The Roots of Muslim Anger at America
By Steven Kull
BROOKINGS INSTITUTION PRESS
Copyright © 2011 THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
All right reserved.
Chapter One The Scope of Muslim Anger and Support for Violent Anti-American Groups
The premise of this book is that the problem of terrorism does not simply lie in the small number of people who join terrorist organizations. Rather, the existence of terrorist organizations is a symptom of tension in the larger society that finds a particularly virulent expression in certain individuals. Hostility toward the United States in the broader society plays a critical role in sustaining terrorist groups, even if most disapprove of those groups' tactics. The essential "problem," then, is one of America's relationship with Muslim societies as a whole, or an integrated system.
Clark McCauley has depicted the relationship between anti-American terrorists and their society as being like a pyramid. At the apex are the terrorists. Below them is a layer of "justifiers" who actively express support. Below them are the sympathizers who provide more passive support. At the bottom are those expressing negative views toward the United States more generally, providing the broad base from which the other groups emerge.
Adapting this model (see figure 1-1), this chapter begins by exploring the broad base of those expressing negative views of the United States and its foreign policymajorities in most cases, with some quite substantial. Next up the pyramid are those who express passive support or sympathy for al Qaeda and other anti-American groupsin some cases modest majorities, especially when those who say they have "mixed feelings" are included. At a higher level are those who actively express support for anti-American groups either verbally or by approving if a child or family member were to join such a group or possibly by contributing money. This group constitutes a small but not insignificant minority.
On a parallel track up the pyramid there are those who express approval of attacks on U.S. troops, again a number that is a majority in some, but not all, nations. At a higher level of the pyramid is a considerably smaller but not insignificant minority that approves of attacks on American civilians.
Views of the United States through 2008
Before 9/11 there were very limited data available on attitudes toward the United States in the Muslim world. The U.S. Information Agency conducted some limited polling in the 1990s that showed substantially negative views toward the United States. In 1994, 61 percent of Turks said they had an "unfavorable" view of the United States, though this moderated later in the decade. In 1997 majorities with "unfavorable" views of the United States were found in Jordan (61 percent), the Palestinian Territories (71 percent), and Lebanon (54 percent); and in 1999 only 23 percent of Pakistanis expressed "favorable" views. In Indonesia and Morocco, however, three in four expressed "favorable" views of the United States.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 there were a number of surveys that found largely negative views in some newly polled nations and worsening views among some of those previously polled. Negative views were particularly pronounced in countries in or around the Middle East. Gallup found that 64 percent of Saudis and 63 percent of Iranians had "unfavorable" views of the United States and that negative views were persisting in Pakistan (68 percent) and Jordan (62 percent). In the summer of 2002 Pew found 59 percent with "unfavorable" views of the United States in Egypt. In addition, views had worsened in Lebanon (59 percent, up 5 points) and in Jordan (75 percent, up 14 points). Views in Turkey, after having gradually improved during the 1990s, had turned decidedly "unfavorable" (55 percent).
Countries further away from the Middle East had milder views in the 2002 Pew poll. The biggest difference was in Uzbekistan, where 85 percent of respondents had a "favorable" view of the United States. Two majority-Muslim African nations polled also had "favorable" viewsMali (75 percent) and Senegal (61 percent). South Asians also showed less negative views of the United States than majority-Muslim countries in and around the Middle East, with a majority of Indonesians (61 percent) having a "favorable" view and Bangladeshis having divided views. In Pakistan, however, 69 percent had "unfavorable" views.
At that time, these predominantly negative views of the United States in the Muslim world in and around the Middle East were in sharp contrast to views of the United States elsewhere in the world. The 2002 Pew study found "favorable" views of the United States in thirty of the thirty-one non-majority-Muslim countries polled. On average, just 23 percent of respondents in those countries had an "unfavorable" view.
In the 2002 study Pew also asked respondents whether they favored or opposed "the U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism." These efforts received majority approval in thirty-three of the thirty-four nations that were not majority-Muslim (Argentina was the exception). By contrast, these efforts were opposed by majorities in eight of the ten majority-Muslim nations, including those that in the same poll said they had a generally "favorable" view of the United StatesIndonesia (64 percent) and Senegal (64 percent).
After the United States launched the Iraq war in March 2003, views of the United States grew more unfavorable in most corners of the world. In Pew's 2003 survey, among the ten non-majority-Muslim countries polled in 2002 as well as 2003, "unfavorable" views jumped substantially in all cases, on average 16 points from 33 to 49 percent.
