Barack Obama and The Ugly American

By Bernd Debusmann
November 12, 2008

bernddebusmann3–Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own–

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fifty years ago, a pair of American writers published a novel that trained a critical spotlight on U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. The book, by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick, became a bestseller and its title, “The Ugly American,” turned into an enduring label.

It’s been a dual-purpose label, first primarily pasted on inept American officials abroad and later on the kind of traveler who would irritate the natives with boorish manners and garish clothes, feeding anti-American sentiments around the globe.

Will they disappear, or fade, after the United States elected as its next president a black man who has described himself as a citizen of the world? The euphoric international reaction to Barack Obama‘s victory suggest that America’s star will shine more brightly, at least temporarily, than it has in decades.

As Obama put it in his victory speech: “A new dawn of American leadership is at hand.”

Within minutes of the results, American television viewers were treated to what have become rare images from abroad: large crowds happily waving – rather than burning – American flags.

Cheers for a charismatic young man who said his election showed that “America is a place where all things are possible” came from countries where a similar feat is a difficult to imagine. A French president of Algerian extraction? A Turk as German chancellor? A prime minister of Pakistani descent running Britain? A Moluccan in charge of the Netherlands?

“Everywhere I’ve been this year – from Jerusalem to Japan to Colombia to Italy and back again – I’ve heard people essentially say that America is an overweight white plutocrat who is not only out of touch with the world but also shows no signs of wanting to grow closer to it,” the British writer Pico Iyer said in an essay in Time magazine.

The image, he said, was unfair but potent.

What better antidote to the idea of an out-of-touch overweight white plutocrat than a rake-thin black president who says he wants to “build new bridges across the world” and is seen by many as the incarnation of “cool.”

PRESIDENTIAL IMAGE-MAKING POWER

There are already voices who say the global goodwill Obama now enjoys cannot last and that there are limits to what a president can do to change the United States’ image. True enough, but there is no better example than President George W. Bush of a U.S. leader’s tremendous power to affect perceptions.

The speed with which he managed to turn almost universal sympathy for the United States after September 11, 2001, into almost universal detestation was remarkable. By 2004, goodwill had evaporated so completely that a British mass circulation newspaper, the Daily Mirror, marked Bush’s re-election with a front page that showed a picture of the president over the headline “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”american_nov2008-w

No such rebukes for the American electorate in 2008. What was remarkable in 2008 was how quickly Americans abroad sensed a change of mood. On the night of November 4, American expatriates posted jubilant messages to social networking sites like Facebook saying it was cool to be American again.

Some expressed relief at no longer having to pretend to be Canadian, a long-time ruse to avoid being stereotyped. It is particularly popular among Americans of backpack-travel age and among those traveling in areas where anti-American sentiment runs particularly high.

Numerous opinion polls have tracked the steady decline of America’s image. One, in April 2008 by the BBC and the University of Maryland, found that people in 23 countries saw the United States’ influence in the world more negatively than that of North Korea. Hello, Washington, you have a problem!

Almost all the surveys point to foreign policy — the war in Iraq, the scandal of the Abu Ghraib prison, Guantanamo — as the principal reasons for disenchantment. While that front has been static, private organizations have launched various initiatives to tackle the image problem on a more personal level.

The non-profit organization Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA), for example, has distributed more than 200,000 copies of its “World Citizen’s Guide” to corporate travelers, with 16 tips that are a mirror image of the behavioral patterns that earned Americans a boorish reputation in the first place.

BDA’s founder, advertising executive Keith Reinhard, is convinced that “our collective personality is one of the causes of anti-Americanism. We are seen as loud, arrogant and completely self-absorbed.”

Fifty years later, that echoes a character in “The Ugly American”: “A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land…They are loud and ostentatious. Perhaps they are frightened and defensive; or maybe they are not properly trained and make mistakes out of ignorance.”

Another job on the president-elect’s long list of things to change.

(You can contact the author at Debusmann@Reuters.com)

(Illustration by Brice Hall)

Do you want to contribute to The Great Debate? Please send your ideas to debate@thomsonreuters.com.

114 comments

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Bernd Debusmann is correct when he says that Obama may mitigate the ugly american syndrome. Specifically, I read the book, “The Ugly American”, and it was about a good American who was unattractive physically and yet very popular with local people he was living with. He was known for treating people with respect and by his good example, he kept the communists trying to encroach in the community.
We American voters have successfully made a strategical victory when we elected Barack Obama. He is the only candidate endorsed by both Jewish and Palestinian groups. Lack of progress, or even sincere effort, by President Bush was the number one excuse for Al Qaida to recruit new members. Barack Obama can reverse that trend.
Our strategic interests in Africa seemed hopeless last month. We couldn’t even keep a simple command center on the continent. Now American troops will be welcome as honest power brokers. We can now prevent genocide, and human rights violations by private and state owned oil companies without having to actually fight a war. Now THAT is a strategic victory.
Many of our detractors around the world CORRECTLY criticized our racial inequality and would use that to wrongly continue their own abuse of power. That excuse is also evaporating.
The Bush administration, and in particular Dick Chaney, have been suspected of being tools of Rex Tillerman of ExxonMobil. Barack Obama has a mandate to decentralize the world of energy away from simply fossil fuels. The price of gas would be too expensive even if it was free, as long as soldiers have to fight wars for it. Also, by decentralizing away from oil it frees us to spread democracy where it will most likely be welcome instead of being forced on a population. THAT is strategic victory.

