In a small, plain office over a downtown Seoul grocery, eight
young men hunch over a bank of computers. They aren't writing
software or playing video games. This is a command center for
protest against American soldiers in Korea. Everyone wears a black
ribbon that reads "US troops withdraw."
The group � one of dozens like it � sprang up after a US armored
vehicle accidentally killed two Korean girls walking along a country
road in June. The incident continues to galvanize anti-American
feeling across the country. Members canvas neighborhoods, run e-mail
campaigns detailing American soldiers' alleged crimes, and help
organize a permanent silent vigil outside the presidential
"We are like a military operation" says their leader, known only
as Mr. Kim. "US troops here are a mistake of history and we won't be
one country until they leave; 9/11 is not our problem."
Most Americans believe they are making a sacrifice � stationing
38,000 soldiers here � to defend South Koreans against possible
Communist attack. Most ordinary Koreans, however, believe the US
troops are actually here to promote American interests, opinion
polls show. And "since 9/11, a strange but virulent anti-Americanism
has gripped South Korea," notes one expatriate American who works at
a US company in Seoul.
"The underlying reason that Uncle Sam is about as popular as the
plague," he adds, "is because of a paradigm shift in the minds of a
new generation of South Koreans" who regard the US troops as a
Along with Japan, South Korea is one of America's chief strategic
partners in the Pacific. But you wouldn't think so to watch a recent
music video by popular all-girl Korean band S.E.S. It features
cowboy-booted Americans being beaten up, fed to dogs, and tossed off
Nor are American diplomats reassured by recent polls showing that
nearly half of Koreans approved the February trashing of the US
Chamber of Commerce in Seoul and that 60 percent of Koreans "don't
But if the US doesn't wear a white hat here, where then?
South Korea today offers one of the sharpest, and most
surprising, examples of anger at the US role in the world since
Sept. 11. The current campaign grew out of the girls' deaths � and a
widespread sense that the US authorities handled the case clumsily.
But there's more to it than that. It seems to feed on old grudges
and a deep dismay at a newly unilateral America, touting a "with us
or against us" approach.
� � �
A year ago, in the wake of Sept. 11, even some of Washington's
fiercest critics proclaimed in sympathy, "We are all Americans." But
those sentiments began to fade after the inadvertent US bombing of
civilians in Afghanistan. Today, even some of the country's firmest
friends are alarmed by America's apparent unwillingness to take into
account the views of other nations on issues ranging from the
environment to dealing with Iraq.
As the sole superpower for the past decade, America was already
retooling its relationship with the rest of the planet before Sept.
11. It pulled out of the Kyoto treaty on climate change, a step that
rankled many. But the attack on America accelerated the change. The
United States feels threatened by Al Qaeda, and it's making its vast
military and political superiority felt with unprecedented vigor �
sending soldiers into Central Asia, Georgia, and the
That is having an effect. Scores of interviews with government
officials, political analysts, and ordinary citizens from one side
of the globe to the other suggest that the US is now widely
perceived as arrogant and � as war with Iraq looms � potentially
You can hear the misgivings in the voices of Russian steel
workers burned by Washington's decision this year to ignore
free-trade principles and raise import tariffs. You can see them in
a McDonald's franchise in Jakarta that works to hide its American
And in South Korea, for the first time, anti-Americanism is no
longer a fringe emotion, fashionable on the political extremes. It
has become a mainstream current of respectable opinion.
Fault-finding with America is becoming an instrument of national
solidarity, especially among younger people like Yonsei University
student Ham Chang, who thinks older generations that fought
alongside US troops have been "brainwashed."
"My friends feel like the US acts as boss of the world," says Mr.
Ham, who is studying literature. "Sept. 11 was terrible ... but the
US is using it as an excuse to do what it wants. The US government
is in Korea to divide us. The US wants us weak and divided. They are
not here for our security."
In an unusually candid acknowledgement of the problem, President
Kim Dae Jung told reporters last Friday that he's worried by "a
growing trend toward anti-American sentiment."
"It may be difficult for us to sustain the same mood we grew up
with," says one older Korean diplomat who served in Washington. "We
know the US helped us. But those under 40 ... aren't swayed by what
we think. Their human nature is anti-US."
