Friday, June 8, 2007

A War of Ideas Miscellany

One of the great things about the internet is that we have access to all manner of articles, papers, and studies; unfortunately it also means that there is so much to read that there is not enough time to actually read it all. Here are several papers all on the theme of the war of ideas that I have come across through googling, various blogs and other websites. I haven't had time to read them yet and hope others will find them useful.

Public Diplomacy: War By Other Means

This paper’s objective is to redefine the threat and its source in the context of the
war on terror, and offer an alternative approach for success. It rests on the belief that the
most direct threat to the United States is not terrorism per se, but the radical, globalized
ideology which promotes its use. The first section argues that the war on terrorism is as
much a battle of ideas as it is a military struggle, and that public diplomacy is the most
effective instrument in this context. It underscores that public diplomacy’s significance
is also in its departure from traditional diplomacy, which is becoming increasingly
anachronistic and in some regions irrelevant. In the second section, the paper offers a
survey of post-9/11 public diplomacy efforts, as they are: coordinated on the interagency
level, led by the State Department, and conducted in local posts overseas. Significant
structural problems, institutional dilemmas, and crucial missing elements are identified.
Finally, in the third section, relevant policy prescriptions and recommendations are
provided. Five years after the 9/11-terrorist attacks, it is critical to reestablish the
fundamental root of the problem and offer a more comprehensive strategy, in the hope
that the “Long War” does not become an eternal struggle.

Winning the War of Ideas: Assessing the Effectiveness of Public Diplomacy

The National Strategy for Combating Terrorism calls for the United States to act on four
fronts to stop terrorist attacks. The fourth front, acting to diminish the underlying conditions that
terrorists seek to exploit, establishes an objective to wage a war of ideas to eliminate the
conditions and ideologies that promote terrorism. However, recent U.S. attempts at waging a
war of ideas have rallied support in the Arab and Muslim world for extremists seeking redress of
political and ideological grievances through violence and terrorism. This has created fertile
conditions where adherents of radical ideologies use misinformation to stir civil unrest and
undermine U.S. interests in the region. This paper examines the effectiveness of public
diplomacy in mitigating the sources of Anti-Americanism that threaten a favorable outcome in
the war of ideas. This is accomplished by discussing the realities and consequences of Anti-
Americanism, defining the current policy that implements the war of ideas, and assessing the
effectiveness of the policy through an analysis of ends, ways, means, and risk. The paper
concludes with suggested alternatives to the current U.S. policy on the use of the information
component of national power in support of the war of ideas.

A 21st Century Model for Communication in the
Global War of Ideas: From Simplistic Influence to Pragmatic Complexity

In the global war of ideas, the United States finds itself facing a
systems problem that cannot be solved by simply delivering the right
message. The question is not “how can we construct a more persuasive
message?” Rather it is “what kind of reality has this particular system [that
we are trying to influence] constructed for itself?”
The present strategic communication efforts by the U.S. and its
allies rest on an outdated, 20th century message influence model that is no
longer effective in the complex global war of ideas. Relying on this
model, our well-intentioned communication has become dysfunctional.
Rather than drawing the world into a consensus on issues of terrorism,
diplomacy, and international security, it instead unwittingly contributes to
our diminished status among world opinion leaders and furthers the
recruitment goals of violent extremists.
In this paper we explain why message influence strategies fail and
what must be done to break the cycle of communication dysfunction.
Changing communication systems requires, first, understanding the
dynamics at work; and, second, using communication as a strategy to
disrupt and perturb existing systems such that they can begin to organize
around new meaning-making frameworks. After describing a new
pragmatic complexity model, we offer four principles of effective
communication in the global war of ideas based on this model: (1)
Deemphasize control and embrace complexity, (2) replace repetition with
variation, (3) consider disruptive moves, and (4) expect and plan for

Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War: Messages to Defeat the Terrorists
J.Michael Waller

Those on the front lines realize better than most that we are losing
a propaganda war and that we can and must win.
The reality of course is that there is so much more that the country which brought
down the Soviet Union can do to win the war of ideas. Most of
measures we need to implement will take a long time to put in place.
That said, there is so much that we can do now. That is why this
book is not about the long-term. It’s about the now. It offers a way
to wage this pivotal battle in the immediate-term: Cost-effective,
realistic solutions that the U.S. and its allies can implement quickly,
without bureaucratic reorganization or unusual reprogramming of
funds. The book’s focus will not therefore be on structures and
processes, but on the nature and content of the messages themselves
and the positive effects that can be achieved in Iraq and around the

The War of Ideas: An Abandoned Front in the Global War on Terror

This paper, which was prepared using a historical research methodology, argues
that the U.S. is losing the “war of ideas,” and it provides recommendations that can
support a comeback. The importance of the U.S. Department of State in the global war on
terror is briefly introduced; as the lead agency for strategic communications in the war of
ideas, it is distinguished from the U.S. Department of Defense, which leads the physical
struggle. To develop a sense of urgency in resolving the State Department’s
subsequently outlined problems, the argument is made that the ideological struggle is
strategic in nature, as it can target the underlying source of terrorism. Key statements
made by U.S. spokespeople are reviewed to identify the State Department’s
communications strategy. Polling data is then reviewed to demonstrate the Department’s
performance. The lackluster track record in the war of ideas is linked to three problem
areas: resources, organization, and strategy. Each problem area has contributed to a
precariously weak wartime posture. Recommendations that can help resolve these issues
include: a study to better determine the enemy’s propaganda expenditures; an
approximate three-fold increase in resources (funding and personnel) for State’s public
diplomacy activities; an organizational architecture that provides unity of command,
centralized control, decentralized execution, interagency coordination, and implicit
communications across the chain of command; and the development of a new
communications strategy that aims more directly at the underlying source or cause of

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