Posted by Dennis | Report as abusive

I have lived and worked overseas, primarily in the Middle East for several years and travelled extensiverly throughout Europe and the US. Based on these experiences I have found that local residents of non-US countries are basically the same as US citizens. It depends on whether you meet people in urban or rural areas, meet people at airports or private residence, meet them at tourist or non-tourist areas However, the governments or politicos of the countries they reside influence the general media because they want what they can get from the US to gain or stay in power; or, they want to keep the US values from influencing the local citizens. Residents in the more developed countries seem to be more immune to the media however, the residents in the less developed countries seem to be more receptive to the medai reports that are negative toward the US. So, it’s not that they don’t like Americans so much as it is they don’t like Government of the US who they portray as big, powerful, arrogant and aggressive. We should all understand that what’s written in the media is the results basically of what the Governments and diplomats and wannabe leaders are broadcasting.

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

Ted Slazyk: Now that we are getting into intra-European squabbles, do you really think that the brash, loud, party-crashing Germans are more irritating than the pot-bellied,loud, brash, always-complaining, vomiting-in-public-places, red-faced Brits are any better? Maybe you should visit some Spanish beach resorts, where the Krauts and the Brits are competing for the crown of obnoxiousness.And what about the obnoxious, loud, brash, ignorant, ex-Soviet throw-around-your-money Russians you now find from everywhere, from Jerusalem and Haifa to Orlando and Riviera Maya in Mexico. Give me an Ugly7 American any day!

Posted by Klaus | Report as abusive

Apparently Mr. Debussman believes everything he sees on T.V. Crowds around the world cheering, rather than burning the American flag on election night? Uh-huh..sure. Would everyone please stop watching politically motivated TV news coverage and start thinking?

Who cares what the British rag “The Daily Mirror” said about the Bush re-election? I was no big fan of it either, but WHO CARES WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT US? Certainly no one seems to care about what we think of them generally, and that’s the way it should be.

I have a strong suspicion Mr. Debussman is very concerned about what people think of him. It is reflected in his writing and in his opinions about America on the world stage.

Posted by P. Valgo | Report as abusive

I’d like to see how the long the rest of the world lasts without the “Ugly American” dollar and humanitarian support.

Even you Switzerland.

Posted by Bogart | Report as abusive

Take it from me, a former ugly American, I’ve been replaced by the German: brash, loud, crashing parties, drunk, racially challenged and arrogant. Not all, of course, like all Americans were not like me, but quite a few. The French still have memories of the German Occupation, and Italy would prefer the German go elsewhere, as one of Italy’s Tourist muckedy mucks has publicly stated. Any way, with the Euro out of sight, Europeans don’t have to deal with me any more. Too much for a gelato now-a-days.

Who are these materialistic Americans, John Mack? The people I know care about God, family and country…not their next purchase. I contend that you don’t know any real Americans and that this is yet another theory you have gleaned from watching the liberal American no-nothing news media. Why don’t you try to get your head around this, the U.S. news media does not tell the truth…only their skewed view of how things are “supposed to be.”
And by the way, most people in the world are pretty ignorant, not just Americans. But of course we get judged more harshly since our country is so open to others.

Posted by kellirc | Report as abusive

As a Canadian, it will be a relief not to have so many Americans calling themselves one of us. I mean, it kind of lowers the tone, somewhat. A deep, core, Canadian value is that we are much better than the Americans. Although I’m an exception in being rude enough to state this obvious fact out loud.

Posted by Dan Hilts | Report as abusive

Don’t you know that it is american liberal media and Holiwood which created that image of a dumb american?
Don’t you know how international media, especially european
one pushes that image overseas ? Russians and arabs are very happy to participate.
President Bush was an epicenter.
Envy is a reason. With Barack Obama which they put on the throne, they got their wish – he will do everything to destroy a real America – economy, culture, faith, borders,
freedom, independence, peace… It might never be the same.
I want to be wrong!

Posted by Oleg Konovalov | Report as abusive

The Canadians lauding their inherent superiority to Americans need to be reminded that they are spared many problems because they come from a dinky power with a small population, and they need to be reminded that things aren’t exactly great up north — witness the race riots in Montreal last summer(!), shoddy and bridges all over, and an oversold health system. What they do have, though, is a powerful provincial vanity, rising paradoxically from the most boring people on earth.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

Hey Churchill
Envy of what???
that you are the only civilized country to cling to the death penalty
that you have a whole class of your society that is homeless
that more people have access to Disney land than decent health care
that your disgrungled citizens are more likely to shoot first ask questions later
You are right though – there are decent Americans, unfortunately for every one of those there are 10 who take any criticism as envy (I still havent figured out what I’m suppose to be envious of!!!!!!!!!!!!) and see anyone who criticises them as leftis/communist/pinkos
For the record I’m Canadian – We knew how arrogant you were for years….just took the rest of the world a while to catch up
You think you are an unbeatable Empire, so did Rome….beware the ides of March

Posted by jordyn | Report as abusive

Quite proud to be an “ugly American.” And at least 57 million agree with me.

