Thursday, July 25, 2013

 

Despite financial aid,U.S. unpopular in many countries

U.S. foreign aid does not guarantee popularity, as underscored by a recent survey that looked at America's global image.



US foreign aid: Pakistanis protest U.S. drone strikes
Supporters of Pakistan's outlawed Islamic hard line group, Jamaat ud Dawa, shout anti-US slogans during a protest in Lahore, Pakistan.
Money can’t buy happiness, nor can it buy popularity, at least when it comes to the United States and many of the countries on the receiving end of its foreign aid.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center sought to compare America’s global image versus that of China. The United States did come out slightly ahead of the rising superpower, but there were some glaring areas where the U.S. could use some image improvement. As first pointed out by National Public Radio, those areas include several countries that receive large shares of American foreign aid dollars.


In Pakistan, the U.S. got a measly 11 percent favorable rating, the lowest of the countries included in the study. Yet between 2009 and 2012, the U.S. gave Pakistan approximately $2.9 billion in assistance, including almost $1 billion for emergency humanitarian aid following a series of deadly floods, according to the State Department.

“You do see an uptick in the wake of humanitarian aid in terms of perception of the U.S., but we recognize that’s often short-lived,” said Isobel Coleman, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Indeed, anti-Americanism in Pakistan remains strong, in part because of the abhorred use of drone strikes in the tribal regions.

“It’s pretty hard to be popular when we’re conducting a war on Pakistani soil,” said Coleman. But she added, foreign aid is not given to win popularity contests.

“The vast majority of aid is distributed through a strategic lens,” said Coleman. “It’s not designed to win hearts and minds.”

In one positive spot in the Middle East, the U.S. enjoys an 83 percent favorability rating in Israel, a longtime U.S. ally, which receives more than $3 billion annually in security assistance from the U.S.

But elsewhere in the region, the United States received remarkably poor ratings, despite its financial largesse. America earned just a 14 percent favorable rating in Jordan, a key ally in the region. The U.S. pledged more than $660 million in aid to Jordan this year and U.S. lawmakers are considering sending an additional $1 billion to help defray the costs of its refugee crisis. More than 500,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan to escape the civil war at home, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.


The U.S. is looked upon favorably by just 16 percent of Egyptians and Palestinians. Washington sends more than $1.5 billion a year to Egypt in military and economic aid. Now, U.S. senators are deliberating whether they can continue supporting the government there following the military’s toppling of elected President Mohamed Morsi. His ouster has led to widespread protests in Egypt, and both his supporters and opponents are accusing the United States and President Barack Obama of being hypocritical, self-serving and untrustworthy.

“Everyone is getting a lot of mileage by trashing the U.S.,” said Coleman. “The anti-Americanism has reached such high levels there that pulling back some of our aid might not be a bad idea.” The vast majority of aid that Egypt receives from the U.S. is military assistance.


Earlier this year, the U.S. unblocked more than $500 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, but many Palestinians are still angry that the aid was frozen in the first place, following the Palestinians'  bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations. In 2012, the U.N. voted to admit Palestine as a non-member state. The funding cut had an enormous impact on the already economically struggling Palestinian Authority.

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