Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The BBC published results of a regular survey of world opinion about other nations, which involved more than 17,000 respondents in 34 countries. The key statistic reported is views of other countries' influence, in terms of whether or not the respondent thinks that country makes a positive or negative difference in the world. Here is the chart the BBC ran:

Thanks in large part to the Bush administration's adventurism in Iraq and a generally arrogant approach to diplomacy, as well as the waning capability and influence of American propagandists, some very dubious selections bested the United States.

Germany and Japan: These choices aren't dubious today, but sixty years ago their standings would have seemed patently absurd. Apparently the American led reconstruction of these countries after WWII not only bequeathed to them our economic know how, but our moral authority as well.

India: Economic miracle aside, too much of India is still either a kleptocracy or a backwards, bride burning tribal chiefdom (India, to their credit, is trying to tackle those issues head-on). It's also a major polluter and resource sink, and refuses to sign the Nuclear nonproliferation treaty. However, it's not currently invading anyone, and the US still has India beat hands-down in terms of pollution and resource wastage -- so the 7 point win here is not really unjustified.

Russia: Emerging from its post-Communist phase of being a plutocratic ochlocracy, Russia is an increasingly despotic semidemocracy led by a strongman president who releases beefcake photos of himself to impress his subjects. Russia regularly engages in equally destructive adventurism in places like Chechnya, saber rattling against neighbors like Georgia, and economic extortion of anyone that is a purchaser of Russian natural gas. The 2 point edge over us is noise, but we shouldn't be in a statistical dead heat with a closet dictatorship.

China: A politically unreconstructed authoritarian state that is infamous for its crushing of both internal dissent and any of its neighbors that seem weak enough -- that country bests the US by 12 points? Vast numbers of the Chinese people are treated wretchedly by their own leaders (both in government and business), which should be a consideration when judging international influence (especially amongst the most populous nations). Globally, not only is China a major supporter of some of the world's worst regimes (North Korea and Burma especially), it is perpetually involved in other sketchy geopolitical situations of its own making: suppressions of uprisings in annexed Tibet, ongoing saber rattling against Taiwan, a little known ongoing effort to slowly push northward their borders with Russia by ignoring illegal settlements on the Russian side of the line -- and plenty of meddling in the affairs of other states, especially its neighbors and in Africa. China is also on the fast track to at least catch up with the United States in terms of pollution and resource wastage.

North Korea: We are in a statistical dead heat in the "mainly negative" category with a wholly unreconstructed Stalinist dictatorship that is currently playing fast and loose with nuclear arms development, and shooting missiles over neighboring Japan, all while starving its perpetually oppressed population? That is just ridiculous.

Our relative standing versus North Korea, China and Russia in particular is a testament not just to poor planning leading to a widely publicized mess in Iraq (which has been exploited for propaganda purposes by others), but to the generally sorry state of US diplomatic, outreach and propaganda efforts during the last several years. The trouncing in such polls of Israel, a US client state, also partially reflects this situation (the success of antisemitic propaganda highlights a failure on the part of the US, and Israel, to counter it successfully with propaganda -- and effective policy, diplomacy, and outreach -- of our own).

This is a most unfortunate state of affairs, one which I hope our next administration can begin to turn around -- not with empty marketing slogans (the Bush administration already tried that), but with a comprehensive package of diplomacy, outreach, and propaganda. Without policy backing, happy propaganda/marketing slogans aren't going to convince anyone.


Seth said...

So you are suggested that politicians in high office do their jobs? Are you now, or have you ever been, a communist?

Seriously, that is depressing in the extreme. Of course, that is one of the reasons I am glad I no longer live in that godforsaken place any more.

hatsumi said...

Yeah, that is really depressing. Sometimes I think it would be nice to live somewhere else, but I honestly can't figure out where I'd want to go. Just off the top of my head, I can easily think of reasons why I don't want to live in the top two. (Germany's anti-violent video game stuff is really scary. Japan still views women and outsiders as lesser beings.) /sigh