Irrational Antipathy

Posted by lex, on April 1, 2008 *

The United States, with 4.5% of the world’s population, pays 22% of the budget for the good works of our friends at the United Nations. It pays 27% of the peacekeeping budget – this is apart from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US economy is a significant engine of worldwide economic growth, contributing over the last 20 years to the emergence of new economies in the developing world which have lifted hundreds of millions of people from existential poverty.

During the Cold War, the US spent an average of 6.7% of its GDP on NATO – an organization designed to protect Western Europeans from collectivist tyranny. In their own defense, Europeans spent an average of 3.5% of their GDP. American sacrifices not only protected Western Europe, they set the conditions for the eventual liberation and liberalization of Eastern Europe. When Europe proved incapable – once again – of stopping a genocide on its doorstep, American combat power – once again – stepped in to stop the bloodshed.

US contributions in the intellectual sphere have led to the award thus far of 270 Nobel prizes. The next closest country to contribute to the advancement of the human race – the UK – had 101.

In recent years, the US government gave $15 billion in foreign aid. The American people, giving through private means, added another $34 billion to overseas causes. In absolute terms, we are both the most generous state and generous people in the world. Aid to Africa alone has more than trebled over the last decade.

Four hundred thousands of our sons gave their lives combating fascism and militarism in World War II. Thirty-six thousand died protecting South Koreans from the sere pleasures of Kim Il Sung’s socialist worker’s paradise. Another 55,000 died giving the Pacific Rim a chance to join the free world. Almost 4500 have given their last full measure of devotion liberating the Iraqi and Afghan people from those who would thrust one or another tyrannical boot to their necks.

No man is compelled to tip his hat to any other here. Individual rights are held in common, regardless of gender, race, creed or condition. We have built a society wherein a citizen’s prospects are limited only by his gifts and ambition. We argue among ourselves continuously, sometimes bitterly. But there are no Belfasts here, no Kosovos, no Mogadishus. Ordinary people live their lives in security and dignity – things we take for granted, but which are beacons of light to the world’s darkest corners.

None of which makes us perfect. But it does rather make this chart interesting:


It doesn’t really surprise me all that much that people have a positive view of Germany. They engineer and sell wonderful gear at a fair price and make an international habit of simultaneously being both inoffensive and apologetic. Much like second place Japan. Those gone looking for reasons to take offense really have to dig when it comes to Germany and Japan. At least since US troops came to visit and decided to stay, 60-odd years ago. And one might as well have a positive opinion of the EU. All of those busy little Belgian bureaucrats running around in their bunny-print jammies can’t help but engender positive feelings. France and Britain are loved for what they once were, while the BRIC countries are loved for what they might in time come to be.

What surprises me, given our culture, history and contributions, is how many people the fact that 47% of our own citizens believe that the US is a “mainly negative” influence on the world. Not as contrasted against some Platonic ideal, but in direct competition with Russia, for one example. Landing us just ahead of North Korea and Pakistan. For heaven’s sake.

I wonder who these Americans are?

Update: For those who don’t read comments, I’ve been corrected on the spread of the poll pool.

Update 2: Reading through the article’s pdf again, I see that my original observation was not so very far off the mark:

When asked for their views of their own country’s influence in the world, Japanese citizens are the most modest of those polled, with only 36 percent saying Japan is having a mainly positive influence. Americans come next with only 56 percent saying the US is having a positive influence. Conversely, fully 91 percent of Chinese citizens and 78 percent of Russian citizens say their country is having a positive influence.

At the risk of committing public math, that leaves us with 44 percent of US citizens who either don’t know, or who believe that the US contribution to the world is mainly negative.


* Lex also had an illustration but the Wayback Machine failed to capture it – It is most likely the chart from the first link. – Ed.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Neptunus Lex, Politics, Politics and Culture

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