Despite the billions of dollars that the United States has spent in aid to many Muslim countries, its image in many of these countries continues to be profoundly negative.
The "winning hearts and minds" strategy simply is not working.
It is obvious that the aid has not been used very effectively. Many leaders of Islamic countries cared only about getting aid without reciprocating, and a quid pro quo is essential in these countries where Muslim children are being educated to foment anger and violence against the United States.
The U.S. government should have required that if aid were to be given to these countries, some attempt at improving the image of the United States would have to be made.
What would be the best vehicles for this approach? A campaign through government-controlled media and institutes. U.S. spending on such campaigns could then be curtailed.
Another beneficial outcome of this approach would be that such governments would weaken the ideology of radical Islam.
Furthermore, the aid in some countries (such as Egypt) has been used to create infrastructure programs that were not strongly linked in the mind of most people to the United States. How can citizens be mindful of appreciation when they are not even aware of their benefactor?
Japan and France create highly visible projects that significantly help improve their image. For example, when you visit Cairo, people on the street refer to “the French and the Japanese hospitals” yet you cannot find an equivalent prominent American hospital that people refer to. The visibility of such projects is an important factor in improving the image of any country.
Aid to the Muslim world should be used more effectively and much more wisely to ensure both the essential strategic interests of the United States and to provide a high profile example of the donor. Public opinion might just turn our way given a little nudge.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid (www.tawfikhamid.com), is an Islamic thinker and reformer. He himself is a reformed member of a terrorist Islamic organization (JI) with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri who is currently the first in command of al-Qaida. He is also the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam."
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