After reading Nye this week, I thought a lot about the role of soft power and our own public diplomacy in the United States. As a United States citizen who has traveled abroad quite frequently, I have seen this strange dichotomy in which the youth of some foreign nations fawn over American culture, but at the same time, absolutely detest it. When I was in Costa Rica, the people there would dress in clothing that are popular here in the United States, those that spoke English knew a good bit of American slang, and several popular American television shows were talked about. Granted, I was inside a bit of a “bubble” when I was in Costa Rica, as I was there to assist in the making of documentary films. I’m aware that saying “the people in Costa Rica were interested in _______” is a harsh generalization. But at the same time, these people I worked with are affluent people within Costa Rica’s society. Does that make them icons of cultural attainment within Costa Rica, or merely unknowing pawns of United States public diplomacy? Would that attachment to American culture still be the same if Bush were hypothetically still in office (Thank God for term limits).
I think that for a foreign culture to permeate a country there needs to be a lack of culture in place in that country, or at least not a strong footing for national culture. Of all the times I’ve been in the United Kingdom, I’d have to say that their culture is quite different from ours, and they often veer away from anything that is deemed too American. I remember an instance in 2006 when I went to visit Scotland for “Hogmanay” (New Years) in Edinburgh. I had gone out with some friends to several bars and clubs throughout the night, and almost every bouncer harangued me about my United States citizenship, and inquired if I was going to have George Bush come and drop a bomb. I think that George Bush really diminished our soft power within other Western super powers. I think that much of Europe, during the Bush administration, saw our country as foolish and aggressive.
I recalled reading this article in the Guardian several years ago, when Bush was ready to exit the White House. It’s an interesting read if you have the time. It examines the perspectives of several different authors, many born and raised outside of the United States, in respect to George Bush.
Also, these simple graphs were taken from the Pew Global Research Center.