Restoring America’s Reputation

March 8, 2010 By Salim Alchurbaji

The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight held a hearing on March 4th entitled “Restoring America’s Reputation in the World: Why it Matters. Chairman Russ Carnahan (D-MO) noted that international opinion of the United States and its foreign policies were at an all-time low in 2007, but, according to a report by the Pew Center, America’s image was restored by 2009. Chairman Carnahan expressed his hopes that enhancing America’s image would provide an enabling environment leading to greater diplomatic, economic, and security benefits for the United States.

Andrew Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center, expanded on the findings of the Pew international survey which found that personal confidence in President Obama, rather than opinion about his specific policies, was fueling the resurgence of America’s image in many countries. The worldwide survey showed that most people thought Obama would seek international approval before using military force and would take into account the interests of their country when making U.S. policy. How President Obama manages and presents the assertion of U.S. power will continue to be critical to the restoration of America’s reputation around the world, according to Kohut.

Dr. Joseph Nye, Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, emphasized the necessary and enabling role of smart power (a combination of the America’s development, diplomatic and military power) in achieving foreign policy goals. He stated that the United States’ sense of unilateralism after the fall of the Soviet Union came back to haunt us due to our disregard of soft power and primary focus on the use of military power to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives.  He believes America should invest in more development, humanitarian, and medical aid abroad as well as better funding for the departments that implement U.S. foreign policy.

Finally, Dr. Michael Waller of the Center for Security Policy warned that America’s tarnished image is having a negative affect on our overseas agenda. As an example, he pointed to the backing out of our NATO allies from their commitments in Afghanistan, leading the U.S. to bear a greater burden than we had previously anticipated. Dr. Waller recommended the reestablishment and better funding of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), as well as ensuring its independence from the State Department. Due to the slow pace of decision making, he advised that the hierarchical pyramid be flattened to expedite the process.