The Regulars’ RFI On USIA

Regulars, by God!
Our readership here is small, but high quality. We don’t get many hits, but the hits we do get come from some interesting places. We are being read by elements in the .mil, and their feed back is gratifying.

One of our .mil readers wants to know what y’all have to say about the U.S. Information Agency and whether or not it should be reconstituted.  The USIA disappeared along with  all those Army divisions and  air wings.  Peace Dividend, you know.  Now it is being missed, and what it used to do doesn’t seem to be getting done. DoD, being one of few islands of competence in the .gov, is all about work-arounds to get ‘er done without or without InterAgency participation.

So, does anybody have any ideas?  Donald Rumsfeld had some, but they threw him under the bus.  Or did he jump?  Anyway, what do YOU think?

I’ll tell you what I think.  I think we’re too afraid of lawfare from the domestic opposition.  I think careerist bureaucratic homesteaders use Smith-Mundt as an excuse to sit on their thumbs and discourage anybody with more gumption from showing them up.  I think Smith-Mundt needs to go away.  I think the idea that politics stops at the water’s edge is dead along with the idea of a “Loyal Opposition.”  Strategy and strategic communications are going to have be left to the political operatives of the party in power.  I think a reconstituted USIA couldn’t do much for a divided nation.

What do YOU think? 

UPDATE:  Some useful links pertaining to this discussion:

USIA Fact sheet

USIA

Public Diplomacy

THE U.S. INFORMATION AGENCY ON THE INTERNET NOT FOR AMERICAN CITIZENS?

 

USIA’S INTEGRATION INTO THE STATE DEPARTMENT: ADVOCATING POLICY TRUMPS PROMOTING MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING  You might want to read this one.  When I started this post I didn’t know a helluva lot about USIA, but I’m learning.  I’m thinking now that USIA was valuable in the dissemination of conditioning propaganda to foster in external audiences generally positive views on America and Americans even in the face of specific American policy controversies.  They could still consider America a force for good in the world even while disagreeing with actions of the US Government.  I think the “promoters of mutal understanding” gained for us the benefit of the doubt that we rarely enjoy any more. 

 

 

Thanks to John and Consul-At-Arms for the help.

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49 Comments

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49 responses to “The Regulars’ RFI On USIA

  1. suek

    Mixed feelings. The problem seems to be that _no one_ is saying what needs to be said. The only problem I can see in re-establishing a USIA is determinging who controls it. If it’s within the Congressional pervue to appoint the head of such a group, then I agree – it would be political in nature and pointless. If the leadership was established and controlled by the military, then maybe not. People could ignore what was being said, but at least it would _be_ said. At this time, it seems as if the only way we hear what we need to hear is through the blogs.

    Blogs vs. dead tree press…reading about the drastic dropping readership of the traditional press, which is being supported by the advertising on their internet sites. It seems that everybody who cares about the news now has internet access and reads what they want online, but anybody who _doesn’t_ have internet access doesn’t care much about the news. There are a _lot_ of people who don’t know and don’t care (if you’ve ever listened to Hannity’s “on the street” interviews) – how do we reach _them_? At least with newspaper stands out there, they’d see the headlines – if it’s all on a computer…we’re going to develop a whole new class of ignorance.

  2. Hey, sue. How was your thanksgiving?

    What do you think needs to be said?

    Why do you think nobody says it?

    There are a lot of unpalatable truths that aren’t spoken because the punishment meted out by elements who don’t want those truths spoken is worse than any rewards given by those who do.

  3. When it comes to bureacracy and politics, I tend to think it is more efficient to go with a top down approach. Rather than say, a bottom up approach like Petraeus is doing for the insurgency in Iraq.

    Top down would then mean the President. HIs manner of presiding and ordering people around, sets the ultimate tone of what anyone else in government can do. Executive government, that is, which would include anybody appointed to do a certain job like info war.

    If the President has a hands on approach that is more micromanaged based and isn’t considerate about other people’s perogatives and power, then the chances of anyone else making such an organization work increases.

