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Despite Iraq discord, world eager for U.S. diplomacy

But America may need to understand how the world has changed during the war and what different kind of leadership is now required.

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SOURCE: Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research/Rich Clabaugh–STAFF

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To read the regular and almost universally negative international surveys of America's standing in the world since the Iraq invasion, one might presume the world was ready to do without the American superpower.

And to judge by the American public's unwavering desire for the troops in Iraq to come home – or by the sour national debate on immigration, or by citizen attacks on global free trade – one might think America was ready to oblige.

Wrong.

After five years of a war in Iraq that much of the world considered illegitimate, Americans are hungry for a better image abroad. More surprising perhaps is the extent to which much of the world remains hungry for American global leadership, many international-affairs experts say.

But repairing a tarnished image and reestablishing international leadership won't be easy, they add, even after the Bush administration departs and even if the war in Iraq winds down under the next presidency. That is true because the world has changed a great deal while the United States has focused on Iraq.

As a result, fixing America's leadership role won't be a matter of merely picking up where the US left off before an unpopular war. More adjustment than catch-up, the process America will have to undertake means understanding how the world has changed during the war and what different kind of leadership is now required.

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