In an editorial in the Arabic reformist website www.aafaq.org, editor Omran Salman explains the failure of American public diplomacy efforts and blames the dictatorial Arab regimes of being behind the campaigns to smear America as part of their struggle for survival.
The following is the editorial.
"The Distortion of the Image of the U.S. Has Become a Political Objective for Arab Governments in Their Struggle for Survival"
"The news of the resignation of Karen Hughes, the official responsible for American public diplomacy who was tasked with improving the image of America abroad, especially in the Middle East, was received with relative quiet. This was in contrast to the news of her appointment to the position in 2005, which enjoyed wide coverage and high hopes.
"But Hughes failed in her mission, though with distinction, and it is expected, or so it is hoped, that this failure will deliver a severe shock to American diplomacy that may perhaps awaken it from the delusions and bureaucracy that are firmly established in the corridors of the Department of State.
"In any case, it was not destined for that Hughes would succeed in 'winning the hearts and minds of the Arabs' in all circumstances, and this has nothing to do with her skills or her competence.
"According to the Reuters article that reported her resignation, Hughes is known for her fast-talking, enthusiastic style, a trait that was not always well received, particularly in the Middle East.
"But this is not the reason, of course. The distorted image of the United States – in the Arab world, at least – is not due to lack of information about the motives and nature of American foreign policy, and not because Arab citizens have insufficient information about American life, or the laws or institutions of the United States.
"The residents of the Arab world do not live on another planet, and they are not isolated from the revolution of rapid communication, technology, and the Internet, where anyone can push a button and get the information he wants. Many Arabs have visited the United States or have a relatives or friends living in America.
"The real reason is that the distortion of the image of the United States has become a political objective for Arab governments in their struggle for survival, and a tool to banish the specter of democracy and change in the Arab region.
"Those conducting this smear campaign are primarily autocratic Arab regimes, as represented by Ministries of Information. They have decided to make the United States pay the price for toppling one of their regimes – the regime of Saddam Hussein – and then calling for reform in the region."
"What Those Conducting American Public Diplomacy Do Not Realize is that, in the Arab World, Little Happens by Chance"
"To this end, they poisoned the views and ideas in the Arab world, and filled the minds of the people with such extraordinary superstitions, fantasies and conspiracy theories, beginning with the accusation that the CIA and the Jews masterminded the attacks of September 11 and not ending with the 'Crusader war' that President George Bush has declared on the Islamic world.
"What those conducting American public diplomacy do not realize is that in the Arab world, little happens by chance.
"When Karen Hughes visited a school in an Arab capital to meet with the pupils, or a social institution to meet with its employees, she thought that people were speaking naturally and revealing what they actually believe – their opinions, in fact – especially toward the United States.
"Such things may happen in America, where people are free in what they believe and what they say. But it is naive to assume that the same thing happens in the Arab world.
"In the Arab world, numerous authorities intervene to shape people’s views and impose on them what to say. First, there is the information authority, for the most part owned by the government or by agencies close to it; this information, whether it comes in the apparent form of news or opinions, teaches people negative views of the United States day in and day out.
"Then, there is the imam of the mosque. Generally, he is a government official, and it is impossible for him to leave cursing the Jews, the Nazarenes (Christians), and the global arrogance – headed of course by America! – out of his sermons."
"Those Who Conduct American Public Diplomacy Have Allowed the Arab Governments and Their Corrupt and Despotic Agencies To Deceive Them – And Have Then Themselves Attempted to Deceive American Public Opinion"
"And then there is the school – a government institution – which programs the pupils from childhood on with hostility toward everything non-Arab and non-Muslim, and programs them to believe in declaring other Muslims apostates and infidels, and in jihad, and in the restoration of the Caliphate and the revival of Arab and Islamic glory – to which the West is an obstacle!
"Instead of researching the true reasons for the distortion of America’s image in the Arab world, and presenting a list of the organizations and individuals engaged in the distortion – which in any case takes place openly, in broad daylight – those who conduct American public diplomacy have allowed the Arab governments and their corrupt and despotic agencies to deceive them – and have then themselves attempted to deceive American public opinion.
"What they do not know is that they have become a joke in the Arab world, subject to jest and ridicule from all sides.
"Thus, instead of the United States winning the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims, the Arab governments and Muslim Brotherhood have ensnared the hearts and minds of many State Department diplomats, as well as those of some of Washington's influential research institutes."