The Bush Administration spent millions for public diplomacy in the Middle East to improve the image of this country and bankroll the President's idea that "freedom is on the march." That march never left the starting line. The American propaganda campaign was a colossal waste of money and effort, according to a Zogby International poll released last week.
Zogby asked more than 4,000 Arabs in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Jordan what are the two most important factors driving American policy in their region.
"Promoting democracy," "spreading human rights," "promoting peace and stability" and "fighting terrorism" hardly registered among those polled. Those were "talking points" of our public diplomacy.
More than half (52 percent) selected "protecting Israel" as our top priority. Forty-three percent picked “controlling oil." "Weakening the Muslim world" (38 percent), “preserving regional and global dominance" (24 percent) and "preventing spread of nuclear weapons" (12 percent) followed. Guess those wonderful ads made by former propaganda czar Charlotte Beers didn’t do the trick.
The surveyed Arabs believe Iraq was better off under Saddam Hussein. Seventy-two percent say Iraqis are “worse off” because of the American-led invasion. Only six percent say life is better.
The respondents gave a thumbs-up to President Obama's plan to withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq in `11. Message to America from the “Arab Street: Don’t’ let the door hit you on the way out of Iraq. A robust sixty-five percent say Iraqis “will bridge differences.” Twenty-one percent predict civil war, and 10 percent say the current climate of instability will not change when Americans are gone from Iraq.
The poll also shot down another chestnut in the “war on terror.” Remember the line about terrorists “hating us for our values.” Zogby found that 78 percent of Arabs don’t like us because of “policy in the Middle East” not values.
On an upbeat note, the poll found that sixty percent of Arabs like Obama and are willing to give him a shot. He gets that shot with his next month's address to the Muslim world from Cairo.