Public thinking about americans' role in the world pdf

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This report presents an analysis of people's thinking as they deliberated together in public forums about Americans' Role in the World. The analysis is based on forums held in 37 states, on moderator interviews representing forums in 22 locations, observations of six forums, videotape of four forums, and on the results of two online forums. The report is also based on the analysis of 1,486 post-forum questionnaires that were returned between April 2003 and April 2004.

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Public thinking about americans' role in the world pdf

  1. 1. A KETTERING FOUNDATION REPORT October 2004 Prepared by John Doble Research Associates P U B L I C T H I N K I N G A B O U T Americans’Role in the World An Analysis of Results from the 2003-2004 National Issues Forums
  2. 2. Copyright © 2004 by the Kettering Foundation The Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation, chartered in 1927, that does not make grants but welcomes partnerships with other institutions (or groups of institutions) and individuals who are actively working on problems of communities, politics, and education. The interpretations and con- clusions contained in this publication, unless expressly stated to the contrary, represent the views of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the foundation, its trustees, or officers. www.kettering.org
  3. 3. About This Report 1 About the Forums: A Framework for Public Deliberation 4 Key Findings: Americans on America’s Role in the World 6 The Nature of Public Thinking: How Citizens Approach Complex Issues of Politics and Policy 8 Forum Results: Toward a Common Ground for Action 13 The Effects of Deliberation: The Impact of Forums on People’s Thinking 24 Appendices: A. Questions and Answers about the Forums 26 B. Questionnaire Results 29 C. Forum Transcript Excerpts 32 D. Methodology 38 E. Demographics 40 F. Issue Map 42 About Doble Research 44 About National Issues Forums 45 About the Kettering Foundation 46 Contents
  4. 4. October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World When it comes to foreign policy, conventional wisdom suggests that Americans are indifferent and ill informed. Their views are too simplistic. They care little for the complexities of charting a new course for the United States in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 world. The results of a two-year research project by the Kettering Foundation, however, suggest something quite different, namely, that Americans care deeply about our nation’s role in the world and they are thinking about it in complex ways. They see clear links not only between national security and our image abroad, but also between national security and issues like human rights, trade, and the war on AIDS—and they wish public officials and policymakers were making the same connections. The project’s findings are based on the results of more than 100 deliberative forums in 37 different states and represent the collective judgment of thousands of citizens from all walks of life. Organized by the National Issues Forums (NIF) network, the forums took place over the course of some 15 months, beginning in early 2003, during the buildup to the Iraq War. The results of these forums are explored in detail in this report by John Doble Research Associates, a nonpartisan research firm that specializes in analyzing public opinion about complex policy issues. While opinion polls and press accounts at the time—and since— have suggested that Americans’ views on foreign policy and the war are polarized and extreme, these forums revealed something quite different: common ground. After a decade of uncertainty, Americans are beginning to find their way through the post-Cold War world and the perplexing realities of globalization and terrorism. Rather than simply falling back on political ideology, those taking part in these deliber- ative forums had the ability to struggle with difficult issues and tradeoffs. Their thinking was highly nuanced. Their views, in fact, were far more sophisticated than policy- makers and political commentators commonly realize. Americans are interested in effectiveness and ethics—defining not only the reasonable thing to do, but also the right thing to do. A decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union—and the disappearance of our traditional communist enemy— Americans are clearly beginning to find their voice. They are beginning to define the kind of world they want to live in and the kind of world they want to pass on to their children and grandchildren. Key Findings: • Military power and Moral Authority. When it comes to protecting national security and combating terrorism, as forum participants see it, international standing is as important as military strength. In fact, while 1 About This Report: What Americans have to say about America’s role in the world and why it matters BY HAROLD H. SAUNDERS AND KENNETH A. BROWN
  5. 5. 2 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World their belief in the importance of a strong military is almost unanimous, they see our global reputation as an almost decisive element in our ability to both play a leading role in the world and defend ourselves. After 9/11, participants say, the United States lost an invaluable opportunity to strengthen alliances with traditional allies and build relationships with old opponents—particularly in the Muslim world. Instead, the sympa- thy and goodwill that followed the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., have been replaced by distrust and enmity. • Building Alliances and the Use of Force. Like the public at large, forum participants were deeply divided about the war in Iraq. Yet, whether they thought the decision was right or wrong, in terms of long-term national security, few thought it was the best decision. While they believe the United States needs a strong military to defend its interests and has the unquestionable right to defend itself against imminent attacks, they are concerned about the moral and financial costs of going it alone. Force, forum participants say, should be used only as a last resort and only in conjunction with others. The United States, they argue, should be neither isolationist nor the world’s policeman. Instead, we should work more closely with others to build the kind of world we want to live in together. • Human Rights and Democracy. While forum participants generally believe that the spread of democ- racy would make both the United States and the world safer in the long run, they also feel that trying to impose democracy is counter- productive. We need, they explain, to be careful to respect others’ cultural traditions and political realities. They believe our priorities and principles would be better served by pushing for the protection of basic human rights—particularly where ethnic minorities, women, and children are concerned. From the perspective of forum goers, a world in which basic human rights are respected is one in which all nations can begin to work together to solve those problems that no nation can solve alone. • Focusing on the Long Term. In addition to developing alliances and protecting human rights, forum participants say, the United States needs to pay more attention to larger global problems, for example, AIDS, economic inequality, and global warming. In terms of long- term global stability, these comprise the problem behind the problem. Often, forum participants approach these issues from a very different perspective from that of experts. Instead of free trade, for instance, forum participants spoke of fair trade: treaties and trade agreements that not only protect American jobs, but also promote the health and safety of workers in the developing world. Rather than sitting on the sidelines, participants say, the United States should play a leading role in attacking these kinds of issues. To some observers, these results will no doubt seem like wishful thinking or the products of well-informed and well-thought-out hindsight. However, it is important to remember that much of the data in this report was gathered in forums that took place during the actual buildup to the Iraq War. That they look and sound so different from the picture of public opinion and public thinking painted by opinion polls and political commentary of that time should come as no surprise.
  6. 6. 3October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World The findings in this report are not the product of traditional opinion polls or a collection of expert theories. They are the result of something far more profound: public deliberation— the collective judgment of citizens from all across the country, as expres- sed in locally organized, nonpartisan forums. Forums are not popularity contests. Participants do not merely argue or vote. They work together, carefully weighing the costs and benefits of different approaches, struggling to define a collective course for action. For the press and public officials alike, forums offer a glimpse into citizens’ most deeply held beliefs and desires— invaluable information whether one’s goal is covering the news or develop- ing policy. About the Kettering Foundation For more than 20 years, the Kettering Foundation has been using forums to study Americans’ views about foreign policy and America’s role in the world. Studies have cov- ered public thinking in this regard on everything from the nuclear arms race to terrorism. Coupled with this research has been extensive work in public diplomacy—bringing citizens and policymakers together through such initiatives as the Dartmouth Conferences on U.S.-Soviet relations during the height of the Cold War as well as present-day programs like the U.S.-China Dialogues and others in Russia, Thailand, and Tajikistan. Other international research proj- ects include collaborative work with community and human rights groups around the world to demonstrate both the widespread roots and the wide- spread reach of democratic practices at the national, state, and community level. Nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the foundation’s key research question is “What does it take to make democracy work as it should?” A healthy democracy depends on public participation, not just in regularly scheduled elections, but also in the ongoing and much harder business of finding solutions to persistent public problems. Nowhere is that fact more critical today than in the task of developing a sustainable and effective approach for protecting the nation’s security and defining its role in the world. For far too long, that job has been considered one solely for professionals and political leaders. The public need not apply. By offering a framework for public deliberation, forums help citizens find solutions to the prob- lems that concern them—a way of connecting both with others in their community and with their elected officials. They help put the public into public policy, whether the issue is local public schools or our nation’s role in the world. People cannot act together until they decide together. Deliberation is not just about talking over issues, but about talking through them— bringing divided interests together to find a common ground for action. Hal Saunders is the head of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and the director of Inter- national Programs at the Kettering Foundation. A former Assistant Secretary of State, in 1978 he helped draft the Camp David Accords and in 1980-1981 helped negotiate the release of American hostages in Iran. Ken Brown is a program officer at the Kettering Foundation. He works regularly with the NIF network on research questions involving public- government relations and the media. He has worked as a journalist in Africa, Latin America, and the United States.
