Foreign Public Opinion & National Security
22 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2012
Date Written: March 1, 2010
Obama Administration officials, supporters, and critics have acknowledged that the opinion of the world, broadly conceived, matters. Does it? Should it? Is it wimpy and naïve, or is it smart, to regard improving foreign public opinion as a key factor in decisionmaking about national security or even a key policy purpose, including where national security intersects with legal policy? What is the record to date? The idea of foreign sentiments mattering to national security is not as radical, nor as simple, as it may sound. Foreign opinion has been an intensive focus of statecraft for millennia. What is different is that in our time revolutionary changes in the nature of power globally have accorded unprecedented importance to foreign public opinion, specifically foreign popular perceptions of U.S. policy. The George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations have both understood this and have launched major efforts intended to improve dramatically foreign public perception of the United States. The Bush and Obama foreign public opinion strategies, although significantly different, both transcend traditional public diplomacy. They have also encountered similar challenges associated with tensions between means and ends, the near and long terms, foreign and domestic sentiment, and hope and fear. There is no simple solution to dealing with global opinion in difficult policy decisions, but U.S. policymakers need to understand its relevance. Most importantly, at a time of unprecedented domestic politicization of anti-terror policy, the U.S. political culture needs to allow political space for discussion of foreign opinion as a legitimate factor in decisionmaking about national security.
Keywords: foreign public opinion, Obama Administration, public diplomacy, counterinsurgency, foreign policy, national security law, Guantanamo Bay
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation