By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 15, 2004; 10:00 AM
The unexpected eruption of anti-American rage among young Iraqi men swarming to the site of a suicide bombing in downtown Baghdad Monday is no isolated incident. Rather, Iraq can be seen as the violent epicenter of a slow-motion earthquake of anti-Americanism with tremors felt thousands of miles away in countries once known for their American sympathies.
The results have been all over the international online media in recent weeks.
From Canada to Australia to South Korea, anti-American feelings are driving political debate and shaping decisions about military alliances with the United States. Where critics of Washington were once marginal, now they are mainstream. Where cooperation with the United States was once a matter of consensus, now there is controversy.
The recent U.S. decision to cut drastically its military presence in South Korea is a response to anti-Americanism, say many Korean observers. Australia's next prime minister may break with U.S. foreign policy by withdrawing that country's troops from Iraq.
Some deny these political trends reflect anti-Americanism, saying they just reflect opposition to the policies of President Bush. But tone of news coverage suggests something broader than mere disputes over policy.
This new strain of anti-Americanism is relatively mild. It is not rooted in resentment of military occupation as in Iraq. It does not spring from in a different philosophical view of the world like French or Chinese critiques of American geopolitical ambitions. It does not dislike American popular culture or sexual mores, as many Arabs and Muslims do. It does not feed on a history of U.S. military intervention as in Latin America.
Rather, the new anti-Americanism seems more a rejection of the cultural style inherent in the American ideals of low taxes and military swagger.
It is perhaps strongest in South Korea where, last week, U.S. officials announced a major cut in American forces. Analyst Yi Suk-chong, writing in the Korea Herald, said the move was a response to "a massive wave of anti-American feelings" that is "unprecedented in Korean history."
Suk-chong said that negative views of the U.S. have become more widespread since President Bush took office.
"An August 2002 poll by the Pew Research Center revealed that South Korea ranked eighth among the 44 countries surveyed in terms of unfavorable attitudes toward the U.S, with higher rates of disapproval than Indonesia and India. Only 53 percent of South Koreans had a favorable view of the US, while 44 percent were unfavorably inclined."
"It isn't that Koreans hate Americans; they don't," wrote Susan Oak, an American teacher writing for the Herald.
"They have great respect for our know-how, our creative spirit, way of life and our educational institutions. But the younger generation in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are confident, successful, and independent and want a more equitable relationship with the United States."
In Canada, Prime Minister Paul Martin has installed the notion of differentiating Canada from the United States at the heart of his reelection campaign. As CNews reported last month, campaign ads attack the Conservative Party's tax cut proposals "by telling voters they can choose a country like Canada with generous social programs, or a country like the U.S. with its lower tax rates."
Martin's challenger, Stephen Harper, called for the ads to be pulled.
"Given the security situation, it's not appropriate for any political party to do anything that would encourage anti-Americanism or break down that cooperation at this point," Harper said.
Larry Zolf, a political commentator for the Canadian Broadcasting Company replied by saying that Harper "misreads the electorate on U.S.-Canada relations. The pollsters all suggest that the Martin Liberals out-poll the [Conservatives] by large margins on Canada's role vis-a-vis the U.S. and the war against terrorism."
In Australia, the Federal Labor Party leader Mark Latham has called for withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq, a fairly bold stance in a country that has long prided itself on its tight alliance with the United States. His party has also enlisted Peter Garrett, former lead singer for the rock band Midnight Oil, as a parliamentary candidate.
"After his interest in the environment, Mr. Garrett is best known for the constant refrain of anti-Americanism in his music," observed the unimpressed editors of The Australian, the country's leading conservative newspaper.
But according to the Melbourne Herald-Sun, Latham told a rally of supporters that Garrett "is giving Australian politics new energy and purpose."
In other words, an image of anti-Americanism is seen as a political asset.
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