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Old 06-27-2007   #1
MountainRunner
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Default Iraqi Insurgent Media: War of Images and Ideas

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that "reveals weaknesses In Sunni-Insurgent media war" (h/t Noah at Danger Room + MountainRunner)
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  • Sunni insurgents in Iraq and their supporters worldwide are exploiting the Internet to pursue a massive and far-reaching media campaign. Insurgent media are forming perceptions of the war in Iraq among the best-educated and most influential segment of the Arab population.
  • The Iraqi insurgent media network is a boon to global jihadist media, which can use materials produced by the insurgency to reinforce their message.
  • Mainstream Arab media amplify the insurgents’ efforts, transmitting their message to an audience of millions.
  • The insurgent propaganda network does not have a headquarters, bureaucracy, or brick-and-mortar infrastructure. It is decentralized, fast-moving, and technologically adaptive.
  • The rising tide of Sunni-Shi'ite hate speech in Iraqi insurgent media points to the danger of even greater sectarian bloodshed. A wealth of evidence shows that hate speech paved the way for genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
  • The popularity of online Iraqi Sunni insurgent media reflects a genuine demand for their message in the Arab world. An alternative, no matter how lavishly funded and cleverly produced, will not eliminate this demand.
  • There is little to counter this torrent of daily press releases, weekly and monthly magazines, books, video clips, full-length films, and even television channels.
  • We should not concede the battle without a fight. The insurgent media network has key vulnerabilities that can be targeted. These include:
    • A lack of central coordination and a resulting lack of message control;
    • A widening rift between homegrown nationalist groups and Al-Qaeda affiliated global jihadists.
There are interesting examples in the report, including one about an alleged (my word) Sunni rape victim, Sabrin al-Janabi, that was leveraged to the hilt to foment anger against Shi'a and the government.
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Old 06-28-2007   #2
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If our political propoganda was 1/10th as slick as our commercial propoganda is, the IO war would be over already. That's something to ponder.... we sell the hell out of sodas and shoes and pills and you name it, but can't seem to do much to counter the anti-American/Western Democracy propoganda, or for that matter, promote the Western, Democratic image. Foist a wholesome image of American/Western freedom on a Muslim target audience and it will be countered with images of gay rights parades, dogs being pampered and fed better than many humans, topless beaches and drunken revelry, the message being: that is what they call freedom. Yup, them folks don't highly regard many of our freedoms. I was reading about honor killings in Jordan and how progressive elements there want stiff penalties enacted for these crimes but the elected Reps decline to do so, saying it would promote immodesty and lude behavior amongst the people. I read too where the UN is reporting that in the very near future, half of the human population will be living in cities: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19458575/ High density, high IO value, a fact of nature. We got our work cut out for us, no doubt about it.
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Old 06-28-2007   #3
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If our political propoganda was 1/10th as slick as our commercial propoganda is, the IO war would be over already. That's something to ponder.... we sell the hell out of sodas and shoes and pills and you name it, but can't seem to do much to counter the anti-American/Western Democracy propoganda, or for that matter, promote the Western, Democratic image. Foist a wholesome image of American/Western freedom on a Muslim target audience and it will be countered with images of gay rights parades, dogs being pampered and fed better than many humans, topless beaches and drunken revelry, the message being: that is what they call freedom. Yup, them folks don't highly regard many of our freedoms. I was reading about honor killings in Jordan and how progressive elements there want stiff penalties enacted for these crimes but the elected Reps decline to do so, saying it would promote immodesty and lude behavior amongst the people. I read too where the UN is reporting that in the very near future, half of the human population will be living in cities: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19458575/ High density, high IO value, a fact of nature. We got our work cut out for us, no doubt about it.
I've always been a bit uncomfortable with the idea--which is heard a lot--that we are less successful than we might be in the "war of ideas" either because we are just doing a bad job of selling our message, or because we are not optimally organized for "strategic communications."

I think a bigger part of the explanation is that much of the world just isn't buying what we're selling. We assume that everyone wants to be like us, and I don't think that's true. When I give talks, I often explain in this way. In the 1970s when American auto manufacturers were getting the snot knocked out of them by Japan, rather than admit that the reason was the poor quality of their cars, they just assumed that they needed better ad campaigns.