Posted by Tammie | Report as abusive

This is a prime example of being “out of touch.” You are merely restating what the outside world thinks of Americans in general. Who cares what the world thinks of Americans? The fact that we haven’t based our election on popularity in the past (until now) is what has made us the most powerful nation in the world. If our Founding Father’s had worried about what others would think of us when they went against main stream popular opinion we would still be confined to religious constraints of secularism. The idea that we have voted in a man who is a discredit to our American beliefs in general is a discredit to our nation! Supporter’s of this man will soon find that what they had hoped to accomplish will never come to light. Instead, he will further infuse this nation with more super highways to further attain his and the U.N.’s Agenda 21. If you wish to be blind by ignorance then this is your choice. It has been proven that only nations with capitalist beliefs thrive whereas socialist economies will be sucked dry! This man will fall into the ranks of Carter which isn’t good, but for us conservatives it is fantastic!!!! Because, he will not only ruin his chances for reelection in 2012 but we will take back the next two following terms for sure now! The world hasn’t seen ugly until they’ve seen exactly what Sen. Obama has in store for them.

I’ll be surprised if you actually post this since most of the liberal media chooses to sensor’s anything negative!

Posted by Groovgal | Report as abusive

To all of you who are so superior: you’re welcome. You sleep under the blanket of the security provided by us, the ugly Americans. You’re so comfortable that you feel entitled to the safety we have given you, free of charge. All your snivelling and ungratefulness are even rewarded as we pump free food or cash into your lousy countries.

Ah well, the gravy train has hit the wall as our pathetic leaders have mismanaged things. So we shall see how brilliant and sophisticated you all are when we no longer protect and feed you.

Ingrates.

Posted by You're Welcome | Report as abusive

So far Obama is doing everything right. His organization is impeccable, he’s intelligent, and he is composed. After 8 years of any president we need a new direction. This is fundamental to our government, which is why we have term limits. The needs of the US are simple for 60,000,000 Americans to see. Unfortunately others are still stuck in the past, absorbed in nationalism, and totally paranoid. Get over it.

Posted by Realistic Libertarian | Report as abusive

I travel the world regularly, from Malaysia to Moscow and I, as an American, have always been treated very well in other countries. My hosts have taken me to exquisite places, from opera at the Bolshoi to hidden Hindu temples. The “meme” that Americans are looked upon in disfavor by others is a false liberal guilt construct. Quit trying to play it and face reality.

Posted by Max | Report as abusive

As a Canadian who has lived in the US I have some experience of both cultures.

Before the internet, when I was in the US I had to work hard to get more than superficial international news. Therefore, it was not surprising that most hard-working, time-pressed Americans lacked a global perspective. In spite of this lack, though, I found most such folks to be warm, hospitable and genuinely interested in my views as a Canadian.

It’s unfortunate that some Canadian anti-American rhetoric has found it’s way to the comments here. Most Canadians are not anti-American, though we have often wished that the US had more curiosity about their next door neighbour! (beyond ‘oot and aboot’ and wierd spelling LOL!)

The internet is making it much easier for Americans to be more international in outlook and millions are taking this opportunity to heart. This, plus the election of an intelligent President with a more inclusive, global outlook should, I hope, put the ‘ugly American’ stereotype to rest.

Every country has its ignorant, boorish members. Lets not let them become the definition of any nation’s identity.

Posted by canuck | Report as abusive

Why does everyone get so concerned with what Europeans think?

Do we have our own standards of behavior or are we enslaved to theirs? While everyone likes to be liked, most people would say that self-respect is more important. At any particular time we may be right or wrong on Iraq, Iran, Darfur, etc. Do we judge the correctness of our actions by our standards or the standards of others? Should not our opinion matter most?
If others agree with us great, but they’re not always going to.

The faddish obsession with foreign opinion polls is strange and probably indicates that for the first time Americans are developing an inferiority complex that once was the province of the post-war Europeans.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

Most of the world used to see American interests in their countries dominated by large American corporations. In the last wight years they’ve come to identify America through the unilateralism of the Bush doctrine.
And they saw at least half of the American public agreeing with Bush.
To swing American policies 180 degrees will be a tall order. To live in the global community requires compromise and trust of allies and even wary trust of your competition e.g. Russian, China, and even Iran.
Coupled with Obama’s new vision of America and every American acting as a goodwill ambassador overseas, at least it can be a strong beginning.

One can only wonder if the Europeans were concerned and overwrought when over 50% of Americans voted for an Administration that was in conflict with the European governments and public opinion. Was their a general hand-wringing then and there that Americans thought so little of the positions of the Europeans? Did their public debate turn to how to get governments elected to fall in line with American opinion?

Probably not and correctly so.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

You’re Welcome. groovgal, Tammie and Bob are prime examples of the Ugly American. As an Embarrassed American, I apologize for them.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

There are ugly Americans. Also ugly Canadians and ugly Europeans. The world has its share of boorish, violent, ugly people. In this, there is no shortage.
But most people are decent and well-meaning. This is what the world sees in Barack Obama. There is no shortage of good people, and good leaders will tap into that positive energy.
It’s time to put America’s best face forward.