� � �
Respect for American values � freedom and democracy � persists,
as does admiration of its free-enterprise prosperity. A visa for the
US is still prized. But because of the way the US is wielding its
military and political clout � more than its cultural hegemony �
that admiration is increasingly overlaid by mistrust,
misunderstanding, resentment, and even hostility across a broad
spectrum of countries and citizens. There's a feeling that
Washington doesn't care about them or their concerns.
"Foreign perceptions of the United States are far from
monolithic," found a recent task force on public diplomacy set up by
the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York. In Afghanistan
and the Philippines, for example, US soldiers are generally well
received. "But there is little doubt that stereotypes of the United
States as arrogant, self-indulgent, hypocritical, inattentive, and
unwilling or unable to engage in cross-cultural dialogue are
pervasive and deeply rooted."
That is a far cry from the average American's perception.
Sixty-six percent of Americans regard their country's actions as
"usually or almost always" beneficial to the world according to a
Monitor/TIPP poll taken in the past week.
"I'm amazed ... that people would hate us," President Bush said
last October. "Like most Americans I just can't believe it. Because
I know how good we are."
Some say that is enough. "The rich hegemon will usually be
unpopular, deservedly or not," says Lewis Manilow, a veteran public
diplomacy specialist who dissented from the CFR report. "Americans
want to be loved, but isn't it more important that we tell the world
where we stand and follow up with appropriate action?"
Certainly, the US now holds greater economic, political,
military, and cultural sway over the rest of the world than any
power since the Roman Empire. It is the only military power with
global reach, spending more on guns and soldiers than the next 11
countries combined. It has 27 percent of the world's economic
output, equal to the next three biggest countries combined. And it
is in a league of its own when it comes to film and TV exports.
But brute strength does not always add up to leadership, and raw
power rarely fosters the sense of international common purpose
needed to address problems with the environment, disease,
immigration, or global economic stability.
"Military power is necessary but not sufficient," argues Joseph
Nye, dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
in Cambridge, Mass. "The US should pay more attention to its ability
to attract others to work with it."
� � �
That is what Sgt. Larry Moore's job is all about. A soldier with
the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion based in Knoxville, Tenn., he
steps out of his pickup truck into the bright sunlight scorching the
village of Karabagh, north of Kabul, and surveys the war-scarred
desolation around him.
'We're doing this because these
people need help. We are doing it for the same reason you
would do it for your neighbor.'
� Sgt. Larry
Moore, in Afghanistan
Robert Harbison -
The few mud walls that are standing are pocked with bullet holes
and the star burst signatures of rocket-propelled grenades.
Shattered adobe buildings melt back into the dusty floor of the
plain. But in the middle of the village rises a red-brick
schoolhouse where 1,200 boys and girls will soon be studying,
courtesy of the US Army.
"This school will be excellent," says Sergeant Moore with
satisfaction, as he watches a turbaned tribesman use an adze to
smooth ceiling beams while a dozen workmen in long shirts and
billowing pantaloons slather on mortar and lay bricks. "It's going
to do wonders for the village."
Karabagh's new school is one of hundreds of humanitarian-aid
projects that the US military is funding in Afghanistan, and it has
won over Dermont, a village elder. A few months ago, he says,
American soldiers on patrol "saw our children studying under the
shadows of trees and they decided to build a school. The school is a
light in the darkness. I hope my children will be able to see."
Moore takes an idealistic view of his work. "We're doing this
because these people need help," he says. "We are doing it for the
same reason you would do it for your neighbor. Do it because that's
what's in your heart. America has a kind heart."
The US Agency for International Development says it has sent $530
million in humanitarian aid in Afghanistan this year, making America
the largest single donor to the war-torn country. But that does not
impress Karabagh policeman Abdul Ghafur. "We have two targets," he
says, "the reconstruction of Afghanistan and eradicating the
terrorists. The US is more interested in the war against terrorists.
We are more interested in reconstruction."
For Col. Nick Parker, a British officer who is director of
operational planning at coalition headquarters in Kabul, those two
goals go hand in hand. "The US is not doing this for purely
altruistic reasons," he suggests. "If the US doesn't do it, in five
years we'll all be back here fighting another terrorist
� � �
When American goals match local aspirations, America has no
difficulty presenting itself as the good guy. That is the logic
behind the doctrine of "integration" outlined recently by Richard
Haass, the State Department's director of policy planning, who
described it as "persuading more and more governments, and at a
deeper level, people to sign on to certain key ideas as to how the
world should operate for our mutual benefit."
