Why Arabs Hate the US


Well-Known Member
May 23, 2007
Statements have been made that seemed to me the height of naivete. It has been stated that if we did some good the Arabs would not necessarily hate the US. This shows, in my opinion a great lack of historical understanding.

Almost two years ago on "another" site I put together number of references and posed the question, why do the Arabs hate us. This was before the invasion of Iraq, and yet most what I wrote was still relevant. I am posting it here so that there can be comments regarding the issue.

Some of the new questions might be:

1-How has the war changed the analysis?

2-How does it tie to some of the other analyists or analysis we have discussed?

3-What does it say to the future and importance of Iraq in the context of what was written?

4-Finally, after two years, is the majority of the analysis still accurate or wrong from the beginning? If so, where and how?


If we do good the Arabs will like us?

I posted this quite some time ago.

Interesting question, and I can already tell most of you are getting ready to hit that reply button to trot out the normal answers (even answers I normally give), you know, fanatacism, or the evil empire syndrome of the US, both sides have their talking heads, blurbs that generally are spewed back at us on a nightly basis in our thirty minute news flash of what is happening in the world. Lately I have been doing some reading. Here are some thoughts to add to those 30 second flashes of news.
For a number of years the US has been villified for several reasons, support of Israel and support for unpopular Arab regimes run by despots. This, many assume came to a boil on 9-11. Now while we know that anti Americanism is fairly widespread it really doesn't tell us why and its seems a bit misleading. I find it difficult to reconcile Arab and Muslim hostility towards the US with US policy. US policy has actually been very very pro-Arab and pro-Muslim so I believe that this anti Americanism is actually a product of self interested manipulation by key groups inside of Arab society. I believe it is important to identify such an action for the following reason:

If Arab anti Americanism is grounded in the domestic issues of Arab society and not the "evil" deeds of the US, then no amount of public relations or any real change in US policy will change that perception. As a matter of fact, changing US policy to meet this manipulation within Arab society will only make it worse. US attempts at meeting the internally designated evils of America will be seen as an "appeasement" of a weaker nation and encourage radicalism to go even farther.

Seems to me that for the past decade or two anti US sentiment has always been the "last resort" of despotic political regimes whose failed systems have tried to prop up their own standing and diverted attention away from their domestic failures. By assigning faults or shortcomings of their own systems on the US many Arab leaders hope to distract their people from the real problems, so instead of pushing for greater privatization, equality of women, democracy, a rule of law society, freedom of speech, due process, (note how lacking all of these items are in the Arab world), it is better to use the US as a whipping boy (think Schroeder doing this over several decades to win elections).

What is so interesting about this tact is how it flies in the face of reality if one were to look at the factual history of US policy. The US has always favored a policy in its own interests, but those interests have also generally coincided with those of Arab leaders and their people.


The US saved Kuwait from annexation by Iraq's secular dictator in 1991, mainly to preserve cheap oil to be sure, but it was still in effect a pro-Kuwaiti, pro-Muslim and pro-Arab. It would have been easy for the US to sieze Kuwaitis fields and demand lower prices or even political concessions. Instead we, well, we just left while we sought the highest level of political support for our actions among Arabs and Muslims.

Conflicts in general

When the US has become involved in a regional dispute (often at the pleadings of Europe) it is usually during fights between moderates and secular Arab forces or radical Islamist groups that even most Muslims consider too far in one direction. The US has generally backed groups with a strong claim to Arab or Islamic legitimacy. You can see this going all the way back to the 1950's. Look at Egypt, Syria and Iraq, while dictatorships friendly to Moscow they menaced Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Even during the 1950's the US wanted good relationships with Nassar and we even prevented his overthrow by the UK, France and Israel in the 1956 Suez War. The US continued to woo Egypt, we accepted Syria's hegemony over Lebanon and really during that period the US did little to punish state sponsored terrorism. The US even acted as a protector of Islam during that time since we viewed traditional Islam as a counter to secular communism which had, at the time aligned itself with radical Arab nationalism.

Still we are the bad guys.

