Thursday, July 27, 2006

Does the United States Have a Responsibility to Respond to International Crises?

Americans are turning isolationist, according to today's New York Times poll on the conflict in the Middle East. Here are some of the poll's findings:
Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the state of affairs in the Middle East, with majorities doubtful there will ever be peace between Israel and its neighbors, or that American troops will be able to leave Iraq anytime soon, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

A majority said the war between Israel and Hezbollah will lead to a wider war. And while almost half of those polled approved of President Bush’s handling of the crisis, a majority said they preferred the United States leave it to others to resolve.

Over all, the poll found a strong isolationist streak in a nation clearly rattled by more than four years of war, underscoring the challenge for Mr. Bush as he tries to maintain public support for his effort to stabilize Iraq and spread democracy through the Middle East.

The concerns expressed over the direction of foreign policy also highlight some of the pitfalls facing Republicans as they head toward the November elections with national security front and center.

A majority of respondents, 56 percent, said they supported a timetable for a reduction in United States forces in Iraq, a question the two parties have been sparring over, with the White House and most Republicans in Congress taking the position that setting a timetable would send the wrong message. More than half of that group said they supported a withdrawal even if it meant Iraq would fall into the hands of insurgents.

Americans support the idea of putting an international peacekeeping force on the border between Israel and Lebanon to calm tensions there, the poll found, but most do not want United States troops to be a part of it.

By a wide margin, the poll found, Americans did not believe the United States should take the lead in solving international conflicts in general, with 59 percent saying it should not, and 31 percent saying it should. That is a significant shift from a CBS News poll in September 2002 — one year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — when the public was far more evenly split on the issue.

Yet, in the latest poll, 47 percent gave Mr. Bush good marks for handling the situation in Israel, with 27 percent disapproving and 26 percent saying they did not know. That was the highest registration of approval for the president in any of the poll’s performance measures.

Mr. Bush has experienced a slight increase in his overall job approval rating since the last New York Times/CBS News poll, in May, indicating that the steady erosion in his support over the last year has leveled off and even improved by a few percentage points. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said they approved of the way he was doing his job, up from 31 percent in May.
I find these results troubling. Since World War II, the United States has pursued a foreign policy of internationalism. America's forward role in the world since 1945 -- as the international system's great democratic superpower -- contrasted dramatically with the dark isolationist turn the U.S. took in the 1930s after World War I. American policymakers learned key lessons from the interwar experience, one of the most important being that the interests of the world community are best served through the benign hegemony of U.S. leadership. We saw overwhelming evidence of this with the defeat of Soviet tyranny and expansionism with the end of the Cold War, as well as in the dramatic growth of global economic prosperity through successive rounds of U.S.-led trade and financial liberazation in the global political economy.

The public shift toward isolationist tendencies -- which comes in tandem with growing nationalism and protectionism characterized by the collapse of the Doha Round of current trade negotiations -- may threaten continued U.S. leadership in providing public goods of global security and economic prosperity (it's welcomed, though, that a large plurality supports the administration in its hard-line stand with Israel in the current conflict).


EuroYank - Virginia Hoge said...

Considering that the USA is exporting its manufacturing base to India and its national debt and deficits is underwritten by China, and pratically nothing except military arms are manufactured in the USA, lets us hope that the average American stays stupid as the police state and big brother propaganda dumm down most of the public.
If Americans ever wake up to what is really going on then there will be hell to pay!

Travel Italy said...

I personally do not see why the US should provide "goods of international security." Let someone else take over for awhile. We are shipping our entire production facilities overseas, lets send some of the responsabilities.

I would much rather spend our defense budget creating new fuel sources thus eliminating our financing of the problem.

Donald Douglas said...


Your comments are humorously ignorant, and typical of the uniformed, anti-Americal left. You say the U.S. is "exporting its manufacturing base to India." No, India's been an important location for U.S. offshoring in services, such as customer service call centers. And besides, most U.S. jobs remain unaffected by outsourcing. Google Daniel Drezner's piece, "The Outsourcing Bogeyman," in the May/June 2004 issue of Foreign Affairs, where he notes that despite the outsourcing hysteria, "close to 90 percent of jobs in the United States require geographic proximity." You also say that "nothing but military arms are manufactured in the USA..." This is simply a preposterous statement, stupid in fact, and the average American working in myriad jobs in our diverse American manufacturing sector knows better. And what about that "Big Brother propaganda"? Man, lay off the Orwell and learn how to spell (it's "dumb" not "dumm").

Donald Douglas said...

Hi Travel:

No other country has the strategic capabilities as the U.S. We are the global hegemon, and have taken the responsibility of providing public goods of world peace and prosperity since WWII. Madeleine Albright has called the U.S. the indispensible country. That sounds apt, no?

Take it easy!