We have all read the headlines about how far American standing in the world has fallen since 9/11 and the Bush administration. It is almost impossible to watch cable news for longer than two hours without seeing a “special report” on the precipitous decline of American respectability throughout the world. But to truly understand how the world’s view of America has shifted over the past decade we must investigate if we are facing an objective loss of influence rather than pure, old-fashioned anti-Americanism.
Much of the recent venom spewed towards America seemingly originated from the 2003 decision to invade Iraq. The vitriol rhetoric was induced by the U.S. and United Kingdom when they requested an additional sanction, following resolution 1441, against Iraq that would allow for an invasion. Enter the French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin who through his speech to the United Nations on February 14, 2003 virtually preemptively vetoed the additional resolution by suggesting the inspections could still work. We should also not forget that France had a multi-billion dollar oil deal with Saddam following the Gulf War. American detractors saw this as a victory over the unwarranted “second sanction,” however, in reality it would have marked the 18 United Nations Security Council sanction placed upon Iraq since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. What dictator would be frightened by another UNSC sanction when the previous 16 were hollow threats?
The second attack on America’s moral standing was seen as the nation’s willingness to act unilaterally without the approval of the UNSC. A curious and almost astounding flaw lies in the very notion that America was acting unilaterally. Unilateral is defined as being performed by or affecting only one person, group, or country involved in a particular situation, without the agreement of another or the others. America was strongly supported by the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Poland, Italy, and Spain (not to mention 30 or so more nations). Perhaps the usual suspects of France and Germany were missing, but it should not be a sobering fact that China and Russia opposed an American aggressive position. How can you act unilaterally with multi-national support?
A third assault on American respectability has been the deaths and violence caused since the American invasion of Iraq. It is obviously without doubt that more American soldiers have died because of the invasion than if it did not occur. However, we must also look at the number of lives saved by direct American intervention. On October 7, 2007 the New York Times published an article by Dexter Filkins titled “Regrets Only?” which stated Saddam had murdered over 1 million Iraqis and his invasion of Iran had previously cost an additional 1 million lives. Would Saddam have ceased his genocide of the Kurds or guiltless murders of his own people if the United States and its allies had not refused to merely sanction him yet again?
The timing of the invasion and insistence of weapons of mass destruction were the two undeniable faults of America’s foreign policy. In fact, it is easily argued that the invasion should have been carried out years and years before 2003 and by a united UNSC. The truth behind America’s critics tends to be more blatant anti-Americanism than fact based objectivity.