American Encounters with Arabs: The "Soft Power" of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East

American Encounters with Arabs: The "Soft Power" of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East

American Encounters with Arabs: The "Soft Power" of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East

American Encounters with Arabs: The "Soft Power" of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East

Synopsis

For sixty years, U. S. government officials have conducted public diplomacy programs to try to reach Arab public opinion, in order to inform, educate, and understand Arab attitudes. American public affairs officers have met serious challenges in the past, but Arab public criticism of the United States has reached unprecedented levels since September 11, 2001. Polls show that much of the negative opinion of the United States, especially in the Middle East, can be traced to dissatisfaction with U. S. foreign policy. Rugh, a retired career Foreign Service officer who twice served as ambassador to countries in the region, explains how U. S. government officials have dealt with key problem issues over the years, and he recommends ways that public diplomacy can better support and enhance U. S. national interests in the Middle East. This struggle for the "hearts and minds" of the Arab world, so crucial to the success of American efforts in post-occupation Iraq, is carried out through broadcasting, cultural contacts, and educational and professional exchanges.

Excerpt

Since the terrorist attack on 9/11, Americans have focused more attention on the Arab world. All of the terrorists were Arabs and Americans wondered why they did it. Then in the months and years following 9/11, when it was clear that many Arabs were criticizing America, the question became, [Why do they hate us?] Versions of that question were asked, such as [Why is al Jazeera hostile to us?] [Why don't the Iraqis appreciate us for removing Saddam Hussain?] [Why don't they help us fight terrorism?] And some said, [What can be done about this hostility?] or [How can we win over hearts and minds?]

It is true that America's image and reputation among Arabs is lower than it has ever been. A June 2004, Zogby International poll taken in six countries showed overall public attitudes toward the United States were extremely unfavorable, even though the governments in those countries— Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—have excellent relations with the United States and the first four are among America's oldest Arab friends. Unfavorable ratings in Egypt and Saudi Arabia even reached 98 percent and 94 percent, respectively, while in Morocco, the UAE, Jordan, and Lebanon they reached 88 percent, 73 percent, 78 percent, and 69 percent, respectively.

This book will discuss some of the reasons for those negative attitudes, why they are important to the United States, and what might be done to improve America's image abroad. It reviews how the United States has dealt with Arab public opinion in the past and looks in detail at how it is deal-

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