world.”

America’s public diplomacy, Karen Hughes told on March 29 this year in Houston, Texas in a lecture at Rice University’s Institute for Public Policy, must offer foreign audiences a positive vision of hope for a better life “rooted in freedom, justice, opportunity and respect for all.”

Hughes fielded questions from her Houston audience. In response to one, she contrasted the public diplomacy challenges faced during the Cold War, when the task was to get information into closed societies, with the contemporary information overload.

Today, she said, the United States competes “for attention and credibility.”

While the U.S. Under Secretary office for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs headed by Karen Hughes endeavors to break away from the usual U.S. position of monologue to listen to the alternate views of the others and establish its credibility for the ‘promotion of democracy’, a corner stone of Bush’s second term agenda, Thomas Carothers, Director, Democracy and Rule of Law Project of Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 8, 2006 had this to say of the whole project of ‘democracy promotion.’:

“The Bush administration’s emphasis on the Iraq war as the leading wedge of its democracy promotion policy in the Middle East has closely associated democracy promotion with the assertion of American military power and security interests. With the U.S. intervention in Iraq viewed as illegitimate in most parts of the world, the legitimacy of the general concept of democracy promotion has suffered accordingly.”

The erosion of America’s global credibility brought to light by the Pew Research Center last week was attributed to the style it has adopted in its ‘War against Terrorism’. Carothers puts it this way: “The status of the United States as a symbol of democracy and as a leading promoter of democracy has been greatly damaged by the abuses committed by U.S. military and intelligence personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere, as well as by other elements of the war on terrorism, such as the secret rendition of foreign terrorist suspects to countries that regularly practice torture, reliable reports of covert prisons in Europe, and governmental eavesdropping without court warrants within the United States.”

He continued to say in this Senate hearing last March 8 that “The damage to America’s image has been enormous, a fact that is plainly and painfully obvious to anyone who is internationally aware either abroad or at home, but which the (Bush) administration refuses to acknowledge. The widespread perception that the war on terrorism entails the frequent violation of individuals’ rights by the U.S. government sharply contradicts President Bush’s efforts to tell the world that liberty is the best antidote for terrorism.”

It is important to recall here what the Asian expert group reiterated in its report at the Asia Foundation symposium in November 2004, “Washington must persuade the Asian region that the U.S. is not seeking domination in international affairs, but rather leadership within the world.”

And, the Washington-based Pew Research Center made it clear last week that the United States needs to change its stance to improve its image in the world.

- Asian Tribune -

Share this