Today, according to the Pew Global Attitudes poll released in June 2003, favorable attitudes toward the U.S. are held by less than 50% of the citizens in key allied countries such as South Korea, Germany, and France. In the Muslim world, meanwhile, few think favorably of the United States, and large numbers believe Osama bin Laden will "do the right thing" in world affairs in countries such as Indonesia (58%), Jordan (55%), and Morocco (49%).
Our failure to win hearts and minds has nothing to do with any defects in public relations. The government's PR machine, one of the most powerful in history, has been spinning overtime. Spin has nothing to do with it. The blunders are at the heart of current U.S. foreign policy. Simply put, the administration hasn't gained the world's trust. To build support for the war against Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration fabricated key elements of its case, particularly the Iraqi government's attempts to acquire and build weapons of mass destruction and its links to al Qaeda. As a result, minds that have been deceived and hearts that have been manipulated will long remain cynical toward the U.S.
Second, the administration conflated terrorists and "rogue states." Because al Qaeda, as a non-state terrorist organization, is a threat to all states, the administration could have built a truly multilateral counterterrorism alliance in the wake of September 11. Instead, in Iraq, we have literally pushed remnants of the Iraqi regime together with foreign terrorists to create the very alliance that we initially fabricated.
Finally, the Bush administration has undermined multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations. This isn't a tragic side effect of the war on terrorism. The administration was determined from the outset to weaken any global institutions that might represent a check on U.S. power.
We need more intelligent, more sophisticated, and fundamentally more decent methods of addressing global problems such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and endemic civil conflicts that do not alienate the globe in the process.
Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards
A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.