By Richard Wike, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Richard Wike is associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. The views expressed are his own. You can follow him @RichardWike.
For decades, Hollywood has been a big part of brand America, and U.S. movies continue to break box office records around the world. Over the past year, blockbusters like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises have earned over half a billion dollars outside the United States. And this weekend, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, viewers in more than 225 countries will tune into the Oscars.
Surveys consistently show that movies – and more broadly, American popular culture – are a strong suit of U.S. soft power. And, while studio executives spend considerably more time thinking about box office returns than public diplomacy, Tinseltown is actually pretty effective at nudging America’s international image in a positive direction. (Certainly, with anti-Americanism still strong in the Middle East and among some other nations, brand America needs all the help it can get).
American culture is especially attractive in Europe. The continent may have a long tradition of intellectuals deriding U.S. culture, but average Europeans embrace it. A 2012 Pew Research Center poll found solid majorities in all eight European Union nations surveyed saying they like American movies, music, and television, including 72 percent in France, home to the Cannes Film Festival, Jean-Luc Godard, and (until recently) Gérard Depardieu. As is the case with nearly all things American, U.S. pop culture is more popular among Europeans in the Obama era than it was during George W. Bush’s presidency, although even during the Bush years, when European anti-Americanism was surging, most still had a favorable opinion of American entertainment. And it’s not just Europe – about seven-in-ten of those surveyed in Japan, Brazil, and Mexico, for example, say they enjoy U.S. movies, music, and television.
By Fabrizio Tassinari, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Fabrizio Tassinari is head of Foreign Policy Studies at the Danish Institute for International Studies and non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. His next book is ‘Polaris: How to Advance when the West Fades.’ The views expressed are his own.
Scandinavia is officially hot. In a recent issue, The Economist crowned the Nordic economic experience as a “supermodel.” Last month, the New Yorker celebrated Denmark’s hugely successful noir fiction and the egalitarian society behind it as something of a “post-modern” paradise. While these characterizations may be accurate, America and other advanced democracies can be forgiven for dismissing the case of these small, wealthy economies in a remote corner of Europe as an extravagant exception. Not so: the real secret of the Nordic performance is applicable to all, for it is a paradigm of enlightened self-interest at its finest.
The haggling over the fiscal cliff was only the latest iteration of America’s partisan gridlock at its most destructive. Every European summit of the past three years has delivered half-baked results, in the hope that things will sort themselves out in the end. This systemic paralysis is bound to make Western decline a self-fulfilling prophecy.
By Javid Ahmad, Special CNN
Editor’s note: Javid Ahmad, a native of Kabul, is a program coordinator with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are his own.
As noted by Ahmad Majidyar yesterday, the killing of three Australian troops this week marked the latest in a string of insider, or so-called green-on-blue, attacks by members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) against Western troops. These attacks have severely eroded NATO’s trust in its local partners and they present a major challenge to the U.S. exit strategy.
There is no shortage of explanations for the attacks. The Afghan government has pointed its finger at Pakistan’s spy agencies for orchestrating the infiltrations. But these accusations directly contradict the Pentagon’s assertion that the vast majority of attacks on American soldiers are triggered by personal grudges, grievances, and cultural clashes from disgruntled individuals, and are not the product of Taliban infiltration. Indeed, U.S. commander General John Allen has blamed shortened tempers on the month-long Ramadan fasting season in the sweltering August heat, although this clearly isn’t the first Ramadan to have been marked in Afghanistan, nor the first hot summer there.
By Fareed Zakaria
“Culture makes all the difference,” said Mitt Romney at a fundraiser in Israel last week. He was comparing the country's economic vitality with Palestinian poverty.
Certainly, there is a pedigree for this idea. Romney cited David Landes, an economics historian. He could have cited Max Weber, the great German scholar who first made this claim 100 years ago in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
The problem is that Weber singled out two cultures as being particularly prone to poverty and stagnation. They were China and Japan. But these have been the world's fastest-growing large economies over the past five decades.
Over the past two decades, the other powerhouse has been India, which was also described for years as having a culture totally incompatible with economic success, hence the phrase “the Hindu rate of growth,” to describe the country's once-moribund state.
Editor's note: Fareed Zakaria recently delivered the commencement address at Harvard. While the audience was graduates, the message could apply to a great many of us, so we've reprinted a modified version below.
By Fareed Zakaria
The best commencement speech I ever read was by the humorist Art Buchwald. He was brief, saying simply, “Remember, we are leaving you a perfect world. Don’t screw it up.”
