In January 2009, I was dining with a family of Iraqi refugees in Amman when Barack Obama’s first TV interview as president was broadcast on the Al-Arabiya network and translated into Arabic. The Iraqi family was astonished and proud. For a moment, this otherwise politically discarded family felt important, attended to, and relevant. After a few minutes, though, one family member said, “Well, that’s nice of Obama, but let’s see what happens in Iraq and with the Palestinian issue.”
Obama’s interview on Al-Arabiya, while momentarily uplifting to many Arabs, wasn’t enough. The United States must do a better job of discussing sounder policies on Arab TV in order to minimize anti-American sentiment in this part of the world.
Of course, the United States has no obligation to win a global popularity contest, and that’s not what diplomacy is about. But improving Arab public perception of the U.S. is one of our important security concerns, and it is also within the realm of the possible.
The satellite dish has for decades fed news of controversial U.S. policies into Arab homes. There’s no reason this same medium can’t be used to amplify news of our better policies.