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Karen Hughes’s tenure as undersecretary of State for public diplomacy has come to a close, and not a moment too soon. She was named to the job in 2005 with the mission of enhancing America’s stature in the Middle East but the U.S. government’s reputation in the region has further tanked since then.
Hughes, a close friend of President Bush, is surely not a major reason why, but she didn’t help matters much either. Remember her “listening tours” to the Arab world? An account by Philip Giraldi said of one:
[In] Egypt, Hughes stressed to a skeptical audience the religiosity of the president and added that the U.S. Constitution includes the phrase “one nation under God,” which it does not. In Saudi Arabia, Hughes, repeatedly describing herself inappropriately and condescendingly as a “working mom,” and urged a mostly silent group of fully veiled women to obtain the right to drive because the inability to operate a vehicle “negatively shaped the image of Saudi society” in the U.S. She also equated driving with “freedom.” In Turkey, Hughes lamely attempted to connect with her audience by saying, “I love kids,” before being confronted by women troubled about the deaths brought about by the invasion of Iraq. She also heard concerns about America’s apparent intention to introduce democracy by force and explained . . . that “to preserve the peace, sometimes my country believes that war is necessary.” It is not clear how that translated into Turkish.
I called Zogby International today and got their most recent data (from research conducted in late-2006) on Middle Eastern opinion towards the United States. In Jordan, favorable opinion of the U.S. plunged from 33 percent in 2005, when Hughes took over, to 5 percent; in Morocco from 34 percent to six percent; and in Lebanon from 32 percent to 27 percent. Favorable opinion on Hughes’s watch barely changed in Egypt and Saudi Arabia–standing at an abysmal 13 percent in the former and 11 percent in the latter–and climbed notably only in the United Arab Emirates (from 28 percent to 35 percent). (It should be noted that these numbers represent views of the American government. Middle Easterners are generally not as negative about the American people.)
“Arab and Muslim attitudes towards the United States have been driven by American policy in the Middle East,” John Zogby, the firm’s president, told me. “Hughes was put in a situation where the policy was continually working against her.”
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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