  7. 7. 4 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World This report is about public thinking on Americans’ role in the world—the thoughts, insights, and values of 1,486 everyday Americans as expressed in deliberative forums organized around the country by the National Issues Forums (NIF) network. Between early 2003 and mid-2004, the forums brought citizens together in high school, college, literacy, and ESL classrooms; churches, synagogues, and mosques; community and senior centers; public libraries; private homes; and even prisons to deliberate about U.S. foreign policy and our nation’s role in world affairs. Behind this analysis of the public’s thinking, of course, is the forum process itself: the framework used to structure public deliberation in these public forums and the question of values at stake. The outcomes of these forums reveal not only a number of important insights about the nature of the public’s thinking on Americans’ role in the world, but also the nature of public thinking in general—how citizens reason together and how lasting public views about questions of politics and policy take shape— in short, how people struggle with difficult public issues. Together, they help reveal that citizens are ready to define a clear course of action and are willing to make the tradeoffs required. An Analysis of Public Thinking When people come together in a National Issues Forum, they deliberate for up to three hours with a trained, impartial moderator. The deliberations occur within a frame- work designed to present an array of approaches for dealing with a complex issue, including the costs and consequences of each approach. National Issues Forums are designed to help people see that even the most complex issues can be approached, understood, and deliberated about by ordinary citizens. Although the people who attend a National Issues Forum comprise a geographically and demographically diverse group of American citizens, they are not, as pollsters often seek, a random (or national probability) sample.i As a further distinction, while pollsters commonly sample opinion over only a few days, these forums took place over many months. Consequently, the results of forums and those of polls fundamentally differ. While a poll provides a statisti- cally precise snapshot of what the public thinks at a given time, forums yield a richer, more stable, and more differentiated set of results. Forum results enable us to analyze and About the Forums: A Framework for Public Deliberation i See Tables and Methodology at the end of this report for a description of who attended these forums. To check our results we also conducted a series of Research Forums or Focus Groups. See pages 38–41 for details. The outcomes of these forums reveal not only a number of important insights about the nature of the public’s thinking on Americans’ role in the world, but also the nature of public thinking in general—how citizens reason together and how lasting public views about questions of politics and policy take shape—in short, how people struggle with difficult public issues. National Issues Forums are designed to help people see that even the most complex issues can be approached, understood, and deliberated about by ordinary citizens. While a poll provides a statistically precise snapshot of what the public thinks at a given time, forums yield a different, richer, more differentiated set of results.
  8. 8. During deliberation, people considered each approach in turn. At the end of the forums, moderators and recorders asked the groups to consider what they had agreed on, where they had disagreed, and what common ground for action, if any, they had identified.ii The Boundaries of Political Permission The eminent social scientist Daniel Yankelovich has written that the appropriate role of citizens in a democratic society is to establish a broad set of guidelines, or what he called “the boundaries of political permission,” within which policy can be carried out. It is unrealistic and unwise, Yankelovich writes, to expect average citizens to acquire the expert’s level of knowledge or in-depth understanding and then provide clear dictates for the enact- ment of public policy. However, a “deliberative public,” a public that has the opportunity to learn and deliberate about even the most complex issues, can establish a set of clearly identifiable boundaries within which policymakers can act. This report describes some of the boundaries of political permission forum participants established for Americans’ role in the world. 5October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World iiFor a more detailed description of the issue map see Appendix F pages 42–43. map people’s thinking by revealing the values people draw on and the considerations they bring to bear as they struggle with an issue over a long period of time. Forums enable us to explore what we might call the “public mind,” including the tension points and strains in people’s thinking as they deliberate about how to deal with an issue as complex as Americans’ role in the world. A Framework for Public Deliberation For their deliberations in these forums, people from across the country used the same framework and considered the same broad approaches, each of which was pre- sented with pro and con arguments and an array of costs and conse- quences. Every direction or course of action involved risks, uncertainties, and tradeoffs. Thus, preferences were associated with costs. Using an issue book and starter video, forum participants considered four perspectives on defining the nation’s role in the world: • Promoting international order by using our power to secure the peace • Fostering global stability by promoting democracy and supporting human rights • Working to promote equality and stability around the world through free trade and economic development • Securing a safe future by addressing worldwide health and environmental problems such as AIDS and global warming The appropriate role of citizens in a democratic society is to establish a broad set of guide- lines, or boundaries of political permission within which policy can be carried out. A public that has the opportunity to learn and deliberate about even the most complex issues, can establish a set of clearly identifiable boundaries within which policymakers can act.
  9. 9. Defining National Security When it comes to national security, forum participants have what might be considered a surprisingly broad perception of the issues involved. They see it as including not only our ability to respond to military and terrorist threats, but also our interna- tional standing: how the rest of the world views us and perceives our intentions. The United States, many said, not only failed after 9/11 to seize the opportunity to build bridges and cement alliances, but also caused the goodwill foreigners felt in the aftermath of that attack to be replaced by enmity, especially in the Middle East and among Muslims. People felt the country should work to under- stand and address these sentiments. While sharp divisions existed about the current U.S. involvement in Iraq, forum participants agreed on a great deal. There was consensus that the United States needs a strong military, for example, and agreement that force should be the option of last resort and then only after extensive public debate. Except in cases of dire emergency, forum participants also agreed that the country should use force only in concert with other nations. The belief in the need for leadership through international cooperation was so strong, in fact, that it played a role in a host of 6 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Key Findings: Americans on Americans’ Role in the World other issues as well—everything from promoting democracy and economic development to protecting the environment and public health. Supporting Democracy and Protecting Human Rights People said the United States should promote the spread of democracy around the globe because it would enhance national security and make the world a safer place. At the same time, they felt that this country should not use military force to “impose” democracy on other countries. The United States, forum participants said, needs to be more sensitive to the beliefs and values of other countries. Pointing to problems in the 2000 presidential election and the inequali- ties in our current health care system and national economy, many forum participants said America should address its own shortcomings before trying to spread its political and economic system internationally. Protecting Human Rights While urging respect for other cultures and traditions, people strong- ly felt that the United States should promote basic universal standards of human rights, especially those for the protection of ethnic minorities, women, and children. As in forums When it comes to national security, forum participants have what might be considered a surprisingly broad perception of the issues involved. They see it as including not only our ability to respond to military and terrorist threats, but also our international standing: how the rest of the world views us and perceives our intentions. While sharp divisions existed about the current U.S. involve- ment in Iraq, forum participants agreed on a great deal. There was consensus that the United States needs a strong military, for example, and agreement that force should be the option of last resort and then only after exten- sive public debate.
  10. 10. 7October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World in previous years, participants drew a distinction between protecting human rights and promoting the spread of democracy, giving the protection of human rights an unqual- ified endorsement. Although forum participants believe that the spread of democracy can help make the world a safer place in the long term, they believe protecting human rights is of more immediate concern. Promoting Economic Development Participants generally opposed protectionism and favored free trade, but they found it easier to identify the downsides of trade, both here and in developing countries, than the benefits free trade brings to con- sumers. Consequently, a great deal of people’s support for free trade appeared to be qualified. While support for free trade was widespread at the start of most forum discussions, many participants said that recent trade agreements unfairly disadvantage American workers and need adjustment. Many were more interested in promoting what they called fair trade—a vision of global- ization that protected American jobs while promoting the health and safety of workers overseas, particularly in poorer nations. Long-term Global Threats Participants strongly believe that preserving the country’s security requires the United States to take the lead in forging international partner- ships with other nations to address long-term global threats. People said the United States should address these problems not only for humanitarian reasons, but also out of self-interest. In the long term, they saw addressing these issues as closely tied to preserv- ing political stability around the world and controlling or even eliminating the threat of terrorism. Many who deliberated in these forums, however, saw economic considerations as critical. They felt hard-pressed personally and said the United States lacks the resources to be overly involved in global affairs. For some, the costs of the military were onerous. Others talked about the economic effects of trade. Still others questioned whether the country has the resources to afford foreign aid, promote the spread of democracy, or deal with global threats when there are so many urgent needs here in the United States. Even so, they broadly agreed that world health and environmental threats should receive a higher priori- ty than they currently do, with a large majority saying they would be willing to make lifestyle changes to address global warming and reduce our dependence on Middle-Eastern oil. Addressing long-term global threats was seen as a key part of ensuring our long-term national security. People said the United States should promote the spread of democracy around the globe because it would enhance national security and make the world a safer place. At the same time, they felt that this country should not use military force to “impose” democracy on other countries. While support for free trade was widespread at the start of most forum discussions, many participants said that recent trade agreements unfairly disadvantage American workers and need adjustment. Participants strongly believe that preserving the country’s security requires the United States to take the lead in forging international partnerships with other nations to address long-term global threats.