During the Cold War it became popular for radicals to portray moderates as western puppets to establish their own legitimacy and even accused US backed moderate governments of being anti democratic or ignoring human rights while ignoring the actions of regimes like Libya, Syria and revolutionary Iran which had far worse records. And I believe that is part of the impossible dilemma for the US. When we help friendly governments we are accused of undermining revolutionary movements in Islam, but when we pressure those Arab governments into improving their actions in democracy or human rights (which we also do) we are accused of being imperialists (see Eddin Ibrahim on google if you don't believe me). During the 70's to the 90's whenever there has been a conflict between moderate governments and Islamic movements we did not take sides. In Iran's 79 revolution, the US wanted to Shah to stay in power but we instead restrained him from being tougher than he was. After the revolution (before the hostage crisis) Jimmy Carter attempted a conciliation with the new government, that unfortunately caused the radicals to seize the embassy with a sign that said "No moderates served here". The only time the US has ever really been involved countering an Islamic rev movement was Afghanistan.

Lets look at some other examples:

1-End of the Arab Israeli War in 1973 the US rescued Egypt by forcing Israel into a cease fire.

2-US saved Arafat from Israel in Beirut in 1982 and arranged safe passage to Tunisia.

3-The US was willing to support Arafat and the PLO while overlooking their history (our bad) of terrorism, anti Americanism, and alignment with the Soviet Union (you'd think we would learn after Castro).

4-Despite Palestinian backing of Iraq during the War the US sponsored a peace process with Israel, pushing for an agreement that would have created a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem (See how Arafat has **** all that away).

5-Our support of Afghanistan against the Soviets.

6-Saudi Arabia from Iraq

7-Bosnia and Kosovo from Yugoslavia (Not Europe's finest hour for peace).

8-Muslim Pakistan against India

9-Muslim Turkey against Greece

10-Accepted Syrian control of Lebanon (a neutral action)

11-On a racial basis we supported Arab Iraq against Persian Iran (and believe me the Arabs like Persians only a few notches above Jews).

12-Arab oil tankers against Persian Iran (yes also in our best interest but remember they often coincide).

13-Somalia where the US is trying through humanitarian efforts (and no compelling state interest) to help a Muslim people under warlords (I really don't see any Arabic states stepping up to the plate on this one either).

14-When US oil companies holdings were nationalized by Saudi Arabia, Lybia and others we showed an amazing amount of restraint.

15-Soviet collapse would have been a golden opportunity for a purely pragmatic movement into the Levant.

16-We have not used our overwhelming strength to directly dominate the Gulf and gulf states.

17-Since 9-11 the US has also taken great efforts to show the world (and the US) that Islam and Arabs are not US enemies.
So really with the exception of our support of Israel, during the last 50 year in 11 of the 12 major conflicts between Islamic countries and non Muslims, Muslims and secular enemies, or Arabs against non Arabs the us has always sided with the former.

So why the kick in the huevos?

The real record is disregarded but why?

1-Well first I think while we fail to understand the region fully, Arabs failure to understand the US has been significantly greater. Seems the the Middle East always thinks the US wishes to conquer or wipe them out (part of the xenophobia adopted from the earlier Mongolian invasions), but also because its what they would do, if they could.

2-I believe that we also forget how tightly information is controlled in the area. Ostensibly Al Jazeera is the first Arabic news station not controlled by a state. So you can see its easy to manipulate the hoi poloi via constantly being fed false information without any real tertiary access to accept differing viewpoints.

3-Then all our actions are distorted by this tightly controlled media. The US is blamed for the suffering of Muslims that it protected in Kosovo and Bosia. Humanitarian aid in Somalia is shown as an imperialistic anti Muslim move defeated by heroic resistance fighter (ie see warlords that brought starvation to the country in the first place).

4-The more dangerous threats that the US protects them from is downplayed. Saddam Hussein looted Kuwait, vanalized it, threatened invasion, tortured and repressed his own people, chemical weapons guy, fired (wildly inaccurate) missiles against population centers, wants a nuclear weapon (so he can say "whos your daddy"). And with all that, Arab leaders in the Middle East tell their people the US is partially responsible for his actions.

5-There is that constant need for Arabs to reduce all US actions down to one single stupid item. US supports Israel, so all the US does is wrong, and all that anti American Arab groups do is right. Regardless of the ambivalence the US has in regard to Israel.

Note without number 5, you would still have four other key elements that make US policy almost impossible and untenable in the Arab world. Also note that this is generally domestically produced (relative to the Arab world) and usually outside US influence.

For radical Islamic groups anti Americanism has been an easy way to aspire to legitimacy and muster support. Generally these though have been rebuffed in establishing a theocratic states (exception being Iran), so they foster a type of xenophobia among different Muslim groups who see Islam differently and also against heathens in general who they claim seek to destroy Muslims.