I don't mean to imply that the car we're selling is of low quality, but it's just not for everyone. We like our F150 4X4 Quad Cab, but figure the only reason every one doesn't buy one is because we haven't advertised it enough. In reality, people who live in urban areas with tiny streets and pay $6 a gallon for gas may not want one.

There are some pretty serious implications of this line of thinking. We say that the "war of ideas" is central to the conflict we're engaged in. OK. But we also seem to assume that once we get our ducks in a row, we'll "win" the "war of ideas" (whatever the heck that means). But what if we can't? That undercuts our whole strategy. What, then, should replace it?
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Old 06-28-2007   #4
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I would tend to agree with this, Steve. Most folks I've come into contact with overseas might want parts of the "American Experience," but that doesn't mean they want the whole thing. Our political system is pretty much unique to us, and many of its concepts do not translate well to other locations. The same thing goes for our social systems and networks. People ARE different, no matter how much we may wish it were otherwise, and not everyone aspires to "Be Like Mike" or whatever slogan you choose. The demise of history education in our schools may have something to do with this, combined of course with the cultural jingoism that has haunted America almost since its beginnings. There's also, I think, a distinct feeling of inferiority (not spoken of but certainly there) when dealing with other powers and countries, especially those in Europe.

The "War of Ideas" as it exists now is, to me, very Ameri-centric and deals with flawed assumptions. It's also incomplete. By way of a muddled example, when I was in Germany in the early 1980s "Dynasty" and "Dallas" were both immensely popular on German TV. Many of the people I met there were convinced that all Americans were rich, slept with each others' wives or close relations, and were always scheming about something. These days they get their "informed views" about America from MTV, Jerry Springer, and Desperate Housewives, not to mention our movies (there's an old Tank McNamara cartoon that ties to this...he reassures Japanese visitors to the LA Olympics by telling them that Harry Calahan is in charge of security). Most of our IO stuff doesn't even seem to acknowledge this, let alone understand it.
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Old 06-28-2007   #5
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I would tend to agree with this, Steve. Most folks I've come into contact with overseas might want parts of the "American Experience," but that doesn't mean they want the whole thing. Our political system is pretty much unique to us, and many of its concepts do not translate well to other locations. The same thing goes for our social systems and networks. People ARE different, no matter how much we may wish it were otherwise, and not everyone aspires to "Be Like Mike" or whatever slogan you choose. The demise of history education in our schools may have something to do with this, combined of course with the cultural jingoism that has haunted America almost since its beginnings. There's also, I think, a distinct feeling of inferiority (not spoken of but certainly there) when dealing with other powers and countries, especially those in Europe.

The "War of Ideas" as it exists now is, to me, very Ameri-centric and deals with flawed assumptions. It's also incomplete. By way of a muddled example, when I was in Germany in the early 1980s "Dynasty" and "Dallas" were both immensely popular on German TV. Many of the people I met there were convinced that all Americans were rich, slept with each others' wives or close relations, and were always scheming about something. These days they get their "informed views" about America from MTV, Jerry Springer, and Desperate Housewives, not to mention our movies (there's an old Tank McNamara cartoon that ties to this...he reassures Japanese visitors to the LA Olympics by telling them that Harry Calahan is in charge of security). Most of our IO stuff doesn't even seem to acknowledge this, let alone understand it.

Well, *my* life is pretty much like Dynasty and Dallas--you mean yours isn't?

What we should have done is forced any foreign television network that wanted to broadcast Dynasty and Dallas to also broadcast Roseanne.

In some ways, the dissonance is even deeper. At the most basic level, we value personal freedom among almost everything else. In Arab cultures one could make an argument that justice, honor, and dignity are far more important. Then we couldn't understand why the political system we designed for them, which optimized personal freedom rather than justice, honor, and dignity, didn't take root the way we expected.
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Old 06-28-2007   #6
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Agree completely about the basic differences, Steve. But we (and I mean the collective policy-maker 'we') can't even seem to grasp the more obvious differences I mentioned, let alone the deeper stuff.
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Old 06-28-2007   #7
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What I see is a confusion of what IO, and public diplomacy, are supposed to be out. Public diplomacy took a left turn years ago, a turn made sharper by Joe Nye's book promulgating a passive approach that reinforced the "if we sell the US, they'll buy" approach.

