Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Obama’s Pandering to the Muslim World Has Done No Good

The idea that if we just are more “sympathetic to Arab concerns” and more “balanced in our approach to the Middle East” Arabs (and presumably, Muslims generally) will be more favorable to the U.S. has been shot to hell by a pollster of Arab heritage.

From the Arab American Institute:
With the 2008 election of Barack Obama, favorable attitudes toward the U.S. more than doubled in many Arab countries. But in the two years since his famous “Cairo speech,” ratings for both the U.S. and the President have spiraled downwards. The President is seen overwhelmingly as failing to meet the expectations set during his speech, and the vast majority of those surveyed disagree with U.S policies.

In five out of the six countries surveyed, the U.S. was viewed less favorably than Turkey, China, France—or Iran. Far from seeing the U.S. as a leader in the post-Arab Spring environment, the countries surveyed viewed “U.S. interference in the Arab world” as the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East, second only to the continued Palestinian occupation.

While the vehemence of Arab reaction to the U.S. was startling, the general sentiment echoed points made in AAI President James Zogby’s 2010 book Arab Voices, in which he reflected on Arab opinions of both the U.S. and our foreign policies. “American democracy [seems] a lot like damaged goods to many Arabs… U.S. policy in the region has increasingly undermined Arab attitudes toward America as a global model.”

Executive Summary

• After improving with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, U.S. favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran’s favorable ratings (except in Saudi Arabia).

• The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands and U.S. interference in the Arab world are held to be the greatest obstacles to peace and stability in the Middle East.

• While many Arabs were hopeful that the election of Barack Obama would improve U.S.-Arab relations, that hope has evaporated. Today, President Obama’s favorable ratings across the Arab world are 10% or less.

• Obama’s performance ratings are lowest on the two issues to which he has devoted the most energy: Palestine and engagement with the Muslim world.

• The U.S. role in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya receives a positive rating only in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, but, as an issue, it is the lowest priority.

• The killing of bin Laden only worsened attitudes toward the U.S.

• A plurality says it is too early to tell whether the Arab Spring will have a positive impact on the region. In Egypt, the mood is mixed. Only in the Gulf States are optimism and satisfaction levels high.
You can read the full poll here.

And the following graphic makes the failure of the policy clear:

Obama, of course, it a standard liberal, and standard liberals believe that if people dislike the U.S., it must be our fault.

But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s their fault. Those Muslims who sympathize with terrorism are at fault. Those Muslims who want Israel wiped off the map are at fault. Those Arabs who blame the failure of nations in the Middle East to create free and democratic governments on the West are at fault. Those who blame the U.S. for their economic backwardness are at fault.

Sometimes, it’s best to take to heart Machiavelli’s famous dictim that “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”

Thus we have trouble believing that killing Bin Laden really harmed attitudes toward the U.S. If it didn’t engender the warm fuzzies, it probably engendered attitudes a lot more beneficial to us.

Sometimes, of course, it doesn’t matter much whether a country is feared or hated. If you are big enough and powerful enough, they have to deal with you.

The bottom line of this issue is that America should be America: a friend of Israel, and an enemy of terrorism. Willing to intervene when vital national security interests are at stake -- and being a democracy, there will always be a vigorous debate about whether they are.

As for Arabs: if you insist on disliking us, so be it.

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Anonymous scott said...

Your analysis in the first paragraph seem at odds with the executive summary you quote below. You say we've been "pandering" and trying to appear "sympathetic" and that it hasn't worked. The summary below indicates that his unpopularity is due to the same old same old in our support of Israel, the no-fly zone over Libya and the killing of bin Laden that are the reasons for the lower popularity. Those things can hardly be considered "pandering."

10:49 PM  

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