Mind Games IV: Cause and Defect

Remember all those soul searching headlines?

Why Do They Hate Us?

Question: who is “they” and who is “us”? And do we mean I-want-to-cut-your-head-off hate or how-do-I-get-a-green-card hate?

The Pew Research Center’s latest polling results, “Mixed Views of Hamas and Hezbollah in Largely Muslim Nations: Little Enthusiasm for Many Muslim Leaders,” supports some compelling perspectives. Despite a bare majority of favorability in Jordan and Egypt, Hamas is viewed mostly unfavorably by Palestinians, especially those actually governed by Hamas in Gaza. The popular narrative, of course, is that the various social and humanitarian services offered by Hamas blinds those it destructively governs to its flaws. Apparently not.

Turkey, subject of another recent, popular, and lengthening narrative – that its Muslim roots are reemerging in dominance over its more modern Western aspirations – shows only a 5% favorable response to Hamas, and 69% unfavorable. It does seem apparent that Turkish PM Recep Erdoğan, with his Islamist leanings, wishes to pursue a more orthodox, and, recently, anti-Israeli course, but at least in some respects, the Turkish people do not appear to be following along.

We find similar results for Hezbollah, most favored by Palestinians again, whose cause Hezbollah purports to advance by it adversarial position with Israel, but, contrary to the Hamas case, Palestinians do not live under Hezbollah rule. Lebanese, who do live under Hezbollah’s destructive influence on their nation, like most others but more so, do not favor Hezbollah. Once again, most unfavorable are the Turks. Once again, the only other favorable constituency, as with Hamas, is the Jordanians.

Hmn.  The Arab nation with the best human rights record and, since the ascension of King Abdullah, booming under the most liberal economic policies, i.e. the Arab population the daily life of which may be least affected by the strident anti-Semitic, anti-Western, and anti-Modern terrorism of Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda, is home to the population most sympathetic to those forces. Curious, no? Not truly to know religious totalitarians and terrorists, apparently, is to love them, or at least rationalize them.

Did I mention al Qaeda? I did mention al Qaeda.

As mentioned previously, ratings for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden have generally declined in recent years, and he receives little support among most Muslim publics. However, about half (51%) of Palestinians express confidence in him and in Nigeria, a 54%-majority of the country’s Muslim population say they are confident in bin Laden’s leadership. In Pakistan, where many believe bin Laden is now hiding, only 18% express confidence in him, although 35% do not offer an opinion. Very few Turks (3%) or Lebanese (2%) express support for the terrorist leader.

Again the Turks stand out. Again the Lebanese – who if only they could live free of Hezbollah and their de facto Syrian overlord. Nigeria is a nation heading nowhere fast. And Pakistan, ah Pakistan: remarkably only 18% “confidence” in Osama Bin Laden, and, maybe more interestingly, a cautious 35% with, gulp, will this be on television,? “no opinion.”

So much for Osama. What about Obama?

U.S. President Barack Obama received positive reviews, although this was less true in predominantly Muslim countries. Even so, his ratings were consistently higher than those of his predecessor, George W. Bush, and in some cases higher than for the Muslim leaders included on the survey. For example, only 33% in Turkey have confidence in Obama, but this is still more support than Abbas, Nasrallah, Abdullah, Ahmadinejad or Karzai receive. And the American president is quite popular among some largely Muslim publics, especially in Indonesia, where he spent several years as a child: 71% of Indonesians voice confidence in him. Obama is also popular among Nigerian Muslims (81%), Israeli Arabs (69%), and Lebanese Sunnis (65%).

What’s more

There is a widespread perception among Muslims that conflict between Sunnis and Shia is not limited to Iraq’s borders. In nine nations, Muslim respondents were asked whether the tensions between Sunnis and Shia are limited to Iraq or are a growing problem in the Muslim world more generally, and in seven of those nations, a majority of Muslims say it is a broader problem.

You might say, in the vernacular – and maybe to the surprise of many – that in large numbers, Muslim and Arab populations do, in fact, know what’s happen’, what’s goin’ on.

No? Still doubtful?

  Many Muslims are convinced that there is a struggle in their country between groups who want to modernize the nation and Islamic fundamentalists. More are convinced of the existence of such a struggle in Lebanon (55%), Turkey (54%) and the Palestinian territories (53%) than elsewhere.

  Muslim publics overwhelmingly support educating girls and boys equally. More than eight-in-ten in Lebanon (96%), Israel (93%), Indonesia (93%), Turkey (89%), Pakistan (87%) and the Palestinian territories (85%) say that it is equally important to educate girls and boys.

And while this is certainly discouraging

In Arab nations, attitudes toward Jews remain extremely negative. More than 90% of Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Palestinians express unfavorable views toward Jews

this is telling

Only 35% of Israeli Arabs, however, express a negative opinion.

In other words, the Arabs who actually live with Jews and who share a liberating (to choose a word) free-breathing democracy with Jews, free of anti-Semitic indoctrination, are the Arabs with the most positive opinion of them.


What tentative, though not timid, conclusions might be drawn?

Richard Landes has described the cognitive egocentrism that can afflict civil societies, which project their “own mentality or “way of seeing the world” onto others.” Among the

basic political principles of civil societies [are] “I’ll give up trying to dominate and trust you to give it up as well,” [and] “if I’m nice to you, you will be nice in return,” [which] assume positive-sum attitudes in their opponents (the “other”). The current situation testifies to a dangerous mis-apprehension that works to the distinct disadvantage to civil society.

From 9/12 until, I think, five minutes from now, we have heard the warnings from some quarters that American self-defense, even aggressive offense, against its enemies – those anti-modern, anti-democratic, anti-Western, anti-Semitic adherents of human submission and terror – would result in only more terror and violence against us. Oddly, FDR did not conceive of this inhibition in warding off the Japanese and German threats to the nation. Think whatever you wish of George W. Bush – and to have been a passionate and dispirited opponent of nearly all his presidency represented was an easily reasoned position at which to arrive – the aggressive policy he pursued against these terrorist forces (even with the unconscionable, systematic torture) did not produce the billion-strong Islamo-Arab army the cognitively egocentric predicted. We did not cause the terror against us, defending ourselves did not create more enemies, and overall, Muslims and Arabs seem to be deciding that all things considered they’d rather have a virgin in this world – maybe even, some generation to come, a college-educated divorcee.

And Obama? Seems his outstretched hand and empathetic expressions – joined with an expanded drone campaign in Pakistan and a surge in Afghanistan – have also done no harm. One reasonable interpretation of these poll results is that there is, long-term, not an extreme left, or neocon, or even straight-con, but a truly liberal approach to FKATWOT that might succeed. It is an approach committed, in justified self-regard, to vigorously meeting real-world requirements for national security and self-defense, even as it champions, in respect and with equally vigorous diplomatic practice, the range of human rights, human needs, and human expressions.


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