  11. 11. 8 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World National Issues Forums enable us to explore both the substance and nature of public thinking, that is, what peo- ple think about the issue along with how they think. Below we discuss first the focus and characteristics of public thinking and then the approach people in these forums took to the issue. Focus PERSONALLY CONNECTED. While some forum participants found the issue of Americans’ role in the world unfamiliar, many connected to it in intensely personal terms. Some of them talked about the impact of the war in Iraq. “The son of a man in our forum is on his way to Iraq,” reported a forum moderator in Columbia, Missouri. Feelings ran deep at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and in communities near the U.S. Army’s Fort Hood in Texas, not only among service personnel, but also among their families and friends. At forums in other communities, participants talked about the impact of globalization and free trade, their trials with lost jobs, factory closings, and corporate relocations. For some, the issue brought up memories of persecution and prejudice. During discussions of the anti-Muslim preju- dice that has sprung up since 9/11, for example, one Japanese-American described being interned during World War II when anti-Japanese sentiments ran similarly high in the United States. Another, an educator who advises international students, spoke of a Saudi Arabian student who “took his family home [after 9/11], saying, ‘they’ll feel safer there.’” A number of forum participants emphasized the importance of getting to know citizens of other countries. They called attention to the value of cultural and educational exchanges, saying this country benefits when Americans study abroad and when foreigners study here. Often a develop- ing country’s strongest advocates of democracy, they explained, are those who were educated in the United States. Many participants also lamented that Americans know so little about foreign people and their traditions, pointing out that this lack of knowledge has led the country to commit foreign policy blunders in the past and, in the opinion of many, to blunder again today in the Middle East. NATIONALLY FOCUSED. While citizens felt personally connected to the issues at stake in their deliberations on Americans’ role in the world, their deliberations quickly focused on the appropriate role for the nation. They talked about America’s role in the world, about what role the country should or should not play in the twenty-first century, rather than their role as Americans and what they could do. With respect to other NIF forums, The Nature of Public Thinking: How Citizens Approach Complex Issues of Politics and Policy While citizens felt personally connected to the issues at stake in their deliberations on Americans’ role in the world, their deliberations quickly focused on the appropriate role for the nation. They talked about America’s role in the world, about what role the country should or should not play in the twenty-first century. Many participants also lamented that Americans know so little about foreign people and their traditions.
  12. 12. 9October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World that shift was unique. Participants did not approach this issue on the same personal terms used when, for example, forums were held on drugs, crime, education, health care, affirma- tive action, social security, or even the economy. Virtually without exception, participants in these forums framed the issue in national terms. With regard to public thinking, this phenomenon was a clear indication of just how strongly the public’s tendency is to reframe issues in their own way. Initially, the central question for consideration in these National Issues Forums involved the role individual Americans should play. Both the issue book and the video that framed the topic were carefully constructed so that participants, instead of conversing about U.S. foreign policy, would talk about the role they as individual American citizens might play in the world of the twenty-first century. In addition, each approach in the framework presented an array of actions individ- ual citizens might take—all to no avail. However personally connected they might have felt to the issue of Americans’ role in the world, they believed it was an issue that demanded a national approach. GLOBALLY AWARE. When consider- ing economic issues, people’s main concerns were national. They focused on the self-interest of American workers and consumers. However, when people talked about the use of military force, promoting the spread of democracy, or dealing with AIDS and the environment, their focus shifted from the national to the international. They discussed global efforts and the importance of the United States taking a leadership role, often through existing international organizations such as the UN. A woman from New Orleans said that to tackle global problems, “you have to have [strong, international] relationships already, and not necessarily with government [but with] entities within the country.” INTERESTED IN THE LONG TERM. Again and again, people in these forums stressed the importance of considering the long-term effects of an approach or idea. For example, both critics and supporters of the war in Iraq talked about long-term consequences. Critics argued that the conflict had caused lasting damage to this country’s image abroad, especially among Muslims. At the same time, supporters of the war also talked about the long-term dangers the war addressed. Similarly, discussions about the environment, health, and even trade and global- ization were often framed within a 10- or 20-year context, as people discussed what had happened and speculated about what would happen in this country should trends contin- ue. Not only were discussions about global problems usually viewed from a long-term perspective, so too were many of the specific solutions, such as education, to which people gravitated. Characteristics NON-IDEOLOGICAL. Commonly, experts and leaders have a well- developed philosophy or worldview; often, they look at issues related to their country’s role in the world through an ideological prism. To that extent, observers can forecast to a reasonable degree what positions vari- ous experts and leaders will take on an issue, even as those issues are just emerging. By contrast, participants in these forums usually did not have a coherent, sophisticated philosophy or worldview. They did not approach the issues in ideological terms. When considering economic issues, people’s main concerns were national. They focused on the self-interest of American workers and consumers. However, when people talked about the use of military force, promoting the spread of democracy, or dealing with AIDS and the environment, their focus shifted from the national to the international. Again and again, people in these forums stressed the importance of considering the long-term effects of an approach or idea. Commonly, experts and leaders have a well-developed philosophy or worldview; often, they look at issues related to their country’s role in the world through an ideological prism.…By contrast, participants in these forums usually did not have a coherent, sophisticated philosophy or worldview. They did not approach the issues in ideological terms.
  13. 13. 10 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Forum participants, for example, did not generally endorse the use of preemptive force; but instead of ruling it out, they saw such use of force as an option to employ under certain, limited circumstances, to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Similarly, people were generally not ardent free-market capitalists; they felt that the U.S. free enterprise system had some drawbacks, which might make it unattractive for some countries or cultures to adopt. And participants wanted to assess health and environ- mental issues case by case, weighing in turn the likely effectiveness of each proposed solution, rather than judg- ing the issues on an ideological basis. ETHICAL. When people deliberated about different approaches, they brought ethical considerations to every aspect of the issue. No matter how they felt about the issue, partici- pants repeatedly asked whether this country had the right or the responsi- bility or even the moral obligation to pursue a given course of action. When addressing the often-divisive question of Iraq, participants also considered the issue in terms of its ethical dimensions. A man in an Austin forum said, “Before I would send somebody else off [to war], I [would] need to be absolutely convinced that it’s worth risking that person’s life and destroying whoever I’m going to attack.” But people with a different point of view also spoke in terms of ethics as they described Saddam Hussein’s brutality or the need to fight in Iraq in order to prevent another terrorist attack on the United States. Similarly, when the deliberation focused on the question of trying to promote global prosperity by expanding free trade, a great many participants framed their responses in ethical terms. They talked about “unfair” competition or job loss in the United States or about child labor and sweatshops in developing countries. Again and again, participants checked their moral compasses as they deliberated. Young people in particular were concerned about human rights, especially with regard to protecting the rights of women and children and preventing geno- cide. Others talked about issues of pollution, resource management, and global health. For example, several students in a forum at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, New York, said that it was the coun- try’s moral obligation to lead a broad international effort to combat the spread of AIDS. PRAGMATIC. As they deliberated, forum participants also weighed near- ly every approach in pragmatic terms. For example, when considering whether this country should try to promote the spread of democracy around the globe, people spoke not only about whether it was the “right” thing to do, but also about the idea’s feasibility. Did the approach have a realistic chance of success? Some people questioned the feasibility of establishing a stable democratic government in Iraq and the likelihood of raising the standard of living in developing countries through expand- ed trade. As one West Virginia man said, “Countries that have virtually no economy all of a sudden are expected to trade on an equal basis with large countries? That is simply unrealistic in terms of developing the weaker countries.” Others doubted whether it was realistic to expect progress when it came to combating the global spread of HIV or tackling worldwide environmental problems. Here again, no matter which side of the issue an individual took, forum participants When people deliberated about different approaches, they brought ethical considerations to every aspect of the issue. When addressing the often- divisive question of Iraq, participants also considered the issue in terms of its ethical dimensions. A man in an Austin forum said, “Before I would send somebody else off [to war], I [would] need to be absolutely convinced that it’s worth risking that person’s life…But people with a different point of view also spoke in terms of ethics as they described Saddam Hussein’s brutality or the need to fight in Iraq. As they deliberated, forum participants also weighed nearly every approach in pragmatic terms. For example, when considering whether this country should try to promote the spread of democracy around the globe, people spoke not only about whether it was the “right” thing to do, but also about the idea’s feasibility.
  14. 14. 11October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World viewed the issue through a practical, no-nonsense lens. Approach INDUCTIVE, OR BOTTOMS-UP. Another difference between how experts and forum participants think is that often, if not usually, experts think from the top down, applying a well-developed philosophy, ideology, or worldview to a given situation. Experts think deductively. In contrast, forum participants use, to borrow a term from Daniel Yankelovich, a bottoms-up approach. That is, they draw on their particular experience and develop their ideas inductively. Speakers in these forums often reached a conclusion after beginning with comments such as: “When I went to Italy, I met people who…” “My son was stationed in South Korea and he said…” “I have a friend who’s from Pakistan and she said…” “On ‘60 Minutes,’ there was a story about…” “We learned about AIDS in school and…” “There used to be a factory here that employed 90 people, including my cousin, and it moved to Mexico because of NAFTA, and now she’s out of a job.” COMPLEX. As forum participants deliberated, it became apparent that even though their thinking was non-ideological and inductive, it was anything but simplistic. They made connections between short- range problems like terrorism and long-range problems like economic underdevelopment or AIDS. When weighing such issues as efforts to increase global prosperity or promote the spread of democracy, participants were clearly learning from one another. Instead of gravitating toward any single solution, a great many people expressed sentiments such as, “I think that we need a little from each approach because each has elements I like and don’t like.” COMPASSIONATE. No matter how they felt about the issue, people in these forums had humanitarian concerns. Both those who favored and those who opposed the war in Iraq, for example, expressed concern about not only U.S. military casualties, but also Iraqi civilian casualties. While proponents of the war tended to focus on Saddam Hussein’s brutality and opponents talked more about the deaths that have resulted from the war, both groups were concerned about the loss of innocent life. Participants expressed humanitarian concerns on other international matters as well. Some discussed the painful effects of job loss as a result of trade or the suffering and death caused by AIDS. Others focused their compassion on the aforementioned problems of sweatshops, child labor, and women’s rights. A woman from a forum in Austin, Texas, said, “We want to make sure that the people manufacturing things [that Americans buy] are treated humanely.” CAUTIOUS. The thinking of forum participants was often quite cautious. Even when they called for bold change in America’s approach to the world—as often occurred—people wanted a smooth transition from the present course rather than a sudden lurch in a new direction. While there were deep divisions about the wisdom of the U.S. actions in Iraq, even those who ardently opposed the war did not want to withdraw American troops precipitously. Nearly everyone agreed on the importance Experts think from the top down, applying a well-developed philosophy, ideology, or worldview to a given situation. Experts think deductively.… forum participants use…a bottoms-up approach.… they draw on their particular experience and develop their ideas inductively. As forum participants deliberated, it became apparent that even though their thinking was non- ideological and inductive, it was anything but simplistic. They made connections between short- range problems like terrorism and long-range problems like economic underdevelopment or AIDS. The thinking of forum participants was often quite cautious. Even when they called for bold change in America’s approach to the world—as often occurred— they wanted a smooth transition from the present course rather than a sudden lurch in a new direction.
