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Survey Says
Russia Winning Arab Hearts and Minds

The new Arab Youth Survey offers a plethora of bad news for Washington. First of all, Russia appears to be winning the battle for young Arabs’ hearts and minds. FT:

The annual Arab Youth Survey showed a 12-point rise in the number of respondents identifying Russia as their most trusted ally — up to 21 per cent from just 9 per cent in 2016.

The US, by contrast, dropped to 17 per cent, from 25 per cent a year ago, reflecting widespread pessimism about Donald Trump and his leadership. Nearly two-thirds of those polled — some 64 per cent — viewed Mr Trump’s presidency with concern, anger or fear, compared with 19 per cent who were positive.

Digging further into the findings, it gets worse. The survey shows not just a soft loss of trust in the United States, but a notable uptick in anti-American sentiment across wide swathes of the Arab world. This year, the survey recorded a 17-point increase among Arab youth who consider the U.S. an enemy, while the number of countries where a majority hold that view doubled:

Antipathy to Trump certainly seems to be a big factor here: 70% of respondents consider the President to be anti-Muslim, and a quarter of respondents said that Trump’s election is the event that will have the single biggest impact on the Arab world in the next 5 years.

It would be a mistake, however, to lay all the blame for the dismal results here on Trump. American influence in the Arab world declined precipitously under Obama, while Russia has cannily exploited the vacuum to re-emerge as a credible power broker. Indeed, the impression of Russia as a more dependable, less fickle partner than the United States seems to partly explain the trend. “If Russia’s standing is rising in people’s eyes, while America’s is slipping,” notes Kim Ghattas in the white paper, “it is likely because of some respondents’ desire for a reliable partner that delivers, the way Russia has done consistently for Syria’s president for example, alongside Iran.”

Of course, generalizing about the “Arab World” is always a tricky proposition, and the report rightly notes the serious regional discrepancies among the 16 countries polled. Countries with substantial Iranian proxies (like Iraq and Yemen) are more likely to favor Russia, while youth in countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar maintain a more favorable view of the United States.

Nonetheless, the general trends here is hard to miss. Through a combination of Obama’s strategic failures, Trump’s anti-Muslim demagoguery, and Russia’s savvy opportunism, the next generation of Arab youth are losing faith in Washington, while Moscow’s star is on the rise.

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  • QET

    What is it, exactly, that Russia has “delivered” to the Arab people, aside from military support to a dictator who has been killing lots of other Arabs? And wasn’t St. Petersburg bombed by Islamic terrorists just last month? Not Arabs, I don’t believe, but still.

    Maybe surveys are a poor basis for drawing conclusions about anything other than fashion?

    • Gary Hemminger

      Totally agree with your assessment QET. I think you are correct that surveys are a poor basis for drawing conclusions.

    • Gene

      Agreed. Do the survey respondents somehow believe friendship with Russia is going to somehow make their lives better? That Russia, an economic basket case when compared against other first-world nations, CAN somehow make their lives better?

      Don’t worry, in a few years they’ll figure out that Russian support does squat for their benefit, and will turn on Moscow too.

  • D4x

    The timing of this survey was: “PSB conducted 3,500 face-to-face interviews from February 7 to March 7, 2017 with Arab men and women aged 18 to 24.The interviews were conducted in Arabic and English.” Had they waited until after April 6, 2017, the results would have been different, because, that was when Arab social media was praising Abu-Ivanka-amriki. “…”Maybe you in the West hate Trump, but he has already done far more for us than Obama,” said Najim Hassan, who lives in the rebel-held Syrian city of Idlib. “We love him because he does more than he says, he’s a man of action and at least he gives us something to hope for.” …”

  • Government Drone

    Wait–there were Arabs who still liked us? How did that ever happen?

    • Gary Hemminger

      Don’t most of them want to kill us? Oh, I mean some of them want to kill us. But it has nothing to do with Islam.

  • Suzy Dixon

    Obama expands the bombing from two to seven countries, and Trump is to blame? If that’s really what the “Arab youths” think then it’s no wonder why they can’t have good governance. Room temperature IQ doesn’t make it easy for democracy to function, or to abandon ethnic tribalism (the age old Arab v. Persian issue).

    • KremlinKryptonite

      A brutally honest assessment, Suzy. In his last year of office, Obama dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries, but mostly in Iraq and Syria.
      However, I don’t necessarily like your overall conclusion about IQ and governance… Chinese generally have higher IQs than Westerners, yet they have historically had terrible governance – rampant and rife corruption, and one form of autocracy or another.