The method and madness of the insurgent media is based on a "struggle for the hearts and minds of men"* and isn't always based on soft, feel good stories. In fact, the war-time propaganda emphasizes the power of the insurgent, the weakness of the enemy (the US, Shi'i, and the Iraqi gov't in this case, and the problems you'll face if you don't side with them. The last point is, according to the report, is generally restricted to domestic propaganda aimed at Iraqis themselves, while the other points are aimed globally.

I mean absolutely no disrespect, but I find it amusing, sad, and ultimately expected that a discussion about American IO goes back to telling the world about us and our commercial products every must want. This is, afterall, the "public diplomacy" America has come to "trust" over the last couple of decades, completely forgetting the roots of the term and the concepts it was based on. The concepts of which, the insurgent media understand.

Shouldn't we refocus our global IO as really psychological warfare that aims to influence people not passively, but showing the failures, inconsistencies, and atrocities of the enemy while laying blame for incidents, failures, etc where it is due: on the enemy. We must appeal directly to "the people of the media, speakers and writers. [We] must tell the truth and cast [our] arrows at falsehood, for media is half of the battle."**

It seems we're doing better at local, tactical IO, in Iraq, but still failing to see the larger picture is not about buying soap.

* Presidential candidate Eisenhower in a 1952 campaign speech on foreign policy.
** May 2, 2007, proclamation signed by the Iraqi Army of Iraq (IAI), Mujahidin Army, and Ansar al-Sunnah
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Old 06-28-2007   #8
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I would agree to a point, MR, but I'd also point out that in this age of "sensitivity," many government outlets will shy away from more aggressive techniques for fear of being accused of being racist or anti-Islam. That's a level of spin that puts many on the automatic defensive these days, with the responsibility for proof being put on those who are accused instead of the accuser.

We do need an aggressive IO campaign that points out every atrocity, flaw, and failure of our opponents, but I fear that we don't have the fortitude on an institutional level to get it done the way it should be done.
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Old 06-28-2007   #9
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Let me toss out an idea here. I think that in Islamic cultures in general and Iraq in particular, we are NEVER going to be effective at information operations. My reason for this is sort of conceptual, psychological, and philosophical, but I'll take a stab at it.

Coming from a Western, rationalist tradition, we assume that there is some factual "truth" disconnected from personal perception and belief. It has an independent existence. No one individual may have a perfect and complete understanding of it, but there are methods which individuals and groups can use to come close to the truth--open debate and discussion, elections and polls, etc.

In other cultures, though, reality and the truth have no independent existence. They cannot be separated from the individuals who perceive them. Hence when there are alterantive stories or explanations for something, the decision on which to accept is not based on which account is the "ground truth," but which of the two individuals giving different accounts one feels the most affiliation with. Phrased differently, there is no "objective" reality, only human-linked, subjective realities.

I know that in Iraq, this greatly frustrates Americans, particularly those in the military. They are perplexed, even angered when accounts of events which they are certain are factually wrong are accepted as truth by the population. To give an example (which is made up in this case, but which, I think, replicates a common occurrence), when some civilians are killed and the American military said that insurgents did it but other Iraqis say that the American military did it, the Iraqi public does not decide which story to believe based on which one is the closest to the "objective" truth, but whether they feel the deepest affiliation with the Americans telling the story or the other Iraqis telling the story.

This all leads me to believe that we will never "win" a cross cultural "war of ideas."
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Old 06-28-2007   #10
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This all leads me to believe that we will never "win" a cross cultural "war of ideas."
But we don't need to. This isn't about "democracy", whatever flavor it might be (US, UK, German, or, gulp, French, etc if western liberal at all) it's about peace and stability, ultimately.

The "truth" doesn't have to be a higher metaphysical ground, but the simple issue of who's doing what, where, and why. Exposing the lies and falsehoods is key.

