An extensive look back through the history of the relations between US and countries of Latin America demonstrate the profound impact US foreign policy has on countries’ opinions of the US. The Middle East is the region of the world that has received the most attention in regards to US foreign policy in most recent years. Similarly to the history of events in Latin America, US interactions, and interventions, in the Middle East are characterized by US meddling with the underlying goal to protect its national interests. In many instances in the Middle East, US involvement has been centered on the exploitation of the Middle East’s invaluable natural resource: oil. As discussed by Painter (2012), maintaining access to oil has been a crucial aspect of US foreign policy in the Middle East and has been a major influence in several doctrines including the Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter Doctrines. With the underlying goal to protect US interests, including access to oil, the US has often provided support to oppressive regimes that have stunted progress in Middle Eastern countries, as will be seen in the countries to be discussed. Although the bulk of Middle Eastern opposition to the US results directly from US foreign policy, misconceptions exist that anti-Americanism present in the Middle East is caused by resistance to American values and ideals, such as US democracy, freedoms, or culture. This belief that Middle Eastern hostility towards the US has developed as a result of anything other than US foreign policy is nothing more than a misconception as there is significant research proving that Middle Eastern and Arab nations are often very accepting of democracy and the ideals valued by the US. As Cole (2006) states, negative opinions of the US held by members of the Middle East are shaped by US policies, not culture. A consideration of the history, as well as current relations, between the US and the nations of the Middle East will provide a full explanation for why such feelings towards US foreign policy exist in this region of the world.
Iraq has, in many ways, been the focal point of US foreign policy in the Middle East in most recent times as a result of the 2003 invasion commencing the Iraq War. Relations between Iraq and the US have not always consisted of tension and conflict. During the Iran-Iraq war, beginning in 1980 when Saddam Houssein launched an invasion of Iranian oil facilities, the US largely stood as an ally to Iraq, although US also at times provided aid to the Iranians. The US, in many ways, supported the war as a way to keep both Iraq and Iran focused on war efforts which, in turn, prevented threats to the “political economy of oil,” (Jones, 2012, p. 215). The US displayed their support to both Iraq and Iran by providing both sides with weapons, money, and intelligence. The US’ support for the war went so deep as to even condone Iraq’s use of chemical weapons not only on the battlefield, but also against its own citizens (Jones, 2012).
The support of the Iran-Iraq war provided by the US would, in the end, come back to haunt the Western superpower. The eight year war left Iraq in immense debt, eventually leading to the country’s invasion of Kuwait in hopes of gaining control of oil fields. In 1990, in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the fear of Kuwait’s oil fields falling under the control of Saddam Houssein, the US entered the Gulf War under action known as Operation Desert Storm. As stated by Painter (2012), “maintaining access to Persian Gulf oil was the key objective of US response to Iraq’s conquest in Kuwait in 1990,” (p. 37). The actions taken by US in the Gulf War drove Iraq out of Kuwait promptly; however the destructive aerial attacks would leave Iraq in shambles and would have a lasting impact on the Persian Gulf, including thirty years of war following the Gulf War.
The years following the Gulf War leading up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and beginning of Iraq War were marked by human rights violations committed by Saddam Houssein, specifically against the Kurds using chemical weapons, and empty threats of intervention by the US. Although there were questions of Saddam Houssein developing a weapons of mass destruction program, multiple United Nations inspections proved no such weapons were ever developed. In 2003, President George W. Bush made the call to invade Iraq, claiming the goal of the mission was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, though it was later discovered no such weapons were ever in existence. Study of the Iraq War years after has led many researchers to believe oil was an important consideration in the decision to go to war. As Jones (2012) states, the Iraq War was an “outgrowth of decades of strategic thinking and policy making about oil,” (p. 209). Painter (2012) is an agreement with Jones’ belief, stating that concerns in regards to the protection of oil flow from the Middle East were at the top of the list of factors contributing to the decision to go to war in Iraq. US’ history with Iraq is a prime example of how US interference in other nations can cause serious disruption, resulting in continued years of chaos largely as a consequence of US less than honorable actions attempting to preserve its own national interests in the oil industry.
