(By Ray D.)
Just days after releasing another flagrantly anti-American magazine cover, SPIEGEL sat down with US envoy Karen Hughes and asked her why there was so much anti-Americanism in the world today. Of course, Ms. Hughes was far too gracious to point out the publication's obvious hypocrisy, but she did make a number of interesting points.
At one point in the interview, a long-held, popular myth came up: That of "squandered solidarity":
SPIEGEL: But Europe is deeply concerned that America has lost the moral high ground in dealing with these problems. After 9/11 almost the entire world stood behind the United States, but now we see an historic level of anti-Americanism. How could you squander this capital so quickly?
Hughes: I've seen some polling before September 11th, where many people around the world were expressing concern about America. We are a superpower, and with that comes some resentment. But we do need to do a better job of reaching out, of listening. That's the reason the president asked me to take this job, as someone who is a close friend of his, who is able to travel and listen and come back and share what I hear with the president and the secretary of state.
Let's examine the claim that America "squandered solidarity" following September 11. Immediately following the attacks, there was undoubtedly a swell of support and sympathy for the United States. According to Die Welt, 64% of Germans were for US military action immediately after September 11. But just weeks later on October 24, 2001, SPIEGEL ONLINE was reporting:
Majority in Germany for Ceasefire
Hamburg - According to a Forsa poll, more than two-thirds of Germans demand a cease-fire in Afghanistan. As the research institute determined for the newspaper "Die Woche," 69% of those questioned support the demand of the Greens and aid organizations for a break in the attacks against the Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden's terror organization to care for refugees and the hungry. 60% are against the involvement of German troops in a ground war in Afghanistan.
According to the representative poll, 55% support a course independent of the USA for the German federal government in the fight against terror. Only 41% share the opinion of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (SPD), that Germany should show unlimited solidarity to the USA."
As the numbers above demonstrate, the United States did not "squander" German "solidarity" following 9/11. The majority of the German people (and many others) unilaterally withdrew support the moment they realized the world's only superpower planned to defend itself militarily. This dramatic dropoff occurred within weeks from September to October 2001. So dramatic was the decline that Chancellor Schroeder was forced to call a no confidence vote in November 2001, just two months after the attacks.
Certainly, one could argue that aspects of US foreign policy since Afghanistan have been widely unpopular abroad. The US has unquestionably made its share of mistakes at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. But the fact remains that, since the attacks, foreign media have shamelessly exploited anti-American sentiment on an unprecedented scale for ideological and monetary gain.
In other words, when the people at SPIEGEL ONLINE ask Ms. Hughes why anti-Americanism has grown so rapidly (as if she alone were to blame,) they need to take a step back and recognize that they are a fundamental part of the problem. Time and again they have published degrading, sensationalist covers at the expense of the United States and its people:
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Many Americans realize that much of the criticism they hear blaring from across the seas is not fair, balanced, constructive and heartfelt but rather dishonest, biased, destructive and vindictive. It's about ideology and scaring people into rejecting so-called "amerikanische Verhaeltnisse." Far too many critics of America would rather see the country go down in failure and flames as opposed to changing the nation for the better, and Americans know that. In the case of the German media, the exploitation of populism for profit is a key motivating factor. So how do many Americans react? They rightfully close their ears in mistrust and the dialogue is cut off.
Above all, it is the German media that is squandering German-American solidarity.