In the last ten years America has gotten an international reputation for torture.
Aside from the obvious moral hesitation most decent people have when it comes to torture there is a huge practical problem it creates.
After World War two America basically rebuilt many countries. We extended our resources to crushed countries in a way no other country has ever done, and on an amazing scale. For decades, a person could go anywhere in the world and America was referred to with admiration and respect. Just being an American, in almost any country, was worth more than any credit card.
Slowly, that changed.
USAID is a United States government program that administers billions of dollars worth of aid to foreign countries. It would normally be a program that, administered ethically, would create boundless good will for America. It would seem to be easy to avoid turning a prize like that into foreign policy poison.
In the 1960s USAID sent a man who was ostensibly one of its directors to Latin America, Dan Mitrione. The problem, though, was that Mr Mitrione's specialty was not administering aid. His knack was for torturing. His job was to teach dictators special police how to torture. Supposedly he had homeless people in poor countries abducted off the street. Then he would bring them to the torture classroom and torture them to death. Mitrione's son has an interesting story too.
At any rate, People like Mitrione were always in the shadows. Pathological people employed by pathological bosses desperate to somehow convert their dark tendencies into something positive, perhaps patriotism. In every situation where torture was used, a better result would have been gotten using other means. But the simple truth is that certain people take pride in violence and will go to great lengths to justify it.
Almost invariably, those who support torture are compensating for some internal weakness.
Sometimes the torturer is a person who feels a need to prove loyalty to what is perceived as a powerful patron. A person from humble roots, from a culture or family that is out of the mainstream of power. These are pathetic, slavish people who have wormed their way into a niche that guarantees power and they will do anything to stay there.
Other times the torturers are simply young people with little experience in life and a weak moral upbringing. These people invariably have little understanding or interest in foreign ideologies and people. They make good soldiers because they are loyal to power, and because they are expendable.
A person only has to read through the comments section of any major website, anywhere in the world, to see where America's militarism is bringing it.
There is a whole new generation of people across Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, even Canada who have an active disrespect for America.
A note about the effect of foreign aid on image.
Pew Global did a study on the effect of aid on image and found a substantial effect in Japan and elsewhere, but minimal effect in Pakistan. The simple truth in Pakistan is that China and Saudi Arabia also provide substantial aid to Pakistan, but their aid is not perceived as being attached to large strings. The Pakistanis are proud, and would rather an honest dollar from China than a trunk of cash from the U.S. that comes with ridiculous conditions.
When the U.S. sent bags of food to Pakistan, the U.S. government attached a clause that the food had to always be in a container (e.g. bag) that identified it as a gift from the United States. Of course manipulations like that spread through the press and by word of mouth. There have been many similar examples in Pakistan. An American might say "But of course we are giving the aid to improve our image, so it must be done in a way that everybody sees it is from us". The answer to that, from many people in the world now, is "Keep your money".
47% of Pakistanis say the U.S. is the leading economic power in the world, and almost all of those people say that it is a bad thing. 30% of Pakistanis think that China is the leading economic power, and almost all of those people say that is a good thing. That negative effect comes not from religion (China also fights Muslim extremists, in fact more aggressively than the U.S.), but simply because the U.S. has been so heavy handed.