The war in Iraq has damaged relations between the US and countries throughout the world. Opinion polls conducted by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, as well as a vast amount of additional research, prove that the Iraq War has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on countries’ attitudes regarding US foreign policy. In 2003, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and the Palestinian territory held horrendously low percentages of favorable opinions of the US, reporting twenty-seven percent, fifteen percent, one percent, and zero percent respectively (Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, 2014). In 2004, as reported by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, Pakistan, thought to be an ally of the US, reported on 21 percent favorable opinions. Further research has also observed the severe impact the invasion of Iraq and the Iraq War had on opinions in Latin American countries. Ballve (2005) reports that according to the Latinobarometro poll in 2004, less than one-tenth of Argentines, Uruguayans, Mexicans, Brazillians, Bolivians and Chileans approved of U.S. actions in Iraq. Furthermore, other countries, some within the Middle East, have not been impressed with the results of US intervention in Iraq. According to Cole (2006), 61 percent of Pakistanians, 70 percent of Jordinians, and 50 percent of Moroccans believe Iraq was better off under Saddam Houssein. The Iraq War proves that US meddling does not only have a negative impact on the countries that are victims of direct intervention, but such interference is the cause of the rise of anti-Americanism in the bystanders witnessing US unilateralism.
Iran is another Middle Eastern nation that has endured an extensive history with the United States that has largely been strained by US often times shady behaviors made in effort to protect its national interests. Similarly to the beginning of US relations with Iraq, Iran’s relationship US began as a relationship as respect and cooperation. In the years leading up to the Cold War, the US developed a stable relationship with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavia. The relationship with Pahlavia, who was largely pro-Western and worked to modernize and westernize Iran’s economic policy, was viewed as strategic alliance to protect oil interests in Iran. In 1951, however, Mohammad Mossadegh was named Prime Minister of Iran. Upon Mossadegh becoming Prime Minister, US policy makers’ feared Mossadegh’s plans to nationalize Iran’s oil industry could jeopardize US oil concessions (Painter, 2012). In response to these fears, the CIA planned and carried out the 1953 coup to remove Mossadegh from power, a move that will forever impact Iran’s feelings towards the US. As a result of the successful coup, the Shah remained in power, leading to years of brutal tyranny. The US turned a blind eye to the oppression and violence being committed in Iran by the Shah and continued to enjoy the benefits of the oil industry provided through the relationship with the Shah. In fact, it is believed that the increase in oil revenue strengthened the Shah’s oppressive, violent regime (Jones, 2012). In 1979, however, the revolution ousting the Shah altered the US’ position in Iran greatly.
Upon the removal of the Shah from power, Ayatollah Rouhollah Mousavi Khomeini rose to power through the support of the Iranians. Shortly after being removed from power, the Shah fell ill and requested medical treatment in the US. President Carter, despite opposition, allowed the Shah entrance and care, infuriating the already irate Iranians and leading into the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. In the aftermath of the crisis, the US, who had been a major economic partner to Iran, froze assets in retaliation.
The relationship between the US and Iran has remained tumultuous, characterized by multiple confrontations throughout the 1980s including the Operation Praying Mantis launched by the US and the US attack on Iran Air Flight 655 which killed hundreds of civilians. Moving into the 1990s, President Bill Clinton imposed a total embargo on Iran, ending all trade between American companies and Iran and further damaging relations. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, it appeared as though Iran and the US may have been on the road to repairing their relations through their cooperation and efforts to find al Qaeda members responsible for the attacks; however any hope of improvements in the relations disappeared as quickly as they surfaced as a result of President Bush’s 2002 “Axis of evil” speech, in which the former President named Iran, as well as Iraq and North Korea, as governments involved in terrorism and attempting to build weapons of mass destruction programs. Upon the election of President Obama, it again appeared as though relations between the US and Iran could be on the road to amends as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated President Obama on winning the presidency. However, the ongoing conflict regarding Iranian nuclear programs and drone incidents, such as the December 2011 drone captured by Iranian forces that had been flying in Iranian sovereign airspace, has prevented relations between the US and Iran from improving. The United States’ interactions with Iran have displayed a complete disregard for another nation’s sovereignty. The history between the US and Iran is a flawless example of how US foreign policy, consisting of deliberate, self-serving interference, can become the root cause for anti-American attitudes that have surfaced around the globe.
The United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia is a perfect illustration of the immense influence oil plays in US relations with the Middle East. Seznec (2005) describes the relationship that exists between the US and Saudi Arabia as an “exchange of oil for security,” (p. 56). Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938. In many ways, the discovery of oil in 1938 is the event in history that influenced the US to attain a more active role in the Middle East (Makdisi, 2002). Although the US relationship began purely as a mutually beneficial economic partner, US foreign policy, specifically with Israel, has proven to be an obstacle between the US and Saudi Arabia. According to Seznec (2005), Saudi’s carry an overwhelming resentment towards the Bush administration and its support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, specifically of the Prime Minister’s “ruthless, albeit intifada-related, occupation of Palestinian territory,” (p. 56). Saudi Arabia, however, is not the only Middle Eastern nation that greatly resents the US’ overwhelmingly one-sided support for Israel. In fact, there exists a great deal of research suggesting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US’ support for Israel has damaged relations with many Middle Eastern countries. Makdisi (2002), Painter (2012), Cole (2006), and Sharma (2013) all discuss the negative impact US relations have had on the countries relations, and image, in the Middle East. One specific instance in which the United States’ support for Israel was detrimental to their relationship with Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, was during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War during which OAPEC organized an embargo of oil shipments to the US (Painter, 2012). This embargo hit the US hard, causing oil prices to rise significantly.
