Analysis: Two worlds

We live in a divided world. The division, however, is not between north and south, East and West or First World and Third World as have been variously suggested since the end of the last World War, but between two different factions, each led by Western, industrialized nations.The division became obvious during the debate over <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Iraq. America, Britain, and Australia led one side; France, Germany and Russia the other. Each had adherents spread throughout the world. Yet this is not a question of elites disagreeing, as is often supposed. The disagreement is between nations.We know this because the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has just released one of the most wide-ranging opinion polls ever conducted. It surveyed 38,000 people in 44 nations during 2002 and then asked follow-up questions of 16,000 people in 20 nations and the Palestinian Authority in May 2003 following the end of the Iraq war. It asked questions about the state of global institutions, the relative popularity of nations and leaders, and about the ideals that people would like to live by. This is an enormous undertaking, and has given us the best insight we have into the state of popular opinion around the world. The world agrees on certain issues. The United Nations, for instance, is generally regarded as a spent force. Both sides of the Iraq debate view it that way: 61 percent in France, 58 percent in Russia and 53 percent in Germany view the United Nations—whose integrity they said they were fighting for—as less important now, compared to 60 percent in the United States, 57 percent in the United Kingdom, 57 percent in Australia, 55 percent in Spain and 52 percent in Italy.The disagreement over Iraq has led, as both sides argued, to the marginalization of the United Nations.Moreover, contrary to received wisdom, the world agrees that globalization is a good thing. Majorities in virtually all the countries surveyed regard global trade as beneficial.People are concerned about the gap between rich and poor, the affordability of health care, and the ability to save for old age; but they do not blame these problems on globalization. Instead, they blame domestic failures. This is especially the case in countries where the economy is in bad shape, such as Kenya or Argentina. The idea that it must be someone else's fault—whether because of colonialism or globalization—appears to have run its course. People are beginning to face up to the realities of self-governance in a global economy.Nevertheless, the division in the world is stark, and it is perceptions of American dominance and what to do about it where the source lies. The British and Americans, for instance, consider the transatlantic security cooperation exemplified by NATO to be a force for good. Continental Europeans, on the other hand, want greater European military independence, despite the minimal defense expenditure of nations like Spain, Italy, and Germany. Canadians, interestingly, remain firmly in favor of America and U.S.-Canadian security ties, which somewhat contradicts assertions to the contrary from the Prime Minister Jean Chretien's government.The divide is best seen in attitudes toward America. America's image remains positive in the English-speaking world, in many cases having rebounded considerably since March. America is viewed positively by 70 percent in the United Kingdom, 63 percent in Canada (again, a finding at odds with the increasingly separatist view of the Canadian government) and 60 percent in Australia. With the exception of Italy (60 percent), all the other countries with a positive view of America are former British territories in one way or another (Israel 79 percent, Kuwait 63 percent, Nigeria 61 percent).Everywhere else, America's image has taken a severe blow. America is viewed negatively in Germany, France, Spain, Russia, and Brazil. In Morocco and Lebanon, barely 1 in 4 respondents viewed her favorably. Even fewer regarded America positively in Indonesia, Turkey, or Pakistan. And in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, only one percent of the population regarded America with any affection.This is perhaps the clearest indication that the world is divided between what some are terming the “Anglosphere” and her adherents, generally nations with English as a first or official language and with some ties to America or Britain, and a group of failed Empires—France, Germany, Russia, and Islam—that resent American military and economic dominance. The Anglosphere countries generally have healthy economies, functioning civil societies, and good prospects for growth. The same is generally not true of the other grouping.The divide appears again and again. The Anglosphere speaks with one mind about whether or not the coalition tried hard to avoid civilian casualties in Iraq: 82 percent agreed in the United States, plus 64 percent in the United Kingdom, 62 percent in Canada and 61 percent in Australia. Again the Italians give America the benefit of the doubt (50 percent), while the opposing faction is less certain (Germany 41 percent, France 25 percent, Russia 14 percent).The divide is also seen in the desire for more democracy in the Middle East. The percentage saying the area needs much more or somewhat more democracy is 69 percent in America, 61 percent in Canada, 61 percent in Australia, 60 percent in Britain (and 60 percent in Italy). Compare that to 47 percent in France (with only 5 percent saying “much more”) and 37 percent in Russia. Germany is an outlier here on 67 percent, although the 8 percent saying “much more” there is lower than in any Anglosphere nation.Yet it is interesting that, despite the clear divide, when the Pew Global Attitudes Project chair, Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, appeared to discuss the poll on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart, she stressed the nations that distrusted America without giving due weight to her supporters.It is as if in some circles, Britain, Australia, Canada, and Italy count for nothing if France, Germany, and Russia are against us.It would be too easy to argue that this divide is harmful to the United States and that America should therefore look to appease the doubting nations. Support for America has never been particularly high in many of these countries. In Russia, for instance, America's current approval rating is barely different from the 37 percent approval she received in 1999/2000. In Pakistan, the dreadful 13 percent approval rating is actually up three percent from its level last summer.Respect for America has fallen badly in some areas since the Iraq war, but the massive falls in Islamic nations where the news reporting is not of the highest quality should not be used to claim that, on average across the world, America has experienced a massive blow to her credibility.Moreover, if critics of current American policy complain on the basis of this poll that it is America driving nations to turn their backs on internationalism, there are other findings that suggest something else at play here. Anglosphere nations, for instance, are tolerant of immigrant minority communities: Two-thirds of Americans and Britons regard their immigrants (Hispanics and Caribbean/Asians respectively) as a positive influence. Yet in Germany, opinion is evenly split on whether Turkish immigrants benefit the nation, and in France a slim majority thinks their North African immigrants are bad for France. If isolationism and xenophobia are growing, it is not directed solely at America, nor is it occurring inside America and her allies.Yet even in the countries most hostile to America, there is a feeling that things can work for the better. Most non-Arab Islamic countries want greater democracy, honest elections, and a free press. In Pakistan and Turkey, Morocco, and even the Palestinian Authority, there is agreement that Western-style democracy can work there. The same is true in Africa, where three-quarters of respondents in most countries wanted democracy.The values that people around the world profess they want match those that America and her allies embody. As mentioned above, the world now seems ready to blame domestic problems, rather than globalism, for individual nations' economic difficulties. It is not too much of a stretch to suppose that, in time, they might look at their own failings, rather than America's, in the political realm.