  15. 15. 12 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World of Iraq being stabilized, if not democratized—preferably under an international or UN banner—before the U.S. brings its forces home. CONDITIONAL. In addition to being cautious, the thinking of forum parti- cipants was often conditional; that is, they approved a course of action only on certain conditions. For example, while most supported free trade and opposed protectionism, significant numbers of participants also felt that the United States has come out on the short end of recent trade agree- ments. As a result, American workers have lost jobs and U.S. companies have been unfairly forced to compete against cheap labor abroad. Therefore, many participants favored what they called “fair trade” and defined as trade agreements negotiated on terms that were “fairer” to American workers. Participants also spoke conditional- ly when they talked about promoting the spread of democracy around the globe. Commonly, they cautioned that the United States should help a fledgling democracy only if it is invited by that government to do so. Greater support for stepped-up U.S. action was expressed when discussion turned to global health or the environ- ment, though here, again, participants wanted this nation to act in concert with other developed countries. Many believed that, rather than acting immediately or unilaterally, the United States should take the leader- ship role in a coordinated, long-term international effort. The problems involved, they insisted, are too great for any country, including the United States, to deal with in isolation. Conditions were also important to people’s thinking about military action in Iraq. Participants were far more inclined to support such action if the effort had greater international support and if American forces and American taxpayers were not bearing the lion’s share of the hazards and costs. According to a forum modera- tor at Temple Israel in Columbus, Ohio, several World War II veterans in his group were concerned about going to war in Iraq without multi- lateral support, with one reminiscing, “at least in World War II we were involved with allies.” In addition to being cautious, the thinking of forum participants was often conditional; that is, they approved a course of action only on certain conditions. Many believed that, rather than acting immediately or unilaterally, the United States should take the leadership role in a coordinated, long-term international effort.
  16. 16. 13October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Forum Results: Toward a Common Ground for Action The value of these deliberative forums on America’s role in the world was not just the opinions and judgments people came to, but the process itself—the discussions, disagreements, and deliberations participants took part in and what they revealed about the public’s thinking as they struggled with ideas over time. In his book Coming to Public Judgment, Daniel Yankelovich draws a distinction between people’s top-of-the-head opinions and their considered, worked-through public judgments. Poll results, he writes, are often terribly misunderstood because people’s initial, top-of-the-head opinions, which are uninformed and unstable, are mistakenly assumed to be their final judgment. Rather than revealing what people’s opinions are, then, these deliberative forums help reveal where people’s opinions are after they have time to think through an issue. In addition to public thinking during the deliberations, the forums help reveal the public judgment they reach: the approaches and programs people are most likely to support in the long term, and the solutions they believe are most likely to be effective. In the following sections we will explore how people’s thinking evolved over the course of these forums on Americans’ role in the world, how they considered the issues, where people disagreed, and where they found common ground. Military Strength and National Security Participants in these National Issues Forums saw national security as the highest priority. As one woman at a forum in Panama City, Florida, put it, “The primary role of any government is to protect and defend the nation’s boundaries.” A strong military, accordingly, was seen at the outset of many forums as essential for protecting the country and achieving other vitally important goals. The United States, said one man in an Austin, Texas, forum, “wouldn’t be able to…promote a stronger, free economy in the world, or…protect the environment and promote human rights, or promote democracy if we didn’t have the strongest military in the world.” Though they called for strength, participants said that a strong military does not by itself guarantee security. In addition to military muscle, partic- ipants said, security depends on winning the battle for people’s minds. “Terrorism is an idea,” said one forum participant in Pennsylvania, “and you can’t conquer an idea with money or force.” Additionally, some said national security depends on The primary role of any government is to protect and defend the nation’s boundaries. — Panama City, Florida Terrorism is an idea…and you can’t conquer an idea with money or force. — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  17. 17. the country’s international standing and on other nations’ willingness to work with us. A number of people expressed concern that foreigners see this country as “arrogant” or “acting like a bully.” A man in New Orleans said, “I’ve been to Europe four times since September 11 and [Europeans] think we’re the most arrogant [people who] have ever existed.” A woman at a forum in Texas said, “I’m con- cerned about our loss of credibility abroad. I think we’re going to need to start by restoring some of our credibility before we can do much of anything else.” The Use of Force People agreed that the United States has every right to use force in response to an attack like Pearl Harbor—or, for that matter, 9/11— with participants strongly endorsing the invasion of Afghanistan. Most also agreed that the country has the right to use force preemptively when it is directly and imminently threatened. In a broader sense, however, people did not agree about the idea of using force preemptively. An educator in El Reno, Oklahoma, said that having a strong military and being willing to use force preemptively, including in Iraq, “means peace around the world.” But people at a forum at Temple Israel in Columbus, Ohio, said a policy of preemption “sets a dangerous precedent, makes this country look like a bully, and could fuel the fire for terrorists.” No matter how they felt about using force preemptively, people agreed that force should be used only after sufficient public debate and only when absolutely necessary.i A man from Austin, Texas, as mentioned 14 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World before, said, “Before I would send somebody else off [to war], I [would] need to be absolutely convinced that it’s worth risking that person’s life and destroying whoever I’m going to attack.” A woman from New Orleans said, “We need to be prepared to use force, but it would have to be as a last resort.” Participants were also strongly opposed to the United States playing the role of “global cop.” As one woman in a Memphis, Tennessee, forum put it, “Why do we think we have to be the superpower anyway, the world’s police? We’re 5 percent of the world’s population.” The remarks of one Vietnam veteran at a New Jersey forum had a powerful effect on others: I look back at [Vietnam] now and I say, what in the hell did we do? What did we do? Fifty-some odd thousand of our boys were killed. It could have been me, could have been my brother. I lost friends. What the hell did we do? And what were we thinking when we… [said] we’re the cops of the world? We’re not the cops of the world. We can’t be the cops of the world. The War in Iraq The war with Iraq dominated forums and sharply divided partici- pants. The split in the post-forum questionnaire was almost even: 45 percent agreed and 48 percent disagreed with the statement, “The United States should be willing to strike first against enemies who have weapons of mass destruction and a proven willingness to use them.”ii Some said the Iraq war was necessary and justified. A serviceman at a forum at Tyndall Air Force Base said, “What we’re doing [in Iraq] is right; 9/11 changed the face of Having a strong military and being willing to use force preemptively, including in Iraq, “means peace around the world.” — El Reno, Oklahoma I look back at [Vietnam] now and I say, what in the hell did we do? What did we do? Fifty-some odd thousand of our boys were killed. It could have been me, could have been my brother. I lost friends. What the hell did we do? And what were we thinking when we…[said] we’re the cops of the world? We’re not the cops of the world. We can’t be the cops of the world. — Englewood, New Jersey “What we’re doing in [Iraq] is right. September 11 changed the face of America [and so] we’re doing what has to be done. — Panama City, Florida i See Appendix B, Table 1 for Questionnaire results. iiFor Questionnaire results on this approach see Appendix B, Table 1. Excerpts from forum transcripts can be found in Appendix C, pages 32–33.
