Monday, November 19, 2007

Are we finally learning to fight the wider war? 

Two stories today make me wonder whether our governmental institutions are finally, genuinely, learning to fight this war.

First, the State Department's public diplomacy effort seems to have moved at least one notch off of ham-handed in the direction of subtle:

The State Department, departing from traditional public diplomacy techniques, has what it calls a three-person, "digital outreach team" posting entries in Arabic on "influential" Arabic blogs to challenge misrepresentations of the United States and promote moderate views among Islamic youths in the hopes of steering them from terrorism.

The department's bloggers "speak the language and idiom of the region, know the culture reference points and are often able to converse informally and frankly, rather than adopt the usually more formal persona of a U.S. government spokesperson," Duncan MacInnes, of State's Bureau of International Information Programs, told the House Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism and unconventional threats on Thursday.

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"Because blogging tends to be a very informal, chatty way of working," MacInnes said, "it is actually very dangerous to blog." So State has a senior experienced officer, who served in Iraq, acting as supervisor and discussing each posting before it goes up. "We do not make policy," MacInnes added.

The State Department team's approach is to join a blog's conversation, often when it turns to the motivation for U.S. policy toward Iraq, and when others are claiming that the U.S. occupation is meant to help Israel or to secure oil. "Our job is to address that motivation issue and show them that that's not the motivation," MacInnes said.

"You can't just say, 'Well, here's our policy,' and drop it into the blog. You have to have what I call a bridge," MacInnes said. He then described using a sporting or current event or even poetry that would "allow one to get to be in a conversational mode with people."

Even though the State Department employees were not going into hard-core terrorist sites, the worry, MacInnes said, was that after identifying themselves and using their own names, "we would be, in the parlance of the Internet, 'flamed' when we come on" -- meaning their entries would be subjected to intense attacks.

They were not, and there were such posts as, "We don't like your policies but we're sure glad you're here talking to us about it," MacInnes said. As a result, State is expanding the team to six speakers of Arabic, two of Persian and one of Urdu.

This would have been a useful approach in 2003 or 2004, too, but it is never too late to get a clue.

Then there is the news that we are trying to replicate the Awakening campaign of al Anbar in Pakistan, recruiting the tribes there to go to war against al Qaeda. John Robb wonders whether the United States has finally embraced open source warfare:
The US military is on the slow path to the realization that nation-building -- from reconstruction to other forms of traditional COIN dogma that serve to return legitimacy to the government -- doesn't work. Politics and populations in our new global environment fragment faster than they can be assembled into cohesive entities. What does work to slow the spread of temporary autonomous zones and open source insurgencies are open source militias.

The wider war, and even parts of the theater battles going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, is primarily an insurgency within Islam. We are the declared enemy of one side in the insurgency because we are perceived as the patron of the hated "apostate regimes" that govern most of the Muslim oil states, but in the end the real fight is intramural. It has always been the case that we needed Muslims to win the war against al Qaeda, not to love us but to hate them. The clash between jihadi brutality and American intransigence, wittingly or otherwise, motivated many Muslims who were on the sidelines during the rise of al Qaeda and its cognates to throw in their lot with one side or the other. The evidence is mounting that whatever Muslims may think of the United States, many more are fighting against the jihad than fighting for it, and that is the key to victory in the long run.


By Blogger Papa Ray, at Tue Nov 20, 12:12:00 AM:

I've been saying for years that "Islam is it's own worse enemy."

Papa Ray  

By Blogger Consul-At-Arms, at Tue Nov 20, 12:25:00 AM:

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2007/11/re-are-we-finally-learning-to-fight.html  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Tue Nov 20, 08:25:00 AM:

IMO, part of their problem is the Koran's notion of refuge/sanctuary that MUST be extended to someone who requests it.

It takes a while for that to wear thin and have people buck the word of the Koran. The abusers of the refuge will have to do some pretty dire things before it will happen.

Western society doesn't have any particular religious prohibitions against dropping a dime on your hell spawn "guests", so we'd do it in a heartbeat.  

By Blogger Unknown, at Tue Nov 20, 12:56:00 PM:

"The wider war, and even parts of the theater battles going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, is primarily an insurgency within Islam. We are the declared enemy of one side in the insurgency because we are perceived as the patron of the hated "apostate regimes" that govern most of the Muslim oil states, but in the end the real fight is intramural."

I don't believe that. The real fight is against us, the West, the infidels, and the Muslim apostates, as you call them, are attacked because they are allied with us. Their apostacy is to embrace us, or, worse yet, our world view.

And another thing: when you talk about an "insurgency" within Islam, why isn't it right to call that a civil war? Or is it?

Go go Hawk! Great stuff.  

By Blogger SR, at Tue Nov 20, 09:11:00 PM:

Civil War is between armies within a country.
Bloods and Crips are not combattants in a Cilil War.  

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