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Perhaps the strongest complaint about the United States that flows from the broader narrative of American oppression is that the United States coercively dominates and exploits the Muslim world. This effort to dominate is seen as driven by specific desires to control access to oil in the Middle East as well as a broader aspiration to achieve regional hegemony and ultimately world domination. Actions by the United States to achieve these goals are seen as not only political, but also as coercive through the constant implicit and explicit threats of the use of superior military power. U.S. forces in the region are seen as key in performing this coercive function. To a significant extent this is a reaction to the increased presence of U.S. military forces in the Muslim world. Besides the major U.S. military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan—which are widely seen as prompted by U.S. aspirations to expand its footprint in the region—during the 1990s there was a major increase in the U.S. military forces in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Fifth Fleet commands several carrier strike groups in the region, while another carrier strike group operates at all times in the Mediterranean as part of the U.S. Sixth Fleet. The United States operates bases in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Benign rationales for the presence of U.S. forces in the region—that they are a stabilizing force or that they are there to fight terrorism—are roundly dismissed. Thus there is widespread support for getting all U.S. 42 The United States as Coercively Dominating the Muslim World 3 03-0559-8 CH 3:0305-1 3/3/11 1:56 PM Page 42 military forces out of Muslim countries. In this sense majorities see themselves as aligned with al Qaeda. And to this end, substantial numbers— in some nations, majorities—approve of attacks on U.S. troops operating in Muslim countries. The perceived coercive domination by the United States is seen as objectionable from both an Islamist and a liberal perspective. As is discussed in chapter 4, a perceived goal of U.S. domination is the undermining of Islam. The U.S. military presence is seen as serving this end. Equally potent from a liberal perspective, the U.S. efforts to dominate the Muslim world are seen as contrary to the principles of international law that the United States professes to promote. According to these principles , all nations are essentially equal and independent, and no nation should be able to coerce another with the threat of military force. International relations should be based on the principles of reciprocity and fairness. As discussed in the previous chapter, these principles are intrinsically attractive to many Muslims, and the perception that the United States has violated these principles elicits a strong feeling of betrayal. This feeling is much more complex than simple hostility. It is premised on the perception that something attractive was originally promised—thus engendering positive feelings—but then that promise was violated, eliciting feelings of disappointment and rage that are much greater than if the promise had never been made. Further, there is a perception that the United States has sought to seduce the Muslim world with high-minded ideas of world order, when in fact it has been using them as a cover to pursue its narrow interests. Thus Muslims tend to feel that they must be highly vigilant even when, or especially when, those ideas sound attractive. Seeking Domination of the Muslim World In polling conducted in 2008 and 2009, majorities in eight of nine majority-Muslim countries polled endorsed the view that “in our government’s relations with the United States,” the United States “abuses its greater power to make us do what the United States wants.” These majorities ranged from 61 percent in Azerbaijan to 90 percent in Pakistan in 2009. Only small minorities endorsed the view that “the United States more often treats us fairly” (see figure 3-1). Respondents in United States as Coercively Dominating the Muslim World 43 03-0559-8 CH 3:0305-1 3/3/11 1:56 PM Page 43 majority-Muslim countries were a bit harsher in their assessment of U.S. foreign policy than in most other nations globally.1 The theme that the United States dominates other countries and pursues its interest irrespective of others’ interests was echoed in the focus groups and was frequently and...


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