  18. 18. 15October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World America [and so] we’re doing what has to be done.” A Texas participant said a takeover of Iraq by Islamic fundamentalists “could easily lead to World War III.” Others advanced a number of reasons for taking the opposite view. Some argued that the Iraq war has decreased national security because it increased anti-American sentiments, creating enormous hostility toward the United States. A man in Englewood, New Jersey, said, “Around the world a lot of people hate us.” Others questioned the gravity of the threat. For example, a student at a forum at Hofstra University on Long Island asked, “How could Iraq attack us? What means did they have?” Those who questioned the war also said that the situation in Iraq has diverted the country’s attention and resources from what they saw as more serious threats, including Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the war in Afghanistan, and the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. And some were concerned about the costs of the war, saying it was draining resources needed in this country. One partici- pant, in an online National Issues Forum conducted through SeniorNet, wrote, “That $87 billion [targeted for Iraq] would help to solve many of our medical and economic ills and even help train some people who might come up with some miracle break- throughs we’ve all been waiting for.” Mixed Emotions Many forum participants admitted they were struggling with the issue. At a forum at the LBJ library, one man said, “In [my] 20 years in the military, I’ve always had faith in my government.… But this war is a tremendous price to pay. I would not want my son to go to Iraq. I would go in his place.” Others, like this woman from a forum in Memphis, Tennessee, supported the war but were troubled by the reasons used to justify the conflict: I have mixed emotions about going to war [in Iraq]. I feel like we should go to war. I have a son in the Air Force, and he did go there and spend his six months.… The only thing that was troubling to me was the fact that [President Bush] said they had mass weapons of destruction and they didn’t. In an online forum conducted in conjunction with “By the People,” public television’s yearlong series on Americans’ role in the world, one person wrote, It truly shocked me that my America engaged in a preemptive strike against sovereign nations. It is a brand-new approach for American policy. In the past, we’ve been compared to a “paper tiger” because we have sustained so many provocations without severe retaliations.… Now I wonder, in my more cynical and fearful moments, if my beloved country is on its way to establishing a “Pax Americana.” Yet despite my shock, I can’t help wondering how many lives might have been saved if America had been blessed with the foresight to move against Hitler in the 1930s…or against the Japanese before Pearl Harbor.… Can those past disasters constitute a rationale for current preemptive strikes? Is there ANY way, short of a crystal ball, to determine WHICH events or nations should be considered sufficiently dangerous to justify [preemptive] military action? Others acknowledged that emo- tions had clouded their judgment. “On 9/12, I’d have favored war with Iraq,” said a woman in El Reno, Oklahoma. “Now I’m less angry, less hawkish [and I’m not so sure].” And in some forums, people wanted to hear what others had to say. A Texas moderator said, “People who opposed the war with Iraq were desirous of talking to those in favor and tried to understand their viewpoint.” In [my] 20 years in the military, I’ve always had faith in my government.... But this war is a tremendous price to pay. I would not want my son to go to Iraq. I would go in his place. — Austin, Texas On 9/12, I’d have favored war with Iraq. Now I’m less angry, less hawkish. — El Reno, Oklahoma People who opposed the war with Iraq [wanted to talk] to those in favor and tried to understand their viewpoint. — Austin, Texas
  19. 19. international support than it does now in Iraq. “We have to work with other countries, our allies, to show how we can strengthen one another and work [together to] protect each other,” said a woman from Killeen, Texas. 3. Increased Chances of Success: Broad international involvement, some suggested, would improve the chances that a military opera- tion would succeed. “Unilateral action is a very big risk,” said a man from Columbia, Missouri. A moderator in Carroll County, Maryland, said people there felt that when it came to Iraq, the United States was “stuck” because it had such limited international support. 4. Winning the Peace: Finally, people argued that an internationalized effort was preferable once the military phase was complete. “It helps to have the UN there to help clean up the mess [after the fighting],” a participant in Austin, Texas, said. People also felt that using force collectively would reduce internal opposition to a military action. A student at Hofstra University said, for exam- ple, “UN control in Iraq would mean more help to the United States, increased Iraqi control, and therefore reduced Iraqi opposition to the occupation and less enmity toward the American forces.” Internationalizing the Conflict No matter what their feelings about the Iraq war, forum partici- pants strongly favored far more international involvement in that conflict. A moderator from Modesto, California, reported that his group was “concerned about the United States acting alone in Iraq.” Many participants wanted this country to work more closely with the United Nations. A moderator from West Lafayette, Indiana, report- ed that in a forum held at Purdue University’s Duncan Hall, people said this country “should act in concert with the UN and not unilater- ally.” Forum goers in New Haven, Connecticut, had similar views. “Even though many in our group felt that the UN [was] not fulfilling its global role, they said the United States should strengthen it instead of acting against it and weakening it as we did in the Iraq War.” Forum participants presented four principal reasons why any conflict should be internationalized. 1. Greater Legitimacy: The use of force, people said, has more legitimacy with broad international support, preferably through the United Nations. “Involving the UN is desirable because [military] action is less divisive from a global perspective,” said a participant at a forum in Austin, Texas. 2. Fewer Casualties and Reduced Costs: People wanted to use force collectively to reduce American casualties and decrease the dollar costs to U.S. taxpayers. Some point- ed to the Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan as conflicts in which this country enjoyed far more 16 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Even though many in our group felt that the UN [was] not fulfilling its global role, they said the United States should strengthen it instead of acting against it and weakening it as we did in the Iraq War. — New Haven, Connecticut People wanted to use force collectively to reduce American casualties and decrease the dollar costs to U.S. taxpayers. We have to work with other countries, our allies, to show how we can strengthen one another and work [together to] protect each other. — Killeen, Texas
  20. 20. 17October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Democracy and Human Rights At first glance, the results of these National Issues Forums suggest that participants strongly believe the United States should do what it can to promote democracy around the globe. In the post-forum questionnaire, a resounding 83 percent agreed that the “support of emerging democracies will, in the long run, enhance our own national security.” In addition, 63 percent said that “working to spread and maintain democracy in other countries will increase stability in the world” and 60 percent said that our goal as Americans “should be to help citizens of other countries develop stable democracies.”iii However, as deliberation pro- ceeded, it became clear that people’s thinking about the idea of promoting democracy globally was more complex and differentiated than the questionnaire results might suggest. Political Realities and Cultural Sensitivities A number of participants raised practical questions about the idea of promoting democracy abroad. A woman in a New Orleans forum asked if it was “realistic” to think that democracy could work in every country, saying, “How would you [promote democracy in] China? How do you do it?” Others suggested that America has a special relationship to democracy. “It took us 200 years to get [where this country is in terms of its democracy], and we expect others to do it immediately?” said one woman in a Columbus, Ohio, forum. In an online forum hosted by SeniorNet, another participant wrote: I would question the premise of promoting and expanding democracy worldwide. Why do we believe that democracy will work for all countries, all citizens of the world? Thanks to our Founding Fathers, we started out with democracy; most countries did not. They either don’t want it, can’t accept its ideals, or are getting along fine with another type of government. In many groups, people talked about cultural sensitivities and the need to respect the values and traditions of others. “There is much diversity in the world,” said a serviceman from Panama City, Florida, “We can’t force our values on other people.” In New Haven, Connecticut, people said the “United States should not promote a form of democracy that may not be compatible in terms of a country’s culture, values, economy, and wishes.” High-school students in Pittsburgh were conflicted about this idea, saying “democracy is important but that the United States shouldn’t push its values and morals down the throats of other countries.” Others were concerned that some countries may not wish to move toward democracy. A woman from Memphis said the United States should help only “if people are crying out and saying, ‘we want to change but we can’t do it ourselves.’” Some suggested that the United States needed to wait for willing partners. “If we go and try to force our exact model on another nation where it’s unwelcome, it’s not going to be a success,” said one forum goer in Charleston, West Virginia. “[But] if we wait to be asked, we are much more likely to make a success.” Participants in New Orleans had a similar view. “I think [promoting democracy] is a good idea. But we cannot be arrogant,” said one woman It took us 200 years to get [where this country is in terms of its democracy] and we expect others to do it immediately? — Columbus, Ohio I would question the premise of promoting and expanding democracy worldwide. Why do we believe that democracy will work for all countries, all citizens of the world? Thanks to our Founding Fathers, we started out with democracy; most countries did not. They either don’t want it, can’t accept its ideals, or are getting along fine with another type of government. — SeniorNet Online Forum iii For Questionnaire results on this approach see Appendix B, Table 2. Excerpts from forum transcripts can be found in Appendix C, page 34.
