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Ash Pulcifer: Further Fanning Of The Flames

Further Fanning Of The Flames

By Ash Pulcifer Column

( – In December of 2002, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a study titled, "What the World Thinks in 2002." The study, containing poll results from 27 countries around the world, examines how the global community perceives the United States. The results of this study were shocking, as it showed that positive attitudes toward the United States had plummeted since the election of the Bush administration.

The study, discussed in greater detail in "Fanning the flames of resentment," found that in 19 of the 27 countries polled, attitudes toward the United States had shifted dramatically. From Western Europe to Latin America, genuine anger toward the United States was sharply increasing. Most worrying, in Muslim-majority countries, feelings toward the United States had turned dangerously negative; many Muslims believed, and still do, that the "war on terrorism" is actually a "war on Islam."

After this poll was released, the Bush administration launched a propaganda campaign to convince peoples typically leery of the U.S. that the United States is a positive force for world order. Unfortunately for the United States, this propaganda effort has so far failed. A follow-up Pew Research Center poll, released June 3rd, shows that attitudes toward the United States have worsened, mostly due to the invasion of Iraq. The organization stated that attitudes toward the United States had begun to settle down, yet the U.S. invasion of Iraq caused an eruption in negative sentiment toward the United States.

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, stated, "We have gone from bad to worse over the past year. We [America] have been unable to make the case against bin Laden with Muslims because they see the United States as a threat." The poll also shows that in every Arab country -- except for Kuwait and Lebanon -- Osama bin Laden inspires more "confidence" than U.S. President Bush. Despite this, the study showed no correlation between dislike for President Bush and dislike for American ideas and cultural norms. As Michael Dobbs writes in the Chicago Tribune, "People who expressed a favorable opinion of bin Laden were just as likely to appreciate U.S. technology and cultural products as people opposed to bin Laden, according to [Andrew] Kohut." This fact shows that it is President Bush himself, along with his administration, that is responsible for the massive political fallout taking place in Muslim-majority countries.

Negative attitudes toward the U.S. are increasing in other countries as well. In Britain, Canada, and Russia, for example, opinions toward the United States have turned sharply negative in the last year.

Many Americans could care less what the rest of the world thinks about the U.S. government. After all, it was America that was attacked on September 11, not Germany or France. However, it is important to take into account how others throughout the world feel about the United States. Resentment toward the U.S. can quickly turn into hatred, as it already has throughout most of the Muslim world. And most concernedly, hatred often turns into action, which will mean even more violence committed toward the United States and its interests.

If the Bush administration continues its current interventionist approach, there is no doubt that more radical groups will be created with the sole purpose of hurting the United States government and its people. As stated in a Defense Science Board report released in 1997, "historical data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States." If this Defense Science Board analysis is correct, then Americans may be in for a longer battle with terrorism and anti-Americanism than they realize.

Taking all of this into account, it becomes clear that the "war on terrorism" needs to be fought with different weapons. Rather than fanning the flames of resentment by intervening all across the globe, the Bush administration should instead be working to heal the rift between the United States, the Muslim world, and other countries where hatred toward the United States is increasing. This can be done by actually listening to the desires and wants in the Muslim world and elsewhere, and not simply forcing a model of life upon them. If the Bush administration fails to do this, they will only be exacerbating the very problems that have caused this deadly backlash against U.S. interests.


[Ash Pulcifer is a U.S. based analyst of international conflicts and is also a human rights activist. While he does not justify or accept the killing of civilians in warfare, he attempts to understand why groups or governments resort to such means in order to achieve their strategic objectives.]

Ash Pulcifer encourages your comments: is an international news and opinion publication. encourages its material to be reproduced, reprinted, or broadcast provided that any such reproduction identifies the original source, Internet web links to are appreciated.

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