Global Politics

Global views of America

The idea for AB's report came to him in 2006 when he was working on his senior thesis at Harvard. The subject was media propaganda in Zimbabwe which required a trip to the country and did not go well: AB says he was thrown in jail because I was interviewing a lot of high profile political leaders and one of them got anxious and accused me of being a US spy. In jail, I spent a week being interrogated. So in jail, America was both loved and hated in a very complicated relationship that poll numbers just hint at. (In the time you were blogging for the post, you visited a dozen countries. Most polls show that the US is held in very low esteem around the world. What did you notice?) It was, but among the vast majority of these people it's a very strong love-hate relationship that stretches back for decades. So it's not just a gut reaction to George Bush or Guantanamo for something. The dangerous thing is if these ideas get too entrenched, that's when they can justify harboring terrorists or oppose US aims and that's when it gets dangerous for the US. (Tell me about visiting with Kurds in Turkey.) There's a powerful love-hate relationship in that community. This is a very pious Muslim community that believes the US rhetoric of freedom and democracy can work for them now. but this quote I heard in Pakistan, in Kashmir, in Turkey from young people is that the US used us like a condom and threw us away. They still maintain hope though. (What should Americans realize about what's at stake with this kind of love-hate relationship around the globe?) I think it goes from the really small like a tourist being worried about their appearance while traveling. For your freedom and engagement around the world, people should want us to be kept as well liked. But it goes all the way up to buying into things that are even more intractable. All these people want America to listen and I think that could diffuse a trend towards terrorism. I think it's important to use new media for young people to puncture these anti-American narratives and not always look to the next president as a cure-all. We just need to keep engaging and that's an important for the US and for young people. (You spoke with many people under the age of 25 and you wrote that this is a generation that doesn't know about anybody besides George W. Bush, what do you think that means for the US?) You talk about Watergate and people are amazed and they're surprised by the idea of a corrupt US president. They often think of an aggressive US that's a threat to them. When we engage in such actions, it builds up room for conspiracy theories. The largest selling book in recent Turkish history is a book by a young guy which presents a fictional war between the US and Turkey in which a Turk at the end detonates a suitcase nuke in Washington DC and brings the US down. (When you were traveling, did you feel you had to act as a mediator or come to the defense of the US?) Absolutely. I think the best defense of the US now is that it's a model of diversity and pluralism. This is true of the Muslim minority in the US and hopefully that will improve. that you can't homogenize the US.

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