It seems one of the big hangs ups is the reality that who we are is defined by what we do and not what we say. This goes to the "affilation" point you raise, Steve (Metz). An essential problem we seem to be finally overcoming as the primacy of information becomes internalized is what we do has defined who we are. We have inadvertently supported and feed the enemy IOs by our actions, while doing nothing to dispell the myths that get built up except by saying "that's not who we really are." That isn't cultural, that's just human nature.

We do need to insert ourselves more into other cultures to understand the listening we're creating. Giving away soccer balls directly to children, for example, didn't help improve our image as it imasculated the fathers. Giving the soccer balls to IP to give to the fathers to give to their children, that indebted the fathers to the IP.

This example highlights the need to understand local IO requirements. The first scenario, balls to kids, was Machiavellian: heap "honors on [his advisor], enriching him, placing him in his debt...so that he sees that he cannot do better without him." Attempting to buy off somebody.

The Arab Machiavelli, Ibn Zafar, in contrast, understood the different kind of indebtedness in Islamic culture: Amongst faithful and far-sighted counselors, he is most deserving of attention whose prosperity depends on your own, and whose safety is tied to yours. He who stands in such a position, exerting himself for your interests, will likewise serve and defend himself while fighting for you.

I don't see understanding and employing those differences in our IO isn't a culture clash. It should be easy to create these links, if we simply tried.

Steve (Blair), from where I sit in the cheap seats, it seems it's a combination of a lack of appreciation of the value of information (assumption being: "they should know we're good, we're from the USG, we're here to help"), in addition to fortitude.
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Old 06-29-2007   #11
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The number one obstacle that we have in the media war is that we only think in terms of how government can wage an IO campaign. And that is a completely outdated way of thinking.

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The insurgent propaganda network does not have a headquarters, bureaucracy, or brick-and-mortar infrastructure. It is decentralized, fast-moving, and technologically adaptive.
The solution to our problem will not come from government. As we all know, modern communications technology has lowered the barriers to entry enabling ordinary citizens to produce a huge variety of media products. The insurgents get this and are using this new technology to wage a very sophisticated media campaign. We don't get this and so we are not waging a sophisticated media campaign. All of us here on this thread could create a non-profit organization tomorrow and start pumping out "daily press releases, weekly and monthly magazines, books, video clips, full-length films," etc. No doubt there will be someone who says "It'll never work." But the insurgents are proving every day that it can work.

It's been nearly 6 years since 9/11 and the State Department has just now released its new PD plan. There is a lesson in this. Government certainly doesn't have "the fortitude on an institutional level to get it done the way it should be done." The only way it is going to get done the way it should be done is to do it ourselves, outside of government.
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Old 06-29-2007   #12
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On the subject of IO, I've received about 15 of these e-mails in a viral IO campaign that seems to be making the rounds, right now. My "gut" tells me that this is good IO, but I am not expert on what it looks like to the Iraqis.



Original message—The kid took shelter behind the best thing he could find. The boy knows who will not kill him but will save him. An amazing and touching set of photos! Look at the soldier standing upright and alert while everyone else runs! Some news photos are so rich in symbolism they're almost like Renaissance paintings in how much they communicate. Such a photo appeared on the front page of the New York Times'snational edition, a picture of the scene after a bombing in Baghdad yesterday.Adding to the chaos of the bombing which killed at least 21 people and injured at least 66 was a shooter, maybe targeting people in the crowd.Amid all the Iraqis who are running from the gunfire was a U.S. soldier, standing tall, perhaps looking in the direction of the gunshots, not apparently lookingfor cover. An Iraqi boy seeks shelter behind the soldier, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.The first picture shows it all. The kid's face shows he is scared to death, and is running to the safest spot he can find: this soldier who stands between him and danger.
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Old 06-29-2007   #13
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I would agree to a point, MR, but I'd also point out that in this age of "sensitivity," many government outlets will shy away from more aggressive techniques for fear of being accused of being racist or anti-Islam. That's a level of spin that puts many on the automatic defensive these days, with the responsibility for proof being put on those who are accused instead of the accuser.

