Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism

Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Do American policymakers really know what the American public wants in U.S. foreign policy? Through extensive interviews with members of the policy community, the authors reveal a pervasive belief —especially in Congress —that, in the wake of the cold war, the public is showing a new isolationism: opposition to foreign aid, hostility to the United Nations, and aversion to contributing U.S. troops to peacekeeping operations. This view of the public has in turn had a significant impact on U.S. foreign policy.However, through a comprehensive review of polling data, as well as focus groups, the authors show that all these beliefs about the public are myths. The public does complain that the United States is playing the role of dominant world leader more than it should, but this does not lead to a desire to withdraw. Instead people prefer to share responsibility with other nations, particularly through the UN.The authors offer explanations of how such a misperception can occur and suggest ways to improve communication between the public and policymakers, including better presentation of polling data and more attention by practitioners to a wider public.
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About the author

Steven Kull, a political psychologist, is director of the Program on International Public Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland and WorldPublicOpinion.org, an international project studying public opinion around the world. He comanages the international polling for BBC World Service. His previous books include Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism (Brookings, 1999), written with I.M. Destler. He regularly appears in the U.S. and international media and has briefed Congress, the State Department, NATO, the United Nations, and the European Commission. His articles have appeared in Political Science Quarterly, Foreign Policy, Public Opinion Quarterly, Harpers, the Washington Post, and other publications. I. M. Destler is professor and director of the Program on International Security and Economic Policy at the School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
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Published on
Dec 31, 1999
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Pages
312
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ISBN
9780815717652
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / International Relations / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Ivo H. Daalder
The most solemn obligation of any president is to safeguard the nation's security. But the president cannot do this alone. He needs help. In the past half century, presidents have relied on their national security advisers to provide that help.

Who are these people, the powerful officials who operate in the shadow of the Oval Office, often out of public view and accountable only to the presidents who put them there? Some remain obscure even to this day. But quite a number have names that resonate far beyond the foreign policy elite: McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice.

Ivo Daalder and Mac Destler provide the first inside look at how presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush have used their national security advisers to manage America's engagements with the outside world. They paint vivid portraits of the fourteen men and one woman who have occupied the coveted office in the West Wing, detailing their very different personalities, their relations with their presidents, and their policy successes and failures.

It all started with Kennedy and Bundy, the brilliant young Harvard dean who became the nation's first modern national security adviser. While Bundy served Kennedy well, he had difficulty with his successor. Lyndon Johnson needed reassurance more than advice, and Bundy wasn't always willing to give him that. Thus the basic lesson -- the president sets the tone and his aides must respond to that reality.

The man who learned the lesson best was someone who operated mainly in the shadows. Brent Scowcroft was the only adviser to serve two presidents, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. Learning from others' failures, he found the winning formula: gain the trust of colleagues, build a collaborative policy process, and stay close to the president. This formula became the gold standard -- all four national security advisers who came after him aspired to be "like Brent."

The next president and national security adviser can learn not only from success, but also from failure. Rice stayed close to George W. Bush -- closer perhaps than any adviser before or since. But her closeness did not translate into running an effective policy process, as the disastrous decision to invade Iraq without a plan underscored. It would take years, and another national security aide, to persuade Bush that his Iraq policy was failing and to engineer a policy review that produced the "surge."

The national security adviser has one tough job. There are ways to do it well and ways to do it badly. Daalder and Destler provide plenty of examples of both. This book is a fascinating look at the personalities and processes that shape policy and an indispensable guide to those who want to understand how to operate successfully in the shadow of the Oval Office.
I. M. Destler
The alliance between Japan and the United States has entered a new era. Successful in promoting mutually beneficial relations during the cold war era, it must now be adapted to a world of detente and new dealings with China. Effective in helping the vulnerable postwar Japanese economy recover domestically and expand its trade internationally, it is now confronted with the different issues accompanying Japan's rise to third rank among the world's economic powers.

The alliance remains important because effective cooperation between Japan and the United States is indispensable to regional stability in East Asia and to a workable world economic order. This study of the politics and processes that influence U.S.-Japanese relations draws heavily on three episodes: revision of the bilateral security treaty in 1960; agreement on reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1969; and the dispute in 1969-71 over Japanese textile exports to the United States. All three illustrate differences and similarities in the national political and bureaucratic institutions through which policy decisions and actions are taken, how officials in each government perceive actions taken by the other, and recurrent patterns of misperception.

The authors' analysis of U.S. and Japanese negotiating tactics constitutes a guide to effective political management and consensus-building within each country. The study also accounts for the ways in which issues arise, the channels through which they are negotiated, and the effect of actions in one system on decisionmaking in the other. The authors conclude with suggestions about how to reduce tension and promote constructive bilateral relations—suggestions that they believe to be relevant to the conduct of U.S. relations with other major allies.

