Saturday, October 22, 2005

part 6

The Zogby poll of six Arab countries from June 2004 cited above showed that Arabs in every country polled thought that American foreign policy was how they base their views of the country. In Morocco, 79% said that American policy dictates their views of the US, like wise in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and UAE, American policy was cited by 86%, 89%, 76%, and 75% respectively as the main reason for unfavorable opinion. Finally when asked in these countries (in an open ended question) “what should America do to better its image in the Middle East?” 30-65% replied that the US must change its policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In all the countries, American values were secondary to policy in determining the views of the people surveyed. These polls do not reflect anti-American values but anti-American policy and so one cannot conclude that Arabs do not want democracy, freedom, and equality, America’s known staples around the globe. In fact, in almost all Arab countries polled in April 2002 by Zogby International, Arabs held favorable views of American democracy, freedom, technology, and the movie industry. However, the Zogby polls done two years later, June 2004, revealed that there is about a 15% decrease of people who thought that American democracy and freedom were favorable. In all the cases American policy was still about 40% less favorable than American democracy and freedom but it is a clear case in which deep hostility to American foreign policy spilled over into American values. Yet while clear majorities in the Arab world found American democracy and freedom favorable, after the invasion of Iraq these numbers declined but still about 40% or more of each Arab country surveyed envied Americans their democracy.

Part 5

Many people have tried to discredit these polls by stating that Arab countries are not democracies and freedom of speech is nonexistent and so these polls are meaningless. That would be true if most Arabs in countries with American-friendly governments gave favorable ratings of the US but, in the contrary, these populations gave ratings that contrast with the policy of their respective governments. Critics of these polls also contend that Arabs live in fairly closed societies and so are heavily misinformed about American foreign policy. These critics point to Arab media as being overly anti-American and thus affecting Arab views of what happens on the ground and the American response to it. But these criticisms will fall short if one takes a closer look at established democracies like Turkey and Indonesia where freedom of the press and freedom of speech are respected. In June 2003, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center conducted a poll and found that 83% of Turks have an unfavorable view of the United States and that Indonesia’s population went from 75% having a favorable view of the United States in 2000 to 83% having an unfavorable view in June 2004. Moreover since the advent of Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, two independent pan-Arab satellite news stations, the Arab public has been getting different stories from different news sources, including these two, and other smaller media organizations. The difference in coverage has not changed views across the Arab nations.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Part 4

These statistics are surprising, unlike the reasons that Arabs cite for the unfavorable view they hold of the United States. When questioned about American values such as freedom, democracy, strong education, or products such as science, technology, and movies the favorable ratings of the US ranged from 30% to 81% in the six Arab countries in the poll. However, when questioned about American foreign policy in the region such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraq policy or foreign policy toward Arab countries in general, those who viewed the United States favorably ranged form 1 to 7 percent of the population. The difference in magnitude of views is statistically significant and clearly indicates that the American-Arab divide is not a moral/ethical/values one but definitely a practical one viewed in terms of cause and effect, that is, a response to American actions in the region. The range of Arabs who liked or disliked American values is also significant in the sense that Arabs, generally, disagreed on whether they appreciated American values and culture. In contrast, the small range of 1-7 percent favorability of American foreign policy is instructive of the broad agreement that Arabs have over a large swath of land encompassing twenty two countries of which the above six are polled. Again it is important to note that most of these countries that were polled are strong American allies, or their autocratic, despotic governments at least, namely Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE and Morocco. Of the polled countries, only Lebanon is not formally an American ally.