Then again anti Americanism is just as useful for oppressive regimes. Instead of responding to demands for democracy, living standards, human rights, less corruption less incompetence, the leaders prefer to blame the US (see Palestinians for a perfect example of this). The governments do the "national unity or shut up routine" (and yes we do it to in times of crisis, but not for decades at a time and it almost never props up a presidency for very long). Of course by taking the anti US route, these groups also make sure their opponents don't use the same tactic. So while Saudi Arabia and Egypt receive weapons and protection from the US they have also promoted the ever popular US whipping boy scenario through various policies and through state controlled media (which is very anti American). Hey if America can be blamed for Iraqi deaths because of sanctions, who is going to remember the siezure of Kuwait? Iran uses the tactic to get the US out of the Gulf and to keep focus away from their two biggest weaknesses. 1-Iranians are not Arabs 2-Iranians are generally Shia and not Sunni. Domestic reformers are called US puppets and hence delegitimize them. Syria uses anti US sentiment to distract the people away from reforms that Assad promised (but quickly abandoned).

For the Palestinians its great cover for their own rejection of peace and compromise and a method of mobilizing the groups when necessary. It also gives the leaders themselves cover for rejecting US policies they disagree with claiming their hands are tied because of the passion of the people (course that never stops tough action when the leaders feel their own self interest is at stake).

Of course then there are the Arab anti American intellectuals and journalists who feel the need to vent their anger at government approved targets instead of risking personal life and limb by criticizing their own governments for its failures. Yes we are the whipping boy.

Now this is not to dismiss all anger towards the US. But lets be accurate here. The reactive violence of the middle east for their grievences is completely disproportionate. Arabs and Muslims have suffered less from US policy than most other groups. But none of these other groups comes anywhere near the level of violence and hatred the Middle East regularlly spews out. Arab states don't really have a basis for complaints. They have grown rich off the US economy and US influence over Arabic economy is limited at best, so they can't legitimitely argue that Arabs are poor based on US policies. We certainly don't make or break nations. Since the Pro-shah coup in 1953 there is not a single US covert action to change a Middle eastern regime. Only in Iraq has the US an attempt for an overthrow, and so far we are really doing a great job there aren't we? Fact is most other countries in the world, including Europe have a better case at being angry towards the US than the middle east, but you won't find Europeans caling for terrorist attack from their minarets.

Really it comes down to using the US to disparage good ideas that arise from the US. In essence anti Americanism is really a negative response to gobalization and westernization.

Finally there is an established false dichotomy. To portray the US as an enemy it must be made to be the bully. To ecourage challenging the US it must also be portrayed as weak. Radical Islamic groups and states are frustrated because the US, to a certain extent is feared and some even see alliance with us as a desirable outcome. If America is powerful why fight it and the people it protects? So radicals must somhow show the US to be both horrible and helpless, and that it will not do anything if it is attacked.

So if the US does little to respond to attacks anti Americanism is encouraged by the belief it is meek. Look at the key themes in Osama Bin Laden, Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Kussein and others, they do not say attack the strong America, but attack America because it is weak. Hafez Assad once said "It is important to gain respect, rather than sympathy." Bin Laden agrees once commenting that people always back the strongest. The Iraqi minister himself also commented that Western weakness in confroning Hitler encouraged Nazi aggression. Saddam has consistently interpeted US conciliation as proof that the US is weak, after all, if it were not so, why negotiate? (from Saddam's point of view). In a speech in Feb of 1990 Saddam has said the Arab world has three options.

1-Arabs can give up
2-They can wait until Europe is stronger and play Europe off the US
3-Unite behind a strong Arab leader that can defeat the US.

Guess which option is still foremost in his mind?

He went on to say that the US has shown "signs of fatigue, frustration and hesitation" in Vietnam and Iran and had quickly run away from Lebanon (see Lebanese Barracks bombing and its aftermath) when marines are killed. Experience has shown that if Iraq acted boldly the US would do nothing, he concluded. He still believes that to this day otherwise why pull back before reaching Baghdad?

So what should the US do in the face of this conundrum? With the benefits of developing anti Americanism on a domestic basis, how do we convince Arabic leaders not to do this? Even if the US withdrew support for Israel, pulled back from Iraq, Arab newspapers will not sing the praises of the US. It will however encourage radicals to even greater heights.