I’m impressed by canuk’s fair-mindedness and educated by his experience. I’ve also found that when I’ve lived within the US, good international news on the networks or cable is very hard to come by, strangely despite the fact we have more news channels than you can count. I’ve always listened to the BBC, on short wave if I had to. Happily, nowadays, the BBC web site is just a mouse click away, as is Reuters.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

I think that using the term “ugly American” as a reference to American travelers with “boorish manners and garish clothes” is at best naïve and perhaps an insult to one’s intelligence.

I have lived in the US for a number of years and I grew up in a country that receives millions of tourists every year. Some people behave badly sometimes. Claiming that American are somehow more offensive to natives than others is simply untrue and unfair. It also means that one misses the point. This is the secondary and inconsequential definition of the term, which, I would argue, was invented by the US media to draw attention from the primary and quite consequential one.

The ugliness is in the American foreign policy and the devastating effects it has had on some countries and their people (e.g. middle east, south east Asia, south central America etc.) Historically, it is not worse (or uglier) than the policies or previous superpowers or empires such as the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the Byzantine and Roman empires, or any colonial or imperial power for that matter. But it is as ugly.

For example, consider the Iraq war. This is a war made so that corporations like ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Halliburton and others could rob a nation and its people form their natural resources. If one has no ethics and no morality, it is actually brilliant to use the American tax-payer to finance a war, to use the American army to deliver it, and, at the end, reap all the benefits. As it was explained to me in private conversations shortly before the war, there were two cases; “either the US forces would be seen as a liberator or there would be insurgency and a prolonged war of attrition. In the first case, we get the oil with great privileges and low pricing. In the second case, the price of oil would be driven much higher and we would have large gains because we have deposit and drilling rights and we operate on percentages anyway.” (Note that ‘we’ in the quoted text refers to the US oil industry — not the US oil people.)

Adding to the mix an immoral vice president who only answers to the oil magnates and executives, a president who is not astute enough to comprehend the forces around him, complicit and hypocritical public media, and citizens who have been thus blindfolded and hoodwinked so they could not see through the administration and their lies and deceptions (democracy in the middle east, weapons of mass destruction, aluminum tubes from Nigeria, and other flying green donkeys), the war in Iraq became yet another instance of the “ugly American” reality — perpetuating the term. The worst part is that such wars may make certain corporations wealthier, but they leave the US citizens and everybody else poorer, they aggravate the situation in Middle East, they take the region (including Israel) closer to catastrophe, and they have a human cost of genocidal magnitude — which is unjustifiable, inexcusable, unconscionable and criminal. Now that is what I call UGLY.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Wonderful commentary, and very true. It has been such an embarassment to be an American! I never lie about where I was born, but it has always helped to clarify that I’m in total disagreement with the policies of Bush and Co. Our foreign policy and economic relationships have been devastating for billions, but it is not only ours that is this way… the same predation is shared silently by pretty much all of the “rich” countries of the world, (UK and the rest of the EU, and Japan take note), whose lack of natural resources has forced them to create unjust, corrupt and damaging commercial relationships with larger, resource-rich nations in order to maintain the standard of living and diet many of us enjoy. The constant political and economic meddling that Latin America and Africa are subject to behind the scenes also emmanates from Eurasia and Canada (where is Barick based???) This I believe is a greater evil that the boorishness of our personalities, and I hope the election of Obama will herald a more just arrangement and sharing of resources for the planet, coupled with a commitment to conservation and protection of the Earth’s natural environment.

People of the world generally showed sympathy to the US after the September 11 terrorist attack. When the Bush administration fought to uproot the terrorist sanctuary in Afghanistan, the Americans loomed as heroes. But when they fought Iraq, accidentally removing Iran’s rival in the region, the act was seen as foolish. With this, President Bush further intensified the already simmering anti-American sentiments over the world. This even led to an absurd hatred towards anything that is related to American, anything related to English, even to the English language. Teachers of English in countries like Vietnam have felt it. I hope with Obama administration, change will come on many respects.

Posted by Phuong Nguyen | Report as abusive

I have lived in the US for 8+ years, having lived in a couple of countries in Europe. My experience is that, despite the odd bit of loudness and sometimes lack of style, Americans are the sweetest and kindest people I have met. Their openness and accessibility – from road sweepers to the president – is something others should aspire to.

Posted by Nic | Report as abusive

I’ve never heard of a European having to pretend to be someone else while traveling in the states to prevent harassment or worse. So who’s acting rude and/or boorish again ?

It’s easy to criticize the actions of the US. Anytime you want to jump in and help solve some of the worlds problems feel free. We could use a break anyway. By the way, how’s that whole Iran thing coming along ?

Bush will be out of office in a couple of months and all of the worlds problems will disappear. I’ve got to go, my Unicorn is calling…..

Posted by Jeff | Report as abusive

To listen to some of y’all… You would think America was the Messiah himself come to grace the rest of the world with it’s presence and magnanimosity.

