10 December 2013

Americans opt to mind their own business

For the first time since it began measuring the statistic 50 years ago, the Pew Research Centre reports that a majority of Americans believe the U.S. should mind its own business internationally. The primary reason suggested for this new-found humility is "war fatigue." They would also like more focus on their struggling economy.

This is not to say Americans want their country to disengage from the world. Quite the contrary. A solid majority would like to see the U.S. play a shared leadership role, and almost 80 per cent support increasing trade and business ties with other countries.

Americans' top foreign policy concern is terrorist attacks, the only one of 10 leading foreign policy issues on which President Obama gets a favourable rating. Not surprisingly, half believe drone attacks make their country safer with only a quarter saying they have made no difference. By contrast, less than a third believe the Afghan war has made them safer.

Despite their concern about terrorism, a small plurality believe the government has gone too far with its anti-terrorism policies. On the other hand, and rather disturbingly, almost as many believe it hasn't gone far enough.

While most recognize that the U.S. remains the world's major military power, almost a majority believe—mistakenly—that China has become the world’s leading economic power. Forty-three per cent see China as a serious problem, but fortunately only 23 per cent see it as an adversary.

Overall, the survey results are encouraging. Americans are not becoming isolationist, but they do seem to be taking a more modest view of their nation's role in the world. We may even see the U.S. holster its guns and take a respite from war—except of course for the drones.

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