Yet views grew particularly negative in the Muslim world. Even Indonesians, who had been quite positive toward the United States, grew sharply negative, with 83 percent expressing "unfavorable" views. "Unfavorable" views ballooned in Jordan (99 percent), Turkey (84 percent), Pakistan (81 percent), and Lebanon (71 percent). On average, 77 percent expressed "unfavorable" views of the United States among the eight majority-Muslim nations.
Over the next few years Pew continued to find "unfavorable" views of the United States among majority-Muslim nations. In 2007 it conducted its most complete study, which included thirteen majority-Muslim countries. Nine of them had majorities with negative views. The only country in the Middle East that was not predominantly negative was Kuwait, where views were divided. But outside of the greater Middle East region, views continued to be more mixed. In South Asia, less than half of Bangladeshis (41 percent) had "unfavorable" views, while Indonesians and Malaysians had persistently negative views. Africans in Mali and Senegal were predominantly "favorable." Nevertheless, the average across the thirteen countries was 59 percent "unfavorable."
All this was in sharp contrast to most other countries' views of the United States. Of the thirty-three non-Muslim countries polled in 2007, on average only 39 percent had "unfavorable" views of the United States, even though in some countriesespecially in Argentina, China, France, and Germany&mdashl;majorities had negative views.
Questions that simply ask about the United States can elicit responses based on a mix of factors such as the people, the culture, movies, and so on. Indeed, polls that ask specifically about the American people tend to be a bit less negative than views of the United States per se, which also tend to be less negative than views of U.S. influence in the world. Another series of annual surveys initiated in early 2005 by BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA sought to focus on views of U.S. foreign policy behavior, specifically asking whether the United States is having a "positive or negative influence in the world." Overall, views about U.S. influence were predominantly negative in western European, Latin American, and most Asian countries polled as well as in majority-Muslim nations. Views in African countries, however, were positive. By 2008, perhaps in anticipation of the U.S. presidential elections, non-Muslim countries around the world showed a gradual moderation in negative views of U.S. influence.
In the Muslim world, however, BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA found negative views persisting. Views worsened in several Muslim countries, including Egypt and Turkey (both reaching 73 percent negative in 2008) and Lebanon (reaching 67 percent negative in 2008). Views in Indonesia went from a plurality saying the United States was a negative influence in 2006 (47 percent) to majorities saying so in 2007 and 2008 (71 percent and 55 percent, respectively). Of the nine majority-Muslim countries surveyed at least once during this period (2005 to 2008), only in Afghanistan did a majority (72 percent in 2006, the one time it was polled) say the United States was having a positive influence in the world.
WorldPublicOpinion.org (WPO) polled five majority-Muslim nations at the end of 2006 into early 2007 and then four of the nations again in 2008, asking specifically whether respondents had a "favorable" or "unfavorable" view of "the U.S. government" rather than the United States per se. In the two waves of WPO surveys, very large majorities had "unfavorable" views of the U.S. government in Egypt (89 percent in both surveys), Indonesia (66 percent and 64 percent), and Pakistan (59 percent and 56 percent, with only 14 percent and 17 percent expressing a "favorable" view). Morocco was polled only in late 2006 and showed 76 percent with an "unfavorable" view. "Unfavorable" views declined somewhat in Iran. WPO found 93 percent with "unfavorable" views in 2006, dropping to 85 percent in 2008 and 77 percent in 2009. In a separate 2006 WPO poll, Afghanis were asked their views of "the United States." As in other polling, they stood out with a remarkable 81 percent having a "favorable" view.
Terror Free Tomorrow conducted a survey in Saudi Arabia in 2007 and found somewhat more moderate views (similar to those in Kuwait) than in other Muslim countries in the region, with a bare majority of 52 percent holding an "unfavorable" view of the United States. A plurality (44 to 36 percent) favored "Saudi Arabia restricting its supply of oil to the United States because of current American policies." Nonetheless, 69 percent still favored a close relationship with the United States.
Views of the United States under Obama
Because many unpopular policies of the United Statesespecially the Iraq war and the "war on terror"were associated with the Bush administration, when Barack Obama was elected president in late 2008, there was anticipation in some circles that these negative feelings might abate. A BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA poll conducted before Obama's inauguration in January 2009 found majorities around the world thinking that Obama's election would lead to improved U.S. relations with the rest of the world. This was also true among the three majority-Muslim nations polledIndonesia (64 percent), Egypt (58 percent), and Turkey (51 percent).
Hopes that U.S. relations with the Muslim world would improve were enhanced by Obama's much-heralded speech in Cairo in June 2009 in which he actively sought to repair the breach in relations between the United States and the Muslim world. In it he expressed respect for the Muslim civilization, even showing deference to the prophet Muhammad and implicitly expressing regret for some past U.S. policies, especially those during the Bush administration. The speech was well received in the hall where it was given and by the press.
