This Is Not About Freedom
Defence Science Board Report (September 2004):
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
The report, entitled 'Strategic
Communications', is a 1.75Mb pdf available from the Defence
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
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,
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
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