Obama’s election helped improve the global image of the U.S. But, according to a PEW global attitudes survey a few months ago,
… opinions of the U.S. among Muslims in the Middle East remain largely unfavorable, despite some positive movement in the numbers in Jordan and Egypt. Animosity toward the U.S., however, continues to run deep and unabated in Turkey, the Palestinian territories and Pakistan.
I was interested in learning if the people attending the Defense Against Terrorism conference in Ankara last week shared that animosity.
I spoke with 30 people at the 60 person gathering of academics and military officers from old Europe, new Europe and the Middle East. I heard two negative things about the United States. One came from a British army officer who had served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We were extremely disappointed!” he said, pounding the table at dinner. “Why didn’t the American people stop your government from invading Iraq? What a waste! What a complete and utter waste!”
He got quiet, waiting for me to explain why we allowed the invasion. I did not try to answer his question. It’s almost 2010. Explanation seems sort of irrelevant.
“I love America,” he said sadly. “You know I really love America.”
The other negative view was from a Pakistani officer who wanted to know why the United States had not captured or killed bin Laden and Zawahiri.
“I see the technology your military has on the battlefield,” he said. “I refuse to believe you cannot find these killers if you really wanted to. Why do you allow them to remain free?”
No answer for that one either.
The image I got from the people I spoke with at the conference — none of whom seemed reluctant to express negative opinions when they felt like it — was the United States is still that “shining city upon a hill.”
Clearly we are nation with deep flaws and much left to accomplish on our continuing quest for a more perfect union. But I was overwhelmed at times listening to the high regard these young military officers, many from the former Soviet Union nations, held for the United States.
What incredible expectations they have about our capabilities, our way of life, and our people.
One officer from Moldova put it this way, “I have three wishes in my life. The first one is to see the USA.”