  21. 21. there. “In some countries, it will be easier to promote democracy, but other countries will not want to change their ways.” Furthermore, some people attached a specific provision to their support for promoting the spread of democ- racy. “A magic word is global,” said one Denver man. I think [the United States] should stop trying to [promote democracy] alone.… [But I’d favor the idea if the United States builds] an alliance with the rest of the world who will support our ideas.” People in Blacksburg, Virginia; New Haven; and Minneapolis expressed similar sentiments. Democracy and Free Enterprise In some forums, people talked about the link between democracy and free enterprise, saying some countries might accept the former as long as it does include the latter. “Capitalism is not necessarily democracy,” said a man in El Reno, Oklahoma. Several participants sug- gested that while Muslim countries may accept a democratic system, they might feel that a McDonald’s or a Walt Disney World are incompatible with their values. Indeed, people in forums in Philadelphia and at the LBJ Library in Austin felt that the true motive of the United States is free enterprise, not the promotion of democratic governments. “It never has been about exporting democracy,” a Philadelphia man said. “What we’re really talking about is opening markets for the sake of capitalism.” Democracy and Foreign Aid While a narrow majority of partici- pants, 53 percent, favored investing heavily to help build democracy in unstable countries like Afghanistan, a solid minority, 37 percent were opposed. Moreover, a number of those 18 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World in opposition were solidly opposed. Some, like this man in a Memphis forum, worried about competing domestic needs: We, as a free nation, should help [developing countries] as much as we can. But don’t forget about hungry children [in the United States] and our homeless people on our home front. They have to be taken care of first. I feel very strongly about that. Imposing Democracy In the post-forum questionnaires, people said the United States should try to promote democracy around the globe. And the deliberation as presented by the moderator mainly focused on promoting the spread of democracy through an array of non- military means, including aid, cultural exchanges, cutting ties to dictators, and persuasion; the use of force was mentioned only when a democratic regime is threatened. During deliberation, however, a great many talked as if the central idea under consideration was whether the United States should forcibly “impose” democracy on other coun- tries. Most participants strongly opposed this formulation of the idea. A moderator from Phoenix said her group “did not want to impose the American model of democracy and felt that it would not be appropriate for all cultures.” Others expressed similar sentiments. Reporting on a forum in Overland Park, Kansas, one moderator said that her group “thought it would be very difficult to install democracies in other parts of the world.” An Austin, Texas, man summed up the thinking of many when he said: “I’m comfortable with promoting the spread of democracy as long as it doesn’t mean foist.” For many forum participants then, the issue they considered and stoutly rejected was different from the ques- A magic word is global. I think [the United States] should stop trying to [promote democracy] alone.… [But I’d favor the idea if the United States builds] an alliance with the rest of the world that will support our ideas. — Denver, Colorado I’m comfortable with promoting the spread of democracy as long as it doesn’t mean foist. — Austin, Texas
  22. 22. 19October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World tion they were given. It was also revealing about their mind-set, which is in part a carryover from the war in Vietnam as well as a reaction to what they’re seeing today. Generally, forum participants reacted as if they believed the United States has actively adopted a policy that applies only in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in both of those cases, supporters of the policy would say it is being employed only because of a need to fight against exceptional problems—terrorism and radical Islamists. A Model Democracy? In a number of forums, support for the idea of promoting democracy was muted. Pointing to flaws and shortcomings in our own democratic system—such as the 2000 election; especially the events in Florida—a large number of participants said that, before trying to promote democracy abroad, the United States should get its own house in order. A woman from Austin, Texas, said that before the United States attempts “to make changes abroad, we should become the change we want others to become.” A moderator in New Haven, Connecticut, reported that many in her group were more concerned with making democracy work better in the United States than in promoting it abroad. And in Overland Park, Kansas, participants talked about racism in the United States and the fact that not everyone has health care, adding that these should be priorities before this country turns its attention to promoting democracy elsewhere. A Different Democratic Model Generally, when people talked about democracy, they thought only in terms of the U.S. model, with its procedures and institutions. But in a handful of forums, people talked about other forms of democracy. Some people suggested that variations of the U.S. democratic model might be more appropriate for certain coun- tries. Students at Gateway College in Phoenix, for example, talked about what the moderator called “Bedouin democracy.” This form of democracy, they said, is quite unlike the U.S. model but might be more suitable for some Middle-Eastern countries. A West Virginia man said, “It probably does a disservice to many developing countries to say, ‘fit our model and we’ll assist you, and if not we’ll go against you.’ There are many more political and economic struc- tures in developing countries that would be perfect at the local level.” A man from Killeen, Texas, said, “Democracy has many approaches, many faces. It may not be exactly like the [democracy here in the] United States; we can’t travel around the world making democracies in our exact model because, in many places, it’s just impossible. We cannot sell universally the idea.” The Importance of Human Rights While many participants had reservations about “imposing” democracy on other countries, they broadly agreed that the United States should do whatever it realistically can to promote human rights around the globe. Students at a forum at Pennsylvania’s Governor School were particularly concerned about human rights in Africa, saying it should be a higher priority. College students at Hofstra University and Virginia Tech talked about the rights of women and children. In Lafayette, Indiana, people talked about women’s rights in Afghanistan. In some forums, people talked about using military force. People in a number of forums, including those Before the United States attempts to make changes abroad, we should be the change we want others to become. — Austin, Texas Democracy has many approaches, many faces.… It may not be exactly like the [democracy here in the] U.S.; we can’t travel around the world making democracies in our exact model because, in many places, it’s just impossible. We cannot sell universally the idea of democracy as we like it. — Killeen, Texas
  23. 23. trade is in everyone’s long-term interest. A man from New Orleans said, “An open market is a good thing,” adding that if a product can be manufactured less expensively in another country, “we shouldn’t be interfering with the choice [of consumers to buy it].” Participants said trade not only increases prosperity, it also enhances national security. As many as 59 percent felt that when developing countries become more prosperous, they are less likely to threaten other countries. In Columbia, Missouri, people felt that economic interde- pendence makes conflict less likely. A man in El Reno, Oklahoma, agreed, saying, “When wealth is created, countries don’t want to go to war. No two countries that have a McDonald’s will go to war.” In Killeen, Texas, a forum participant saw other national security benefits: “We need the ability to expand our commerce throughout the world and maybe that would help achieve many of the other objectives we’ve been talking about, like [promoting the spread of] democracy.” Others said that trade raised the standard of living in both China and India, pointing to the fact that those countries, which were formerly hostile or politically unstable, are no longer military or political threats. The High Cost of Free Trade At the same time, many people saw trade’s benefits only vaguely, in terms of “lower prices” and “more choices”; however, many participants felt directly and personally connected to trade’s downside. A Virginia Tech student sorrowfully described the impact of seeing her father’s job as an engineer, which he had held for more than 20 years, outsourced to India. At a forum at Erskine College in Conway, South Carolina, people 20 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World in Overland Park, Kansas, were par- ticularly concerned about genocide. Some participants approved of using force in Kosovo and disapproved of the failure of using force in Rwanda, saying that was a case in which the United States should have intervened militarily. A New Jersey woman drew a clear distinction between democratic practices and human rights, “As long as they’re not killing their people, dismembering their people, [we should] let them run their own country.” A man in that forum agreed, saying, “For years the blacks were slaughtered in South Africa. And the United States did absolutely nothing.… Shouldn’t we have sent someone in there to stop what they were doing?” Economic Development and Free Trade People in a great many forums said they supported free trade and opposed protectionism. In the post-forum questionnaire, people agreed—by a margin of nearly two to one—that free trade benefits consumers by lowering prices, and 60 percent called for the reduction or elimination of trade barriers whenever possible.iv Similar thoughts often surfaced during deliberations. People in Overland Park, Kansas, felt that free trade means lower prices. A group at the University of Montana supported NAFTA, even with the loss of jobs associated with it, saying that free An open market is a good thing…[if a product can be manufactured less expensively in another country,] we shouldn’t be interfering with the choice [of consumers to buy it]. — New Orleans, Louisiana We need the ability to expand our commerce throughout the world and maybe that would help achieve many of the other objectives we’ve been talking about, like democracy. — Killeen, Texas iv For Questionnaire results on this approach see Appendix B, Table 3. Excerpts from forum transcripts can be found in Appendix C, page 35.