America has obviously done a lot of good, but it has also done a lot of bad both internally and externally. I don’t need to get into a laundry list, just study up on your history of the last century. Accept that, and don’t think the world owes you anything.

The “ugly American” moniker comes from the very arrogance that you see in some of the posters here. “We’re better than you, we are superior, ya da, ya da”. But America isn’t. It’s just another place, with different people, good and bad, and different paradigms. Having committed in its history many of the same atrocities that you find everywhere else.

It’s about time that Americans woke up to the reality that there are 180+ nations on this planet. The colonial mentality (or pirate, depending on your viewpoint) of snatch everything for ourselves has got to cease. We’re one race, the human race, on one isolated planet. If we don’t work together, then the status quo will continue. And it’s impossible to work together with a bully who is also a megalomaniac.

The visualization I get is of piglets at their mothers teat. They will kill each other to stay on that teat. Sorry, but it’s time to share for the better of the human race.

As an American who spent most of the 1980′s wondering exact where in the Fulda Gap I was supposed to die while buying West Germany, France and Britain another 72 hours of freedom, I am always amused to hear Europeans complain about the purported arrogance and selfishness of my country. Canadians? Well, I don’t mess with Canadians…after all, they are defended by the most formidable military force ever known…the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines!

There are a few points I agree with in the article, though.

First, the USA did do something that is unthinkable in most other “First World” countries (hmmm…or Second or Third World, for that matter), in electing a racial minority to the presidency. Guess we actually aren’t as racist as the rest of you, are we? When are the rest of you going to get with the program and catch up? I’ll be looking for the French president of Algerian decent, or the German chancelor with the Turkish last name. A Tibetan running China? Maybe Britain will have an Irish Catholic PM someday soon? Or maybe you’ll all just be content to continue to be raging hypocrites.

Second, I agree that the attitude of the “international” community will not *really* change overnight, no matter who the president is. If Obama is serious about leading this country, he is going to have to come to terms with the fact that making the right decision for the USA does NOT mean doing what Europe (and certainly not Russia) thinks is right. We’ll see. If he throws Poland and the Ukraine “under the bus” by caving to Medved on the interceptor missiles, well, then I guess you’ll have the president you (Europeans) want, and I’ll have the one I feared was going to be elected.

The USA isn’t perfect, but we’re pretty damned good. The rest of you never mind sharing in our successes, and don’t complain when we put our lives on the line to defend you and your interests. You are quick to blame us for mistakes and reluctant to shed your own blood, even when you (i.e., France, Russia, the U.N.) make the situation worse by refusing to enforce your own sanctions and by cutting secret deals to prop up regimes like Hussein in Iraq, or to sell nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea.

How dare any of you accuse us of being colonial or imperialistic? The amount of American lives we have sacrificed in the last 100 years, cleaning up your dynastic squabbles (WW I), high-handed imperialism and shear vindictiveness (WW II), UN mandates (Korea, Lebanon, Iraq) and colonial “charlie-foxtrots” (Vietnam, Latin America, Somalia, and West Africa and the Middle East, generally) is obscene. I only wish that those of you who now criticize and whine would have stepped up and fixed your own problems. I’d be happy to have us give up the role of “Global Cop,” but it’s clear that one is necessary, and none of you have the will or the ability to step into the breach.

Abu Ghraib? Gitmo? Shall we consider the Maze? H-Block? The PTA? Internment? Supergrasses? Diplock Courts? Want to talk about discrimination and economic justice, about classes of homeless, as one Canadia wrote about? Let’s look at the slums and shanty town around Paris, filled to the brim with unwanted, uneducated, and ill-treated West and North African immigrants. Try being a Turk in Germany, a Kurd in Turkey, a “Paki” in London, or a Catholic in Belfast.

The point is not that we are better than the rest of the world; we have our problems and have made our share of mistakes. But that we are certainly no worse. I think that your attitudes are more in need of an overhaul than is our national character.

Posted by Art | Report as abusive

The imagery is unmistakable, but the follow through will be essential. I think we Americans all expect a new thoughtfulness in our country’s approach to foreign policy, and Obama’s choice for secretary of state will provide a broad clue as to his intentions. It is also true that there is no correct or incorrect path; sometimes it is necessary to go it alone, despite even the entreaties of your allies, and sometimes consensus is the best way forward. The rub is knowing which path to take each time. Many in the United States believe that in recent history the wrong choice was usually made. The wisdom of the Obama administration will be revealed in when chooses unilateralism and when he seeks unanimity.

Dude: I give it to you for saying what I could not find words for! The Euros are pretty standish-off when there is an international crisis. When we take the leadership role we come under their trigger happy and sharpshooter critics! The bottom line is that we fight on their behalf and then get the boot and they get the loot! The least I would expect from them is at least a word of thanks…………..
I guess this article is their way of saying “Thank You” in “Eurolees” ha? With friends like these who needs Iran, N. Korea and the Taliban! I say we did the right thing when we got rid of the Brits in the war for independence!

