LOSING MUSLIM HEARTS AND MINDS
It has been a long and bloody spring in Iraq and Afghanistan, but on the battlefield of ideas, the news is even less encouraging. A survey released Tuesday by WorldPublic-Opinion.org suggests that the struggle for Muslim hearts and minds may already be lost.
Overwhelming majorities of those surveyed in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Indonesia say they believe that the U.S. seeks to “weaken and divide the Islamic world” and to “achieve political and military domination to control Middle East resources.” Most say they think that Al Qaeda defends the dignity of Muslims by standing up to the U.S., and most share the terrorist organization’s goal of evicting the U.S. military from the Mideast.
More alarming is the support among citizens of allied countries for attacking U.S. troops in Iraq. That includes 91% of those polled in Egypt, 68% in Morocco, 35% in Pakistan and 19% in Indonesia. Approval rates for attacks on U.S. troops based in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf states were almost as high. (The polling was conducted between December and February, with support from the University of Maryland.)
These numbers should be memorized by members of Congress and President Bush as they gird this week for the latest battle over Iraq war funding and timetables for troop withdrawal. One of the administration’s key rationales for deploying troops longer than the Democratic Congress wishes is to prevent Iraq from becoming an Al Qaeda beachhead. To the extent that the U.S. presence in the Middle East increases support for Al Qaeda, as the poll suggests, will prolonging the American military mission be counterproductive to the broader struggle against radical Islamic fanaticism and terror?