      I think a better thing to say about high IQs is that they are a harbinger of success in the event of regime change/regime collapse
      For example, Germans and Japanese also have very high IQ, and they were able to transition into democracy from dictatorship and develop very easily after World War II

      • f1b0nacc1

        Of course both countries transitioned quite easily into dictatorship from democracy BEFORE WWII. I suspect that the ease with which these positive transformations occurred (i.e. the ones into democracy after WWII) may have had something to do with the countries being occupied and VERY carefully watched…

        • KremlinKryptonite

          Of course, post WWII democracy was imposed and rebuilding began. But they grew accustom very quickly, and succeeded in the economic sense too. Weimar Germany was hardly a real democracy and neither was Japan-under the control of the militarists and an emperor who was a willing accomplice.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Agreed on Japan, but not so much on Weimar….

            Of course one of the other reasons that democracy was so successful after WWII was that most of the prewar (and wartime) leadership was either dead, imprisoned, or seriously restrained from having any significant political participation. That did help (more than a little) to prevent any noticeable revanchist tendencies.

          • Suzy Dixon

            Weimar Germany did not have an effective government at all. You had more than 10 years of political violence and constant street fights and killing. The central government in Berlin did not really control the Bavarian state at all. And a guy by the name of Hitler, whose one attempt at elected office failed, ended up becoming chancellor and president

          • f1b0nacc1

            If you mean by ‘effective’ did the government manage to take many initiatives, then I agree it wasn’t effective, but did it exist, did it have a budget, etc., and (most importantly) was it recognized by the various German states as the sole government, then indeed it was an effective government. It’s writ was limited (ah, were that only the case here!), but simply because it wasn’t the sort of modern welfare state we have become inured to does not mean that it wasn’t a government.

            The central government in Berlin had limited control over Bavaria, largely because it didn’t feel empowered to intervene. This is very different from being institutionally incapable of doing so. The street fighting and violence was certainly regrettable (and yes, I remember reading something about this Hitler fellow…seems like a bad sort, wouldn’t you say?), but that represents a weak government poorly serving its citizens, not a non-government. Germany during the Weimar era wasn’t my idea of an ideal place to live, it was a democracy (the fact that Hitler lost the election doesn’t mean much…his rise to the position was accomplished through entirely legal, though unfortunate, means) in the same sense that our State Department judges democracies now….there is a vote, and the vote is reasonably honest. Low standards, I agree, but absent a better one (and I am open to a better definition), there you are.

          • Suzy Dixon

            Yeah I think we just fundamentally disagree. I don’t measure success by mere existence. Shootouts with communists and Nazis and really a multitude of other groups were commonplace, and the government was powerless to stop it. Democracy is impossible with communists and Nazis walking around to beat and rob and kill opponents. The government didn’t even control a province of the country. incidentally the one where Nazis took over first.

          • f1b0nacc1

            So would you then argue that the American government isn’t effective because it cannot guarantee that the First Amendment is respected in Berkeley? There are plenty of loathsome individuals (with terrible fashion sense) wandering about there (and in plenty of other places…Middlebury, VT, for instance) who are openly defying basic rights guaranteed in the Constitution, but do we then argue that the government doesn’t exist because of them?

            I am not suggesting that the German government was ‘successful’ (not sure how you want to define that, by the way), merely that it was a democracy, which by any reasonable definition, it was. A poor democracy, yes…I wouldn’t debate that point, but then again it was hardly alone (take a peek at any history of 1930s France, and you will see just as much street fighting and perhaps even more political extremists from both the left and right engaged in open intimidation of voters) do we then define ALL of them as non-democracies?

            I am not arguing just for the sake of it….if you want to use a word, you have to have a working definition for it. Come up with a better one for Democracy, and I am fine with that….

          • Suzy Dixon

            I don’t see how that’s analogous at all. I’m talking about the Weimar government because it was so ineffectual that they literally couldn’t stop the far right and far left from basically having a civil war right under their noses, let alone guarantee provincial governments were functioning. And you think democracy as possible when you can’t vote without worrying if a nazi or a communist is going to come blow you away?

            What does it tell you that president Hindenburg made Hitler chancellor? The man never won an elected office in his life. It just so happens that the Nazis won the civil war against the communists, so they were the ones that got to twist the ineffectual president’s arm. In the words of trump. “Total. Disaster.”

          • f1b0nacc1

            One could easily argue that the Left and the Right are doing that as we share this exchange. It is a matter of opinion as to the seriousness of the conflict being undertaken. The Weimar Republic didn’t do as much as they could to stop street fighting, but it was hardly a shooting war either. As for voting, well the Dems would tell us that voter suppression is in full flower (obviously we know that it isn’t), so how are we to determine just when “you can’t vote without worrying ….”?

