Lee Harris has a great article in Slate reviewing Arab anti-Americanism since the 1950’s.
Anti-Americanism is how Arab leaders play the Arab people and the United States against each other to preserve their own hides. There is no incentive to be anything but anti-American, and it is very dangerous not to follow the pack. In Iraq, Arabs who work with Americans to rebuild their country are targeted for death. Anti-Americanism is the coin of the realm and has been for many years now. It is not growing. When Americans talk about rising Arab anti-Americanism, we are saying we do not understand how Arab regimes work. In effect, we are collaborating with dictators who will not allow Arabs a voice in their own governance.
For instance, a Syrian friend CCs me on e-mails he writes to U.S. Embassies or to American officials here in the States. This came from him last week after Ted Kennedy compared Iraq to Vietnam:
Dear Senator Ted Kennedy,
I am … from Syria and I am 56 years old. I still remember when your brother was assassinated in 1963 and we all cried. He had a dream for the whole world not just for America. We suffered under totalitarian regimes in the Middle East for the whole of our lives. We look for America as our Savior. Please Mr. Kennedy you have to know that America has a burden in freeing the other peoples of the world from tyranny. I have no right to comment on internal U.S. issues but as a citizen of the world I have the right to ask the American legislators to help other peoples in the world because this is the principle that America stands for.
Arab anti-Americanism is easy to get used to—it’s been around for close to half a century. What’s hard is living up to the Arabs’ best expectations of America.