"Bush Coming to a Europe with an Overwhelmingly Negative View of America," by George Jahn - AP (Vienna), 20 June 2006, as posted to USAToday website
VIENNA (AP) — Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. Haditha. America's problems with Iraq are casting a long shadow over President Bush's meeting with European Union leaders this week.
The gathering is restricted to U.S. officials and the European Union leadership, and the agenda focuses on Iran's nuclear ambitions, agricultural subsidies and the West's dependence on imported oil and gas.
But the United States' precarious world standing will be the unspoken theme of Wednesday's session in Vienna....
Newspaper editorials reflect Europe's dismay with a partnership most here see as has having gone wrong.
"Those who came as liberators, those who wanted to bring the rule of justice ... lost their moral credibility in Iraq," wrote the German weekly Die Zeit. "Not just a few soldiers have 'lost their control' as they like to say. America's entire Iraq policy is out of control."
In France, the newspaper Le Monde wrote of the Guantanamo suicides: "We continue to ask by what heavenly decree America holds itself above the rule of law."
Young people, like Andrej Mantei of Berlin, are even more scathing. "I don't think it's possible that anybody could make worse foreign policy than Bush," he says.
And even many older people are critical, unlike a few decades ago, when they equated America with the war against Nazi Germany, postwar reconstruction and the shield against the Soviet Union.
"I think Bush was wrong, and he should have remorse," said Rosa Sarrocco, 80, of Rome. "The recent events ... have had a further negative impact on my opinion of America."
America's image problems in Europe are reflected by a survey done by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and released last week. Favorable opinions of the United States ranged from a high of 56% in Britain to a low of 23% in Spain.
Even in Britain, support for Bush was only 30%, and 60% of British respondents said the Iraq war has made the world less safe.
Pro-U.S. sentiment is stronger in much of formerly communist eastern Europe, where Washington's contribution to toppling Soviet dominance lingers in many minds. It peaks in Kosovo, whose ethnic Albanian majority gratefully remembers the U.S.-led bombing in 1999 that forced Serb troops from the province.
In his book, "The European Dream," author Jeremy Rifkin outlines characteristics that push the two peoples apart. "The American Dream puts an emphasis on economic growth, personal wealth and independence," he writes. "The new European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life, and interdependence."
A recent addition to the differences is widespread European dislike not just of the Iraq war but Bush's blunt style. Editorials often talk of the Texan as the "cowboy president."
Washington's decision to work in concert with other world powers as it tries to engage Iran over its nuclear program shows America may have learned some lessons about the benefits of diplomacy.
Still, the damage seems done.
"Whatever the Bush administration does, it is automatically viewed with suspicion by the European population," says Steven Casey of the London School of Economics, an expert on American public opinion.
"US Effort to Rehab Image Falls Short," by Howard LaFranchi - the Christian Science Monitor, 21 June 2006 (posted to the CSM website 20 June)
WASHINGTON – In Europe for two days, President Bush will lay out a full agenda on Iran, aid to Iraq, and farm subsidies in world trade. But he'll also confront a European public that has such a poor view of America that in some countries, the United States is seen as the biggest threat to global stability today - surpassing Iran.
Views like this have figured in Helle Maasbol's family. For the three years she has lived in the US, she's not been able to entice her mom back home in Denmark to pay a visit.
"Her image of the States was going downhill for a while, but it was the war in Iraq that was the real blow," says the wife of a World Bank economist and mother of two girls - all of whom are now moving back to Europe. "I told her often about the wonderful people we've met in America, but she said she wouldn't come as long as the president was George Bush."...
At the beginning of his second term, Mr. Bush set out to improve America's relations with the world by extending a more diplomatic hand to international partners, taking more multilateral positions on security concerns like Iran, and naming trusted aide Karen Hughes to help fix the US image abroad. But recent surveys show that public opinion about America continues to fall in countries as diverse as Spain, Turkey, Russia, and Indonesia. And the repercussions of the decline are not just touchy-feely image issues, experts say.
Low public esteem for the US makes it more difficult for governments to unabashedly side with the US on international issues, while less attraction to America can mean a smaller slice of the global tourism pie for the US....
In 2002, the US reaped 9 percent of international travel, but today the number is down to 6 percent. Each percentage drop represents 150,000 jobs and $15 billion in spending, according to the TIA [Travel Industry Association of America].