We do need an aggressive IO campaign that points out every atrocity, flaw, and failure of our opponents, but I fear that we don't have the fortitude on an institutional level to get it done the way it should be done.
Well said, Mr. Blair. I’m wondering exactly the same question and I am inclined to wonder, since some years already, whether there might not be room for abstract considerations such as: Does the concept of mutual deterrence may take place in information warfare?

I explain.

We are getting familiar with certain form of influence such as movies, since some times. But while we may correctly assume that a movie such as Fight Club, for example, corresponds to the expression of a general concern about actuality, then we may wonder whether many other movies like Twelve Monkeys, Dances with Wolves, The Matrix, A Lathe of Heaven, or even the latest sequel of Pirates of the Caribbean owe equally to the same concerns?

In all these movies and in many other else I didn’t name here the enlightened and the specialist will easily find some unmistakable patterns belonging to far leftist underground conspiracy, terrorism “ethically justified,” and Romantic-inspired forms of violence and subversion, and else.

In revenge, as you suggest it, we may express some difficulties in our attempts to find similar forms of retaliations from those who are aimed at. It is surprising since it seems so obvious that there is matter enough to make a movie featuring in a burlesque manner the daily lives and destinies of would-be terrorists and slovenly naïve conspirers, for example. This way of doing things would exert ovious devastating effects and influence upon the mind of those who feel concerned, I believe. It would instill doubt in the mind of many. It would downplay and de-dramatize the way people perceive them. If ever some think that I may be wrong in my assumption, then let me cite for a while Brian Jenkins who made these two interesting statements about al-Qaeda:

“For bin Laden, rejection and ridicule would be worse than death. He berates those who do not heed God’s call to jihad. Denunciations of jihadist attacks that kill Muslims—even from militant groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas—cause him concern. (….)

We in the West sometimes seem to pay more attention to bin Laden’s latest screeds than do those in the community he addresses. It is hugely entertaining for the Muslim world to watch the jihadist torment the tiger, but to many Muslims, even those angered by U.S. policies, bin Laden is a crackpot.” - Jenkins, Brian Michael. - Unconquerable nation: knowing our enemy, strengthening ourselves – Rand Corporation, 2006, Pages 105-107.

What do we fear about to be so hesitating?

I understand your point Mr. Metz. We have some difficulty to adapt our communication to non-occidental cultures, and I acknowledge that I tend to focus my attention on those who live outside the Arabic area.

Last edited by Dominique R. Poirier; 06-30-2007 at 04:41 AM.
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Old 06-29-2007   #14
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I understand your point Mr. Metz. We have some difficulty to adapt our communication to non-occidental cultures, and I acknowledge that I tend to focus my attention on those who live outside the Arabic area.

My concern is that Americans, because of our history as a cultural "melting pot" and because we do not have an imperial history, are particularly bad at understanding and operating within other cultures, yet we have been cast into an imperial role. I think we can see this in American grand strategy which is based on the assumption that the terrorism threat will end when other cultures become more like us. I also believe that we do not realize the extent to which our counterinsurgency doctrine and the Foreign Internal Defense approach are culture specific. They may work in Western cultures (El Salvador) but are unlikely to in others.

In my 20 years with the U.S. military, I have come to recognize that there are people who, for psychological reasons, are able to quickly understand, adjust to, and operate within other cultures, but they are rare. The military does not select for people with this talent, instead working on the belief that with training and education, it can make anyone able to understand, adjust to, and operate within other cultures.

To tell you the truth, I'm becoming more and more sympathetic to Andy Bacevich's argument that Americans are never going to be successful imperialists, so the best strategy is stop trying to play the role.
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Old 06-29-2007   #15
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Another reason that we may have trouble playing an imperial role is that, at the end of the day and for various reasons, Americans seem to WANT to be liked. There appears to be some sort of basic need for external validation and approval. This is, of course, a sweeping cultural generalization, but I've come to believe that there is some truth in it as well. One could argue that the British at the height of their Imperial power (or the French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and others) really didn't care if anyone liked them or not. There was a basic sense of cultural superiority at work that allowed them to take actions routinely that we would shy away from.

The older imperial powers didn't blend in with local cultures: they modified them to suit their needs. The Raj bore little relation to traditional Indian society at the end of the day. We're torn between wanting to preserve and be liked and wanting to remake things in our own image.