This article is disgusting. Try living in Germany or France. Disfunctional governments. Rudeness and discrimination are the norm. When one of their German Bundesjokers (thats their non-fighting military) gets getotet (killed) in Afghanistan, all of the young generation demonstrates to bring them home and let the Americans and Brits fight for them. This is a country of alcoholics, social degenerates, druggies, and uneducated a…oles. The economic system is composed of selling CooKoo Clocks to other countries, paying social geld each month to the above named social classes, who use the money to buy more drugs and alcohol, and expanding the world’s largest “Polizei” organizations. Unemployment? They have very little. The Arbeitsamt sends the unemployed to do a 1 Euro job or to a school for street cleaning, or makes them a Polizei, and then there is no unemployment. They pay them social geld or stat geld. This appears to be a system of illusions (David Copperfield?)that are now becoming evident to even the Germans. Rudeness? The a…oles PUSH in lines, PUSH into trains, Push into buses, make the old people stand while the kinder take the seats,…….. I can go on and on, but obviously each country has some good and some bad points. The Euros just happen to have the most rudeness, discrimination, and arrogance that I have ever encountered in my life’s experience. Hmmm….. This is what the Euro writer blames on U S Citizens? All is in the viewpoint of each writer. Before you argue or critisize my opinions, come and live in the sh.. country for more than a week’s vacation. Opinions may vary! Of coures, when you are a Euro, then you believe that an Obama will solve all the world’s problems. Come to think of it, 50 million American voters believe in the same fairytale.:-)))

Posted by Kurt | Report as abusive

Dude. Ugly American? LMAO! You obvioulsy haven’t been to any places where Russians travel. Go visit Lake Como if you want to see the new Ugly American, or DisneyWorld even.

Posted by Mike Zarcero | Report as abusive

I have to agree with a lot of you posters that this post is just another perpetuation of the idea that “ugliness” is confined within the American people. There really are ugly people everywhere.

I can’t say I’m innocent of this, but it seems that when a tourist is being dumb or rude, the first reaction is to figure out what country he or she is from and just label it as the fault of their nationality. Stop the stereotyping! Not all English girls are alcoholics.

An aside to the Canadians here, I have quite a few Canadian friends. While traveling with them or hearing about their travels, it is interesting to hear the reactions from the citizens of a foreign country. In France and China, the reaction was the same, “How is Canada different from the U.S.?” Normally, a rather detailed conversation ensued. :)

Posted by Josh A | Report as abusive

I could not disagree more with the comment labeled as “best” by Reuters. People around the word don’t dislike Americans because we are wealthy, they dislike us because we are a dangerous, unpredictable, super power given to breaking international laws that kill hundreds upon thousands of innocent people. We have a corrupt government that does not work for the betterment of its own citizens, let alone any one else in the world. We are feared for these reasons, and if I were a citizen of another (non-nuclear) country, I’d be scared of us too. Especially if my country was rich in oil or anything else the United States might decide it needs to own.

The United States could be an amazing force for good in the world, but it will not be until its citizens get their heads out of the sand and their voices heard in the street.

Posted by Marla Taylor | Report as abusive

As a middle eastern who went to school in the US , I believe America is tolerent and was doing good for the world with a system that encourage research and entreprunership.Never theless, looking from the outside, America has changed its behavior with rest of the world by becoming more aggressive.the war on terror has been directed on the wrong country -Iraq-.This has done a lot of dammage to US reputation not to mention its unequivocal suupport to Israel

Based on some of the replies posted here, it would appear that many who supported the corrupt extreme right wing dictatorship of George Bush continue to bury their heads in the sand. Happily, a majority of the US woke up and now understands the situation. The wing nuts will continue to be a drag on progressive reform.

The important thing is that the President Elect understands that the world has changed, and the US has got to get its own house in order if it is to compete in the global market and earn the respect of other countries. Part of the problem is that the US has a sizeable group of people over 55 who don’t want to embrace the new world and prefer to see it as it was (or they imagined it) 50 years ago. The good news is that with each passing day, there are more young people who understand the folly of the “we’re number one!” mentality. They will be the force that moves the United States into a more respectable place alongside other nations. Hopefully, they will also work toward social justice in the United States, which, over the past 8 years, has seen a massive transfer of power and wealth from the middle class to a small very rich group of people who feel entitled and above the law at the top.

Posted by Sarah | Report as abusive

Let’s see the Germans elect a black president or any EU nation
for that matter. They simply cannot. The reason people set out for
the new world was to improve it. Leaving behind the stained
gothic masonic architecture that holds their dreams and aspirations in a soul cage. And France being the #1 best customer recently just goes to prove they secretly admire us but are afraid their neighbors might see them lovin us.

Grow up some more, let go of your grudges, we\’ll be waiting for you in the space stations of the future. Love , an American Citizen.

Posted by Stephen | Report as abusive

I also disagree with the comment marked as “best” by Reuters.

As someone who isn’t American, I tell you this:

We loved you during the Clinton years up and up until September 11, 2001. We are NOW learning to love you again.

I will leave it to you to figure out why we fell out of love with you in the middle.

