Asia– I found an article in the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs by Kishore Mahbubani explains that the numbers of Asian students attending American universities rose from 70,000 to 160,000 and the numbers keep going up. He even goes on to say his son and daughter went to Yale to study during their college years. He then adds that Asians love the American spirit of enterprise. Mahbubani goes onto say that America is the only country where success stories like Google, Facebook and Microsoft can emerge out of nowhere. They admire the capacity for Americans to create great enterprises and why it’s such a mystery as to why no other country has achieved anything like it.
Mahbubani also points out that America is a place where you can come as a foreigner study hard and become a CEO of a major company. Indra Nooyi who was a MBA student is now the CEO of PepsiCo, Vikram Pandit who heads Citibank and Muhtar Kent who is the CEO of Coca-Cola. He goes on to say, “I want to try it in America”. This is the part that won’t be so flattering for Americans to hear, but need to if we are truly concerned for foreign affairs.
One thing that changed in the eyes of Asians is our moral compass and the use of torture. Mahbubani states “Chinese intellectuals said to me in private—in the past, even when the Chinese used to disagree with America publicly, they would say, “I have to disagree publicly, but in my heart, I agree. You are right. We are not as good as you are.” But after you brought in Guantanamo and torture, they said, “Excuse me, we are no different now. Don’t lecture us anymore.”
Another negative area is the American antipathy toward the Islamic World. He mentions the film that made negative headlines on Youtube that led to demonstrations. He adds the importance of changing the minds of the Muslim world and working hard to change the perception of how to coexist. Kishore’s next point is the ignorance of the impact of American power. He makes the example of taking corn subsidies and turning them into ethanol can lead to hunger in other parts of the world. Another example he used is quantitative easing and pumping it into the money supply leads to inflation in the rest of the world. Mahbubani adds that most Americans aren’t aware the actions they make domestically affect the world globally.
One positive thing he mentions is that American philanthropists like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett agreeing to give away most of their money in their lifetime is an amazement. One that David Rubenstein in Singapore tried to unsuccessfully replicate this by attempting to persuade Asian philanthropists of the same “Giving Pledge” that their American counterparts did. It didn’t work out so well. One such negative example is the use of money in politics. In a democracy each individuals vote should and does count equally, but the issue is when the process of democracy becomes distorted when large sums of money come into the circle.
One major issue in the eyes of Asia is America adhering to International Laws. His claims that the US refused to accept International Court of Justice judgments, or refuses to ratify International Criminal Court, or Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Law of the Sea treaty. Another thing, according to Purchasing Power Parity term China’s GNP within ten years will become bigger than America. In China there is a deep suspicion that America wants China from succeeding even though China as a whole wants American to remain a superpower.
Middle East– It wasn’t after 9/11 that I began to know about the Middle East and the Muslim world and what terrorism meant. The ties with America and the Middle East goes far before that though. The US has failed in attempt after attempt to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict. When Israel gained a victory over the Muslims back in 1967 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger decided that Israel was the bigger power and he wanted to maintain that by giving the Palestinians money and guns to keep the Arabs and Russians out. This helped the momentum ultimately leading to the October War in 1973. Kissinger’s plan was to exclude the Palestinians from the post war settlement and the Egyptians from the Arab military line up. This move eventually led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979.
For the next 30 years Israel’s supremacy showed the power of Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians. Israel invaded Lebanon and killing 17,000 people in the process in 1982. Israel seized Beirut and started a massacre of right-wing Christians that left 800 Palestinians dead the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. For the next 18 years they remained in control in South Lebanon until Hizballah Guerrillas drove them out. The US called the guerrillas “terrorists” which did not sit well with the them. In the Middle East Palestine was only one reason for the cause of 9/11, the other was when the US removed the Iraqi’s from Kuwait back in 1991 and then back that with crippling sanctions said to cause the death of over a million Iraqi babies.
Yet another piece was when tens of thousands of Arab fighters who were trained by the US and given weapons to fight the Russian threat in Afghanistan. Once the Russian withdrew their military arm in 1989 so did the US with the mujaheddin . Large numbers of the Afghan Arabs were left angry, military trained and dangerous to roam in their home countries or even join Al-Qaida. George Bush’s “War on Terror” certainly did help any foreign repair when the US went into war with Afghanistan, a war that is still going on today over twelve years later. The US then decides to go after Iraq in which the neo-cons wanted anyway after the Iran Iraq war. An estimated 1.4 million Iraq’s died and 4,500 US soldiers died as well.
