Sunday, November 25, 2007

They Hate Us. They Really Hate Us!

In today's NYT Magazine, James Traub's contribution to the weekly how we live column looks at the damage Bush & Co. have done to America's reputation around the world. He runs through the list of "good will" ambassadors the administration has sent out to fix what they've broken. These include Bush groupie Karen Hughes' short stint as "undersecretary of state for public diplomacy" and Charlotte Beers and her "Muslim Life in America" videos that brought a ton of unintended humor, but little admiration from Muslims and others in the middle east & around the world.

And the impact of the Bush good will push? Well as surveys from Pew Charitable Trusts show, from 2002-2007, favorable views of the US have definitely changed:

In Germany - favorable views fell from 60 to 30%
In Indonesia - favorable views fell from 30 to 9%
And the good news? Well in Pakistan the figure rose from 10 to 15% (great news, we pump millions of dollars into their coffers and we get a 5% bump!)

A BBC poll of people in 35 countries from 2006 showed that the majority of people in 33 of those 35 countries believed that the Iraq war has INCREASED the likelihood of world-wide terrorist attacks. The average percentage in those countries was 60% fearing more terror thanks to our "war on terror" invasion of Iraq. Among the nations polled were five Iraq neighbors. Except for Afghanistan (only 25% want withdrawal), the wish for the US to get the heck out of there was pretty strong. Egypt (76%), Saudi Arabia (64%), Turkey (61%) and coming in even lower (believe it or not Darth Cheney) was Iran at 58%. Yes, the countries that are our allies and know us best are the ones in that group of five that want us out the most.

Earlier this year, the same group conducted a multi-country poll that found "in all Muslim countries polled, majorities said that the US is having a mostly negative influence in the world and that the US military presence in the Middle East provokes more conflict than it prevents."

At some point, don't you just want to shake whoever keeps sending out these good will bombs into the public and scream -- "Please, Stop Helping Us!"?

Of course, this isn't the first time we've tried using ideals and propaganda to win a war, in fact, we have done it so often that you would think that by now we'd be good at it. So why are we (forgive the phrase) bombing at it in the Muslim world? Of course much of it comes back to the concept of do as we say, not as we do. Don't watch us destroy a nation to try and save it. Don't watch us refuse to grant visas and refuge to Iraqis who helped us, endangering their lives and those of their families. Don't watch how we treat POWs (or whatever it is we've chosen to call them at the moment so that we can hide them from international or national laws, not to mention moral responsibilities. Ignore everything you see with your own eyes and believe what we tell you. And we're wondering why we can't get through with our messages of respect and admiration for Muslims and Muslim culture?

The insane thing is - (stick with me here Bush & Co.) - most people in the middle east think that Democracy is the way to go. Look at the Voice of the People 2005 Democracy survey conducted by Gallop. When asked for a response to the phrase "Democracy may have problems but it is the best system of government," 78% of Middle East responders agreed. That number is higher than that for Latin America (74%) and Eastern & Central Europe (68%). North America's number of 87% is only 10% higher. So why do so many Americans seem to think that Muslims hate democracy?

Bucky has long argued that one way Americans can better understand the world is to ensure that every high school student spent some length of time abroad. I couldn't agree more with that concept. And I'd argue that there is another benefit - the more Americans who spend time abroad, the more people from around the world who have a chance to meet an American face to face. It's harder to stereotype a people once you've met them face to face - a benefit to both sides, not just one.


Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto. I think that what Obama said the other day is particularly relevant when you're talking about the US image abroad, i.e. that his most important foreign policy "experience" is having lived a portion of his life abroad, in Indonesia. Mrs. Clinton's camp mocked him for that, but it's really very important: living abroad, as he did, gives you a gut understanding that other people see things differently, based on their own unique circumstances and historical experiences. In other words, they usually DON'T share the conviction of many here that the US always appears as a beacon of hope, a force for good, with soldiers handing out toys and candy everywhere. That is the most important lesson a person aspiring to lead us can learn, i.e. to see things from without, the way others perceive us, understand and acknowledge other points of view.

I wish Obama would talk up studying and traveling abroad on the campaign trail, why these things are so valuable. of course, it will also help if he simultaneously offers a plan to shore up the free-falling dollar, so our intrepid American travelers and adventurers won't take such a hit in the pocketbook when they DO venture forth...

12:40 PM  
Blogger betmo said...

the sad part is most folks in other countries may not realize that there is a significant portion of the american population who isn't on board with our government. they hate US- as in all of us. that's the really scary part. that- and what we have actually done to the rest of the world.

10:31 PM  
Blogger TomCat said...

The problem is not that the Muslims hate democracy. They don't. It's Bush and the GOP that hate democracy.

5:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Web Counter
hit Counter