A friend of mine attended a luncheon with Mikhail Gorbachev during which the former Soviet leader explained that Russia is suffering from an inferiority complex while the United States is suffering from a superiority complex. Gorby went on to say that he isn’t quite sure which is worse.
Whether it is because of a superiority complex or not, something has certainly turned the tide of world opinion against the U.S. One could easily argue that the President’s job is not to win a global popularity contest. And world opinion will probably have very little bearing on the decisions made by individual Americans as they enter the voting booth (if it does, we’ll be looking at a Kerry landslide of historic proportions). And let’s be honest. It’s not easy being the world’s sole superpower. We’ve got the weapons. We’ve got the movies. We’ve got Oprah. There’s going to be some envy.
At the same time, it would be a mistake to ignore the fact that the world opinion (especially among the young) has dramatically worsened over the past four years.
You might argue that the past four years have been contentious times. We were attacked. We have launched wars. Some friction is to be expected. Yet, when it comes to the most challenging struggle of our times, we need global assistance more than ever.
And it’s not all about security. In the global marketplace, it’s also about economics. Any American who has traveled abroad over the past couple of years can feel the difference in the way we are perceived. Today, citizens of other countries may just be irked with Bush or America’s policies. Tomorrow, they may be pissed at Starbucks.
How bad is it? According to the Guardian: “Young Britons, avid consumers of Big Macs, Starbucks and Friends, are now hostile to American culture on a scale traditionally associated with the French.” Yikes.
Machiavelli tells us that it is much more secure to be feared than to be loved. Especially in these times, a little of each wouldn’t hurt.