Thursday, October 13, 2005

You Can't Stop the Signal

The Washington Post has a story today ( about how following the earthquake, U.S. aid in Pakistan will do a lot to improve public sentiment towards the U.S. The article cites how Indonesia, the biggest Muslim nation in the world, changed its attitude towards the U.S. following the tsunami response. The article showed a large drop in support for Bin Laden after our response, and a large increase in public feelings about America. However, I don't think the aid we're giving Pakistan will do much to increase our support there.

I absolutely believe in our current mission in Pakistan. It is important that the people there get help, and while they're getting help that they are fully aware it is from the U.S. When they turn off the lights in their temporary housing, I hope the lightbulbs have "From the people of the U.S." written on it. When they're opening a bag of rice, I hope it is emblazoned with our flag. There is no reason that while we are helping them, we can't try to improve our image. It worked in Indonesia, right?

Maybe immediately after the tsunami it did, but the polls cited in the article were from one week after the disaster. I would be interested to see how high our approval ratings are there now. I hope they are still high, but I don't know. To me, responses to natural disasters such as these only relates to short-term improvements in image.

I don't think disaster response will work in the long-run in Pakistan because we don't share the same views as its citizens. Best example, our support for President Musharraf. People in Pakistan know that we give their government a ton of military aid, and support their President. We support their President even though he took power by a coup, and subsequently has never ran for election. Pakistanis see us a big hypocrites as we promote democracy everywhere that is convienent. We support Musharraf because we don't need a democratically elected fundamentalist party winning control of their government, and having control of a nuclear arsenal.

Fine, whatever. Just know our aid will never amount to a hill of beans if we don't do things to improve our long-term image.

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