Sweeping generalizations to be sure, but as I said before I think there's enough truth in them to validate them on a loose conceptual level. The US really became imperial by default, not necessarily by design. And it shows.
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Old 06-29-2007   #16
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Another reason that we may have trouble playing an imperial role is that, at the end of the day and for various reasons, Americans seem to WANT to be liked. There appears to be some sort of basic need for external validation and approval. This is, of course, a sweeping cultural generalization, but I've come to believe that there is some truth in it as well. One could argue that the British at the height of their Imperial power (or the French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and others) really didn't care if anyone liked them or not. There was a basic sense of cultural superiority at work that allowed them to take actions routinely that we would shy away from.

The older imperial powers didn't blend in with local cultures: they modified them to suit their needs. The Raj bore little relation to traditional Indian society at the end of the day. We're torn between wanting to preserve and be liked and wanting to remake things in our own image.

Sweeping generalizations to be sure, but as I said before I think there's enough truth in them to validate them on a loose conceptual level. The US really became imperial by default, not necessarily by design. And it shows.

We're thinking alike. Here's the introductory section of a paper I wrote for the Stanley Foundation a few months ago:

Because so few Americans alive today remember a time when their nation was not a great power, it is easy to forget just how limited our experience is. And how peculiar. During most of the time that the United States exercised global leadership, we and our partners faced an evil and aggressive opponent. Even when America was clumsy and heavy-handed, the alternative was worse. Our partners—who depended on us for their security--tolerated much. This, we Americans came to believe, was the natural state of affairs.

Throughout history most great powers cared little what others thought of them. Like Machiavelli's prince, they concluded that "one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be in wanting." Americans, though, clung to the notion that we can be both feared and loved. What our partners think of us matters greatly. This insecurity—the need for open affirmation of the rightness of our policies—grows from our tradition of open governance. We simply do not breed (or, at least, empower) leaders so convinced of the validity of their own positions that they are willing to ignore deep opposition. A policy or position which provokes widespread disapproval, we believe, is probably misguided. Domestically, this is a worthy trait, helping sustain democracy. Internationally, though, the need for affirmation renders us dependent on the approval of others and susceptible to angst-ridden hesitation. We lack the egotistic self-confidence that characterizes the great imperial powers of the past. This does not automatically exclude us from global leadership. But it means that we must exercise a specific type of leadership based on cooperation with partners. As with any collaborative endeavor, this can be difficult, requiring regular compromise and a sustained effort to coordinate priorities and objectives.

Somehow, though, we forgot this, believing that the deference which characterized the Cold War and even the years after the demise of the Soviet Union reflected a permanent change in the world. We could be both feared and loved. The U.S. military embraced this notion. Allowing the armed forces to atrophy when a major threat was defeated was an American tradition, continued even after World War II. American military power was like the mythical phoenix bird, repeatedly dying in flames then being reborn from the ashes. But our defense leaders were determined to break this pattern after the Cold War. They quickly found a concept to serve as the locomotive for sustaining American military strength: the "revolution in military affairs." This idea had two components. One was the belief that absence of a major global threat following the demise of the Soviet Union was not a rationale for demobilization, but was a result of American military strength. Second was the conclusion that the nature of armed conflict was undergoing an historic and revolutionary change. By capitalizing on this, the United States could sustain its military dominance which it would, in turn, use to promote "world order."

Events certainly validated the operational beliefs of the revolutionary theorists (even if they were not so kind to the underlying strategic assumptions). The 1991 Gulf War showed that an array of military reforms and acquisitions undertaken in the 1970s and 1980s, which included the extensive integration of new technology, had paid immense benefits. The U.S. military seemed capable of lightening victories over tough opponents with a minimal blood cost, minimizing the chances that the public would turn against a military engagement before it was successful—a vitally important factor for sustaining support for a strong military in the absence of a peer enemy. By the late 1990s, the Department of Defense was committed to a full scale "transformation" in order to capitalize on the revolution in military affairs and sustain American military preponderance. But strangely, there was almost no consideration from either the uniformed military or civilian policymakers that this might be intimidating to other states. Americans took it as an article of faith that they only used force to counter aggression, hence only aggressors had cause to fear their military power.

