Monday, December 05, 2005

Arabs Prefer France to the US as Model of Freedom & Democracy.

Not surprisingly, a [Zogby International] poll conducted in six Arab countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.) in October found that a majority of Arabs have a negative view of the motives of the US for invading Iraq:
  • 69% of those surveyed doubted that spreading democracy was the real U.S. objective. Oil, protecting Israel, dominating the region and weakening the Muslim world were seen as U.S. goals.
  • 77% of Arabs said they felt that Iraqis were "worse off" after the war than they were before the March 2003 attack.
  • 58 % of those polled believe there is less democracy in the region since the war began. That number was a slight decline from the 64 percent who expressed skepticism in a similar poll in 2004.

The poll suggests that those Arabs polled do want democracy but since they precisely do not faith in the US’s intention to give them democracy, they reject it altogether. However it is not a rejection of all that Americans stand for:

  • 80% of those polled said their opinions of the United States are based on American foreign policy, not on American values.

It is clear that Arabs view the US mostly through the prism of Iraq, and whether the Iraqis think they’re better off, it has not been a model to the rest of the Arab world.

What was more surprising, however, was that it is France which is perceived as the world's best model for freedom and democracy

  • 45 % of Arabs in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates think France is a better model of freedom than Germany, the United States, Great Britain or Sweden.

No doubt this is going to please Mr. Chirac who has been losing credibility in his own country, especially considering that:

  • French President Jacques Chirac received the most votes in a question of which foreign leader was most admired in the Arab world, while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush were named the two most disliked foreign leaders.

These results came before the wave of riots the swept France in November but Middle East expert Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland who worked on this poll said on NPR that he does not expect these numbers to change despite the riots. This remains to be seen - Al Jazzera covered the social unrests in France quite extensively.

In the end, what is pretty clear is that the Bush Administration could learn a few things about PR in the Arab world. They actually also need to take a 101 class in basic psychology!

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