Sunday, June 29, 2008

You can't wage a non-ideological war of ideas

Matt Armstrong at the excellent blog Mountainrunner made an interesting comment in a recent post that highlights something that I've been wanting to write about for a while now.

This report is of particular interest for those like myself who are more interested in the structure of how public diplomacy and information activities are conducted than about the specific messages employed.

My interests are the opposite of this, since I am firstly interested in the specific messages employed and secondarily interested in the structure of how this is conducted. This I think is the correct order in which to approach this issue. After all a war of ideas really is about ideas. First you figure out what it is that you are for, what ideas you believe in, what ideas you are championing and defending, then you figure out how to champion and defend those ideas. Doing this in the wrong order is one of the things that I think is seriously wrong with our approach to the war of ideas.

But this will inevitably create a dilemma for many people because it requires that you commit yourself to some ideas and reject others. And this will put you right smack dab in the middle of domestic and international politics and this will rub a lot of people the wrong way because they don't want to wade into politics and ideology. But you cannot wage a non-ideological war of ideas, it's impossible.

We need to accept the fact that the war of ideas is inherently ideological and proceed accordingly in our efforts to win it. Our primary focus should be on determining what ideas, beliefs, attitudes and interpretations should be both informing and providing the specific messages for our public diplomacy and other information activities. How can they do their jobs if we haven't figured this out?

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