Of course, anti-Americanism is not the only explanation for falling numbers of foreign visitors - any more than disdain for the Stars and Stripes was invented by Bush. Many experts tie the tourism phenomenon to America's place as the world's only superpower, and the resentment that people have long felt toward the power they believe must be responsible when events turn negative.
But others say that US policy under Bush - from the war in Iraq to rejection of the Kyoto accords on greenhouse gases - is responsible for the new spike in anti-US sentiment. "I don't believe the figures we're seeing will change much so long as this president is in office," says Simon Serfaty, an expert in US-Europe relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.
Results of a new global attitudes survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center show that a country's image of Americans is at least several percentage points higher than the same country's image of America as a nation. Bush's numbers are below both of those categories.
Another poll published this week by the Harris group shows that Europeans generally pick the US as the world's biggest threat to global security over Iran. This was true even in Britain, although Germans and Italians rank the US below Iran.
Ms. Maasbol finds this evolution sad and troubling, especially since she remembers as a little girl hearing "only good things" about America and its role in World War II - yes, even from her mom. "People say Iraq has made things worse for everybody in the world, and that it has brought out the bad side in America with things like the prisoner abuse," she says....
Added 21 June:
"Europe Raves Over US Culture, Reviles the Politics," by Alissa J. Rubin (in Vienna) - the Los Angeles Times, 20 June 2006
VIENNA — In working-class and student neighborhoods, Austrians from the left and right have painted banners and made buttons to protest President Bush's visit here this week.
But after their demonstrations are done, many of those same Austrians will hurry home to catch other American exports: "Desperate Housewives" or "CSI: Miami," prime-time TV hits here this season.
In Austria, as in much of Europe, enthusiasm for America's culture goes hand in hand with an abhorrence of its politics and underlines the increasingly complex and ambivalent relationship that Europeans have with the United States....
As the continent begins to face some of the same problems with which America has wrestled for the last several years, such as terrorism and dwindling money for social programs, the European view westward is increasingly personal. Europeans often are asking themselves whether the long-admired American model is the only answer, said professors and pollsters who track attitudes.
"It had been widely assumed that America was the future. You might not like it, but California was the future of America, and America was the future of the West," said Tony Judt, a professor of European Studies at New York University. "Now there's a new feeling that there are two kinds of Western liberal democracies, and one is the American model and one is the European social model."
A rising number of Austrians say they dislike the American way of life, according to surveys by Christoph Hofinger, who runs the Sora Institute polling group here. Those who viewed American life negatively rose from 48% in 2000 to 61% in 2005, he said.
"To some extent, this is influenced by politics, but there are some new things too: Austrians and Europeans see that Americans have to work very hard for their wealth…. You've got to have two jobs, or work lots of overtime," he said. "So Austrians don't want to become like Americans anymore."
But at the same time, American popular culture, with its candor and deep optimism, still resonates. In some measure that is part of a long tradition of enthusiasm for Americana, particularly jazz, rock music and blue jeans. But it is also about a certain deep populism that Europe, which has a tradition of elites, especially admires....
Little recognized by American politicians was just how much the renditions alienated Europeans, especially some of the newest U.S. allies in the former Eastern Bloc countries. For them, the memory of secret police, political prisoners and men who pounded on the door in the night and took away relatives was still recent.
"To be European meant a belief in rights, in the rule of law, in human rights, and especially to East Europeans, to be European was to be anti-communist," said NYU's Judt. "So to find out you're collaborating with a country that's doing this generated so much fury."
Almost nowhere in Europe is disdain for Bush greater than in Austria, where a recent poll by the Vienna-based News magazine found that 72% of respondents said the U.S. president was not likable and a danger to world peace.
Unlike many of the larger European countries, Austria is not a member of NATO. Since the end of World War II, it has prided itself on its neutrality.
"Neutrality means security," said Karin Hopf, 42, who sells flowers and potted herbs in Vienna. "But it's also a way to say to the world, 'We're neutral, stay away from us, don't drag us in. We don't want any more war.' "
But she also is an avid watcher of U.S. television programs, especially "CSI: Miami" and other crime shows. The American talent for combining escapist fantasy with a certain realism appeals to the longing of many Austrians for something beyond day-to-day life.
Rheiner Schuster, a Vienna computer student who opposed the war in Iraq, rushes home each week to watch "Desperate Housewives," he said, "because it looks nice there."
"I don't want to watch the German shows, where I see the same subway that I'm going to take when I get up in the morning to go to work."
He visited the United States last year and liked it enormously, he said. "Anything is possible there."