World, weary

April 10, 2005

WELL, they love us in Manila. A whopping 88 percent of Filipinos think the United States has a positive influence in the world, according to an international poll sponsored by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. As for the rest of the globe? You may fire when ready.

American prestige has been drooping for some time, but these new results really take the starch out. In 15 of 22 nations surveyed, the United States was viewed as having a negative influence on the world. The bad feelings turned up in Russia, in Argentina, in Turkey, in Germany. The most astonishing feelings about the United States? Just look south of the border - or north of the border. Mexicans and Canadians both say overwhelmingly that they would like to see Europe become more influential than the U.S.A.

Now wait just a minute: What about all those immigrants clamoring to get in? You call that anti-Americanism? Nothing of the sort, says Steven Kull, director of PIPA. But living here is one thing; liking the way we treat other countries is something else. In fact, 34 percent of Americans said they'd prefer a world where Europe was more influential than the home team.

Is there any other large country that the world feels as poorly about? Yes, Russia. Or at least Russia comes close. What big country does the world most admire? Brace yourselves, because you know what's coming. Certainement: They'll always have Paris.

In fact, the Germans, of all people, are the biggest fans of la belle France. But other nations fall right in behind. Only Americans and Turks take a dim view of the French.

China? It turns out nobody's all that bothered by Chinese economic might - not the Indians, not the Filipinos, not even the Japanese. But ask a question about Chinese military influence, and suddenly Beijing starts to look a lot like Washington.

There's the key, no doubt. The one thing the United States and Russia have in common is a willingness to go to the military option, and the one thing people don't like to think about is China doing the same. It just makes a country nervous, even if it's not in the line of sight.

So how did Europe get to be so great? Even former European colonies like Europe. (There's one important exception: India, where feelings toward America are more positive than toward Britain or Europe as a whole.) Globally, Europe even outscores France. That may be because Europeans have shown, after all these mayhem-ridden centuries, that they've figured out how to cooperate, says Mr. Kull. People like that. The United States? "Doesn't play well with others."

If he's right, that suggests this isn't even a question about love vs. respect. He sees a fundamental realignment taking place. After 200 years, America may be wearing out its welcome.

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