But getting the rest of the world to want what America wants is
only one side of the coin, argues Professor Nye. America also has to
offer other countries things they value if foreigners are to accept
American moral leadership.
"Failure to pay proper respect to the opinion of others and to
incorporate a broad conception of justice into our national interest
will eventually come to hurt us," Nye argues in his recent book,
"The Paradox of American Power."
In the eyes of many global activists, Washington is ignoring that
warning. In Johannesburg, for example, Korean environmental
activists protested against Mr. Bush's absence from the recent World
Summit on Sustainable Development. "He only cares about his personal
war against terror," said Kim Yeon Ji of the Korean Federation for
the Environment. "They want us all to join in with their war, but in
the battle for the environment, we are all here and he says, 'Sorry,
I'm on vacation.' We are very angry."
America's reluctance to join other countries in tackling issues
they think are important � its current efforts to undermine the new
International Criminal Court, for example; its rejection of an
international treaty limiting biological weapons; or its refusal to
strengthen a convention against torture � are squandering global
goodwill, say critics.
In France, warns Dominique Moisi, a prominent foreign-affairs
analyst, "there is a growing tendency in public opinion to view the
US as a rogue state."
� � �
Not that this makes Americans personally unpopular, as Jacqui
Resley's employees will attest.
Ms. Resley, a Kansan, strides around her crafts factory in
Nairobi, constantly taking charge. "David," she admonishes one shy
potter. "Stop painting those lines so squiggly. They look ugly."
'No matter what Godforsaken
place you found yourself in, there was always someone with a
Coke, complaining about Vietnam but also asking if you could
help them to get a visa to the US.'
� Jacqui Resley,
businesswoman in Kenya
Encouraging, correcting, yelling, insisting on it all being done
the way she thinks best, the tall and angular Resley pushes her 70
Kenyan workers to their limits. "There is this attitude here of 'We
can't do it,' and I say 'For God's sake why not?' she says,
grimacing as she watches a weaver fumbling a ball of thread.
"She is bossy," acknowledges Fidel Namisi, the company's computer
technician. "Bossy and hyper and good-hearted ... very
Thirty years ago, inspired by a John Wayne movie filmed in the
Serengeti plains, Resley picked up and set off to hitchhike across
Africa. The Vietnam War was raging, and long before she reached
Nairobi, she discovered that not everybody loved America.
"A lot of people just didn't like you because of the war," she
remembers. "But no matter what Godforsaken place you found yourself
in there was always someone with a Coke, complaining about Vietnam
but also asking if you could help them to get a visa to the US."
Today, she still runs into people like that, but Resley no longer
carries a backpack. Now she runs Weaverbird, the company she founded
that supplies many of the high-quality carpets, wall hangings, and
pots that decorate Kenya's best hotels. She has also become one of
Nairobi's best-known community activists, agitating against
corruption and litter and in favor of government accountability. As
the only human face her workers can put on a distant superpower,
Jacqui Resley hears a lot from them � good and bad � about America.
On Sept. 11, Jane Mukonyo was on the factory floor, ball-winding
wool, when she heard about the attacks on the radio. "Everyone looks
around for Jacqui" she recalls. "We wanted to tell her we felt so
"I don't know too many Americans, just Jacqui and those I see on
TV," says Joyce Njeri, a dyer who has worked at Weaverbird for 15
years. "But what I know I like."
Americans, she explains "know what they want, and others can't
teach them too much. They want the bottom line. They take action.
They are capable and have big, good ideas. America as a country,
Njeri believes, is much the same. "But I have a question," she adds.
"Why, if they have such good ideas, are they now bombing others just
like they themselves are bombed?"
Mr. Namisi, the computer expert, is less enthusiastic. "I
definitely think the US is a bully," he says. "They look down at the
rest of us. They think their way is the only way."
Lunch break is over, and Resley charges onto the factory floor,
her hands flying this way and that. "One, two, let's get moving
here," she nags.
"Jacqui is an American and, yes, she is bossy too," says Namisi.
