12 February 2010

Is this what sucking up gets us?

Our federal government has, in the past few years, turned our foreign policy away from a role as honest broker and peacemaker toward a role as uncritical partner of our traditional allies, particularly the United States. We obediently followed the Americans into Afghanistan, adopted their policy of unequivocal support for Israel in the Middle East, and made it clear we would do no more than they in dealing with climate change. We will be more than good allies, we will be obsequious allies.

And has this brought us greater esteem in the eyes of their people? Hardly. According to a global BBC survey, the number of Americans who think our influence in the world is "mainly positive" dropped from 82% in 2009 to 67% in 2010. The only larger drop was in China, from 75% to 54%. The third largest drop was in Great Britain, from 74% to 62%. Even we think less of ourselves. Whereas in 2009, 86% of us thought our influence in the world was mainly positive, now only 75% of us do.

China we can understand, but why are our friends souring on us? Doug Miller, chairman of GlobeScan, who conducted the survey, believes the drop is due in part at least to our policies, or lack thereof, on climate change. Bob Johnson, a senior adviser at the Canadian International Conference, a non-partisan research council established to strengthen Canada's foreign policy, believes that's the entire reason.

It seems that catering to the U.S. on other issues doesn't overcome our reputation as environmental laggards. If the question is "Will they love us in the morning?" apparently the answer is no. However, less sucking up and more environmental leadership might just do it.

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