I think the first thing the US needs to do is understand that no public relations efforts, mea culpas, appeasement or policy shifts will do anything to change anti Americanism. The systems in place will simply adapt and change the content but not the tone of anti Americanism, so the sytems that produce this sentiment must themselves be rooted out. This includes Saudi support for the Arabic schools that forment these hate policies (masras I believe they are called). And more importantly the US should be steadfast in its support of its own interests and the interests of its allies which includes a support of Israel and developing stronger ties with moderate Arab states which should be "encouraged" to do more publicly to justify US support.

But hey, thats just me.

A book that brought this to the forefront for me was "Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East", I highly recommend it and while it is not the easiest read it goes into a great deal more insight and analysis than is offered here.

End of Analysis
I believe I remember you from another political watering hole some years ago. Your attention to detail and refreshing common sense logic jogged my memory more so than your name. If I am in error then allow me to compliment you by comparing you to an intellect I admired.

Please accept one more item of praise.
"I think the first thing the US needs to do is understand that no public relations efforts, mea culpas, appeasement or policy shifts will do anything to change anti Americanism. The systems in place will simply adapt and change the content but not the tone of anti Americanism"

I was particularly drawn to this as it makes a point that all too often appears to exist only in my mind. Thank you for dispelling that myth.
It is amazing to me that so few can grasp this statement. Some simply choose to ignore it because it shakes the very foundation of their political affiliation. Others won't consider it because their eternal optimism precludes them from accepting the possibility that many will hate for hates sake regardless of what we do to sweeten the pot.

I look forward to more of your wisdom.

Because they hate everyone.

Lets not get the Arab ethic group as a whole confused with
Islam and Muslims...All Arabs isn't Muslims. You know the
internet is a tricky tool, due to the fact that I can call myself
Nubian, and be a citizen here in the Western world.

To make a open statement They hate Everyone means that
you know this as a fact. So is there a problem between the
Russians and the Arabic world?
Lets not get the Arab ethic group as a whole confused with
Islam and Muslims...All Arabs isn't Muslims. You know the
internet is a tricky tool, due to the fact that I can call myself
Nubian, and be a citizen here in the Western world.

To make a open statement They hate Everyone means that
you know this as a fact. So is there a problem between the
Russians and the Arabic world?

You sound uneducated.:cool:
I agree with political ghostdog, many adherents of Islam are not anti American, in fact I know a few who embrace the American dream, unfortunately they don't make near the noise that the extremists do. At the same time I often urge them to be more vocal in their protests against extremists.

Part of the problem is that the holiest islamic sites are also controlled by the extremes of Islamic culture. This gives a great deal of leeway to small groups that are intolerant in that religion.

Thanks for the compliment Castle. It is always at the back of my mind too.
A good neighbor of mine back in the mid 1970s was a gentleman from Iraq. I remember him telling me in one of our many lengthy conversations how when he was a teenager in the 1940s and an US diplomatic vehicle would drive by with the US flags fluttering off the antennas, his friends and him would get goosebumps at the sight. "Your country represented freedom and justice."

By the mid 1970s it was apperent that our role as an impartial peace broker in the Israel/Palestine situation was dishonest and we were going to support Israel, right or wrong. It was at that point the Arab world felt betrayal.

While in the Western cultures the attributes that we use to hold highest - honesty and decency; in the Arab culture they believe justice is the most important. You can understand why many distrust us and now with our overt actions, generations to come will be skeptacle of any of our intentions.
Before Israel, (yes, this isn't statistically true, but I think we all know it) almost all the arabs loved America. After 9/11, the rise of radicalism made less arabs sympathise with America. After Afghanistan, more Muslims sympathised with America. After Iraq/Now, many Muslims hate America.

But its still a very small portion of them that commit attacks.

Can't you see, you have bought it upon yourselfs. Saying the terrorists only hate you because you are a rich and free country doesn't cut it. The jealousy is one small catalyst factor, but its more what you and your allies have inflicted on these people.

I do not support terrorist attacks, what they inflicted on you at 9/11 was horrific, but it hardly mounts up in terms of casulaties to what you have done elsehwere.
[qoute=9sublime] I do not support terrorist attacks, but it hardly
mounts up in terms of casulaties to what you have done elsehwere.

9Sub, This is exactly what I have been talking about for the longest.
I love my Country with its hateful self, but we seem to have forgot
about all the damage we have done to other countries, and that's
because we are to busy thinking about ourselves.

Then on the other hand our Government isn't thinking about the
slum Cities in this nation, due to the fact that our government
is to busy dipping and starting **** elsewhere, and isn't taking the
time to think about the tax payers here in the States.

Payback is a muther**** price to pay, and we haven't seen nothing