You are not going to hear that message much these days. Instead, you’re likely to hear that we are living through grim economic times, that the graduates are entering the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. The worries are not just economic. Ever since 9/11, we have lived in an age of terror, and our lives remain altered by the fears of future attacks and a future of new threats and dangers. Then there are larger concerns that you hear about: The Earth is warming; we’re running out of water and other vital resources; we have a billion people on the globe trapped in terrible poverty.
So, I want to sketch out for you, perhaps with a little bit of historical context, the world as I see it.
Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer/correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frida Ghitis.
Facebook's $104 billion initial public offering comes at a time when the United States is suffering a bout of self-doubt. Many wonder if America is falling behind as other countries are catching up fast. And yet the Facebook phenomenon did not occur in a vacuum.
You might say it could have happened anywhere. But it happened in America. And there was a reason for that. FULL POST
On Friday, U.S. authorities at White Plains airport new New York detained Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan for an hour and a half. India reacted angrily with its foreign minister declaring: "[this] policy of detention and apology by the U.S. cannot continue." This is not a first for Shah Rukh Khan. Back in August 2009, he was held for two hours at New Jersey’s Newark airport.
Here's a transcript of what Khan said to Fareed Zakaria after that first detention: FULL POST
Editor's Note: Stewart Patrick is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security.
By Stewart Patrick, CFR.org
At first glance, this Monday’s high-level event in the U.N. General Assembly would appear to confirm the worst suspicions of U.N. skeptics. Given all the crises engulfing the globe, what geniuses in New York decided to have the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan host a daylong special session on “Happiness.”What the heck is going on in Turtle Bay? More than meets the eye, in fact. One of the hottest fields in development economics has been, believe it or not, happiness research. And it turns out that the government in Thimpu may have something wise to say on the subject. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Priya Parker, an expert-in-residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab, is the founder of Thrive Labs, a visioning and strategy advisory firm based in Brooklyn, New York. You can follow Priya on Twitter @priyaparker.
By Priya Parker - Special to CNN
In the last few weeks alone, we’ve heard this rising generation called everything from the Go-Nowhere Generation and the MacGyver and DIY Generation to Generation Stuck and Generation Flux. In recent years, the generation most commonly known as the Millennials has also been described as Generation Me, Generation We, the Trophy Kids, the Boomerang Generation and the Dumbest Generation. (Ouch).
If one theme runs through these different pieces, it’s that people really like to name this generation. (I am guilty of injecting my own label into the mix last week, when I wrote a piece on the Global Public Square casting my cohort as Generation FOMO. We are held together, I argued, by a shared tendency to make decisions based on the fear of missing out on something around the corner.)
As part of my job, I work with talented Millennials on building alternative future strategies. They often come to me feeling burned out and unsure how to make their mark in the world. We work together to think strategically and soulfully - yes, you can do both! - about the kind of future they wish to build.
In this work, I’ve found that, whatever you call them, many Millennials are inhibited by anxieties peculiar to our time. I’ve already spoken of the FOMO problem. In this post, I want to share some of the other blockages that Millennials tell me afflict them. Next week, I will share techniques that I’ve found helpful in overcoming FOMO and these other inhibitors of building, creating and doing. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
What caught my eye this week was a dispute between two members of a grand old European alliance. The alliance isn't NATO; it's not the
Arctic Council nor the Euro Zone, nor the EU. I'm talking about the annual Eurovision Song Contest.
It's camp; it's cheesy; but it's a huge hit across the pond. Every year, dozens of countries send their top performers to an American Idol-style music competition. More than a 100 million viewers tune in to vote for their favorites. The one rule: you can't vote for your own country.
And so the tradition has continued since the 1950s.
Abba won for "Waterloo" in 1974. Celine Dion made a splash in 1988 representing Switzerland. But somewhere along the way the contest became known less for big names, and more for kitsch: Sequined costumes, outlandish productions, the works.
Now, despite its name, Eurovision is not just a European competition. Algeria participates and so does Israel. This year's host is Azerbaijan. And that's why Eurovision is in the news this week. FULL POST
By Kiran Khalid, CNN
When Pakistani journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and American filmmaker Daniel Junge won the 2012 Oscar for the best documentary short at the Academy Awards, they didn’t just achieve a professional milestone, they made history. Within minutes of the monumental win (Pakistan’s first), the name of the film, “Saving Face”, about women who are victims of acid attacks, was trending on Twitter along with Obaid-Chinoy’s name. Pakistani media catapulted the 33 year-old filmmaker from reporter to rock star in the time it takes to tear open an envelope. FULL POST