Anti-Americanism Is Providing a Glue
The rhetoric from the leaders of Iran, Sudan and Venezuela at
the U.N. shared a theme of outrage at the U.S., despite their
By Paul Richter, Times Staff Writer
Angeles Times" -- -- WASHINGTON — The outpouring
of anti-American rhetoric at the United Nations this week is
demonstrating how anger at the United States is uniting the
developing world in a way not seen since the 1980s, U.S.
officials and analysts say.
Leaders such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Sudan's Omar Hassan
Ahmed Bashir and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are divided by
background and political philosophies, but they spoke as one at
the General Assembly regarding perceived U.S. bullying and
Chavez denounced the "imperialist empire," Ahmadinejad railed
against U.S. officials' pretensions to be the "rulers of the
world," and Bashir complained about powerful intruders trampling
his country's sovereignty.
"There's a new sense of the oppressed versus the oppressor,"
said a senior U.S. official, who asked to remain unnamed. "What
they have in common is their hatred of the U.S., and it's
created this solidarity across Third World lines."
That solidarity hasn't been seen in the developing world since
leftist liberation movements faded after the collapse of the
Soviet Union, he said.
The fallout from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and other Bush
administration policies may be particularly visible in the new
bonds between many Muslim nations and populist regimes of South
America, an alliance that some call the "axis of the south."
Chavez has become a hero among Muslims, flattered with huge
posters in Beirut and given lavish coverage in the news media
from Morocco to Pakistan.
Anti-Americanism was the overarching theme last week in Havana
at a 118-nation summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, whose
headliners included Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Bolivian President
Evo Morales. The leaders embodied a burgeoning spirit of
defiance toward "the worldwide dictatorship by the United
States," declared Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage Davila.
There is little doubt of the deepening unpopularity of the
United States, even among longtime allies. Though the U.S.
government has doubled its spending on public diplomacy, a poll
this year by the Pew Charitable Trusts showed wide
dissatisfaction with a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy,
the "war against terrorism."
When people in largely Muslim nations were asked whether they
approved of "U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism," 82% in Egypt
said no, as did 74% in Jordan, 77% in Turkey and 50% in
Pakistan. The results in some European countries were similar.
In Spain, 76% of those surveyed said they did not approve; in
France, it was 57%.
U.S. officials say they don't believe the growing Third World
solidarity constitutes a strategic threat.
Though Chavez visits Iran and Syria, and talks about defense
ties, oil sales and economic deals with these countries, North
Korea and others, administration officials take the view that
the Venezuelan's declarations are mostly posturing to create an
impression at home that he has stature as a world leader.
The administration acknowledges that such contacts reinforce
anti-Americanism and add to the already sobering public
diplomacy challenge. "It creates this impression that everybody
is rising up against the Americans, and that's a problem," said
the senior U.S. official.
Some outsiders say these new bonds are more than an image
Chavez, for example, has won substantial support from Latin
American governments for his bid to win a nonpermanent seat on
the U.N. Security Council, even as the Bush administration has
campaigned to have the seat go to the friendlier Guatemala. If
Venezuela wins, the United States, in addition to facing a
barrage of rhetoric, will have a harder time collecting the
votes it needs on the council.
This Third World solidarity also has made it easier for Bashir
to block a U.N. peacekeeping deployment in the Darfur region of
his country, said Lee Feinstein of the Council on Foreign
Relations in Washington.
Bashir "has succeeded in interfering with the U.N. deployment by
depicting this as an old-fashioned 'us versus the United
States,' " said Feinstein, a senior State Department official
during the Clinton administration. "The American ability to
credibly rally the international community on behalf of the
vulnerable in Darfur has been eroded by this unpopularity."
Feinstein said that in drawing together these parts of the
world, U.S. unpopularity "has created real diplomatic problems
for the country, many of them second-order, but also some big
The State Department has sought to not overreact to the efforts
of Chavez and others to forge such alliances, but domestic
pressure has been building from conservatives for U.S. diplomats
to do more about the situation.
Prominent Republican lawmakers regularly ask State Department
officials what more diplomacy can do about Chavez's efforts to
build power alliances. And it is clear that this week's
outpouring of anger in New York has spread alarm in some
quarters and will bring more pressure for the administration to
"The Non-Aligned Movement threw down the gauntlet to U.S. global
power this week," said Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy analyst
at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. "This is
a huge public diplomacy challenge, but also a strategic threat."
He said Chavez's words were "the strongest attack from any
foreign leader on U.S. soil in decades."
Still, analysts and U.S. officials point out that though the
shared anti-Americanism of these countries is striking, so too
are their differences.
Although advocates of this "axis of the south" describe it as
similar to the leftist liberation movements of 20 years ago and
earlier, Arab leaders and Africans do not generally share their
leftist leanings. And Chavez has yet to win the leadership role
in Latin America he craves.
Feinstein said that even though the withering denunciations by
Chavez and Ahmadinejad drew applause this week, overall, members
of the United Nations were much more united behind
American-style views of democracy and economics than they had
"Opposition has hardened into anti-Americanism and shifted
government policy in many places around the world, but the
U.N.'s membership is much more in sync with traditional U.S.
foreign policy goals and ideals than at any time since the
U.N.'s founding," he said. "The tragedy is, the Bush
administration hasn't been able to take advantage of that fact."
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