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They Like Us Down There

For those who fret endlessly about American popularity in other countries, there is good news in this survey of Australian opinion just released by the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, a nonpartisan think tank. From the report summary:

The perceived overall importance of the ANZUS alliance reached its highest level since the Lowy Institute Poll began in 2005. Trust in the United States has also bounced back. In 2006, of four powers, the United States ranked near equal last with China in terms of overall trust to act responsibly in the world. This year it jumped to equal first place with Japan.

Not all the findings are as encouraging. The summary goes on to note:

However, the United States’ influence in the world is perceived negatively by a majority of Australians. Almost two-thirds also continue to say Australia takes too much notice of the views of the United States in our foreign policy.

But that skepticism about the United States is more than balanced by increasing Aussie wariness of China, whose “soft power” offensive has been much lauded by those critical of Bush administration deficiencies in this regard. The report finds that

trust in China has dropped since 2006 and a slim majority of Australians are in favour of joining with other countries to limit China’s influence. Only about a third of Australians agreed that Australia’s interests would not be harmed if China gained more power and influence and that Australia is doing enough to pressure China on human rights. Around a third viewed the development of China as a world power as a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next 10 years, a nine-point rise since 2006.

Perhaps it will not take the coming of The One to change America’s reputation, after all, even if the vast majority of Aussies, like most other foreigners, favor his candidacy. My take is that U.S. standing in the world took a major hit after the invasion of Iraq-not so much because of the decision to invade, unpopular though that was, but because the chaos which followed the invasion. That prevented the U.S. image from bouncing back as it did after Vietnam, another unpopular war. But now that Iraq is looking better, so is America, and that process will continue whoever wins in November, barring any major new screw-ups-like, say, a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq that could destabilize the region again.



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