"But we signed up to work for her, so we accept that. But neither
Kenya nor any other country signed up to work for the US, so that is
� � �
Elsewhere in the world too, people are ambivalent about America:
"Yankee Go Home, But Take Me With You," as an Indian politician,
Jairam Ramesh, titled a talk he gave three years ago at the Asia
Society in New York.
Chinese students are not shy about protesting US policies, but a
demonstration outside the US Embassy in Beijing last month had an
ironic twist in its tail: the college grads were demanding American
"The international role of the US is rude, it is a very negative
role," said Feng Ma, a young woman demonstrator who has won a full
scholarship to the University of Maryland after preparing for five
years. "But I view individuals separately. My friends live a
comfortable life in Michigan. They work hard and they make in a year
what it would take three years here to make.
"We may hate the US when it is rude to China," she added. "But we
long to go there."
Nor is it hard to find people anywhere in the world ready to
express their admiration for the values and ideals that have
inspired America's growth � especially in countries where such
values are not officially shared.
"Yes, America wants to do good things in the world and spread
democracy," says Yang Chu, a software salesman reading a raft of
Saturday papers over a cup of coffee at a downtown Beijing
Starbucks. "I wish China had more American-style democracy."
'Anti-Americanism here isn't so
much hatred as it is envy. It's a parent-child relationship.
The child wants to be listened to and Dad is always
� Jan Urban,
Czech service of
US-funded Radio Free
In Eastern Europe, too, plenty of middle aged people who knew
life under Communism are grateful to the US for its role in bringing
down the Soviet empire. (Warm feelings live on in the parlance of
Czech hikers: When they find an especially beautiful site to pitch
their tents, they call it "Amerika.") But that gratitude is ebbing
"I used to hold America in awe," says Vlastislav Vecerilek, a
former air-traffic controller who has had a hard time making ends
meet since he lost his job soon after Czechoslovakia's "Velvet
Revolution." "But recently I have become annoyed with American
"They promised us heaven and instead we got scraps," he
complains. "We thought America was different from the Soviet Union,
but in essence all superpowers are the same."
As gray flood waters crept toward the door of his Prague
restaurant last month, waiter Jiri Kolar blamed America. "The floods
[the worst in the city's history] are clearly caused by global
warming, everybody knows that," he argued, as he took a break from
carrying out food and electrical appliances.
"If the Americans don't stop their bad habits of pollution, we'll
have more disasters," he predicted. "I am very angry at George Bush
for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol. The Americans think only of
That sort of comment cuts no ice with Jan Urban, a commentator
with the Czech service of US-funded Radio Free Europe. "There are
now those in this country who believe anything the US does must be
evil, but when those same people need help they will ask the US," he
"Anti-Americanism here isn't so much hatred as it is envy," he
adds. "It's a parent-child relationship. The child wants to be
listened to and Dad is always busy."
If the world sometimes feels a need for American leadership, as
Mr. Urban suggests, it is also hooked on American products.
� � �
Just ask Tayiba Abdul Rahman, a young Saudi mother who took her
family holidays this summer in Turkey, rather than in America, where
she has often been before. "I wouldn't go to America now. I don't
want to be treated like a criminal," she says as she eats lunch at
the Akmerkez, a new shopping mall in Istanbul that attracts the
monied classes from around the Islamic world.
Frustrated by US policy in the Middle East, and upset by what
they see as the way America has demonized Muslims since last
September, Tayiba and her husband, Mohammed, are part of a
grass-roots campaign at home to boycott US-made goods.
But Tayiba sheepishly admits that she couldn't pass up the lovely
leather DKNY bag that sits on the table as the couple lunches with
their two small boys. And although they have skipped the five
American chain restaurants in the vast Akmerkez food court �
preferring Middle Eastern food � they say they regret not having
succeeded in weaning themselves off Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which the
boys slug down with their rice and stewed eggplant.
(Ironically, Americans are most dubious about the aspects of
their country that foreigners like best � its movies, its consumer
goods and its culture. The Monitor/TIPP poll found that Americans
overwhelmingly feel the US has a positive impact on fighting
terrorism, or boosting the world economy, but are divided about its
global cultural impact: 47 per cent consider it positive, against 44
per cent who think it is negative.)