To this day, the bulk of US relations with Saudi Arabia are directly linked to oil. Aramco, a major Saudi oil company, has strong American ties. In fact, after being given up by British Petroleum, the US took over and trained a vast majority of the company’s work force (Seznec, 2005). Furthermore, Saudi’s have kept a great deal of their oil income in US dollars. The money that has been generated through Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, which has largely been funded by the US, is, however, believed to be contributing to the continued power of a corrupt Saudi Arabia regime (Seznec, 2005). While the elite of Saudi Arabia are greatly benefiting from the oil revenues, the rest of the country remain has not felt the benefits of the lucrative oil industry. The US and Saudi Arabia have had extensive relations for the past 40 years, yet despite these past decades, the relationship between the two nations are not at their lowest point, and it remains a question of whether or not these relations will ever be repaired. As Seznec (2005) states, “the relations that should have been made strong from 40 years of extensive interaction have also contributed to their destruction,” (p. 58).
Latin America and the Middle East have endured years of US interference. The meddling by the US has not only directly damaged the nations involved with the US, but it has also resulted in feelings of anti-Americanism and resentment. Africa is an interesting region of the world to study in regards to its overall feelings towards the US. The region of Africa, which will include sub-Saharan Africa, in many ways, proves the point that countries and regions of the world exhibit feelings of anti-Americanism as a result of US’ insistent need to stick its nose in other countries’ business, often with US interests in mind.
Before discussing the current attitudes of African nations towards the US, which are astonishingly positive, it is important to give attention to times in history in which the US has pulled the same shady maneuvers in attempts to protect national interests as has been seen in the histories with countries in Latin America and the Middle East. Perhaps the most obvious instance of US interference that has resulted in immense hardships for an African country is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, specifically the incident that occurred in the 1960s with Patrice Lumumba. In May 1960, Patrice Lumumba won the DCR national election upon the nation’s discovery of its newly won independence from Belgium. After just days of Lumumba’s inauguration, his time as a democratically elected Prime Minister would be brought to an abrupt end with a US and Belgian created plan to remove Lumumba from power and go onto carry out a gruesome assassination. Upon winning independence, the DRC did not find support in Belgium or the United States, ultimately forcing Lumumba to look to the Soviet Union for support which, in turn, pushed the US to actively organize opposition to Lumumba (Isike and Abutudu, 2012). On February 11, 1961, Lumumba was brutally assassinated, and any hope of progress in the DRC ended as dictator Josef Mobutu was placed in power. To this day, the assassination of Lumumba is seen as a “classical case of neo-imperialism aimed at fostering a post-colonial dependencia between the DRC and west Europe, deliberately concocted and coldly executed by the US, Belgium and their allies,” (Isike and Abutudu, 2012, p. 128). The DRC’s ability to progress has been hindered by the actions carried out by not only the US, but European nations such as Belgium, and this inability to progress has resulted in ongoing hardships in the resource rich African country. It is widely believed that if the democratic wave of 1960 was allowed to consolidate, the DRC would have “matured by now into a more stable, prosperous and developed state,” (Isike and Abutudu, 2012, p. 128).
Despite the wrongdoings committed by the US in the region, Africa surprisingly remains relatively pro-American. According to the Pew Research Global Attitude’s Project, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa held rather favorable opinions of the United States in 2013 at 83 percent, 81 percent, 73 percent, and 72 percent respectively. When comparing these numbers to what is seen in other regions it is clear that anti-American sentiments have not spread to Africa as they have in Latin America or the Middle East. The question then is why a region that has not only been meddled in, but also largely ignored by the US in times when aid has been needed holds considerably more favorable feelings towards the super power of the world. Devra Coren Moehler, Ph.D., presented to the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives in March of 2007 regarding relations with Africa and why she found the region to hold such favorable opinions of the US. As was stated in the hearing, the US ranks at the bottom of all donor countries for official development assistance worldwide, and of the assistance given by the US to the world, sub-Saharan Africa receives only approximately 24 percent of US foreign aid. Considering sub-Saharan Africa is regarded as “developing” or “third world”, only 24 percent of total aid given by the US is fairly low. However, despite the lack of aid, Africa appears to be quite fond of the US and Dr. Moehler has several explanations for this phenomenon. The first explanation regards the media African countries are exposed to. According to Moehler, attitudes about the US depend less on how much people hear about the US and more on who they hear it from (2007). A vast majority of the television channels, radio broadcasts, and newspapers Africans have access to are state-owned; therefore, these channels are often times funded by the US or other Western donors, resulting in the countries funding the media to have control over what news African people are exposed to, thus the viewers may be restricted to a more positive portrayal of the US. In addition to the media portraying the US in a positive light, Moehler also found that many Africans believe the US “represents a place of economic and political opportunity,” (p. 10). Africans view the US truly as a land of opportunity and look to the superpower as what can result when democracy and capitalism are allowed to flourish. Not only is the American way of business and politics admired, but American culture, such as the glitz and glam of Hollywood, is also found to be intriguing and desirable to many people of Africa.
