A colleague wonders about the impact of "Made in U.S.A." tear gas canisters fired at anti-government demonstrators in Egypt. He suggests that these exported canisters used against civilians damage America's brand.
Let's agree that it doesn't help. Tear gas – whatever the provenance – stings like hell. Weapons from any country of origin are hated by those they are used against.
At the same time, the association of the US with the current government of Egypt is well known. Presumably bags of grain enter the country stamped "U.S.A." – and movies, commercial jets and other exports reflect economic ties between the two nations.
The fact is, America's brand image in the Middle East is the product of a complex web of factors – historical and current, economic and military, local and geo-political. The fact that a company in Pennsylvania makes and exports tear gas does not help Brand U.S.A. But the label "Made in U.S.A." is stamped on every jet plane we export and implied in every speech our leaders make.
Our brand is seared into the minds of our enemies and friends. That we make tear gas as well as gasoline is part of our projected, paradoxical image of brutal violence and noble values.