By Brigitte L. Nacos
Foreign news and transnational surveys cannot fully reveal how politicians and publics abroad view the United States, its politics and policies, especially, as the latter relate or are perceived to relate to particular countries and regions. Thus, reporting from abroad can never convey first-hand experiences and encounters abroad.
In this respect, there were a few things that struck me during my stay in Turkey and conversations with people from more than a dozen countries, predominantly, the Near and Far East, former Soviet republics, the Balkans, Western Europe, and, of course, Turkey:
Most of all, reports in Turkish and Western European media and my conversations with individuals or small groups reminded me (1) that foreign reporting is far more prevalent and comprehensive abroad than in the U.S. media and (2) that, probably as a consequence of different reporting patterns, people in other countries are much better informed about politics and policies in the U.S. and other countries than Americans are about politics and policies beyond their own borders.
This may well explain why the view of America has not improved since President Obama moved into the White House. While not ignoring that Obama’s style is very different from that of his predecessor, the recurring theme I heard last week was that U.S. foreign and security policy did not change much, or not at all, in 2009 and 2010. Obviously, conciliatory messages can only work when meaningful policy changes come along with them.
Turkey is a foremost example for the waning influence of the U.S. in the world. The one-time reliant U.S. ally has not only moved away from marching to Washington’s drum beat but towards closer relations with Iran—not the least because the two countries are finding common ground in dealing with their own terrorist threats from Kurdish separatists of the PKK variety. Their is a perception that European and American decision makers are more sympathetic toward the Kurdish side and considerable determination to resist pressures from those circles to settle the Kurdish problem. It doesn't help that the once good relationship between Turkey and Israel is at a low point and may be beyond repair--another factor in the cooling of Ankara's attitudes vis-a-vis the U.S.
Inescapable is, too, that Iran’s influence is growing in the region. For example, there are growing economic and political interactions between Iran and countries in the region, for example, Georgia and Armenia.