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Max Boot v. McCarthy


Boot responds to Andy’s broadside against Pakistan. I’m not going to get into the middle of this whole fight. But I think the discussion of the Pakistan poll data Andy cites is interesting. Boot blames Osama’s high approval ratings and America’s low approval ratings on our support of dictatorship. He writes:

As for Bush’s rock-bottom rating, that’s easy to explain. It’s not because of our “campaign to bring democracy . . . to the Islamic world.” It’s because in Pakistan (as in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia) we have been associated with dictatorship, not democracy. Bush has not pressed for free elections; he has been a steadfast supporter of Musharraf’s dictatorship. The result is that, as Musharraf has gotten more unpopular, so has the United States.

I think there’s a lot of truth to that, though how much truth is hard for me to guess. But there’s another variable I haven’t seen discussed anywhere. Bush is hugely popular in India. I met a very prominent Indian journalist and intellectual a little more than a month or so ago.  He explained to me that Bush’s approval ratings in India are in the high sixties and that Bush deserves enormous credit for personally making India-US relations a priority (often against the advice of his advisers). I haven’t done much reading-up on this subject since that conversation, though I’d like to do a column on it at some point.

Regardless, my point is that while Andy and Max’s views have validity to them, there’s a possibility that Pakistani public opinion is less amenable to either ideological perspective. There’s truth to the contention that Pakistanis are against us because sympathy for Jihadism is dismayingly high over there. And there’s truth that we would win more sympathy from the public if we hadn’t hitched out wagon to authoritarianism. But our unpopularity in Pakistan might also have to do with other things like, for example, our perceived favoritism for India or the perceived “Indianness” of pro-American sentiment. How much this has to do with things I have no idea. I just think that mono-causal explanations for the attitudes of millions of people must be unsatisfactory on their face.