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Friday, 6 December, 2002, 00:56 GMT
US 'needs image makeover'
Protestors burn US flag
Anger towards the US has grown in the Muslim world

The United States could use an image consultant.

A global survey found 19 of 27 countries tracked had falling levels of approval for the US.

The Bush administration has launched several new initiatives over the past year to improve the country's image especially in the Middle East.

But foreign policy experts say the US must do more or terror groups will find it increasingly easy to find new recruits.

'Propaganda machine'

The Pew Research Centre for the People & the Press conducted the study and found that the image of the US was suffering across the globe.

The author's of the study said: "True dislike, if not hatred, of America is concentrated in Muslim nations of the Middle East and Central Asia."

But they also found favourable opinion slipping amongst Nato allies, in developing countries and in Eastern Europe.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer challenged reporters to go back and look at the raw data of the report and pay less attention to some interpretations of the study's findings.

President Bush at a mosque in Washington
President Bush sent a message of reconciliation to Muslims on Eid

"This is one of the most stark examples of a poll whose data showed one thing and whose instant analysis showed another," Mr Fleischer said.

President Bush continued his efforts to reach out to Muslims by attending Eid observances at a Muslim centre in Washington.

Earlier, President Bush blamed Muslims increasing distrust of the US on "propaganda machines (that) are cranked up in the international community that paints our country in a bad light."

"I hope the message that we fight not a religion, but a group of fanatics which have hijacked a religion, is getting through," he said.

More than image problem

But that message will only get through if the US narrows its war on terror, according to Ivan Eland, director of defence policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.

"We can dampen this if we conduct a narrow war against al-Qaeda," he said.

He criticised the Bush administration for making "expansive threats" and expanding the war on terror to include the so-called Axis of Evil nations and other groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

And he said that the US should be concerned about its image abroad and "not just because we want to be liked."

It's more than an image thing

Ric Stoll, political science professor Rice University

It is the view of the US Defence Department and the national security community that America is not using its informational power to best effect, said Daniel Kuehl, a professor at the National Defence University.

He attributes poor attitudes to the US to several factors including upset over US policies abroad including support of Israel, the growing perception that the US is acting unilaterally and "natural fear of the big guy on the block."

Ric Stoll, a professor of political science at Rice University, said, anti-American sentiment impacts the United States' ability to conduct policy abroad.

"There are any number of governments near Iraq that don't like Saddam Hussein and like to see him removed from power," Mr Stoll said, but they fear the domestic consequences of cooperation with the US.

He said the US could do a few things to greatly improve its image abroad, especially in the Middle East.

"We need to allow Saddam or Iraq to be seen as defying the UN, not just the US, and that is something Saddam will do if given enough time," Mr Stoll said.

And he added that the United States needs to address the impression that it is acting more even-handedly with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The administration needs to push proposals and concessions that are seen as more even-handed.

For instance, Mr Stoll said the US should call on the Palestinians to pursue basic, fundamental democratic reforms instead of calling for the ouster of Yasser Arafat.

And he said the Bush administration needs to combat impressions of unilateralism.

In the short term, it might tie our hands, Mr Stoll said, but added, "If we are seen as doing what we want, when we want, we will have serious, serious problems."

See also:

05 Dec 02 | Americas
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