These hopes for improved U.S. relations with the rest of the world have apparently been realized to a substantial extent in the non-Muslim world. Pew found that of the seventeen countries it polled in either or both 2009 and 2010, none showed a majority expressing an "unfavorable" view of the United States. Views in most non-Muslim countries improved or remained stable from 2009 to 2010. Views improved significantly in Russia and China, where majorities now have a positive view of the United States. In India positive views dipped somewhat, though they remain positive. Only in Argentina were views divided, which was still an improvement from 2009 when views were mostly "unfavorable." In WPO's 2009 polling of fourteen non-Muslim nations in which respondents were asked whether the United States was playing "a positive or negative role in the world," in no case did a majority say the United States was playing a negative role (though pluralities did in China, Russia, and Ukraine). Asked by BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA about America's influence in the world in early 2010, none of the twenty-three non-majority-Muslim nations in that study showed a majority saying that America's influence was "mostly negative." Obama himself also received very positive reviews in these studies in non-majority-Muslim countries. Indeed, among all major world leaders asked about by WPO in 2009 and Pew in 2009 and 2010, President Obama received the highest percentages of respondents expressing confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs.
Several majority-Muslim nations have shown some changes in attitudes toward the United States under Obama. Most notably, Pew found that Indonesians swung from a majority "unfavorable" to a majority "favorable" view of the United States in 2009 (63 percent "favorable") and 2010 (59 percent "favorable"), and 67 percent said they have confidence in Obama in the 2010 Pew poll. However, questions that emphasized America's foreign policy had more mixed results. WPO found a plurality of Indonesians (39 to 32 percent) saying that the United States is playing a mainly negative role in the world in spring 2009, though by the fall this had become a slight plurality (43 to 39 percent) saying that the United States is playing a positive role. BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA found a plurality saying the United States is having a negative influence in the world in 2009 (43 to 33 percent), with this becoming almost evenly divided in 2010 (36 percent positive to 39 percent negative). In a 2009 Gallup poll only 35 percent of Indonesians approved of the performance of the U.S. leadership, though this is more than disapproved (23 percent), and 41 percent did not answer the question.
Attitudes among Azerbaijanis showed some signs of improvement. While a plurality of Azerbaijanis expressed a negative view of the U.S. role in the world in early 2009 WPO polling, in the 2009 Gallup poll a remarkably high 67 percent expressed a "favorable" view of the U.S. government, and 53 percent approved of the performance of the U.S. leadership. By early 2010 the BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA poll found a plurality having a positive view of U.S. influence.
Gallup also found majorities in 2009 approving of the job performance of the U.S. leadershippresumably responding to Obamain several African countries (89 percent in Mali, 87 percent in Senegal, 86 percent in Chad, 83 percent in Niger, and 78 percent in Mauritania) as well as in Djibouti (81 percent), Turkmenistan (61 percent), and Bahrain (55 percent).
Polling that occurred after Obama's speech in Cairo showed some positive signs. WPO polling conducted in September 2009 found majorities saying that Obama does "respect Islam" in Indonesia (84 percent), Bangladesh (67 percent), Turkey (64 percent), and Egypt (65 percent), though 59 percent of Iranians disagreed. In late 2009 BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA found that among Egyptians positive views of U.S. influence reached 45 percent, while Gallup found 37 percent saying they approved of the U.S. leadership.
But by 2010 there were signs that what lift from Obama that may have occurred was fading. Gallup found that positive views of the U.S. leadership had slipped in Algeria (from 43 to 30 percent), Egypt (from 37 to 19 percent), Iraq (from 33 to 30 percent), and among Palestinians (from 20 to 16 percent).
Polling in 2010 from numerous organizations revealed predominantly negative views of the United States. Pew found large majorities saying they had an "unfavorable" view of the United States in Egypt (82 percent), Jordan (79 percent), Pakistan (68 percent), and Turkey (74 percent). BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA found majorities saying that the United States is having a negative influence in the world in Turkey (70 percent) and Pakistan (52 percent). The Sadat Chair found majorities expressing "unfavorable" views in Morocco (97 percent), Egypt (85 percent), Jordan (76 percent), Saudi Arabia (75 percent), the United Arab Emirates (75 percent), and Lebanon (61 percent). In the same poll majorities said they have no confidence in the United States in Morocco (97 percent), Egypt (87 percent), Jordan (63 percent), Saudi Arabia (63 percent), the United Arab Emirates (59 percent), and Lebanon (56 percent).
Excerpted from FEELING BETRAYED by Steven Kull Copyright © 2011 by THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION. Excerpted by permission of BROOKINGS INSTITUTION PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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