Worldwide Distrust of US Intentions Follows 11 Years of War

An anti-US protest in Pakistan. The poll found 78% of Pakistanis did not trust America to act responsibly. (Photograph: Rajput Yasir/Demotix/Corbis)

Worldwide Distrust of US Intentions Follows 11 Years of War

Global survey shows a US held in contempt by its enemies and mistrusted by its allies

"American influence on the world stage is being sapped by widespread distrust of US intentions, not just in the Middle East and south Asia but also among traditional European allies," according to the Guardian newspaper, citing a new survey performed by its media partner and global research company YouGov.

As the US commemorated another 9/11 anniversary on Tuesday, the results from the global poll shows that after nearly eleven years of war and military engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere, the US reputation for upholding human rights, respecting international law, and as a beacon for democracy has taken a tremendous hit.

According to the Guardian:

Negative Arab and Pakistani perceptions of America as overweening and untrustworthy clearly pose a daunting foreign policy challenge for the Obama administration. The fact that 78% of Pakistanis questioned by YouGov said they did not trust America to act responsibly underlines Washington's serious lack of soft power in the region as it attempts to extricate itself from Afghanistan.

Attitudes towards the US in the Arab world were nearly as negative. Those respondents in the Middle East and north Africa who said they trusted America were outnumbered by more than two to one by those who said they did not, and 39% said they did not trust America at all.

It is clear from the results that the Obama administration's foreign policy has done little to hearten those who live in countries that continue to experience US military power from the receiving end. Also troubling, however, is the extent to which prominent US allies, especially those in Europe, reveal relatively high levels of mistrust and discomfort about how the US manages its international supremacy.

When asked to select a word they associated with America, a striking 40% of the British respondents chose "bullying", a greater proportion than in any other country or region covered by the survey. Only 12% thought the US was defined by its respect for human rights. Half of British respondents said they trusted America, and 41% said they did not.

Despite the lackluster results and what they might say about what Obama's been able to accomplish for the US reputation in the world, the poll revealed interesting results when confronted with the question of a possible President Romney. As the Guardian's Ewan MacAskill reports:

...while Europeans had a strongly negative reaction to Romney, the prospect of him winning the White House was greeted with less dismay in Pakistan, where about 13% of respondents said it would make them more favourable to the US, compared to just 9% who said it would make them less favourable.

This is possibly a reflection of the anger towards the Obama administration over drone attacks which have led to civilian deaths and are viewed as an infringement of Pakistani sovereignty.

There was less antipathy, too, in the Middle East and north Africa, where only 8% said they felt a Romney presidency would make them feel less favourable towards the US.

Again, the reason for this may be more to do with negative feelings about the current administration, in particular its failure to mount a serious attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, than warmth for Romney.

But the most striking finding was the level of antipathy towards the Republican in Europe. Although he is still largely an unknown quantity outside the US, he alienated many during an ill-fated overseas trip in the summer, particularly in Britain, where he appeared to publicly criticise Olympic planning and the level of enthusiasm for the London games.

Forty-seven percent of UK respondents said a Romney victory would make them feel less favourable towards the US, and only 3% would make them feel more favourable.

That sentiment was mirrored in Germany and France, where only 4% and 5% respectively said that he would make them feel more favourable towards the US. In Germany, 48% said it would make them feel less favourable and in France 38%.

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