    Micromanage is usually bad in the military because the people at the top can’t do the job better than the people at the bottom. In this case, the people at the bottom are the ones raiding the store and sabotaging the chain of command. Presidential oversight is then required. A military unit that has a total breakdown in chain of command cannot be fixed by a general through the regular chain of command. Obviously because such orders would “get lost” when it was at a certain local level.

    The President not overriding Governor Blanco and nationalizing the national guard in Lousiana, is a perfect example of the President’s hands off and considerate style of leadership. This would be nice if all the subordinates are loyal and competent… but they are not, are they. Not even most. Only the military is competent and loyal, if you go by such lines.

  4. Thanks, Consul-At-Arms. That ought to put more eyes on target.

  5. ymar, you’re saying Bush is bad for not micromanaging enough?

    I’m not getting the tie-in to USIA, which supposedly was independent of the DoS bureaucracy while still reporting to SecState.

  6. Bush is bad for not micromanaging the failed policies and policy makers, but is good for leaving the things that do work, like the military, more or less alone.

  7. The tie in with USIA, like with any other working or workable organization, is that Bush cannot do everything himself. Thus he needs people and organizations that he knows will do the right job. Those organizations, however, will not be able to do the right job against those entrenched in powerful positions such as DoS bureacrats or Congressmen or so forth.

  8. Well, some one or two pairs more.

    And you’re very welcome.

  9. My thought in all this is that the power thing is a two edged sword. The bloggers – IMO – do an excellent job precisely because they are NOT powerful, and therefore, aren’t susceptible to being corrupted by power, but the sword the wield – at least individually – is a small one. The more powerful people have a much larger sphere of influence, but at the same time are bigger targets for those looking to corrupt them.

    I agree that the organization is a good idea, but I wonder if the very nature of it’s existence as an arm of the government would make it not work.

  10. Hey, Star.

    The more I read about USIA the more I realize how Cold War it was. It did OK against the Soviets by keeping its distance from the American adminstration and putting out products and programs which generated warm and fuzzies about America. USIA was not perceived as a shill for the Adminstration. It was more like a window on America for external audiences to observe and make their own evaluation.

    I don’t think we could recreate it in today’s political environment.

  11. QuickIO

    how do we fight an information battle with the current bad guys that are out there then? do we just assume that the bloggers and hack kiddies will take care of the problem? I hav mixed feelings for the USIA as they used to be configured. I do believe that a revamped agency should be constituted and continue much of what the old USIA did. The has to be a way for the Amercian people and government to reach out in an official means and not just let the world view us through the lens of pop culture and hollywood movies.

  12. Primary problem that I have been mulling over in a series on “schizophrenic war” and that I stopped at when reviewing “effective strategic communications” revolves around the “great divide” in national politics and concepts of national security. That divide is based on a world view that has not changed much since the end of the Cold War.

    This divide first centers around the idea of whether there is a national security threat posed by terrorism.

    On one hand, there is the idea that, yes, any group or organization that has, can and will inflict casualties on American citizens, disrupt commerce and damage military capabilities must be considered a primary threat when it is actively seeking to do so. In fact, can cause serious damage to these capabilities through even minor attacks that cause limited damage and casualties. Multiple attacks without serious redress through military or other actions can cause instability in the economy and in the general governance and behavior of society.

    While many point to the ability of Israel to live under a constant threat of terrorism or terrorist acts (such as constant rocketing or the need for IDF on the borders searching every car and pedestrian for weapons or suicide bombers), the idea ignores the fact that Israel is small, has some draconian laws and security measures and is surrounded by states and people who are, in fact, bent on their destruction. While, at the same time, they are held in check by the possibility that war will not look like 1948, 1957 or 1968 since Egypt, Syria and Iran possess the ability, even sans nuclear capabilities, to launch unprecedented numbers of far reaching missiles into a tiny strip of land.

    Its actions, therefore, are constrained by its need to survive within this context, even with US protection. Particularly since Egypt and Saudi Arabia (two likely suppliers of actors, money and materials) are nominally US allies or that war with with Iran and Syria would cause great regional instability, that would place the US in a serious predicament. Thus, Israel acts accordingly and contrary to the idea that the US is held hostage to Israeli (Zionist?) interests.

