March 18, 2004

Marshall on Marshall

"Classic. The facts don't mesh with our theory, so let's get new facts."

-- Josh Marshall, in another Richard Perle hit piece, inadvertently describing his own fact-avoidance tactics rather than those of the so nefarious neo-con Capo.

Marshall writes:

"Last night Richard Perle was on Chris Matthews Hardball show and Matthews pressed him on the results of the new Pew poll which appears to show a rising tide of anti-Americanism in Arab states that are at least nominally allied with the United States."

But wait, that's not what the Pew Research Center Poll says:

"In the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, anger toward the United States remains pervasive, although the level of hatred has eased somewhat and support for the war on terrorism has inched up."

Note, per my link immediately above, as compared to May '03, the March '04 polling data (ie, post-Iraq war) actually has a higher favorable rating for the U.S. in Pakistan, Jordan, and Turkey (in Morocco the favorability ranking remained the same in '04 as it was in '03).

Even Susan Sachs reluctantly concedes this in the NYT:

"In some predominantly Muslim countries, where negative attitudes toward American policy have prevailed for years, disapproval of the United States persisted over the past year, although at a less intense level that Mr. Kohut described as anger rather than hatred.

Still, the survey found, people in Jordan, Pakistan and Morocco tended to view other outsiders with almost the same degree of ill will and distrust as they did the United States. Opinions about the European Union and the United Nations were generally unfavorable or ambivalent at best, a sharp contrast to opinion in Europe and Russia where attitudes toward those institutions were positive."

If Susan Sachs can read the Pew Center poll accurately, why can't Josh?

Maybe because, quoting Josh's intemperate smear of Perle (and assorted unnamed "folks"): "it's the essence of how these folks think, how they deceive themselves when they're not busy deceiving others."

O.K. sure, but let's agree that what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

So we're not done just yet.

Let's take a look at the Hardball transcript for Matthews' interview with Perle:

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I'm back with Richard Perle.

According to a new Pew Research poll, 70 percent of Jordanians and 66 percent of Moroccans think suicide bombings against American and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable.

Does that surprise you? These are the moderate states of the Arab world.

PERLE: The governments are moderate. I don't know that the sentiments of the public--and, obviously, if those figures are right, the sentiments of the public are anything but moderate.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But that means the people in the cafes are sitting there picking up their newspapers and going, hey, look at this. They blew up a bunch of Americans. This is good stuff. Check this out. Is that the Middle East you know?

PERLE: It is appalling and it is very dangerous. It shows you what happens when you allow suicide bombing to go largely unresponded to for as long as we did.

We had a decade in which we were attacked again and again and we didn?t respond. And, eventually, these thing become entrenched and even fashionable.

MATTHEWS: But you said last year, in 2001, right after 9/11, that if we go in, the idea that it is going to damage us in the Arab world is nonsense. You think that our going into Iraq has not stimulated a higher level of hostility to us that would support this kind of horrible attitude toward our deaths?

PERLE: Because the Arab world was on Saddam's side? What is the logic of that? That they object to the fact that we've liberated 25 million Iraqis?

MATTHEWS: No. They've objected perhaps to the fact that we've invaded their part of the world and that we?re starting to dictate what they should do over there. That's another interpretation.

(CROSSTALK)

PERLE: We're not dictating to anyone. There's a great deal that is believed in the Arab world that is obviously wrong, the idea, for example, that we went into Iraq for oil, the idea that we're there with imperial ambitions. And that will become very clear when we leave.

MATTHEWS: But David Ignatius, who has just come back from "The Washington Post,2 is going to be on the show tonight, has talked in his column about the fact that it was a mistake to believe that simply because people didn't like their tyrant dictator, in this case, Saddam Hussein, that they would welcome outsiders to come in and start calling the shots.

PERLE: But there are polls in Iraq, among Iraqis, not among Moroccans or Jordanians, Iraqis in Iraq, and the overwhelming majority are grateful that they have been liberated and they look forward to a much better future than they had any reason to anticipate under Saddam.

The bolded exchange is what had Josh writing about Perle:

"In other words, the facts don't make sense to me so they're not facts."

But that's not at all a fair or accurate representation of the Perle interview.

Matthews had asked Perle whether, in his view, he thought the U.S. invasion of Iraq had caused a higher level of anti-American hostility in the Muslim world.

Perle simply answered by challenging Matthews to the effect that he thought the war hadn't led to greater Muslim ill-feeling against the U.S.

And, of course, as I blogged above, the polling data bears Perle out, contra Marshall.

Moreover, note too that Arab/Muslim sentiment (the countries polled included a non-Arab nation, Pakistan, though Marshall simply describes them as "Arab" states), per the Pew poll, was also strongly unfavorable towards the U.N. and EU.

Said entities, er, not closely associated with the Iraq war effort--particularly per the worldview of your typical TPM reader railing at Bush's "unilateralism".

Listen, I'm not a water carrier for the neo-cons. I believe that they too often downplay the importance of maintaining our "honest broker" role in the Arab-Israeli dispute. And some of the neo-cons, via Scoop Jackson via Woodrow Wilson, get a bit too exuberant about democracy exportation exercises.

In addition, anti-Americanism in the Arab world has indeed reached shocking levels. But not, in my view, because of Iraq per se.

Rather, many observers believe, because of our perceived bias on the Arab-Israeli issue.

And a prevalent longstanding view that we have pursued somewhat of a "democracy exception" (Richard Haass' phrase) in the region by too often staunchly supporting autocrats (not to mention other, non-Iraq related, factors besides).

But finally and most importantly, what Marshall misses is that Arabs and Muslims, while often deeply humiliated, resentful and suspicious with respect to U.S. policy and motives in the region--are also fascinated, curious and eager to see how Bush's huge Iraq gamble develops in the coming months.

Put differently, they are intrigued to see if a democratic, unitary Iraqi state can rise from the ashes of Saddam's Iraq. The democracy exception policy, at least with regard to Iraq, just took a body blow.

And many Arabs/Muslims are busily digesting this complex reality--and waiting to see how the Iraq project proceeds--without yet having formed a definitive view.

This, at least partially, explains why American favorability rankings in the Muslim world have actually improved since the Iraq invasion per the Pew poll.

But when "the facts don't mesh with our theory...let's get new facts," right Josh?

As I said, goose/gander.

Posted by Gregory at March 18, 2004 11:14 PM
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