            That Hindenburg made Hitler chancellor tells me that he was a tired old man who (to his eternal shame) sympathized with much of Hitler’s agenda (particularly the anti-communist part) and didn’t see him as nearly the threat that others did. As for Hitler’s qualifications for office, are we to argue now that a sign of a functioning democracy is that only the ‘qualified’ run for (or are elected to) high office? Do we really need to review the list of great (or not so great) leaders who rose to high rank with no prior experience? Even when this is so, does it really tell us much about the nature of the system that elected them?

            Once again, I ask you for a definition of what constitutes a democracy…lets agree upon a single definition to work from!

          • Suzy Dixon

            Yeah but isn’t Hirohitos involvement still pretty hotly debated (not only by Japanese) ?

          • KremlinKryptonite

            Most definitely not, certainly not by anyone serious. The emperor was the head of state, and the highest moral authority-essentially a religious figure. Did he order all of the crimes against humanity? No. Did he know every detail about the crimes? Almost certainly not. Did he know that the crimes were taking place and that he could’ve affected positive change? Absolutely.
            Did he support Tojo becoming PM when Konoe resigned? Yes.

            Hirohito was involved in virtually every high-level discussion about the war, and even was present during meetings planning the attack on Pearl Harbor. He had opportunities to change things, such as the legislative agenda, which would have changed or rather made impossible formal planning of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He also could have ordered that the treatment of civilians be humane, or that he would not support the war effort.

          • Suzy Dixon

            Okay that is true enough. It certainly happened on his watch. But can you give a more concrete example of him being involved or not seizing the opportunity to chang course?

          • KremlinKryptonite

            Hirohito had performed sacred rituals and helped reinforce propaganda to support the morale of the soldiers, and rebranded the conflict as a holy one.
            On September 5, 1941, for example, several of the ministers and several generals and admirals presented the emperor with very detailed proposals and rationale for the attack on Pearl Harbor. They had to run things by him first, and he had the opportunity to change the legislative agenda. PM Konoe ask the emperor if he would like to make such a change, thereby giving him the ability to totally disrupt plans for the attack. The emperor refused, and instead said that no change was necessary to the agenda.

            In fact, at the very same meeting, the emperor asked the military officials present for technical details and the odds of success for such an attack (their odds were way off, by the way). PM Konoe resigned because he genuinely wanted to avoid a war with the United States. The emperor then took a hugely important step by giving the imperial seal of approval to the appointment of Tojo.

  • Andrew Allison

    Ah yes, the Obama legacy.

  • Angel Martin

    “Trump’s anti-Muslim demagoguery,”

    Dissent from nonsense like “Islam is a religion of peace” = “anti-Moslem demagoguery”

    • Rodney

      In the run-up to Pearl Harbor, Japan claimed that all it wanted was peace. At issue was what it meant by “peace.” Islam can claim to be a religion of peace, but the devil is in the details of what is meant by “peace.”

  • Fat_Man

    We have learned over the last couple of years that public opinion polling does not produce very reliable results, even in the US and the UK. The US and the UK are countries with a tradition of free speech, and people who habitually speak their minds. The Arab world is place of tyrannies where people habitually lie to outsiders. How much credence should we give to public opinion polls coming from that world?

    I think the correct answer is none at all. More importantly we must remember the maxims of the wise when it comes to being liked in international relations.

    The Romans said: Oderint dum metuant (Let them hate, as long as they fear.)

    “And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”

    Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527). The Prince. XVII. Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved or Feared

    • D4x

      In all fairness, this poll question was whether you see USA (or Russia) as ally or enemy, not about likeability.

      • Fat_Man

        Poll Questions are meaningless. Americans are inclined to worry about whther they ar loved, and will read the results that way. But, as I said it is meaningless. The US should want their fear and respect, not their love.

        • D4x

          That’ll do.

  • GS

    And let them win them, by all means. The more basket cases they are loaded with, the sooner they will collapse under the load.

  • solstice

    Who cares what the self-loathing, self-pitying, and self-righteous Arab masses think about anyone? The best way to deal with them is to ignore them and, most importantly, to not import them into our societies. The only ones who should be allowed into the West are non-Muslim minorities, ex-Muslims, and secular Arabs who repudiate sharia.

  • I thought most Arabs actually viewed Russia negatively, because being of the Sunni faith, they are overwhelmingly against Assad, whose main backer is Putin.

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