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Friday, March 19, 2004

Marshall answers critics 

Josh Marshall has posted a rather lengthy defense of his claim that the latest Pew poll shows a "rising tide of anti-Americanism" in the Muslim world. A claim which I took up here and which other readers have emailed him about. Marshall admits here that

As Pew phrases it in one of their summaries, "anger toward the United States remains pervasive [in the four Muslim states surveyed], although the level of hatred has eased somewhat and support for the war on terrorism has inched up."
Marshall does not take issue with the decrease in America's unfavorable rating. His argument is that it is more important to look at the numbers over a long timeframe, going back to before the war began.

I tend to agree. One must assume that the level of hatred spiked near the start of the Iraq war, and the 2003 poll was taken in May, barely two months after the start of the conflict. I would be interested in seeing complete numbers from before the war.

Having said all that, public opinion in the Arab/Muslim world in the short term should not be the concern. If only 5% like us now, when 15% (or however many) used to like us, that's not a huge deal to me. It doesn't make a difference strategically or tactically.

What matters is what those same populations think once they learn that America was serious about building up a democratic Iraq and then leaving.

Side note: Whatever their opinion of the United States, I don't think the hatred extends to individual Americans. I spent almost a month in one of the Gulf countries, just a few months after the end of major military operations in Iraq. The people (including mostly Pakistani guest workers and the few native Arabs I actually spoke with) were, without exception, friendly. The natives were curious--mostly about what I thought of their country, of which they were quite proud. I think on both sides of the conversation there was a desire to show that, hey, we're just people, not stereotypes. Of course, terrorism and the war did not come up, nor should they have. Although ultimately that's the kind of culture-to-culture conversation that is most needed.
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