Fred Kaplan of Slate solicited over a hundred suggestions from readers (mostly Americans living abroad) on how to improve America’s image in the world. The ideas are good and interesting but not terribly surprising. I second the thought American personnel in U.S. customs or embassies need to be much friendlier. Excerpt:
And so the most prominent suggestion on how to improve America’s face in the world—a suggestion made by well over half of those who wrote me—is to send the world more American faces and to bring more of the world’s faces into America.
In other words, these readers say, there should be a vast expansion in the Peace Corps, in Fulbright fellowships, and, above all, in student-exchange programs.
2 comments on “How to Improve America’s Image”
I think if America were a much smaller country, less known, and the past 5-6 years just didn’t happen – then the student idea might be a useful. But I think there are much more powerful things America (or more specifically, the American government) can do.
America’s embracing of the ideas of freedom and it’s culture are what gave it it’s place in it’s world. I think the idea that America stands for freedom has now more widely been replaced with the idea that America embraces America, it’s self interest, and *cough*war-mongering*cough*. And this rings far more powerfully than any charismatic individual American who I would meet in my own country.
The tragedy here is that the world has lost a global role model for freedom and democracy. I dont think this is a position America can regain simply by ending it’s involvement or fixing Iraq and ending it’s dangerous provocation of other nations. It still did these things.
I think the only way America can really regain respect would be to do things that will benefit the world, but will probably hurt America. A lot could be done in multilateral trade agreements, specifically to do with farming subsidies. America could reverse it’s contrarian environmental stance and take some leadership on some targets. It could be less idealogically driven and more pragmatic when dealing with AIDS in Africa – the ABC’s are a bit simplistic (A:Abstinance,B:Be faithful,C:Condoms). Expensive, yes. But a bargain compared the trillion dollar exercise America is now engaged with to spread democracy.
Fred Kaplan does bring out some points but amazingly misses out on many glaring ones.
a) Individual Americans leave behind a very good image. I found them intelligent and even austere like the rest of us. But collectively, why do they project a dim-witted, consumerist, perennially-in-debt image and as a government it screws all up thanks to some of its world’s stupidest advisors.
b) Freedom and Democracy slogans don’t wash anymore what with lopsided immigration policies and racial profiling – in the name of national security – at Airports (even non-caucasian Americans don’t escape this); Focus on better intelligence gathering than empowering immigration officials that get nastier by the day;
c) America should learn to export more; With a weak dollar, that’s its best bet to restore trade imbalance and get out of debt overload. For that, it has to be cost competitive and that’s where American enterprise is lagging.
d) For God’s sake get some astute foreign policy advisors that are not just trigger happy gun slingers.
First America arms Afghan tribals to the teeth to stop marauding Russians. Then they turn against America and it has to wage a costly war to fix it. Americans pay with the lives of their soldiers and tax dollars. Imagine if Russians were left to themselves in Afghanistan, (they were bankrupt anyway) Russians would’ve bled to death in those hostile terrains.
Then spot an ally in Pakistan that had nothing but a history of successive military governments that chose terrorism as an instrument of state policy (remember America stands for freedom and democracy) and funnel billions of dollars in cash and fighter planes, Ammo and even nuclear tech – eventually it poses a real threat of all of these resources landing at the feet of in-house terrorists that duly turn against America and the rest of the world!
e) Improve the quality of elementary education for American kids and include some awareness of the world, besides America in their syllabus – so that they get future Presidents that don’t mistake Pope John Paul for Dalai Lama or be smug enough to wink at an 80 year old queen on a state visit.