Winning Hearts and Minds

I just came across this poll conducted by Pew Research. It was undertaken to see how Muslims in Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco and Turkey view us. There is both good and bad in it, but the bad is highly worrisome, nearly three years after 9/11.

Osama bin Laden, for one, is still a very popular man. 65% of those polled in Pakistan, 55% in Jordan, and 45% in Morocco view him favorably. What really shook me, though, is that even in Turkey, where bin Laden is detested, a third of those polled said that suicide attacks against Americans and other Westerners are justifiable.

Worst of all, a clear majority in all four of these countries doubted our sincerity in fighting terrorism, saying that we’re trying to control Mideast oil and dominate the world.

Another poll released recently attempted to gauge public opinion in Iraq. Spencer Ackerman really has a good lowdown on it at his blog (linked above). I can only say that it mirrors my own experience here in Iraq, especially when it comes to Arabs.

All this to say that if we hope to win this war, we absolutely have to do a far, far better job of winning over people to our cause. It’s possible to do so without winning Muslims over to the cause of freedom, but if we go down that sanguinary route, we merely do what the Roman Tacitus said so long ago:

They made a desert, and called it peace.

I, for one, will not go down that way. And I’m implacably opposed to anyone who suggests that that’s what we have to do.

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