  24. 24. talked about “massive” unemployment in the textile industry caused by what they regarded as unfair trade. In Minneapolis, a woman said her neighbor, a laid-off computer pro- grammer, had taken a job hanging wallpaper. In a Memphis forum, a woman said: Look at all the empty warehouses. All the people I’ve known personally [who worked] at Firestone…which shut down here in Memphis. I knew men that committed suicide. I knew men that became homeless when Kimberly Clark shut down. [They] lost their families, [they got] divorces.… They couldn’t handle it.… And it’s all because of that [free trade] garbage. Beyond job loss, people raised other issues about trade. In Overland Park, Kansas, for example, people said that human rights should be part of world trade agreements. Others linked human rights to trade and questions of dependence. “Do we really want to be without a steel industry and be completely depen- dent [for steel] on [a totalitarian country and an unreliable source like] North Korea?” one person asked. Others raised questions about inconsistencies and double standards, suggesting that trade’s proponents would not feel the same if they themselves were affected. For example, a Texas participant talked about a man who argued for free trade in a Wall Street Journal editorial but then took a protectionist view regarding a Dallas conflict in which his own industry was threatened. Many people wanted to ensure that trade would not be promoted at the expense of labor standards or human rights. A Denver man said, “Free trade is a good place to start. But as a country we need to say, we’re going to trade with this country [but]…if they’re pulling something like [child] labor, we’ll either pull back or go somewhere else.” People in New 21October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Haven were concerned about poor, unsafe working conditions. A New Hampshire moderator said that, although her group was reluctant to intervene in private enterprise, they wanted a global institution to protect human rights and regulate labor conditions. Finally, in some forums, including those in Modesto, California, and Overland Park, Kansas, people talked about the power and political agenda of multinational corporations. In Killeen, Texas, a moderator also reported that there was “a huge lack of trust in multinationals” with people asking who holds these corporations accountable because they can bypass a given country’s political system and courts. Fair Trade Not Free Trade In some forums, people talked about the need for what they called fair trade. A man in New Orleans said, “Fair is fair but most countries don’t play fair. In order to have free trade it has to be fair.” Several people in the forum in New Haven felt that “all countries should play by the same rules.” Complaining about the absence of organized labor in devel- oping countries, a New Jersey man said, “Any time another country starts manufacturing something that we manufacture here, they do it for 12 cents a day as opposed to 20 bucks an hour.” Another equity-related issue involved the distribution of wealth. In a forum held in a private home near Austin, people felt that the problem with globalization is not so much production as equitable distribution. A student from Hofstra University suggested that people would not equally benefit from free trade, saying, “A rising tide may lift all boats, but yachts will rise a lot higher than row boats.” Look at all the empty ware- houses. All the people I’ve known personally [who worked] at Firestone…which shut down here in Memphis. I knew men that committed suicide. I knew men that became homeless when Kimberly Clark shut down. [They] lost their families, [they got] divorces.… They couldn’t handle it.… And it’s all because of that [free trade] garbage. — Memphis, Tennessee Free trade is a good place to start. But as a country we need to say, we’re going to trade with this country [but]…if they’re pulling something like [child] labor, we’ll either pull back or go somewhere else. — Denver, Colorado Fair is fair, but most countries don’t play fair. In order to have free trade it has to be fair. — New Orleans, Louisiana A rising tide may lift all boats, but yachts will rise a lot higher than row boats. — Hempstead, New York
  25. 25. 22 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Long-term Threats The deliberations also considered a qualitatively different set of chal- lenges to national security, including those stemming from global poverty, environmental degradation, and worldwide health problems, including epidemics like AIDS. Many saw these as urgent issues. For example, 81 percent agreed that “the real threats to us are long-term global problems, such as AIDS and pollution that know no national borders.” As many as 90 percent wanted the United States to lead global efforts to combat the spread of AIDS and other contagious diseases while 81 percent said “the United States should take the lead in forging international agreements on the environment.” Finally, 78 percent said global poverty should become a higher priority.v World Health World health was a particular con- cern for young participants. College students in Pittsburgh “universally felt that health problems should receive top priority” and that “AIDS in Africa has both a human and an economic impact which, in turn, leads to a breeding ground for terror- ism and human rights violations.” High school students in St. Cloud, Minnesota, said the United States should lead international efforts to deal with AIDS because it is a humanitarian issue and in the coun- try’s self-interest since epidemics eventually come here. Pointing to AIDS, SARS, and Avian flu, a woman at a Minneapolis senior center echoed this thought, saying “disease doesn’t stop at the border.” Poverty and Foreign Aid Other themes ran through people’s comments about global poverty and foreign economic problems. Beyond emergency assistance, the kind of foreign assistance that enjoyed broad- est support focused on promoting self-sufficiency. An Indiana moderator summed up his group’s sentiments by saying, “They wanted to teach someone to fish, [instead of feeding him]. They felt that self-sustaining efforts are good.” In this same vein, an Austin, Texas, group favored foreign aid that would support educa- tion in developing countries. Global Environmental Issues As they deliberated about the environment, people’s comments also reflected their broad, global orienta- tion. A woman in Memphis said, “Just in our lifetime, [we’ve] seen global warming, how the weather has changed…. If we don’t try to take it on ourselves to do this, who’s going to?” In Overland Park, Kansas, a participant said an interconnected world “calls for different strategies than were envisioned by the Founding Fathers.” This statement by a Killeen, Texas, man reflected the views of many: The planet does not belong to us. It [also] belongs to future generations, our children and grandchildren. We’ve done a lot to protect the environment in this country [but] we have a long ways to go. We don’t take regard for our industries polluting and spoiling the land in other countries. We don’t take a global view of…things we hold dear. People said this country has a responsibility to lead the world, in part because only the United States has the economic resources along with the scientific and technological know- An interconnected world “calls for different strategies [from those] envisioned by the Founding Fathers.” — Overland Park, Kansas Disease doesn’t stop at the border. — Minneapolis, Minnesota If we don’t try to take it on ourselves to do this, who is going to? — Memphis, Tennessee v For Questionnaire results on this approach see Appendix B, Table 3. Excerpts from forum transcripts can be found in Appendix C, page 37.
  26. 26. 23October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World how to play this role. A Denver man said, “Yes, indeed, we have marvelous [medical] knowledge that we need to be able to share. [In addition to helping foreigners, fighting AIDS will] help protect our country from becoming diseased.” A Role for the Individual Many said they would accept personal tradeoffs to tackle these problems. In Overland Park, Kansas, people said the country must become less dependent on fossil fuels and Middle-Eastern oil. An Austin, Texas participant said, “It’s not ‘giving up our independence’ but ‘recognizing our interdependence.’” In an online forum cosponsored by Public Television’s “By the People” series, a Columbus, Ohio, participant wrote, “We’re not spending enough money on scientific research to develop other forms of energy.” And in the post-forum questionnaire, an 82 percent consensus said they favored working with other countries to address worldwide problems like global warming even if that means manufacturing higher-priced, more fuel-efficient cars.vi Global Leadership Beyond making headway against these pressing issues, some partici- pants saw ancillary gains resulting from assuming world leadership. A woman from Dover, Delaware, said, “If America addressed more world problems we would be seen as more of a team player and that would produce more international good will.” Another women in a Denver forum agreed. Assuming global leadership, she said, “would help alleviate the America hating that we get.... [People in other countries] would see us more as people who are willing to [help]...[instead of]...as greedy big brothers.” Quite a few people said the United States is doing anything but lead the world. A woman in Austin said, “The environment is a time bomb. But in rejecting [the] Kyoto [environmental accord], we chose not to acknowledge that problem.” A New Orleans woman said, “There’s the clean air act or whatever [it is].... The rest of the world is...all ready to go with what they have, but the United States— we are holding out on it because we don’t like some little provision in it.” A participant at the LBJ Library said the United States must recognize that it is part of a global community, adding, “We have failed to under- stand that we have a shared fate with the rest of humanity and that there will be a reckoning.” It’s not giving up our independence, but recognizing our interdependence. We must walk our talk, not just give orders. — Austin, Texas If America addressed more world problems, we would be seen as more of a team player and that would produce more international goodwill. — Dover, Delaware vi For Questionnaire results on this approach see Appendix B, Table 4. Excerpts from forum transcripts can be found in Appendix C, page 36.
  27. 27. 24 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World At the close of each forum, participants were asked what impact the event had had on their thinking about the issues. While some changed their views, most said the real impact had been to give them an increased awareness of the complexity and interconnectedness of the problems related to national security and the definition of the nation’s role in the world. Many came to the forums initially with doubts about their own abilities to engage the issues and offer insights —particularly when more technical issues like economics are concerned. As one Texas participant put it, “I do not feel I know how to think about economics, so I turn to politics because it’s an easier discussion.” As they deliberated, however, people became increasingly confident in their ability to contribute meaningfully. They did not feel like experts on a particular issue, but they came away convinced that their thoughts about the values and tradeoffs involved were something worth sharing and something that should be heard. They became aware of their ability to take part in deliberation. Key Effects Beyond that, the act of deliberat- ing, they suggested, had had at least three key effects. First, participants developed a more expansive definition of national security. As one forum participant said, When I, before, thought about [the safety] of our country, I always thought of it in terms of enemy threats and terrorists and things like that. [But now I think] more about the threat we are to ourselves. And, you know, I never thought about that as much when I thought of the safety of our country. Second, deliberation enhanced participants’ understanding of other points of view. They “dissolved stereotypes” as one forum goer in Austin, Texas, put it. They were surprised how willing others were to talk about the issues and listen. As an attendee of a forum in Denver, Colorado, explained, I was surprised how moderate everyone was. I mean, it’s such a supercharged topic. Yet all of us, none of us seemed like we were just day and night way far apart. We all seemed to be able to talk to each other, respect people’s point of view. I found it pretty optimistic. This was particularly true of forums that included participants from other countries. For example, some foreigners, especially Muslims, talked about how they were treated in the aftermath of 9/11. Many talked about how the United States is perceived abroad, contrasting the sympathy the world felt for this country after 9/11 with the disregard and even fear of the United States there is today because of the Iraq war. In Missouri, a Japanese couple said their Japanese-American daughter considers herself Japanese but not The Effects of Deliberation: The Impact of Forums on People’s Thinking When I, before, thought about [the safety] of our country, I always thought of it in terms of enemy threats and terrorists and things like that. [But now I think] more about the threat we are to ourselves. And, you know, I never thought about that as much when I thought of the safety of our country. — New Orleans, Louisiana I was surprised how moderate everyone was. I mean, it’s such a supercharged topic. Yet all of us, none of us seemed like we were just day and night way far apart. We all seemed to be able to talk to each other, respect people’s point of view. I found it pretty optimistic. — Denver, Colorado