The election of George W. Bush in 2000 signaled a change in American strategic culture. Influenced by a group of thinkers often labeled "neoconservatives," President Bush had little need (or want) for approval from other states. A nation as powerful as the United States, he and the neoconservatives who helped shape his ideas believed, should be unconcerned with the perceptions and wishes of lesser powers as it pursues its national interests. The need for affirmation was a quaint peccadillo of an inexperienced power, something which could be transcended through strong, confident political leadership. And they concluded, the deference to American power which characterized the Cold War was normal and sustainable, not a product of a specific set of conditions.

During the initial months of the Bush administration, it appeared that China might justify a more aggressive statecraft and an increase in military spending. Then al Qaeda, a terrorist movement little known outside the circles of national security specialists up to that point, volunteered for the role of bete noir. While the American public initially accepted the idea that the United States was at war—increasingly with Islamic extremism writ large rather than simply al Qaeda--and that the war on terrorism was the functional equivalent of the Cold War, there was more skepticism of this construct among America's partners, particularly after the Taliban government was replaced in Afghanistan and al Qaeda's infrastructure there broken up. Deference to the United States was more fragile than it had ever been. Then the 2003 intervention in Iraq shattered it. To the publics and leadership of many other nations, Iraq demonstrated that the United States was willing to use the war on terrorism to justify policies which, in their eyes, had little to do with defeating al Qaeda. At the extreme, they came to believe that President Bush's expansive notion of the war on terrorism was simply a trojan horse for American aggression and imperialism. While Americans clung to the idea that their power was benign, fewer and fewer non-Americans saw it that way.

Most policymakers, military leaders, and opinion shapers concluded that this was simply a problem of "strategic communications." If we can better explain ourselves, the idea goes, other nations will recognize that our power is no threat and that we act in the collective interests of all peace-loving nations. Thus these nations should again accede to our leadership, adopt our notion of the war on terrorism, and do their part to prosecute it. This is an appealing idea, but it is fantasy. Our challenge is not miscommunication but the obsolescence of the mode of leadership we have grown accustomed to.

We now have two options. One is simply to continue along the current path, accepting a long term decline in our influence and global role, sustaining partnerships only with other states who see the world as we do. The other might be called "cooperative leadership." In this, the United States would use its power, both hard and soft, to bolster regional security arrangements and solutions largely defined by the states in a region. We would exercise peer rather than hierarchical leadership in most regions of the world. We would reach agreement with partners on the extent and nature of the threat and the appropriate response rather than simply dictating to them. This would be more than just a change of style. A grand strategy of collective leadership would also require adjustments to American military strategy and posture. This essay will suggest what these might entail.
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Old 06-29-2007   #17
Dominique R. Poirier
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Default Not imperialist, but gendarme.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
To tell you the truth, I'm becoming more and more sympathetic to Andy Bacevich's argument that Americans are never going to be successful imperialists, so the best strategy is stop trying to play the role.
Mr. Metz,
I believe that we could talk at length on the meaning of the world “imperialism.” I don’t like this word anyway because I find it has a strongly pejorative meaning that expresses arrogance and authoritarianism. It doesn’t fit at all my own perception of the United States by all means; as I wouldn't believe one minute, with all due respect for your knowledge and intelligence, that the average American—and any member of American ruling elite as well—feels himself as an imperialist or see his country or its policy as imperialist.
Doubtless many idling pinky Americans who never did the effort to go to live elsewhere--just to see how different it is--see their country as an imperialist power.

Ironically, I accept a French definition of the American power which initially intended indeed to be pejorative: “le gendarme du monde” (the World’s constabulary).
I never considered this other definition as pejorative because it reflects quite closely the role of the United States throughout the world and in international politics. The Chinese see the United States that way, and Japan, and several countries of the greater Middle-East, and several European countries as many others. So, things didn’t turn as intended for those who invented this expression, in my own opinion. Rather, they accidentally found the right one.

In a more personal manner, I perceive the United States as a dam which contains savage and anarchic and uncontrollable forces capable to submerge everything on its crazy course, once sets free if ever.