Mr. Abdul Rahman is one of the astonishingly numerous people in
the Middle East who do not believe Osama bin Laden was responsible
for the Twin Towers attack. He thinks that Israel and the American
government organized the atrocity so as to justify a war on the
Despite that sort of criticism aimed against it, many more
governments are friendly to the US than was the case during the cold
war, and many more have adopted the liberal democratic capitalist
credo that America has been energetically exporting.
Not that it always gets them where they had expected to go,
especially when Washington itself betrays the principles it seeks to
impose on others, such as free trade.
� � �
Over the roar of the blast furnace in the Severstal steel mill at
Cheropovets, 250 miles north of Moscow, Gennady Borisov will give
you an earful on that subject. The tariffs on foreign steel imports
of up to 30 percent that Bush announced last March to shield
domestic producers from competition have hit everything in
Cheropovets from Mr. Borisov's paycheck to local kindergartens.
'America wants to dictate its
terms to the whole world. They think they are superior. Their
economy allows them to do it.'
� Gennady Borisov,
Scott Peterson -
As fire and smoke belch from the belly of one of the largest
steel mills in the world, Mr. Borisov wipes the sweat from his brow
with the grimy sleeve of his work shirt. "America wants to dictate
its terms to the whole world," he complains. "They think they are
superior. Their economy allows them to do it."
Accustomed to sermons from Washington about the value of open
markets and free trade, Russians attribute the protectionist US
stance on steel to an American disregard for international norms
that they feel has grown since Sept. 11.
Severstal must now seek new markets for the steel it had planned
to sell in America � and those markets are following Washington's
protectionist suit. Severstal has pledged not to lay off any
workers, but it has abandoned planned wage increases in view of the
projected loss of profits.
The ripple effects � amplified by a cyclical downturn in the
steel industry � are felt all over town, where the steel mill's
45,000 employees make up 15 per cent of the population.
Normally, for example, Severstal's tax payments constitute 80
percent of the city budget. But because of the drop in profits, the
company's tax payments for the first half of 2002 are only half what
they were last year.
That means that a city program to slowly wean people off
Soviet-era perks such as free water and electricity has been
dramatically sped up. Thirty kindergartens once funded by Severstal
are now run by the cash-strapped city authorities.
"As a consequence, all citizens feel that they are paying more
money for their apartments and to live," says Olga Ezhova, a
Severstal spokeswoman. "This is the pain inflicted by the American
The pain is only made harder to bear by the fact that Russia has
been an enthusiastic partner in Washington's "war on terror." "We
were spellbound" on Sept. 11, says Ms. Ezhova. "It was a shock. We
hoped that after such a tragedy and our reaction to it, when
[President Vladimir] Putin gave his hand to America, we had a common
cause, and thought that this called for an appropriate reaction.
"Of course [the tariffs] are such a small thing by comparison,"
she adds. "But what we heard in March did not correspond to our
attitude to America."
And even in countries where capitalism is well established, some
of the shine has rubbed off the American way of doing business in
the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals.
In Japan, for example, "They've been having to listen to 'We know
how to do things right and you don't' " from America for the past 10
years, says Ronald Bevacqua, a financial-markets expert from New
York who has lived in Tokyo for a decade. "Now, when the stock
market burst and these scandals came out, we found out that America
was no better than Japan was 10 years ago," he adds. "The whole
moralistic thing that America has been preaching was bogus."
� � �
From his plush office high above the traffic that clogs the
streets of Bogot�, an American oil company executive watches through
his plate-glass window as a detachment of Colombian army soldiers
patrols a wealthy residential district nearby.
This has been a tense year for him � tense enough that he doesn't
feel safe giving his name. He knows that he is a juicy target for
leftist guerrillas, especially since Sept. 11 landed him on the
front lines of America's "war on terror."
Colombia has been enmeshed in political violence for more than
half a century, and leftist rebels have long viewed US oil companies
as thieves of the nation's resources. But Sept. 11 raised the
stakes, as Washington folded Colombia into its global war.
The attacks on New York and Washington a year ago "changed the
rules of the game," says one of the oil executive's Colombian
colleagues, also unwilling to identify himself. No longer does the
US government feel any hesitation in helping the Colombian
government fight insurgents.
The State Department put Colombia's two largest rebel groups �
and a right-wing paramilitary force that often cooperates with the
army � on its list of terrorist groups. Earlier this summer,
Congress approved the use of aid to fight the insurgents, not just
the drugs trade they profit from.