-e

It seems perfectly reasonable to me to dislike a country that has, for the last 100 years at least, been nothing more than a senseless bully in the world. From the forced annexation of Hawaii without treaty, to the Philippine massacres, through to the multitude of assassinations and coups in Central and South America that the US financed, planned and in some cases carried out. All the way to the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq on trumped up evidence, the murder of countless civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s unconditional support of Israel in the face of widespread human rights abuses. All the while shouting to the rooftops that you’re all for “democracy” and “human rights”, but from your actions only in favour so long as it benefits you. That’s called hypocrisy. The United States has a LONG way to go before people outside the will respect it once more.

Fear it? Yes, with good cause. Envy it? Everyone envies the successful pirate who has plundered the world for its riches. But respect it? Not in my lifetime. Obama is a start, not an end point.

As for Art’s defence of the US “defending” others, if that’s what most Americans believe is true, then you’ll never understand why you’re so despised throughout the world. Because almost every word of that is a deliberate falsehood and twisting of the facts.

The US ignored its treaty obligations and waited 2 long years to enter WW2 while countless Europeans died. It would have stayed out completely and let Hitler take over if the Japanese hadn’t attacked Pearl Harbour over US refusal to negotiate.

The US then escalated and created much of the mess in Vietnam (where they got their butts kicked) and Korea (where they didn’t exactly win either or North Korea wouldn’t exist), then lied about it, a recurring theme it seems. The US is the cause not the solution to most of the unrest in Central and South America, not to mention Iran. For for the last 70 years the US has cold bloodedly dispatched any democratically elected governments that wouldn’t let your corporations rape and pillage to your wallets content. It was the US that installed tyrants like Pinochet and the Shah of Iran after all, not to mention Brazil’s Bracho who, with American assistance, invented the now famous “death squads”. The US is documented as being behind just about every petty dictator and killer in every country in Central and South American except Uruguay. All these rulers had one thing in common: they didn’t interfere with American businesses no matter how bloody their suppression of workers or competitors.

The US has never faced military action on your own soil in the last several generations. Your general population knows nothing about the horrors of war. Yes, you have immigrants who have seen conflict, but they seem to be mostly from the sides that lost when the tyrants were removed. War is just what you see sanitized on TV. This seems to make your population much more willing to bring war to others, and to believe the propaganda that you spew out about how you’re “liberating” these people. Yes, liberating them from life itself, at least for the over one million civilians the American invasion has killed in Iraq.

So please, spare me the arrogance and self importance. Don’t point at others and, like the schoolyard bully, cry out “but they’re worse!”. Because you’re nothing but bullies on the world stage, and currently deserve all the criticism and hatred directed at you for your utter callousness and ham handedness of your gunboat diplomacy.

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

Hey Marc, since you “will never respect America in your lifetime”, why not renounce your worthless US citizenship and emigrate to a place you really admire, like Haiti? They have a health care system that’s the envy of the world, the highest standard of living in the hemisphere, a military force that can deter a nuclear war with the Russia, more Nobel prize winners than any other nation on earth AND minorities aren’t routinely butchered with machetes in inter-tribal blood feuds.

Posted by Robert Bornhorst | Report as abusive

It is sad that many Americans obsess over this issue of whether the U.S. is “loved” by other nations. Except for times when it is useful to execute our own strategy, why does it matter?

The rest of the world gave rise to Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Mao, Stalin, Vichy, Mugabe, Mussolini, Chamberlain and countless other fools and horrors. By contrast, we Americans–immigrants from Scotland, China, Senegal, Poland, Mexico and every other country under the sun — are heirs to a legacy that, with all its flaws and difficulties, is responsible for most of humanity’s progress for the last two centuries.

The United States will continue to be the world’s guiding light under our new President, because in the end we are an outward-looking race. And we are every race.

Posted by arlen | Report as abusive

With the greatest respect to you Americans, almost all the wars and deployments that have been made by your country were not with the altruistic reasons you seem to think. Pure and simple, the USA had some sort of benefit for themselves. For that they cannot be blamed, action now and safety in the future.

Posted by Bazza | Report as abusive

Hey Robert!

You mean the Haiti where the US (with the help of Canada) recently overthrew the democratically elected government and replaced it with yet another ineffective puppet? Not once, but TWICE in the last few years? The Haiti where the USA supported “Baby Doc” Duvalier the killer because he was good for American business? That Haiti? Good example, I’ll have to add that particular fiasco to the American body count.

As for the rest, what on earth makes you think I’d ever want to be, or ever was, an American citizen? That said, I’ve met and discussed these issues with many expatriate Americans who feel their country has completely lost its way. Some returned home to try to undo the damage (I imagine they voted for Obama). Others just gave up and left. In many ways, both groups symbolise the ideals that the USA used to stand for. The unity of many different cultures coming to a new place to start a new life. Fantastic in theory! Unfortunately, those days are long past, and the US is now mainly a country of increasingly uneducated and ignorant people so trussed up by propaganda nationalism that they can’t see the damage they are doing to the rest of the world, and continue to try to ignore the indefensible.

Oh, and yes, the Americans aren’t the only guilty ones out there, and other countries have their own problems. Anyone seeing many Germans or Russians on holiday can have no doubt that the “ugly American tourist” has lots of company. But the common factor is that these countries, at least for the last 50 years, do not try to export their ideals elsewhere by force of arms.

