The usual war boosters still talk about “victory” in Iraq. The cost to US and Iraqi lives is irrelevant, as long as US interests are strengthened. In reality, of course, the long-term ramifications of the war are profound and lessons have not be learned.
But what do the American people themselves think of their country’s role in the world? A new study provides some clues:
– A very strong majority supports US engagement in the world and rejects the idea that the US should take a more isolationist stance. However strong and growing majorities show dissatisfaction with key aspects of the current US role in the world and see it as destabilizing. A majority supports US military bases on the soil of traditional US allies, though support for US military presence in the Middle East has become quite soft.
– A large majority is opposed to the way it perceives the US playing the role of hegemon or dominant world leader. Americans express surprisingly modest concern for preserving the US role as the sole superpower.
– A very strong majority favors a US role in the world that puts a greater emphasis on US participation in multilateral efforts to deal with international problems and on a cooperative approach wherein the US is quite attentive to the views of other countries, not just US interests.
– A large majority of Americans feel that US foreign policy should at times serve altruistic purposes independent of US national interests.
– Support for US international engagement is dampened and obscured by widespread feelings that the US is doing more than its fair share in efforts to address international problems relative to other countries, and spending too much on international programs relative to domestic programs.
– Large majorities believe that the US is viewed negatively by people in other countries and see this as derived primarily from the current US foreign policy not American values.
– Americans have complex attitudes about the idea of promoting democracy. A majority thinks that promoting democracy should be a goal of US foreign policy. However there is a reluctance to make democracy promotion a central theme in US foreign policy and an opposition to using military force or the threat of military force to that end. At the same time Americans do feel a moral obligation to promote democracy and there is substantial support for cooperative methods for promoting democracy and for working through the United Nations.
Next time you hear some commentator talking about US interests, remember that they’re probably talking about elite interests. If the media actually wanted to know what real people thought, they wouldn’t publish “exclusives” from “experts” on foreign affairs.