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Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Propaganda War, Part 1

The War on Terrorism is fought on several fronts. These are, in order of short term importance:
1. Homeland
2. Afghanistan
3. Iraq
4. Europe
5. Pan-Arabia

The Homeland front is basically a police action. And we're winning, in that there have been no major Islamic attacks since 9/11. Afghanistan is a fledgeling democracy. We're winning. Ditto Iraq. In Europe our allies are shutting down terror cells. We're winning there as well. The problem is Pan-Arabia. This front cannot be won through military action or detective work. It is the Public Relations or Hearts and Minds or Propaganda version of The War on Terror, and I'm not sure whether we are winning or losing it.

Today’s posts from Newsisyphus, and the Belmont Club, indicate we have lost for lack of trying. Newsisyphus says that a democratized Middle East will hate the U.S. the way Turkey does, but that that’s okay because, like the Turks, citizens of democracies are too busy making their lives better to commit terrorism. The Belmont Club discusses Rumsfeld’s briefing about the War On Terror and sums up our future PR efforts thusly:

… countering ideological support for terrorism: This war has required not only the vigorous pursuit of known terrorists, but finding ways to stop extremists from gaining recruits and adherents. It is this ideological component, I suggest, that is the essential ingredient for victory.

Newsisyphus is written by State Department bureaucrats, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that it accurately reflects Foggy Bottom’s attitude regarding the PR war. And I would summarize that attitude like this: “They are going to hate us no matter what- why bother trying to make them like us?” Rumsfeld, no friend to the State Department generally, seems to think the PR war is a defensive war. In other words, those who should be developing propaganda feel they cannot make “The Arab Street” like America, so we should either ignore the problem or try to blunt its consequences by isolating extremists…

This is a mistake.


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