Michael E. O'Hanlon
The September 11 attacks forcefully brought home the need to better protect the U.S. homeland. But how can this be accomplished most effectively? Here, a team of Brookings scholars offers a four-tier plan to guide and bolster the efforts under way by the Bush administration and Congress. There has been some progress in making our homeland more secure. But the authors are concerned that the Bush administration may focus too narrowly on preventing attacks like those of the recent past and believe a broader and more structured approach to ensuring homeland security is needed. Given the vulnerability of our open society, the authors recommend four clear lines of direction. The first and last have received a good deal of attention from the Bush administration, though not yet enough; for the other two, a great deal remains to be done: Perimeter defense at the border to prevent entry by potential perpetrators and the weapons and hazardous materials they may use Prevention by detecting possible terrorists within the United States and securing dangerous materials they might obtain here Identification and defense of key sites within the county: population centers, critical economic assets and infrastructure, and locations of key political or symbolic importance Consequence management to give those directly involved in responding to an attack that may nevertheless occur the tools necessary to quickly identify and attack and limit its damage Included are specific recommendations on how much more to spend on homeland security, how much of the cost should be borne by the private sector, and how to structure the federal government to make the responsible agencies more efficient in addressing security concerns. Specifically, the authors believe that annual federal spending on homeland security may need to grow to about $45 billion, relative to a 2001 level of less than $20 billion and a Bush administration proposed budget for 2003 of $38 billion. They also discuss what burden state, local, and private-sector actors should bear in the overall national effort. Finally, the authors conclude that rather than creating a homeland security superagency, Tom Ridge, the director of the Office of Homeland Security, should have enhanced authority.
Steven Kull
Though it has been nearly a decade since the attacks of September 11, the threat of terrorism emanating from the Muslim world has not subsided. U.S. troops fight against radical Islamists overseas, and on a daily basis, Americans pass through body scanners as part of the effort to defend against another attack. Naturally, many Americans wonder what is occurring in Muslim society that breeds such hostility toward the United States.

Steven Kull, a political psychologist and acknowledged authority on international public opinion, has sought to understand more deeply how Muslims see America. How widespread is hostility toward the United States in the Muslim world? And what are its roots? How much support is there for radical groups that attack Americans, and why? Kull conducted focus groups with representative samples in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Jordan, Iran, and Indonesia; conducted numerous in-depth surveys in eleven majority-Muslim nations over a period of several years; and comprehensively analyzed data from other organizations such as Gallup, World Values Survey and the Arab Barometer. He writes:

"A premise of this book is that the problem of terrorism does not simply lie in the small number of people who join terrorist organizations. Rather, the existence of terrorist organizations is a symptom of a tension in the larger society that finds a particularly virulent expression in certain individuals. The hostility toward the United States in the broader society plays a critical role in sustaining terrorist groups, even if most disapprove of those groups' tactics. The essential 'problem,' then, is one of America's relationship with the society as a whole."

Through quotes from focus groups as well as survey data, Kull digs below the surface of Muslim anger at America to reveal the underlying narrative of America as oppressing— and at a deeper level, as having betrayed—the Muslim people. With the subtlety of a psychologist he shows how this anger is fed by an "inner clash of civilizations," between Muslims' desire to connect with America and all that it represents, and their fear that America will overwhelm and destroy their traditional Islamic culture.

Finally, Kull maps out the implications of these findings for U.S. foreign policy, showing how many U.S. actions antagonize the larger Muslim population and help al Qaeda by improving their capacity for recruitment. He specifies steps that can mitigate Muslim hostility and draw on some of the underlying shared values that can support more respectful and, possibly, even amicable Muslim-American relations.

Michael E. O'Hanlon
A good deal has been done to improve the safety of Americans on their own soil since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Yet there have been numerous setbacks. The Bush administration and Congress wasted at least six months in 2002 due to partisan disagreement over a new budget for homeland security, and as one consequence, resources were slow to reach first responders across the country. Most improvements in homeland security have focused on "refighting the last war"—improving defenses against attacks similar to those the country has already suffered. Not enough has been done to anticipate possible new kinds of terrorist actions. Policymakers have also focused too much attention on the creation of a department of homeland security—rather than identifying and addressing the kinds of threats to which the country remains vulnerable. While the creation of a cabinet-level agency focusing on homeland security may have merit, the authors of this study argue that the department will not, in and of itself, make Americans safer. To the contrary, the complexity of merging so many disparate agencies threatens to distract Congress and the administration from other, more urgent security efforts. This second edition of Protecting the American Homeland urges policymakers to focus on filling key gaps that remain in the current homeland security effort: identifying better protection for private infrastructure; using information technology to share intelligence and more effectively "connect the dots" that could hold hints to possible terrorist tactics; expanding the capacities of the Coast Guard and Customs Service, as well as airline transportation security; dealing with the possible threat of surface-to-air missiles to airliners; and encouraging better coordination among intelligence agencies. While acknowledging the impossibility of preventing every possible type of terrorist violence, the authors recommend a more systematic approach to homeland security that focuses on preventing attacks that can cause large numbers of casualties, massive economic or societal disruption, or severe political harm to the nation.
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