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This Is Not About Freedom

The Defence Science Board Report (September 2004):

Arabs Oppose Policies, Not Values, Of The US

Opinion poll research from the US Defence Science Board in mid-2004 found high levels of hostility to the US in Arab countries coupled with large-scale support for democracy, science, education and freedom.


The report, entitled 'Strategic Communications', is a 1.75Mb pdf available from the Defence Science Board.


For example, in Saudi Arabia, 94 per cent of people were 'unfavourable' to the United States, but hostility to US 'freedom and democracy' was much lower at only 60 per cent of people. The results for US 'freedom and democracy' were broadly similar in the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon (60 per cent unfavourable to 40 per cent favourable), but in Jordan and Morocco there were majorities in favour of US 'freedom and democracy' (roughly 55 per cent favourable to 40 per cent unfavourable).


In all of these countries there was a consensus on US policies towards the Middle East, however. There was overwhelming hostility to US policy towards the Arabs (85 to 90 per cent unfavourable), towards the Palestinians (89 to 95 per cent unfavourable), and towards Iraq (91 to 98 per cent unfavourable - apart from Jordan, which has an uncomfortable relationship with its bigger neighbour, but which still had 78 per cent of respondents hostile to US policy there).


These were findings from a Zogby International opinion poll (available as a 250kb pdf). The pollsters commented, 'When asked whether their overall attitude toward the US was shaped by their feelings about American values or US policies, in all six countries, an overwhelming percentage of respondents indicated that policy played a more important role.' In the five countries already mentioned, between 75 and 89 per cent of people said that they judged the United States by its policies rather than by its values.


Incidentally, in The Times on 9 July 2005, Roger Scruton confidently claims that the motive for anti-Western terrorism is 'resentment' of Western 'material and political success': 'Islamic terrorists [sic] bomb the cities of Europe and America because those cities are a symbol of the material and political success of the Western nations, and a rebuke to the political chaos and deep-rooted corruption of the Muslim world. Success breeds resentment, and resentment breeds hate.'


Relevant in this context is the question in the Zogby International poll 'what is the worst thought that comes to mind when you hear the word America?' The pollsters found that 'The issue of foreign policy in general and policy towards the Arab people in particular are the items most frequently cited here. Across the board in all six countries foreign policy issues are noted in almost 80% of the responses. The most frequently cited are “unfair Middle East policy,” US responsibility for “murdering Arabs” (principally in Iraq, although US culpability for the suffering of Palestinians is also cited), and what is perceived as the US preoccupation with “Arab oil.” That this is an issue across the board, is worth noting. While it is understandable that this might be a perception in Saudi Arabia and UAE, it comes as a surprise that this is a significant “first thought” that comes to mind in Morocco, Jordan, and Lebanon as well.'


There is no basis in the poll for the assertion that Muslims in the Middle East feel hatred towards the US because of its material or political 'success'. Unless, that is, you believe that US material and political 'success' is based on, and synonymous with, murdering Arabs, dominating Arab oil, and bolstering an unfair situation in the Middle East.


Returning to the Defence Science Board (which we should emphasise is an official federal advisory body), the 'Strategic Communications' report reached the following (quite sensible) conclusions (page 40 of the report, emphasis added):


American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature
of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to
single-digits in some Arab societies.


Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The
overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in
favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing
support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi
Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.


• Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic
societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that
“freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that
Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World — but Muslims do
not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.


• Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq
has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions
appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in
order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim selfdetermination.


• Therefore, the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire
radical Islamist bill of particulars.
American actions and the flow of events have
elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy
among Muslims. Fighting groups portray themselves as the true defenders of an
Ummah (the entire Muslim community) invaded and under attack — to broad public


• What was a marginal network is now an Ummah-wide movement of fighting groups.
Not only has there been a proliferation of “terrorist” groups: the unifying context of a
shared cause creates a sense of affiliation across the many cultural and sectarian
boundaries that divide Islam. (The 'Ummah' is the global community of Muslims - JNV)




This page last updated 9 July 2005






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