That’s quite an accomplishment considering President G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney launched two wars in the region and totally neglected the Mideast peace process (the Roadmap notwithstanding).
Obama had high approval ratings after his much-lauded Cairo speech but it has been all downhill from there. Of course, it doesn’t help that despite his progressive campaign rhetoric Obama has not only continued some of President Bush’s most questionable terrorism policies, but actually expanded on them. Our foreign policy in some ways is more hawkish than that of Bush/Cheney. And as usual, the Israel-Palestinian conflict is high on the Arab world’s list of grievances when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.
A new poll shows a sharp decline in support of President Obama’s policies in the Middle East.
The poll, which was conducted by the Arab American Institute in six Middle Eastern countries, shows Obama’s ratings at 10% or less, and reflect negative sentiments toward American policies in the region.
The poll also shows that both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US interference in the region are seen as the biggest obstacle to peace and stability.
Most telling is the fact that Obama’s approval ratings are lower than those of his predecessor, George W. Bush at the end of his term, and that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies are perceived more positively than those of Obama’s in every country except for Saudi Arabia.
They will like him even less by the time the 2012 election rolls around. The administration’s slow response to the Arab Spring, inconsistent policies and their endless pandering to the Israel Lobby has made the U.S. not only more unpopular than ever, but more irrelevant than ever.
Does it matter that even our Arab allies in the region hate our foreign policy? Yes, it does. One of this administration’s stated goals upon entering office was to improve relations with the Arab world, not because we just want to be liked, but because the Obama administration seemed to understand that anti-American sentiment in the Middle East fuels terrorism. In other words, it’s a national security issue.
It’s true that some in the Arab world will hate us no matter what we do, but I think that is the exception and not the rule. The majority of Arabs seem to want the U.S. to play a more constructive role in the region by being more of an honest broker in helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and by not supporting dictators that oppress them.
With change sweeping the region, we will no longer be able to rely on a dictator in Egypt (or Tunisia) to ignore the will of the people and simply be a puppet proxy for unpopular American policies, particularly with respect to Israel and even Iran. For decades we have supported despots, knowing full well they were running rough-shod over human rights. But we looked the other way so long as they played nice with Israel and shared intelligence (and tortured our terrorism suspects). Now, things are different and Egypt is already signaling it’s not going to give Israel a free pass on everything, particularly given the Egyptian people strongly oppose not only the seige on Gaza but the Occupation in general. That is why Egypt was key in attempting to bring the two rivals, Hamas and Fatah, together for a Palestinian unity government. That NEVER would have happened under Mubarak. The same goes for countries like Jordan, which still has an authoritarian monarchy but will want to be more receptive to public opinion in order to prevent the overthrow of the King.
How ironic that our most ethically-challenged anti-terrorism policies are not only not making us safer, but instead fueling the very terrorism we claim justifies the policies to begin with.