Bush asks European leaders to help promote democracy
But a poll shows Europeans don't believe that's the United States' job.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush is calling on European leaders to support his campaign to spread democracy abroad at a time people in many of those countries have doubts whether that should be the U.S. role in the world, Associated Press polling found.
A majority of people in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain said they thought it should not be the U.S. role to spread democracy, according to AP-Ipsos polls. A majority of those living in Canada, Mexico and South Korea also disagreed with that role.
Bush is on a five-day fence-mending trip to Europe after tensions were raised there by the war in Iraq. In a speech Monday in Brussels, Belgium, the president promoted democracy as the path forward for a host of countries, from Saudi Arabia to Iran and Syria, and urged European leaders to move beyond the rift over Iraq and join his pro-liberty campaign.
"This strategy is not American strategy, or European strategy or Western strategy," Bush said in an echo of the broad themes of his inaugural address a month ago. "Spreading liberty for the sake of peace is the cause of all mankind."
Yet the public skepticism reflected in a new AP-Ipsos poll in Europe indicates the American president faces plenty of work on that front -- a development that analysts of international relations suggested was not surprising.
"There's still wariness and resentment of the United States in general," said Michael Mandelbaum, a professor who specializes in European studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Bush's efforts, he said, were having a limited impact in spreading democracy.
"In the wake of the Iraq war, there's particular suspicion of this administration," Mandelbaum said.
White House counselor Dan Bartlett suggested that foreigners may misunderstand Bush's plan to spread the liberties that Europeans and Americans take for granted.
"People get in their mind that spreading freedom means war and that's not the case," Bartlett said in an interview Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "Some of those opinion polls are reading in to it a little more than what President Bush intends."
Resistance to Bush's plans to promote democracy abroad was strongest in France, with 84 percent saying the United States should not play that role, according to the polling conducted for the Associated Press by Ipsos, an international polling firm.
About as many Germans took that position, 80 percent, while two-thirds of those in Britain said they didn't think the United States should be exporting democracy. Just over half of those in Spain and Italy felt that way.
"It's hard to believe our allies are indifferent to the spread of democracy," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. "But they obviously don't feel comfortable with George Bush as the self-annointed spreader of democracy."
In the United States, a slight majority, 53 percent, said the United States should not be trying to spread democracy, while 45 percent said the United States should play that role.
"Europeans in general -- especially the European elites -- tend to be more cynical about the possibilities of exporting democracy," said Mandelbaum, author of the book "Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy and Free Markets." "There is a general feeling that democracy just doesn't fit some cultures."
While people in many of the countries polls don't approve of Bush's policies, that does not appear to be having much impact on how they view U.S. consumer goods.
For example, attitudes about U.S. goods in France, lukewarm at best, have not shifted significantly since December 2001, before the U.S.-led war in Iraq.