This graph would
seem to tell the tale. It's from the new Pew poll
attitudes toward the United States. I was a little confused at first about the timing of the poll. It's being reported and sent around today as though it's a new release. Indeed, the International Herald Tribune says
it was conducted in May. Yet the Pew site says it was released on March 18th
and that the polls were conducted
in the week previous to that. So I'm not quite sure what to believe. It's not an insignificant difference -- considering that that week was the one immediately prior to the beginning of the war when anti-US sentiment was presumably at its apogee.
In either case, the results are sobering. Folks tend to get their backs up when they hear about foreign disapproval. They say that what people overseas think or don't think doesn't tell us what's right or wrong. And they're correct, of course, as far as it goes. Amongst countries as amongst individuals, you must make your decisions based on what you think is right, not what everyone else says -- though unanimous disapproval should usually provoke at least some serious reflection.
The more relevant point, however, is that foreign disapproval on such a scale is a fact that must be taken into account quite apart from rights or wrongs. It is a form of collateral damage produced by the conflict -- no different from combat fatalities, expended materiel, and so forth -- part of the price we've paid for the decision to go to war.
One other point: the essence of the Atlantic Alliance -- both its values and its strength -- is that it is an alliance of democracies. That's why NATO won the Cold War. Despite some significant ebbs and flows of public opinion, the great majority of the people of Western Europe supported the alliance throughout the Cold War. Given these facts, America's standing among the people of Europe -- as opposed to the governments of Europe -- is no secondary matter. It is fundamental to the preservation of the alliance. And it is deeply frayed.
LATE UPDATE 2:01 PM: My bad -- there are two polls, one from March 18th, another embargoed till 2 PM this afternoon and to be announced at a press conference in downtown DC. The numbers in the new poll show a bounce back up in the European and other allied countries, but not nearly to the levels they were at a couple years ago, or even one year ago. And in some key countries like Turkey there is virtually no bounce back at all.