Robert Wright’s recent piece in The Atlantic – “Hidden Causes of the Muslim Protests: What are the sources of simmering hostility toward America that helped fuel these demonstrations? – is an important must-read for everyone grasping to understand recent hostilities in the Middle East toward the United States.
62% of Americans surveyed by Pew Global Attitudes Project approve drone strikes. People in Tunisia (72%), Turkey (81%), Egypt (89%), and Jordan (85%) strongly disapprove.
To put it in another context, how would Americans answer this poll question:
Do you approve or disapprove of [insert Arab country] using drones to kill Americans within the borders of the United States?
Americans hold an ambivalent attitude toward our use of drones. As I point out in my interview with Wright (click left image to see video), when the United States use drones, Americans only see news that terrorists have been killed, with scant mention of other casualties. People in the Middle East see those “other” casualties for what they really are: innocent bystanders.
What half the world sees as collateral damage, the other half mourns and denounces. When a drone strikes, it obliterates. If you are near the impact zone walking to the market or tending to your garden in your own home, you are gone in a violent instant. There is no rational, diplomatic explanation for the sudden destructive death of innocent men, women and children. There is only extreme grief, shocking unexplainable loss and righteous rage.
Wright’s article goes on to discuss other causes of anti-American anger throughout the Middle East, namely Palestine-Israel and US troops in Muslim countries, but from my vantage point the current ongoing and increasing use of drones will continue to forge distrust and justified disdain toward the United States.
Americans can continue to turn to tabloid-style Newsweek “Muslim Rage” sensationalism to forever fuel a lack of understanding, or as Wright points out, have the conversation: ”… when American policies have bad side effects, Americans need to talk about them…”
The presidential debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney would be a good place to start the discussion.