Even today as President Obama authorized drone attacks against Afghanstan, Yemen, Pakistan and other Islamic militant group locations. The problems happen when the US is acting in the better interest of Israel through sanctions, wars and demonizing tactics.
Africa– For many in Africa the US represents a beacon of racial harmony. South Africa and the US both share a dark racial past between slavery and the apartheid regime. When the election and re-election of Barack Obama embraced the US it renewed faith in Africans that the US has better race relations then they did previously. It’s the African and African-American relationship that can get dicey at times. Even though African-Americans ancestry is largely in Africa there seems to be still a lot of ignorance and hatred toward Africans and the homeland. This bond was between the two cultures and people was broken and never healed properly.
One would think this would be the easiest bond to mend since we share past, present and future, but more often than not you can hear a black woman or man making descent and even execrable remarks about lions walking around villages. People imitating an African dialect with a series of mouth made clicks and clack sounds that are horribly misrepresentative of a beautiful and robust set of different languages that has dates back more than 100,000 years, which most scholars agree on.
Msia Kibona Clark, a visiting assistant professor at Howard University’s African Studies department said in a student newsletter that, generally, African-American students think “Africans are backwards … and that all Africans are poor”. Some students, she says, “question the presence of big cities [in African nations]. They think that all Africans come from a village.” Many African American still believe Africa is a place for famine, poverty, HIV, corruption and civil war. On the other end of the road the common misconception about African-Americans is that they have a “chip on their shoulder” and are not interested in becoming educated.
This is a problem that NEEDS TO BE FIXED since the numbers of Africans coming to America are only increasing from 110,000 between 1961 to 1980 to 530,000 from 1980 t 2000. The faces that reflect African-Americans are changing and the times and sensitivity to them need to aggrandize with the times were are in.
European– When you talk about what Europeans think about US culture. Europeans think that American politics are extremely negative and they are not favorable of American cuisine, but do favor TV and films as exports. A market research firm hired by the Wall Street Journal polled more than 18,000 people in 18 different countries in Europe. They found that France in particular did not like the Bush presidency and that the French more than any other country did not American Food. With the election of Obama the views of American politics has changed for a more positive position.
In Italy 39% had the citizens had a positive impression as opposed to the 25% who had a negative impression. The U.K. (38% to 31%), Poland (32% to 24%), Bulgaria (29% to 25%) and Romania (29% to 26%) also logged more positive than negative responses.Luigi Mattirolo, an Italian civil servant in Rome says The American “way of thinking makes it possible for the people who really believe in something to achieve their goals. At least [in the U.S.] it happens more frequently than in Europe.” Greece however has more negative views of American culture with 58% having a negative impression. Russia follows them with 45% and Hungary with 40% with negative impressions.
When it breaks down by category 30% of those surveyed believe that movies and tv shows were the best thing about American culture, then sports with 12% of those surveyed and music with 11%. On the other hand though 21% of those surveyed said “I don’t know” or “nothing” when asked what is the American contribution to world culture. Among the worst contributions is food from American culture with 66% of French respondents, 56% of Swiss respondents and 52% of German respondents. When the European countries were asked how America was looked at in regards to politics most of the countries had mostly negative responses, but Romania, Bulgaria and Poland were the only countries with the least negative responses. Romania views America as the land of hope and light especially after the oppression Romania faced from Russia.
Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria and Russia all have more positive than negative views of America since President Obama began his term when they were questioned about political influence.
Latin America– According to the Pew Research Center’s “Global Attitudes Project a large portion of Latin countries has a positive view of the US. El Salvador had the highest favorability with 79% with Brazil right behind with 73%, Chile 68%, Mexico with 66%, Bolivia 53%, Venezeula 41% and Argentina with 40%. Currently 1 in 5 people from El Salvador lives in the United States and uses the US dollar as their currency. It seems in countries where US intervention has been the most frequent and dramatic also seems to be the same countries where US is in high favor(El Salvador,Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama).
Bolivia, Argentina and Venezuela are a few of the countries who have less than favorable attitudes toward the US. 73% of Argentines thinks that the US ignores their interests. This number coincides with the 41% favorability with the US. Chile is in a odds place though on both sides of the spectrum saying Chile feels positively about the United States, even though they also feels the US ignores its interest. Here is a list of the countries who thinks the US is not favorable and thinks the US ignores its interests: Argentina 73%, Chile 61%, Bolivia 59%, Mexico 45%, Venezuela 42%, Brazil 38% and El Salvador.
I wrote this blog because our perception in the world does matter. We want to and need to become a country that is more compassionate and sympathetic.