In ending her presentation to the House of Representatives, Moehler discussed how she believes the US can not only maintain a positive image in Africa, but even improve relations. Moehler emphasized the importance of increasing Africa’s access to American goods and business opportunities, as well as allow for greater cultural exchange. Moehler also stresses the need of the US to aid in providing development resources and democracy assistance to allow Africa the opportunity to establish stable systems capable of working with European powers. It is time for the US to stop focusing solely on its own national interests, as it did in the incident in the DRC in the 1960s, and aid Africa in establishing functional, stable government and economic systems that are not interfered with by Western powers. Africa is a region rich in natural resources that is fully capable of progressing into a developed region should it not be held back by the Western superpowers of the world.
It is clear through the research presented that anti-Americanism is on the rise throughout the world, especially in regions such as Latin America and the Middle East. An extensive look into the cause of anti-American sentiments clearly displays the true cause of negative feelings towards the US. The world does not hate the US for its freedoms, values, or cultures, and in general, most areas of the world continue to hold relatively favorable opinions of Americans despite the negative feelings towards the US. The cause of unfavorable feelings towards the US is clearly a direct result of United States’ foreign policy.
Through the comparative historical analysis approach in which three different regions of the world were thoroughly examined, reoccurring themes and actions have been found to have caused unfavorable opinions towards the US by the countries studied. In all three regions, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, there have been incidents in which the US has blatantly interfered within sovereign nations’ governments through coups and assassinations. From the coup of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, to the coup of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran, to the brutal assassination of Lumumba in the DRC, the US has stopped at nothing short of murder to remove powerful political figures of other nations from power when necessary to protect US’ national interests. The shady maneuvers that the US has pulled throughout the years in altering the structure and power of other countries’ governments have proven to result in less than favorable opinions of US foreign policy and cause a severe increase in anti-American sentiments throughout the world.
In addition to the violent assassinations and forceful coups executed by the US, the superpower has also been guilty of meddling in countries in ways other than coups and killings. The US has also established its voice and authority in resourceful nations of the world in less blatant ways. The shameful tactics of the United Fruit Company is one way in which the US exerted power and force over another region by taking control over the land and resources belonging to another nation. Similarly to the occupation of US in Guatemala through the United Fruit Company, nations in the Middle East have felt the same damaging presence of the US in the oil industry. Oil, being one of the most important resources to the US, has been the root cause of much of the meddling of the US in countries such as Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. The US meddling for the sake of oil has resulted in significant problems for the region, ranging from wars such as the war between Iran and Iraq that was largely supported by the US to the harsh regimes put in place by the US to stunt democratic growth and protect US’ interests. US actions that have caused an increase in anti-Americanism are not limited to coups and deliberate murders, but also include US presence and meddling in regions that have been caused significant damage to the development of nations exploited by the US.
Although Africa has also been the victim of damaging US presence and meddling at times, Africa holds far more positive views of the US compared to the other two regions examined, Latin America and the Middle East. This finding is important to the overall argument presented. Overall, it is clear that the US has exerted far more effort in interfering within the countries of Latin America and the Middle East. In fact, the US is considered to be largely inactive in Africa, especially in terms of aid; however, despite the lack of aid flowing to Africa from the US, Africa still holds significantly higher favorable opinions of the US. This could be explained by the fact that Africa is the only region where a larger percentage of its citizens believe American foreign aid has a positive rather than negative effect on the region (Moehler, 2007). Although the US has been relatively uninvolved in the region, Africans do view the aid and attention they have been given as beneficial. The same cannot be said for the regions of Latin America and the Middle East. Studying anti-Americanism in Africa, or rather lack of, makes it evident that US aid and interaction in a region can be beneficial and viewed favorably by the receiving region as it is in Africa. When the US interaction in a region is used ultimately to protect the US and not benefit the receiving region, it has proven to be detrimental not only to the region, but also to the region’s opinions of the United States as seen with Latin America and the Middle East; however, when the US does not impose itself on a region and allows aid to be beneficial, as is the case in Africa currently, the US has the opportunity of creating a truly positive image and living up to its potential.