Last week, in Turkey, sailors from the USS Ross were accosted by a group of protestors from Turkey’s Youth Association, a left-leaning group with a less-than-favorable opinion of the United States. The protestors shouted “Yankee, go home!” at the sailors, threw balloons filled with red paint at them and forced bags over their heads before the sailors were able to escape and return to their ship. The ship’s liberty was subsequently canceled.
Outside of the courthouse, the leader of the Turkiye Genclik Birligi (TGB) was quoted by AFP, saying, “From now on, American soldiers will never have an easy time here. They will not be able to go around freely.”
Even Turkey’s mainstream opposition group, Republican People’s Party (CHP), praised the attack.
“These young people have done what was necessary. Turks are hospitable but have always sided with the oppressed,” said a representative for the group.
Twelve people were taken into custody and later released amid attempts by officials on both sides to downplay the anti-American sentiment as an isolated incident. But is this really the case? How does America’s image play around the world?
Pew Research recently set out to find out how the American “brand” fared around the world on a variety of sensitive issues, including drone strikes, Middle East policy, and domestic spying. Despite public opinion of the U.S. being a veritable roller coaster over the last two decades, overall, the results were favorable, with some notable exceptions.
Continued U.S. involvement in the Middle East is doing nothing to help America’s image in the area, and it should come as no surprise that just 30 percent of the tumultuous region share a favorable opinion. The lone exception is Israel, where 84 percent of the population holds a favorable view of the U.S.
The Pew study found that Russia also does not share a positive opinion, finding that 71 percent of Russians are no fan of Uncle Sam. This is also not surprising in the wake of the Crimean crisis earlier this year that saw the U.S. impose sanctions on Russia and condemn its invasion of Crimea as an act of aggression.
There is a significant divide in opinion across the globe based on age, as well. The young tend to have a more positive opinion than their elders, though as the actions in Turkey demonstrate, this is not absolute.
Despite official statements from both the United States and Turkey denouncing the attack on the U.S. sailors and doing their best to paint the relationship between the two countries as warm and cozy, just 19 percent of the Turkish population holds a favorable opinion of the U.S., according to Pew, casting serious doubts on those official statements.
There has been ongoing disagreement between the U.S. and Turkey over ISIS. In particular, the disagreement stems from the U.S.’s frustrations at Turkey’s refusal to help in the fight against ISIS. Officials in Washington have said Turkey agreed to let airstrikes launch from a Turkish air base. But Turkish officials dispute this, saying the deal is still under consideration.
Turkey’s reluctance to assist the U.S. against ISIS is largely due to U.S. officials not confronting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well. Washington has refused because thus far American jets have been allowed to fly airstrikes over Syria unimpeded. Confronting Assad would put an end to the quiet cooperation that is currently needed.
Officials insist that there is no disagreement between the U.S. and Turkey over an ISIS strategy and that Turkey will determine its role in its own time.
Image: Turkey Tayyip Erdogan AFP Photo