A new BBC poll (pdf) of citizens of 23 countries has determined that most people don’t think very much of U.S. efforts against Al Qaeda:
Some 29% of people said the “war on terror” launched by President George W Bush in 2001 had had no effect on the Islamist militant network.
According to 30% of those surveyed, US policies have strengthened al-Qaeda.
This is bad news, but not all all that surprising. The “war on terror” — at least as it’s been framed by the Bush administration — involves the relentless application of military force to what is actually an intelligence and propaganda problem. Where the focus over the last seven years should have been on devaluing the al-Qaeda brand, President Bush has instead focused on blowing things up. Blowing things up creates a lot of collateral damage, which is an anodyne way of saying that “a lot of innocent people get killed.” This results in outrage and opposition to U.S. policies, which in turn enlarges the pool of potential terrorists, which is a problem if your goal is that there be fewer terrorists.
This is particularly troubling:
The most commonly held view of al-Qaeda in the 23 nations polled was a negative one – except in Egypt and Pakistan.[…]
In Pakistan, where much of the battle against al-Qaeda is being fought, just 19% said they had a negative view of Osama Bin Laden’s organisation.
Doug Miller, from polling agency Globescan, said the findings from Egypt and Pakistan were “yet another indicator that the US ‘war on terror’ is not winning hearts and minds”.
Given that Pakistan is where Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants are believed to currently reside, it’s obvious that the U.S. needs a new approach to Pakistan, to more effectively engage its population and government in the effort against Al Qaeda.
Last Wednesday, CAPAF’s Brian Katulis offered testimony before Congress on a new policy toward Pakistan.