Because, you see, after billions to Pakistan, billions to Egypt, billions here and there and everywhere, we haven’t been doing enough to show Muslim countries that we are their friends.
“Military chief seeks new plan to woo Muslims,” by Thom Shanker for the New York Times (via MSNBC), August 28 (thanks to all who sent this in):
WASHINGTON – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written a searing critique of government efforts at “strategic communication” with the Muslim world, saying that no amount of public relations will establish credibility if American behavior overseas is perceived as arrogant, uncaring or insulting.
The problem here, however, is that when it comes to Islamic jihadists, virtually anything short of full capitulation is perceived as arrogant, uncaring or insulting. Any resistance to the jihad agenda is immediately cast as a grievous insult that must be redressed.
The critique by the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, comes as the United States is widely believed to be losing ground in the war of ideas against extremist Islamist ideology. The issue is particularly relevant as the Obama administration orders fresh efforts to counter militant propaganda, part of its broader strategy to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“To put it simply, we need to worry a lot less about how to communicate our actions and much more about what our actions communicate,” Admiral Mullen wrote in the critique, an essay to be published Friday by Joint Force Quarterly, an official military journal.
“I would argue that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all,” he wrote. “They are policy and execution problems. Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are.”…
Maybe. But unfortunately the Admiral, like virtually everyone else in Washington on both sides of the aisle, assumes that the jihadists are merely reacting to actions by the United States. The possibility that they may hate us for reasons of their own that have nothing to do with what we have done or can do doesn’t seem to enter anyone’s mind. Yet it is precisely that possibility that is suggested again and again by a close examination of the belief system of the jihadists themselves. They believe that they are commanded to fight against us because we are Infidels. If we are arrogant or inconsistent in living up to our own values, that makes for good grievance propaganad fodder, but it is not the root cause of the conflict itself.
He also challenged a popular perception that Al Qaeda operates from primitive hide-outs and still wins the propaganda war against the United States. “The problem isn’t that we are bad at communicating or being outdone by men in caves,” Admiral Mullen wrote. “Most of them aren’t even in caves. The Taliban and Al Qaeda live largely among the people. They intimidate and control and communicate from within, not from the sidelines.”
Soldiers are fighting to suppress the Taliban and win over the Afghan people as President Barack Obama deepens American involvement in Afghanistan.
American messages to counter extremist information campaigns “lack credibility, because we haven’t invested enough in building trust and relationships, and we haven’t always delivered on promises,” he wrote.
And because the Qur’an teaches Muslims to distrust Infidels, as they are the “most vile of created beings” (98:6) and will never be satisfied until the Muslims discard Islam (2:120). One is not take them as friends or protectors (3:28; 5:51).
As a guide, Admiral Mullen cited American efforts at rebuilding Europe after World War II and then containing communism as examples of successes that did not depend on opinion polls or strategic communication plans. He cited more recent military relief missions after natural disasters as continuing that style of successful American efforts overseas.
“That’s the essence of good communication: having the right intent up front and letting our actions speak for themselves,” Admiral Mullen wrote. “We shouldn’t care if people don’t like us. That isn’t the goal. The goal is credibility. And we earn that over time.”…
Yet we have spent billions on Marshall-Plan-like projects in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and they still don’t like us. The South African mufti Ebrahim Desai put paid to any good that hearts-and-minds efforts might do a few years ago when he said: “In simple the Kuffaar [unbelievers] can never be trusted for any possible good they do. They have their own interest at heart.”
Mullen says we have to become “better listeners,” but I’ll bet he isn’t listening to that, or taking it into account in any way.
Admiral Mullen did not single out specific government communications programs for criticism, but wrote that “there has been a certain arrogance to our “˜strat comm” efforts.” He wrote that “good communications runs both ways.”
“It’s not about telling our story,” he stated. “We must also be better listeners.”
The Muslim community “is a subtle world we don’t fully “” and don’t always attempt to “” understand,” he wrote. “Only through a shared appreciation of the people’s culture, needs and hopes for the future can we hope ourselves to supplant the extremist narrative.”…
I’m all for efforts to understand. But I wonder if he will follow through with them even if they begin to take him to places he doesn’t want to go.