When I visit Arab countries, I often hear the United States accused of being an ‘‘imperial power.’’ It is also viewed as being too close to Israel, and religious extremists of the al-Qaeda trend invariably refer to the United States as “crusaders.” Consequently, important U.S. political messages on the need for democracy, the importance of freedom, and the advantages of building secular polities are ignored or ridiculed as “neoconservatism”—a discrediting label associated closely with the Iraq war in most Arab minds.
Whatever the United States’ intentions and failures in Iraq, it did not seek to colonize Iraq, or any other Arab nation for that matter. In contrast, Turkey was a major imperial power for several centuries across the Middle East. Until very recently, Turkey was not only detested by Kurds and Lebanese Armenians for the atrocities that Turkey committed against these people, but most Egyptians and Syrians were taught in their schools that Turkey’s four-hundred-year-old occupation of Arab countries was responsible for Arab economic and political decline.
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