There is, in revenge, another vast country which is traditionally imperialist, according to my perception of our world: Russia. Russia is not imperialist by taste or by ambition. It is a drive. It cannot help itself.

I quote from recollection Catherine the Great who said once something as: “To control my borders I cannot but extend them.”

Last edited by Dominique R. Poirier; 06-30-2007 at 04:46 AM.
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Old 06-29-2007   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dominique R. Poirier View Post
Mr. Metz,
I believe that we could talk at length on the meaning of the world “imperialism.” I don’t like this word anyway because I find it has strong pejorative meaning that expresses arrogance and authoritarianism. It doesn’t fit at all my own perception of the United States by all means; as I wouldn't believe one minute, with all due respect for your knowledge and intelligence, that the average American—and any member of American ruling elite as well—feel himself as an imperialist or see his country or its policy as imperialist.
Doubtless many idling pinky Americans who never did the effort to go to live elsewhere--just to see how different it is--see their country as an imperialist power.

Ironically, I accept a French definition of the American power which initially intended to be pejorative, indeed: “le gendarme du monde” (the World’s constabulary).
I never considered this other definition as pejorative because it reflects quite closely the role of the United States throughout the world and in international politics. The Chinese see the United States that way, and Japan, and several countries of the greater Middle-East, and several European countries, and many others. So, things didn’t turn as intended for those who invented this expression, in my own opinion. Rather, they accidentally found the right one.

In a more personal manner, I perceive the United States as a dam which contains savage and anarchic and uncontrollable forces capable to submerge everything on its crazy course, once sets free.

There is, in revenge, another vast country which is traditionally imperialist, according to my perception of our world: Russia. Russia is not imperialist by taste or by ambition. It is a drive. It cannot help itself.

I quote from recollection Catherine the Great who said once something as: “To control my borders I cannot but extend them.”
There is an ongoing debate among American academics, policymakers, and pundits about the use of the word "imperial." I'm of the school that believe we are an imperial power whether we wanted to be or not. I think we can learn much from the security management practices of past empires.

On the idea of the United States as the world's constable, Colin Gray developed a similar idea in his book The Sheriff: America's Defense of the New World Order
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Old 08-02-2007   #19
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Default On the original subject...

Interesting story about translation of Islamist websites by a private foundation to aid ISPs in identifying and shutting down stuff. All privately contrived.

Quote:
Unwelcome Internet Guests
The problem of jihadist websites hosted in America.
by Jonathan V. Last
08/06/2007, Volume 012, Issue 44

An ambitious private initiative to help American Internet service providers (ISPs) identify jihadist websites they are unwittingly hosting was unveiled the other day in Washington. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) will lend its translation capabilities and the expertise of its Islamist Website Monitor Project to any ISP that wants to investigate the content of a suspicious foreign-language site. MEMRI president Yigal Carmon expects that ISPs will voluntarily shut down extremist sites once the providers realize what inflammatory material the sites contain.
More here:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Conten...3/924bstsn.asp
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Old 08-13-2007   #20
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In the war of ideas the USA needs to gain back some credibility. The ordinary Joe or Ahmed in Islamic countries doesn't believe America. Some large number actually believe 9/11 was done by the American government (Actually a not inconsiderable number of Americans do too). They think America photoshops and doctors images to make them look good. America talks the talk about freedom and democracy, but it has to walk the walk unfalteringly with no hint of corruption. For example, even if Cheney isn't getting a kick back from Halliburton, can you think of a more stupid move than to hire them for Iraq? Anyone with the least paranoia is saying that it is at least walking like a duck. America needs to put on the white hat and be the good guy in all things. The more it can, the more goodwill it will bring and the Jihadists and Insurgents won't have a leg to stand on. In lines with the Iraqi kid hiding behind the soldier, I remember a television image from the first gulf war where an american was assuring an Iraqi that it was alright while the Iraqi was trying to surrender. Those are the images that move people. Or how about specials in arabic on the medics who fix up everyone on the battlefield?

On a slightly different tack, why aren't the wizards of computer warfare inside the military actively attacking jihadist web sites and media outlets? If an ISP gets in the way..tough luck. They should turf the Jihadists on their own or they have shown themselves to be part of the problem.
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