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How Drone Strikes, Assassinations, and Eye Scans are Uniting the Middle East--Against the U.S.

Obama's proved his ability to be a uniter--at least in the Middle East, where public opinion is nearly united in opposition to U.S. foreign policy.

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In other words, even though the U.S. military tried to flood the zone in southern Afghanistan, its  claims of progress and improved security are already giving way to a nowhere-to-hide Taliban world.  These events could certainly be considered the insurgency's symbolic goodbye to General David Petraeus, the U.S. surge commander there, who was just  handing over command and readying himself to return to Washington to become CIA director.  In a further sign of deteriorating security, an advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai was assassinated (along with a member of parliament) in heavily guarded Kabul when a squad of Taliban gunmen  stormed his walled compound.

To look on the bright side, though, that turban bomb may  prove useful indeed to the Homeland Security lobby and the Transportation Security Administration back in the U.S.  After all, it’s one more thing to strip off in airports along with the usual assortment of wallets, belts, baseball caps, and footwear; and it's a surefire Homeland Security Department fear-stoker, hence fundraiser, to add to  suppository bombs and possibly mythical but well-publicized  surgically implanted bombs.  (And bad news for  any Sikhs with air travel in mind.)

Franchising a No-Friends Policy

Biometrics aside, there were some other startling numbers out of the Greater Middle East recently. As it happened, some non-military types were also looking into eyes, not for retinal patterns, but patterns of thought.  Pollsters from IBOPE Zogby International  checked out 4,000 sets of eyes in six Middle Eastern countries -- Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco -- at least five of which qualify as U.S. allies, and in none of which has the U.S. bombed, invaded, or carried out a night raid in recent memory.

And still, favorable opinion about the United States had plunged  dismally since the early, heady days of the Obama presidency.  In many cases, the numbers are now below those registered in the last year of the Bush era (and you can imagine what they were).  Only 5% of post-Arab-Spring Egyptians, for instance, claimed to have a “favorable view” of the United States, and across the six countries, only 10% of respondents “described themselves as having a favorable view of Obama.”

This spring, Pew pollsters  found similarly plunging favorability ratings in the Greater Middle East.  More recently, they asked Pakistanis about the CIA drone strikes in that country’s tribal borderlands and came up with a polling near-impossibility:  97% of Pakistanis looked upon them negatively!

Consider that another remarkable American accomplishment of the Obama era -- creating such unity of opinion in an otherwise fractious land!

Once upon a time, of course, American accomplishments involved the building of vast highway systems or massive steel mills or even the winning of a World War, but in tougher times you take your accomplishments where you find them.  And these polls emphasize one thing: that what Washington continues to do in the Greater Middle East with relentless brilliance and on an almost unimaginable scale is to make no friends. 

Nor is it just in popularity terms that Washington has been racking up mind-boggling numbers in the no-friends business.  In a study it just released, the “Costs of War” project at Brown University found that Washington’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will, in the end,  eat $3.2 trillion to  $4 trillion in taxpayer money -- and that’s without adding in the air war in Libya (perhaps a chump-change  billion dollars), the Global War on Terror (in places like Yemen and Somalia where, as Jeremy Scahill  reports in the  Nation magazine, the CIA is running quite a covert operation from a walled compound in the confines of Mogadishu’s international airport), our continuing  frenzy of base building and ally supporting in the Persian Gulf area, military aid to the region, and so on. 

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