That has jacked up the pressure, and the security risks for
foreign oil workers. The US executive is now required to use a
bulletproof car driven by a chauffeur trained in evasive tactics,
and he scarcely ever leaves the capital.
"I have the feeling that I'm appreciated [by Colombians] for what
I do," he says. "And I think there's even greater appreciation
because people look at you and say 'You're here even though you are
more vulnerable than you were before.'
"I think that in most Colombians' minds, America is the good
guy," he adds. "It's the big brother that can help you when you've
had your nose bloodied by the bully."
On the other side of the world, in another country battered by
violence, America's "war on terror" is also welcome. In the
Philippines, where US troops spent six months this year training
local troops to fight Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic guerrilla group, polls
have found overwhelming public support for their assistance.
"There has been no negativism at all, zero," says Richard Upton,
a longtime American resident of Manila. "The Filipinos have been
very mature about this: They needed some help so the US came in to
� � �
But in countries that have not suffered such direct exposure to
terrorism, and where America is suspected of pursuing its own
interests around the world at the expense of others, the erosion of
support for the US is more evident.
In Europe, for example, Washington's almost single-handed
prosecution of the war in Afghanistan, and its apparent readiness to
stage a preemptive invasion of Iraq alone, has bred the
uncomfortable feeling "that we don't matter any longer," says French
analyst Dominique Moisi.
"America should at least give the impression that it needs its
friends � show a sense of modesty," Moisi suggests, if it wants to
A Europe-wide poll last April by the Pew Research Center found
that 85 percent of Germans, 80 percent of the French, 73 percent of
Britons, and 63 percent of Italians felt that Washington was acting
mainly on its own interests in the "war on terror," while less than
20 percent of Europeans thought it was taking allies' views into
"The view from the Old World seems to be that this is an American
war on American enemies, not a universal struggle against evil"
wrote Kenneth Pollack, director of National Security Studies at the
Council on Foreign Relations, commenting on the poll results.
Behind that view, which is common outside Europe too, lies a
sense that Bush has not offered the world a vision of what he wants
everyone to fight for, beyond asking them to fight against
In its pursuit of terrorists worldwide, America has lost sight of
its larger role as a global leader, complains Wilfrido Villacorta, a
professor of international relations at De La Salle University in
Manila. "As the only superpower with global responsibility [America]
must use its leadership to address pressing problems like poverty,
the deterioration of the environment, and the promotion of free
trade," he argues.
� � �
In the Arab and Muslim world, there is one cause above all others
to which people want America to commit its leadership: an end to the
Palestinians' plight. But few there have any hopes for the current
administration, and many see the "war on terror" as a war on Islam.
Any invasion of Iraq would be bound to foster even deeper
resentment. "It will have a negative impact," Pakistan President
Pervez Musharraf told the Monitor this week.
From Morocco to Medina and beyond, the idea of America as the
"good guy" is considered laughable, given Washington's sturdy
support of the Arabs' traditional enemy, Israel. On the contrary,
parts of Osama bin Laden's message resonate, even with people who
deplore almost everything about Al Qaeda.
That's the case with Selcuk Yilmaz, who runs a cellphone shop in
Istanbul's hectic Taksim Square. "Osama bin Laden says something:
America will not be comfortable if the people of Palestine will not
be comfortable. That's just right," he says, as Turks and tourists
browse for phones and bring their vacation snapshots to his Kodak
"If a Muslim is harmed, every Muslim has a problem," he adds. And
current US policy, he believes, "is a war against the Muslim
That perception is especially dangerous, worries Mostafa al-Feqi,
chairman of the Egyptian parliament's foreign-affairs committee.
"The Americans should talk more to the world, should talk more to
Arabs and Muslims," he urges. "We want the layman in the Muslim
world to know that Americans are not against his religion."
� � �
David Welch has felt Muslim anger at firsthand.
In 1979 he was a junior diplomat at the US Embassy in Islamabad
when false rumors of American involvement in an attack on the Grand
Mosque at Mecca, Islam's holiest site, inspired a Pakistani mob to
invade the embassy compound and set it alight, using gasoline from
the motor pool.
'I carried a dead Marine off the
top of the embassy that night.... I was told they hated us
back then too.'
