Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2003 / 3 Shevat, 5763

Burt Prelutsky

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As others see us | Recently, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press conducted a multi-part worldwide poll. After checking out the results, one can only say, "Pew, indeed!"

The first part contrasted how much of a danger Iraq posed to the world as compared to people's willingness to confront Saddam Hussein militarily. So, for instance, whereas 84% of Americans regarded Hussein as a very real threat, only 62% were in favor of using force to remove the bloody tyrant from power.

The second part of the question dealt with America's motives in pursuing a regime change. The two choices were: one, the actual danger posed by Hussein and, two, control of Iraqi oil. In the U.S., two-thirds felt the answer was #1. In Russia, however, by a 5-1 margin, oil was regarded as our major impetus.

The other part of the poll measured the popularity of our values and ideals, compared to our music, movies and TV shows. `

One of the results that leapt off the page is the general reluctance to deal harshly with Hussein, even though well over 50% of those polled agreed he constituted a real threat. In France, two-thirds of those questioned were of the opinion that he was dangerous, but only one third wanted to do anything about it. Eighty-two percent of the Germans considered him a major villain, but a mere 26% thought he should be handed his head on a plate.

When it came to America's motives in the matter, we seemed to fare best with the Brits, but even there it was a squeaker. While 45% gave us the benefit of the doubt, 44% were convinced we were only out to gain control of Saddam's oil deposits. In Russia, a scant 15% thought our motive was altruistic; five times that number were sure that our intention was crude, so to speak.

The real eye opener came when foreigners rated American principles as opposed to our pop culture. So, it turns out that while only six percent of Egyptians like what America stands for, a third of them enjoy our entertainment. Even in Britain, twice as many people would rather sing along than string along with us.

The exceptions to the general rule were Japan, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and most of Africa. It was in Europe, Latin America, Asia and, naturally, the Middle East, where America was most despised. What did I, personally, take away from all this data? First and foremost, I am more convinced than ever that the member states of the United Nations should not be trusted to determine anything much beyond a lunch menu. I mean, imagine, if you will, that in nearly every instance, the citizens of those countries preferred our current cultural exports (Eminem, hip hop, Madonna, "Dumb and Dumber," wrestling, "Survivor," etc.) to our political system and our War on Terrorism.

I also find it interesting how many of our so-called friends impute imperialistic motives to our stance on Iraq. The idea that 75% of the French, a nation that has depended on us twice in the past 85 years to pull its chestnuts out of the fire, would impute our intentions is the height of ingratitude, even for them. It was, after all, just a decade ago that the U.S. saved Kuwait from Hussein, and I have yet to see Old Glory waving over its oil fields. And I certainly don't recall the French Foreign Legion racing to protect Kuwait's sovereignty.

This is not to suggest I don't wish America controlled Arab oil, but that's another story.

Hell, while I'm at it, I wish that, as a result of World War II, we had annexed France. Maybe then we wouldn't have to pay an arm and a leg for our Bordeaux.

Yes, I know France was allegedly an ally. But if they can forget it so damn quickly, why the hell can't I?

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JWR contributor Burt Prelutsky is a veteran TV writer whose credits include, among others, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show and Diagnosis Murder. Comment by clicking here. Visit his website by clicking here.

12/24/02: Saddam's fifth column
12/18/02: Tonight: TV's worst interviewer ... tick, tick, tick
11/25/02: Andrew Carnegie Day
11/21/02: A welcome guest

© 2003, Burt Prelutsky