Wars begin in the minds of men.—UNESCO Charter.
Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger. … Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations arefree.—The Dalai Lama.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursel's as ithers see us.—Robert Burns.
This chapter discusses people's attitudes toward other nations and their images of foreign peoples. How are these attitudes developed, and to what extent are they stereotyped or based on limited sources of information? Attitudes concerning war and internationalism are central topics here, and attitudes toward terrorism have become a new focus since the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Other topics covered include the kinds of people who tend to develop warlike attitudes or isolationistic viewpoints. Finally, how do international attitudes change over time?
If you agree that wars begin in people's minds, the importance of international attitudes is clear. Because a nuclear war could devastate the whole planet and possibly wipe out all human life, nations' warlike actions and the beliefs and attitudes that lead up to them are literally life-and-death issues for all of us. In addition, nations' preparations for preventing or fighting a war have an overpowering impact on everything else they do or don't do, as illustrated in this quotation (Hiatt & Atkinson, 1985):
By 1990, nearly enough will have been spent on defense during the Cold War—$3.7 trillion in constant 1972 dollars—to buy everything in the U. S. except the land: every house, factory, train, plane and refrigerator, (p. Al)
In 1995, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated that it would cost an additional $34 billion per year to pay for the unmet worldwide needs for basic child health and nutrition, primary education, safe water and sanitation, and family planning. In comparison, the world spent $800 billion per year on military expenses, so about 2 weeks' worth of military expenditures would have covered all of those needs of children around the world.
Much of what we have already learned about political attitudes applies directly to international affairs. However, there are some special ways in which international attitudes are unique. One characteristic feature is that many people's attitudes are formed despite their having little or no direct contact with other nations, foreigners, or issues of foreign affairs. As a result, the attitudes may be quite unrelated to the realities of world affairs. Of course all of our attitudes are based on our perception of the environment rather than on the actual, objective situation. But in the field of foreign affairs, the gap between perception and reality is apt to be especially large.