It’s mainly Americans today who are the ones crying the loudest about how wonderful they are and how the world is just envious. They’re the ones crowing to the world in every comment section how great America is. They are the ones crying out loudly and often on how they love and protect democracy everywhere! Yet they are the ones invading country after country and overthrowing said democratically elected governments simply because those governments do what their people want them to do, not what American corporations want them to do.

That’s the hypocrisy. And in many civilized countries hypocrites are justly viewed with disgust. It’s unfortunate that in the USA this isn’t true.

So right now I’m just trying to educate an obviously heavily propagandised population into the facts as seen from the outside. I do the same elsewhere when justified. It’s just that Americans provide so much justification.

If you start to understand why America is so reviled, then all is good. Not saying you have to take personal responsibility, just understand how Americans are viewed from the outside, and why. Try to at least acknowledge the weight of evidence against the USA as this sort of “guiding light” for other countries. It’s not.

If you don’t agree at all, and you and others continue to hide behind misplaced nationalism and continue to deny the evidence of the last 100 years of American abuse and bullying on the world stage, then at least it’s vaguely amusing to watch the self-righteous hypocrites continue to try defending the indefensible.

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

Despite being and “Ugly American” myself, I must insist that the rest of the world is not looking so pretty either from this whole ordeal of negative foreign opinion during the Bush Presidency.

Question: I did not dislike France or Germany based on the ineptitude of French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (nor did I burn flags), so why would I be assigned such a hateful label for our circumstances here in America?

Question: Why should I even care about the public opinion polls of other nations, if other nations are so quick to rush to vile judgment about who I am as an American, based off of temporary policies set into place by a temporary leader?

Question: Did others even attempt to understand who we are, our history, our security concerns, and our geopolitical reality or am nonsensically hated for being a Bush American today but loved as an Obama American tomorrow?

Question: Am I going to be hated, based off of the performance of my next President?

Despite popular opinion, it is not easy being American. You have opportunity, but with it comes hard work and responsibility. Trying to do what is right for the world has been the exception to the rule in the course of world history for “Super-Powers” and is what our families in America have fought and suffered for over the course of our short history. We’re not perfect, but nobody is, and we are growing better as a nation.

Before you ever cast blame on us for all of the world’s ills, understand who we are and who we are not (we are not the great Satan of the world). It is the principles that should define us as Americans (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). In the end, it is what will prevail in the United States, not temporary policies of the day. This interest is universal for the world and I am not ashamed of it, I am proud of it, and humbled to be born an American. Schizophrenic public opinion polls are worthless compared to it.

Posted by Stephen Gilchrist | Report as abusive

Marc’s enthusiasm for leaving oppressive dictatorships alone is noted, and deplored.

For the past century, America has uniformly taken up arms on behalf of the more-free, against the less-free. Every. Single. Damn. Time. Over. One. Hundred. Years. Marc does not know this — he reads no genuine history.

Posted by Reid | Report as abusive

Hey Marc
Right on!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by jordyn | Report as abusive

Hey Jacques,
The difference between the Brits and the Romans, versus say the “American empire” is that while the Brits and Romans were out to conquer the world to fund themselves and their own twisted ambitions (especially the Brits) without consequence or regard for anyone or anything else, the united states was built on a foundation of freedom, and spreading this concept around the world (in principle). While their approaches at different times have been less than effective (W. and Kissinger, for example), comparing the Americans to any other empire in history is both unfair and inaccurate for these reasons. It is the mere fact that the US is built on freedom as an inalienable right is reason enough for admiration. Finally, you need to distinguish between anti-American sentiment that is prejudiced against Americans as a (superficial) stereotype for American people (more common – the “ugly American” idea features here) and America as an idea or a force of freedom, rejected only by totalitarian states (or close enough equivalents) like pre-2003 Iraq, Iran, north Korea and to a large extent, Venezuela. this was not the case for the imperialistic, openly racist and we-should-rule-the-world Brits and Romans, whose very existence as empires (at least in the case of the former) was dangerous and a severe threat for millions around the world, be it their neighbors or other military enemies, both of whom were often targets for war and/or invasion. Why do you think we threw the Brits out of our country in the first place?

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Yep I’m pretty doggone ugly. Republican. Conservative. Of means. Possessing morals. Scrupulous. White. Angry. I voted for Obama because I thought he was undisputably the better choice for the difficult times ahead.

I really could not care less what some European (or other) person may think of me because I am the product of my own toil and I deserve the fruits of my labor.

I am neither decadent — nor callous to the plight of the world secondary to the abominations committed by the mortgage industry and persons in the financial sector and I could really give a rip about those who think that we should not affix blame where blame is due and forget the consequences for their crimes.

The problem with the United States is a disregard for fiscal responsibility and accountability as well as regulation of industries who would prey upon the tax payer — like the credit card industry and the mortgage industry.

We may not be our brother’s keeper; but based on the events of the recent financial debacle and the consequences that irresponsibility has placed upon the entire world in which we live; we should at least attempt some modicum of monitoring.

Respectfully.

Posted by Dave W | Report as abusive