� David Welch,
Ambassador to Egypt
For six hours, Mr. Welch and a hundred of his colleagues cowered
in the embassy's metal-lined security vault as the heat ignited glue
beneath the floor tiles. Eventually he was rescued.
"I carried a dead marine off the top of that embassy that night,"
recalls Welch, now the US ambassador to Egypt. "I was told they
hated us back then, too."
Today, he finds himself dealing with another outburst of
anti-American feeling, albeit less immediately life-threatening. But
neither the assault on the Islamabad embassy nor Sept. 11 has
prompted any outward sense of repentance about America's role in the
It is time for America to listen, he says, but also to be heard.
Fighting terrorists does mean taking "a look at the swamp in which
these guys operate," he accepts. But Arabs, he insists, must "look
at themselves a little bit and say 'What is it that we do that might
be putting more putrid water into this swamp?' "
Welch hears a lot of complaints about America's disdain for
Palestinian aspirations and its support for Israel. He points out
that Bush has outlined his vision of a Palestinian state, and adds
that critics "should recognize ... Americans do not like the murder
of innocent people in the name of a political cause and they
particularly cannot abide it after Sept. 11," he says. "So the
association of the Palestinian cause with terrorism has come at
great expense to their public support in the US. That is a fact. It
doesn't take a diplomat to explain it to people. But they need to
� � �
The world can expect to hear more from America in the coming
months, as the administration boosts its public diplomacy efforts in
the wake of Sept. 11. Bush will soon announce the creation of a
global communications office as a permanent White House fixture.
Last year the State Department tapped J. Walter Thompson chairwoman
Charlotte Beers to be the new undersecretary for public diplomacy,
with the mission of rebranding America around the world.
"We learned that when you don't communicate, you are still
communicating � a lack of interest, a lack of caring," says Tucker
Eskew, deputy assistant to the president in the White House global
Among the first fruits of the new policy is Radio Sawa, an
Arabic-language station that replaced the Voice of America in the
Middle East last April, offering Arabic and Western pop songs along
with about 10 minutes of news each hour. It certainly reaches a
wider audience � it seems as if every taxi driver in Amman, Jordan,
tunes in � but critics wonder how good a job it does of explaining
American policy, given its softer format.
And even the best public diplomacy efforts eventually run up
against the reality of often unpopular policies. There was no
disguising Bush's description of the Israeli prime minister as "a
man of peace," even as his troops reoccupied the West Bank, points
out Shibley Telhami, a Middle East expert at the University of
"A single word from the president outweighs the millions we can
spend on influencing hearts and minds," he says.
Christopher Ross, an American diplomat with long Middle East
experience, was brought out of retirement to help Ms. Beers, and has
been on two trips to the region to listen to ordinary people's
gripes. "My impression is that the effort was very much
appreciated," he recalls, "but then came their question: 'We are
telling you all these things � what impact will it have?' I told
them that I would report their views, but that policymaking is based
on many things, not solely on what the foreign reaction is."
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In the end, America may just have to resign itself to being
unloved, conclude some officials at home and abroad. Its power, its
wealth, its recurrent urges to make the world over in its image are
bound to generate envy and resentment.
But the current administration's apparent readiness to come
across as the "bad guy" � doing what it thinks is necessary now to
defend America � is alienating the very friends and allies it needs
to fight the war on terror, warns John Ikenberry, a professor at
Georgetown University in Washington.
"If history is a guide, it will trigger antagonism and resistance
that will leave America in a more hostile and divided world," he
argues in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.
If the international debate over whether to invade Iraq is any
measure, America is walking a lonely path. Twice in the 20th
century, Americans decided that standing alone made the world a more
dangerous place for them to live in. Will the new worldwide "war on
terror" teach the same lesson?
� Reported by staff writers Cameron W. Barr in Cairo; Scott
Peterson in Moscow; Ilene R. Prusher in Istanbul and Tokyo; Howard
LaFranchi in Washington; Danna Harman in Nairobi, Kenya, and
Johannesburg, South Africa; Robert Marquand in Beijing and Seoul;
Peter Ford in Paris and London; and by special correspondents Arie
Farnam in Prague, Czech Republic; Dan Murphy in Jakarta, Indonesia;
David Buchbinder in Kabul, Afghanistan; Abby Tan in Manila; and Kirk
Semple in Bogot�, Colombia.