Winning hearts and minds

The Bush doctrine is fast becoming the antithesis of how to win hearts and minds. It’s quite an achievement when the image of the US in a close ally like Turkey is almost as bad as it is in Palestine.

Nearly two-thirds of the Turkish public named the United States as their country’s greatest future threat, a recent Pew Global Attitudes Project survey has revealed – the highest percentage of any Middle Eastern or Islamic country polled.

The survey, which was also conducted in Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco and Israel, asked an open-ended question: “What country or groups pose the greatest threat to (survey country) in the future?” Turkey was the only country in which a majority of respondents pointed to the US.

Turkey, a US NATO ally and recipient of US and NATO security guarantees, also harbors the second-most negative attitudes towards the US, with 83 percent holding an “unfavorable” opinion of it – up 29 percent since 2002, the biggest drop in public opinion of the US in recent years.

Eighty-six percent of Palestinians express an unfavorable opinion of the US, the most negative response from a Middle Eastern country.

Dr. Emre Erdogan, a political scientist and founding partner of Infakto Research Workshop, says that this is “a result of intensifying terrorist activities of the PKK” – an armed militant group founded in the 1970s also known as the Kurdistan Workers Party – which has found increasing support since the Iraq war began.

The Turkish people “perceive the US as responsible for the worsening situation,” said Erdogan in a World Public Opinion (WPO)/Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) analysis of the Pew results.

The “increasing terrorist and political activity of the PKK” is seen to be “under direct supervision of the Northern Iraq Administration and the US,” and the Turkish media “continuously present evidence for this [US-PKK] collaboration,” said Erdogan.

According to a 2005 Infakto poll, 71 percent of Turks think that “the West has helped separatist groups in Turkey gain strength,” and a Pew 2007 survey found that 79 percent of Turks oppose “US-led efforts to fight terrorism”.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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