Saturday, April 21, 2007

I See Friends and Allies

I recently read a comment on some blog that asserted that under President Bush and because of the Iraq War we've spoiled relations with almost the entire world. Get out two magic markers and color in countries who think better of us and worse of us, he said.

First of all, if liberating oppressed and terrorized Iraqis angers some people, I don't know why we have to reconsider their view of what we've done. Perhaps those people who are angry with us should reconsider their emotions in the face of a struggling democracy fighting against vicious killers.

But let's test that assertion without considering whether we should care, shall we, with a listing of the top 20 countries by GDP (in millions of US dollars, excluding America, of course):

1 United States 12,455,825. NA

2 Japan 4,567,441. The Japanese sent troops to Iraq for non-combat missions in a major break from their pacifist policies. Japan has also tightened diplomatic and military links with the United States, cooperates on missile defenses with enthusiasm, and declared that Taiwan's status is a national interest. This represents improvement.

3 Germany 2,791,737. Even before the Iraq War, German politicians were slamming America and using anti-Americanism for election purposes. This despite eight years of the Clinton administration and our support for reunification in the face of Russian opposition. But the last German elections put a more pro-American leader in charge and the ugliest aspects of the recent past are muted and the Germans are far more cooperative. This represents improvement.

4 China 2,234,133 2. China has been spying on us, building up their military, threatening our allies, and collided with one of our planes over international waters. In 1999, we bombed their embassy in Belgrade accidentally. But on the other hand, the Chinese finally started helping us with North Korea. It is marginal, but this represents an improvement.

5 United Kingdom 2,229,472. Britain has been solid under Blair. No change.

6 France 2,126,719. The French have been back-stabbing and fickle allies, looking to their interests very narrowly and dealing with our enemies if it harms us or helps them in the short run. France coined the term "hyper power" for us during the Clinton administration to complain about our unilateralism. And they are rude, to boot. The French may even be annoyed by the creation of AFRICOM for all I know. Yet France works with us quietly on intelligence for counter-terrorism and even deploys troops to Afghanistan. Their help from their Horn of Africa base in Djibouti is invaluable. And Iran's actions and their own restless "youths" may yet accelerate recent slow progress toward working with us more. Still, no change yet.

7 Italy 1,765,537. The Italians pulled out of Iraq yet are still a NATO ally, and are allowing us to expand our base for 173rd AB brigade in Italy. The Italians have always been split over their relationship with America. Eurocommunism was strong in Italy. A mixed bag, but call it no change.

8 Canada 1,132,436. Canada works with us on North American air defense and has stepped up in a big way in Afghanistan even thought they refuse to help in Iraq. This represents improvement.

9 Spain 1,126,565. The Spanish pulled out of Iraq under fire after the 11-M bombings in Madrid. And the Spanish troops in Afghanistan don't actually fight. Overall they are on our side, but overall, this represents a decline.

10 Brazil 795,666. Despite a leftist government, we are working well together in no small measure due to mutual worries about Hugo Chavez. This represents an improvement.

11 South Korea 787,567. Our alliance had been getting shaky as young South Koreans shut their eyes to the North Korean threat. I think Kim Jong-Il has done much to remind more South Koreans that we are not the threat. Our pulling troops off the DMZ has been an eye-opener, too. I'd say this represents an improvement.

12 India 771,951. From a Soviet ally in the Cold War, we are now working together in a budding alliance with shared worries over Islamist terrorism and the potential threat of China. This represents an improvement.

13 Mexico 768,437. I'd say relations are generally better mostly due to national elections in Mexico and their familiarity with the president as a former governor of Texas. Call this an improvement.

14 Russia 763,287. Relations with Russia have declined as oil revenue and creeping authoritarianism poisons relations with us and the West in general. There is still some cooperation but lingering Russian pining for Soviet glory days and not our actions have led to deteriorating relations. Remember that the Russian march in Kosovo to grab a slice of the occupation took place in 1999. This has been a long time coming. Still, call it a decline.

15 Australia 708,519 1. Australia fights with us in Iraq and Afghanistan, improves their defenses to cooperate with us, improves relations with another ally Japan and India, too. This is an improvement.

16 Netherlands 629,911. The Dutch fight with us in Afghanistan and surely look to us for help against Hugo Chavez should Dutch possessions near Venezuela face a military threat. The Dutch have also been pretty good helping in Iraq. Call this an improvement.

17 Belgium 371,695 1 This is basically France without the military power that France has. Belgium was next to worthless throughout the Cold War and continues to be an annoyance. No change. And who cares?

18 Switzerland 367,571. They are still neutral. No change.

19 Turkey 362,461. Turkey denied us land access in 2003 but their air space was opened to us. We still have a major air base in Turkey. And Turkey is still a NATO ally. Plus we are looking better as Europe stiff arms EU membership for Turkey. Islamic politicians have gained power, but this represents growth in the rural areas more than a change in views. Those people long for Islamic government and are more numerous. Still, call it a decline.

20 Sweden 358,810. Sweden was and remains neutral. Yet they have closer relations with the West since the Soviet Union fell apart. I think relations are better, but let's just call it no change.

21 Republic of China (Taiwan) 346,178. Taiwan has yet to bolster their defenses as we would prefer it but this is due to internal political bickering and not anything we have done. Taiwan still sees us as their number one ally and only one that really matters. Relations are surely better after the Clinton administration years of declaring China a partner regardless of Chinese actions. Call this an improvement.

So there. Not quite the dismal record that some Bush critics like to pretend it is. Eleven countries show improvement; 6 are no change; and only 3 can be called worse. And none can be called outright enemies. Most are friends and the rest at least cooperate in part despite disagreements over Iraq.

Sorry I didn't go down the GDP list, but critics of American policy discount any small country that supports us as a bought and paid for ally. So why bother?

One more thing about this list should be kept in mind. I think it shows the utter fallacy of thinking that foreign countries are simply passive objects to be moved by American actions or inactions. That is the key flaw in so much of the talk of how American actions or inactions cause countries to hate us. Foreign governments act from internal pressures and do not sit around watching us to see what we do in order to adjust their own policies and views. And despite our supposed record that alienates others, those governments are largely working with us and not against us.

And even polls that show more people don't like America don't seem to impact the number of people who want to come to this country and build a life here. How bad can they think we are if they want to pack up their families and come here? You'd think they'd worry about being imprisoned, tortured, and killed, wouldn't you? Yet they line up to come here (or rather more often, just come here).

We're the most powerful country in the world so we attract more than our fair share of detractors. Plus our actions impact others more than other countries, so naturally more people can get annoyed with us. This is the price of doing business as far as I'm concerned.

We're doing just fine with the rest of the world. Except for the jihadi parts, of course. And don't tell me about what we need to do to satisfy their grievances. Your list is nowhere near the same their list.

UPDATE: Ok, nobody will see this late update, but check out another way of looking at whether we are alienating the world over Iraq. Oh, and the upcoming French runoff election may turn France into a clear gain. Now that's nuanced!