HONOLULU — As anti-American emotions have erupted in the Islamic world and Asia, the response from Americans has increasingly taken on a hard edge. Some of the rejoinders have been predictable, but others are a surprise.
The Pew Research Center recently published a survey reporting that the image of the United States has been tarnished “most dramatically in Muslim nations,” with hatred of America concentrated in the Middle East and Central Asia. In Southeast Asia, the favorable image of the U.S. in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, has dropped by 14 points in two years, to 61 percent.
Anti-American demonstrations in South Korea, a U.S. ally, have been so strong that President Kim Dae Jung last week personally appealed for calm. The Yomiuri Shimbun, a newspaper in Tokyo, said that 39 percent of the Japanese surveyed do not trust the U.S. despite the 50-year alliance. A Chinese white paper warned the U.S. against arms sales to Taiwan or forming a military alliance with Taiwan.
Journalist Mark Hertsgaard has just published a book, “The Eagle’s Shadow,” in which he found a perception in 15 countries that “the United States is a land of vast wealth but also gross self-indulgence; American leaders are influential but arrogant and naive; and American citizens have immense freedom but are nonetheless insulated and ignorant.”
Confronted with this, counters from Americans have become more pointed. In an interview with Pan-Arab Media, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asserted that resentment of America is caused by Islamic schools that teach people “to get up in the morning and go out and try to kill people of another religion,” not by U.S. forces around the Persian Gulf.
The Bush administration has sent a not-so-subtle signal to Muslims and Arabs by appointing Eliot Abrams, a policymaker from the Reagan administration, to be the senior director for Middle Eastern affairs on the National Security Council staff in the White House. Abrams is said to favor applying the military power of the U.S. and Israel against Arab nations.
A strategic thinker, Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute, has advocated U.S. diplomacy that “is informed by a spirit of honesty, however politically incorrect, about the depth of the problem we face, and of unapologetic directness in confronting the sordid political culture that gave rise to the attacks of September 11.”
In that vein, the chairman of the House Committee on International Relations, Rep. Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican, told an audience in Beijing last week: “The need for clarity is greatest in those situations in which disagreement is sharpest.” He underscored his point by contending that Chinese fear of American containment was “absurd.”
Ralph Peters, another strategic thinker, has urged the U.S. to give up trying to win over the Arabs and to focus on the Islamic nations to the east, particularly Indonesia.
“It is time to write off the Arab homelands of Islam as lost. They are as incapable of constructive change as they are unwilling even to consider liberal transformation.” In contrast, he wrote,”Indonesian Islam poses no danger whatsoever to the United States.”
The far-right American isolationist, Patrick Buchanan, has taken perhaps the most extreme position: “America should disengage from her Asian alliances and let the nuclear powers there — China, Russia, India, Pakistan, North Korea-and the potential nuclear powers — Japan, South Korea, Taiwan — establish their own balance of power. For there is nothing in all of Asia worth a nuclear war or another Vietnam.”
While Buchanan’s view might be expected, that of James Woolsey, a fixture in the Democratic foreign policy establishment and director of Central Intelligence in the Clinton administration, might not be. Woolsey said recently that the U.S. is engaged in World War IV, following the two hot wars and the Cold War of the 20th century.
He summed up: “I would say this, to the terrorists and to the pathological predators such as Saddam Hussein and to the autocrats as well, the barbarics, the Saudi royal family: They have to realize that now for the fourth time in 100 years, we’ve been awakened and this country is on the march. We didn’t choose this fight, but we’re in it.”
Woolsey said he took heart from a conversation with an elderly African-American cab driver in Washington, who had a pithy comment about those who hate America: “These people don’t hate us for what we’ve done wrong. They hate us for what we do right.”
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