  28. 28. 25October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World American because of her own anti- American sentiments. A moderator from Carroll County, Maryland, said forums there with international students took on a broader perspec- tive, especially with regard to global problems, such as poverty, the environment, and health-related issues like AIDS. Third, deliberation left many participants stewing about the issues. Some, in fact, found the complexity of the issues daunting, even depressing. Most, however, left the forums feeling not only engaged in the issues, but also obligated to speak out. One of the most heartfelt comments came from a participant in Denver: If we walk away from here and we don’t talk to our [elected] representatives, I mean talk to them, write them, and let them know how we feel about these things…. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of this stuff. If we don’t let them know what we’ve done in here, it’s valueless. I haven’t talked to my represen- tative. I haven’t written him a letter on these kinds of issues. I think we need to do that. And if we don’t do that, we haven’t learned anything here tonight. Bringing Citizens Together By engaging citizens in a discus- sion of the issues, forums offer a way of engaging participants not only with others in their community, but also in the search for solutions to pressing public problems. Rather than partisan and divided, the forums revealed how much common ground there was on this often-divisive issue. From students to senior citizens, many reported that they enjoyed having the chance to speak out in a nonadversari- al, nonargumentive environment. The discussion, they said, gave them not only a welcome chance to be heard, but also a welcome chance to hear from others whose views were differ- ent from their own. Together, they learned, they could work through dif- ficult choices and begin defining a common ground for action. As one participant at a forum in Kansas sum- marized, “This kind of discussion is healthy for our country and our democracy.” We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of this stuff. If we don’t let them know what we’ve done in here, it’s valueless. I haven’t talked to my representative. I haven’t written him a letter on these kinds of issues. I think we need to do that. And if we don’t do that, we haven’t learned anything here tonight. — Denver, Colorado This kind of discussion is healthy for our country and our democracy. — Overland Park, Kansas
  29. 29. 26 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Appendix A: Questions and Answers about the Forums including supporters and opponents of the decision to wage war in Iraq— were concerned about both U.S. and Iraqi civilian casualties. Both supporters and opponents of the war expressed concern about not only the violence and abuse suffered by the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein, but also about the casualties they have suffered during the Iraq war. 4. How do the public’s assumptions about this issue compare to the assumptions held by leadership? Many leaders assume that the main threats to the United States are military in nature and stem from conflicts like the war in Iraq and from attacks by terrorist groups like al Qaeda. In contrast, while seeing both Iraq and terrorism as urgent problems, people in the forums were also troubled about long-term threats to the environment and to world health. 5. What values were at play in the discussion? Security. People were deeply con- cerned about an array of both military and nonmilitary threats to national security. Freedom. Participants broadly agreed that people have a right to self- determination. Tolerance. People felt that each country has a right to preserve its own cultures, traditions, and beliefs. All of these deserve respect. 1. Does the public connect to the issue as the conventional wisdom suggests? No. Conventional wisdom suggests that when it comes to foreign policy, Americans are indifferent and ill informed. In fact, Americans care deeply about our nation’s role in the world and its image abroad, saying it is a critical part of our long-term national security. Conventional wis- dom also holds that when it comes to America’s global role, the public’s views are polarized—roughly corre- sponding to the red-blue divisions between states in the 2000 presidential elections. Yet, while our research did find deep divisions about the war in Iraq, on almost every other issue there was much upon which people agreed. 2. How does the public approach the issue? Pragmatically and in personal terms. People tend to evaluate each approach in terms of its workability. Their opinions are rooted in personal experiences and in their deeply held values, not in a sophisticated philoso- phy or worldview. 3. Are there other dimensions of the issue that people in the forums see? Yes. Contrary to what one might expect in light of the observations of most political commentators and most press coverage of public attitudes on these issues, people in these forums—
  30. 30. 27October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Human Rights. While saying “countries have a right to their own traditions,” people did not want foreign govern- ments to have a free hand to abuse their citizens. People said that a set of international human rights norms exists and that the United States should stand up for and promote these norms when it comes to preventing genocide and protecting the rights of women and children. Cooperation. People repeatedly called for international cooperation, saying it is in this country’s self-interest to work with other nations when it comes to using force, promoting democ- racy and free trade, and dealing with long-term threats. Many wanted the United States to take global leadership on these issues. Education. People valued education in three respects. First, many said that Americans need to learn more about foreign countries, global prob- lems, and foreigners’ views. Second, people valued cultural exchange, having Americans study abroad and having foreign students study in this country. Third, many favor sup- porting international AIDS education programs as well as public education in developing countries. 6. What mattered to people as they deliberated? As they weighed America’s role in the world, people’s ethical and humanitarian concerns were tempered or even trumped by pragmatic consid- erations about what was workable and affordable. While the welfare of Americans was paramount, people in the forums also took into considera- tion the views of foreigners, saying the greatest challenges facing this country are global in nature, not national. 7. Was any firm common ground for action revealed? Yes. In terms of the use of the mili- tary, people agreed that the country needs a strong defense, and that force should be used as a last resort—and only after sufficient public debate and in cooperation with other countries, preferably through the United Nations. But while they wanted the United States to work more closely with international partners, they also said that the country should not police the world. People said that, because demo- cratic countries are less aggressive and warlike, it is in the United States’ national interest to promote the spread of democracy. At the same time, people did not want to “impose” democracy on other nations, saying the wishes, cultures, and traditions of foreigners must be respected. They wanted the country to stand up for human rights, especially regarding genocide and the rights of women and children. Finally, they called for foreign aid that would promote eco- nomic self-sufficiency. Participants favored free trade and opposed protectionism, saying prosperity leads to peace. However, many also said that current trade agreements unfairly disadvantage U.S. workers and should be renegoti- ated. There was also broad agreement that the United States should take the lead in international efforts to respond to threats to the environment and to world health. Finally, most forum groups wanted to take both a long- and a short-term view when weighing the challenges facing this country. 8. What stage is the public at on this issue? Has the public’s thinking evolved? People are uneasy about America’s current place in the world, saying the threats to the country from Iraq, from terrorism, and from long-term threats could hardly be more serious. They are paying close attention to the news
  31. 31. 28 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World and thinking seriously about these issues, working through conflicted feelings and values. That being said, people’s attitudes on the issues have clearly evolved. They are no longer thinking about international politics in terms of a balance of power—as was the case during the Cold War—nor in terms of an isolationist framework that would keep the country aloof and distant from world affairs. Instead, they are clearly ready for the United States to take a more cooperative role in its position as the world’s sole remaining superpower— a sharp change from the attitudes of only a decade or two ago. Forum participants are not sharply partisan or ideological. They support an internationalist approach in which the country provides military, economic, scientific, and moral leadership on issues like security, human rights, economic development, global health, and environmental protection. To do this, participants envision the United States working with other countries and coalitions to address what they see as the problems behind the prob- lem of national security and global stability. 9. What needs to happen next in the national dialogue? The outcomes of these forums suggest that our national leadership enjoys a rare opportunity. Beyond the clamor of division about Iraq— beneath the surface, under the din— Americans agree about a wide variety of issues related to our country’s global role. There is, in fact, a great deal of political permission on the issue—a wide range of politically permissible actions. That common ground is not always readily visible in public opinion polls or in public hearings, but it can be more clearly revealed by providing citizens with an opportunity to delib- erate about the issues within a public framework like that provided by the National Issues Forums. Accordingly, public officials and policymakers who craft a foreign policy within the boundaries of this political per- mission, stand a far better chance of finding that their policies enjoy broad and deep support among the American people.
  32. 32. 29October 2004 Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Appendix B: Questionnaire Results Total Total Percent Percent “Agree” “Disagree” 47% 50% 28% 65% Do you agree or disagree with the statements below? America should not hesitate to use military force to deal with threats to our national security. Our reluctance to use force before September 11, 2001, encouraged terrorists to attack. Total Total Percent Percent “Favor” “Oppose” 45% 48% 16% 76% 53% 39% Do you favor or oppose each of these actions? The United States should be willing to strike first against enemies who have weapons of mass destruction and a proven willingness to use them. The United States should reinstate the draft to ensure military readiness. The United States must be willing to use force to deal with threats to our national security, EVEN IF that results in many casualties among U.S. service personnel and civilians in other countries. Statements about the Use of Force and Military Power Table 1 — Post-Forum Questionnaire Responses
  33. 33. 30 Kettering Foundation Public Thinking about Americans’ Role in the World Table 2 — Post-Forum Questionnaire Responses Table 3 — Post-Forum Questionnaire Responses Total Total Percent Percent “Agree” “Disagree” 83% 11% 63% 27% Do you agree or disagree with the statements below? Support of emerging democracies will, in the long run, enhance our own national security. Working to spread and maintain democracy in other countries will increase stability in the world. Total Total Percent Percent “Favor” “Oppose” 60% 33% 42% 48% 53% 37% Do you favor or oppose each of these actions? Our goal as Americans in the twenty-first century should be to help citizens of other countries develop stable democracies. We should cut ties with foreign dictators who refuse to honor democratic values. We must invest heavily in helping to build democracy in unstable countries like Afghanistan, EVEN IF this is very costly. Statements about Promoting Democracy in Other Countries Total Total Percent Percent “Agree” “Disagree” 59% 34% 54% 29% Do you agree or disagree with the statements below? When developing countries become more prosperous, they are less likely to threaten other countries. Free trade benefits U.S. consumers by lowering prices. Total Total Percent Percent “Favor” “Oppose” 60% 25% 54% 27% 44% 41% Do you favor or oppose each of these actions? We should reduce or eliminate trade barriers wherever possible. We should make it easier for foreigners to invest in businesses in the United States. We must promote free trade policies, EVEN IF this sometimes causes American workers to lose their jobs. Statements about Economic Development and Free Trade

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