Winning the War

WINNING THE WAR….In a recent PIPA poll of four majority-Muslim countries (Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia), 10% of the respondents said they approved of terrorist attacks on civilian targets. Question: is this good news or bad? 10% is a pretty small number, all things considered, but at the same time, it’s way more than enough to keep al-Qaeda supplied with foot soldiers for a long, long time.

These other results, however, are unreservedly bad news:

  • 75% have an unfavorable view of the U.S. government.

  • 79% think one of the goals of U.S. foreign policy is to weaken and divide the Islamic world.

  • Only 16% think the primary goal of the war on terror is to protect the U.S. from attack.

  • Only 24% think the U.S. is committed to the creation of a Palestinian state.

  • Only 23% believe al-Qaeda was behind the 9/11 attacks.

Here’s the problem: At best, we’re never going to manage to do more than tread water in the war on terror/jihad/extremism/whatever as long as the Muslim public so overwhelmingly holds these beliefs. Unfortunately, although the Muslim attachment to a deeply illiberal culture is real and needs to be faced squarely, changing Islamic public opinion isn’t a matter of merely overcoming some kind of mass delusion. After all, with the exception of the last bullet, these are all pretty defensible beliefs.

So here are some questions for every one of the 2008 presidential candidates: Do you care about Muslim public opinion? Do you think it impacts U.S. national security? Which aspects of American foreign policy do you think contribute to these attitudes? What concrete steps would you take to change these parts of our foreign policy? Aside from making jokes about bombing Iran, that is. There will be an open book test on January 20, 2009.

Marc Lynch has more here (“the al-Qaeda worldview — of a world divided between clashing civilizations and Islam under a comprehensive assault from the West — seems widely spread and increasingly entrenched”). The full PIPA report is here.