Americans Want Allies, Willing to Go Alone

The United Nations Foundation has released a new survey showing that Americans overwhelmingly prefer multilateral solutions to foreign policy issues. Mark Leon Goldberg provides an executive summary:

The United Nations Foundation released the results of a major survey of Americans’ foreign policy attitudes today. Americans, the poll finds, are virtually unanimous (86% of all voters) in the belief that working with allies and through international organizations is a wiser strategy for achieving America’s foreign policy priorities.

The poll also finds that 73% of all voters are more likely to vote for a candidate for President who understands that “solutions to world problems require international cooperation, whether they are economic problems, environmental problems, or problems of peace and war and that international cooperation is a better way of solving some of the world’s key problems.” Voters also show a strong preference for a candidate who can put an end to anti-Americanism and “restore trust in America through strong diplomatic efforts and cooperative partnerships with other nations around the world.”

The full report, in PDF format, is here.

The results, frankly, aren’t that surprising. Indeed, in the abstract, Americans have preferred working with allies since roughly the end of World War I. But, when push comes to shove, most Americans want a leader who puts America first, is tough, and willing to act alone if international cooperation can’t be secured:

UN Survey

So, while the top-line numbers are encouraging for liberal internationalists, the bottom line remains what it always has.

Indeed, readers might recall that the Bush Administration spent months trying to bring the United Nations on board for the invasion of Iraq. Umpteen Security Council resolutions were passed, Hans Blix and crew were dispatched, President Bush and Colin Powell gave passionate speeches to the General Assembly, and so forth. That was done out of both genuine conviction that multilateralism was preferable but also out of domestic political calculation. At the end of the day, though, we reserved the right to build a Coalition of the Willing and take on the fight without the U.N. on board. That’s not likely to change anytime soon.

Note, too, the paltry support (30%) for committing U.S. troops to help out in international trouble spots.

It would seem that Americans still want the foreign policy George W. Bush campaigned on in 2000.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, United Nations, World Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mannning says:

    Your conclusion seems quite right. However, perhaps half the nation will not baldly own up to it directly.

    Improving our image abroad has puzzled me for a long time. We are who we are, and I do not see us changing in any major way. Then, too, It also puzzles me as to just who it is that we should listen to about this. Not the socialist nations of Europe; not the Islamic nations; not the African nations; not the South American nations; not Russia or China; so just who? A majority of the 200 or so nations around the world are amoral, if not immoral. For those nations, why should we care? The UN? Driven by a majority that votes against us.

    We would improve our image immensely if we could shut up the America-Haters in our own country.

  2. mannning says:

    Or, at least, drown them out with facts and figures that counter their hatred.

  3. kb says:

    Indeed, readers might recall that the Bush Administration spent months trying to bring the United Nations on board for the invasion of Iraq.

    And the UN has certainly been proven wrong , what with all those WMD’s the UK/US occupation forces found. And all those links to 9/11 they found…

    Oh hang on, they didn’t find anything did they?

    So the UN was right and Bush & Blair were wrong.

    See also what the french goverment and the russian goverment were saying before the invasion.

    If you are going to go the UN please dont do it with intelligence that UNSC council members have already told you is unreliable (see curveball and the german intelligence service).

  4. Tano says:

    “Improving our image abroad has puzzled me for a long time.”

    Gee, what a surprise.

    “We are who we are, and I do not see us changing in any major way.”

    Just wait till Jan ’09. Or are you of the opinion that there is no difference in the foreign policy stance promulgated by different political camps in America?

    “Then, too, It also puzzles me as to just who it is that we should listen to about this”

    Bingo. The roots of your cluelessness made manifest. No, we dont go looking to other places in the world for inspiration, or to “listen to”. We look to our own values and traditions – starting with the liberal internationalist tradition forged after WWII. Build international institutions, promulgate our values in international law, nurture and sustain alliances to enforce those laws, and exercise moral leadership through example. All the things the right has eased away from, if not, in some cases, run from.

  5. mannning says:

    Ah Tano!

    We look to our own values and traditions – starting with the liberal internationalist tradition forged after WWII.

    The Internationale! Where have I heard this before? Might it have come from Gus Hall?

    Perhaps you are not aware of the rather spectacular discredit such ideas have fallen into, especially after it has become quite clear that the UN experiment has largely failed and shown to be a kleptocracy; The EU has emerged as a socialist conglomeration designed to compete internationally with the US; the Chinese are likewise growing wildly while arming themselves for war; the Islamic oil fiefdoms have really begun to rip us off; the Africans are virtually hopeless; and, the South Americans are still feeling neglected, and seem to be turning towards Chavez; while Russia is trying to parlay its oil into something bigger–for Russia.

    Just what liberal and international scheme you are touting is totally unclear, unless you are suggesting a world government composed of the above admixture of moral cripples–a sort of revamped UN with teeth. If so, you are, as have many others attempted to do, trying to put together what will not work together, not ever, simply because of their implacable moral deficiencies.

    It would seem that your ideas might look good on paper, as in a high school theme paper where everyone is swimmingly warm and cosy with each other, but in the real world, liberal internationalism just does not fly, has not, and will not, particularly under the banner of socialism or communism.