    On the other hand, Israel’s survival to date has led to the conclusion that terrorism, while a threat, does not constitute a primary threat and, thus, does not require a national strategic device such as was instituted in combating the spread of Communism. Even that national strategic device was somewhat ambiguous and allowed for all sorts of stops and starts, particularly in the 70’s and 80’s, when the idea that Communism in Latin America and South East Asia posed limited threats to the US or were more easily countered through detente diplomacy. In fact, while covert military actions and proxy wars occurred, overt military action was seen as more destabilizing and against over all national interests.

    This is a view of terrorism as a minimal threat to US security vice such possibilities of a surging China, a resurgent Russia or, the panacea of stalwart left, Global Warming. In other words, minimal threat from minor actors should be dropped to a lesser rung on the ladder, to be dealt with through intelligence, special forces, back door agreements with nations where terrorists are likely to take refuge and extra-ordinary rendition. While the national global security apparatus focuses primarily on state on state threats, maintaining an outward facade of being above the petty frays of non-state actors, remaining a leader among nations and sweeping the little ugliness of terrorism under the rug.

    This predisposes several ideas:

    1) That US citizens would take their lead from national leadership and not panic or demand some severe, obvious action against perceived threats or actual acts of terrorism within our borders. Either against internal groups or other nation states perceived as being the cause or supporter of such terrorists.

    2) That the US would be able to maintain security and liberty of its citizens without the necessity of enacting any draconian laws or security measures, internally or at the border such as seen in Israel, that could and would impact our society and economy. In fact, having to enact these measures would cause a serious upheaval in the current psyche of the US citizen who still, even after 9/11, perceives themselves somewhat protected by distance and oceans.

    3) Regardless of perceptions of the individual citizens of other nations, the empowerment of individuals and ideas through super communications, the capability of individuals and organizations to “self-select” and organize across international borders, and advancements in international travel and banking, commercial and political relationships with nation states would force these states to be more capable and focused on repressing the actions of individual citizens or small organizations within its own borders. Ignoring, to some extent, that even nations with the strongest internal security and intelligence forces are hard pressed to monitor every citizen and organization effectively and act to diminish the threat. Ignoring, in large extent, the fact that the states where terrorism is most likely to foment and find a base are states that are unstable and barely capable of managing internal security in the first place.

    Leading to number four…

    4) Accepting that some states do, in fact, have an invested interest in supporting or fomenting terrorism as proxies for state interest. Placing the responsibility for terrorism firmly back in the hands of nation states. Thus, national security would focus again on state on state security issues, holding these states responsible for the actions of their citizens. Should an act of terrorism be so horrific or egregious as to effect severe damage or casualties, national security would focus on identifying a national supporter of terrorism and taking action, political, economic or military, against it. Ignoring the idea that international terrorists are also born in, radicalized in and come from friendly nations or nations whose resources or political position are important to other national interests where such state on state actions would be governed by those considerations first. A fact that has guided our decisions to date in regards to countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan to name a few.

    Which relegates terrorism to a minor inconvenience compared to other national security, political and economic interests. Leaving any actions against such threats to those states’ internal policing and any cooperation we can achieve for international police or intelligence agency actions through political maneuvering or alliances. This would be even more so should we currently be pursuing a policy that once again relegates counter terrorism to “police actions”.

    To summarize this great divide, do we see terrorism as a national threat that requires all of the powers of national security apparatus, military, political and economic, to be applied? Or, by recognizing any such threat as a matter of primary national security interests on par with state on state threats, do we inadvertently give it greater power to draw members, money and support from state actors as proxies? Thereby creating a greater national security threat than existed?

    It is best represented by the argument of whether military action in Afghanistan and Iraq has led to the creation and recruitment of more terrorists, escalating an otherwise minimal threat or did these actions simply speed up the inevitable spread, recruitment and eventual attrition of these forces through either killing them directly or damaging their ideology and drawing power by showing them to be failures.

    All this before we actually even discuss the divide over if there is any specific organization or ideology that poses the the largest and expanding threat to national security within the grand panoply of terrorism. And, whether this threat requires or can be countered by a national strategy. In essence, does Islamic extremism represent a dangerous ideology on par with Nazism or Communism? Does this spreading ideology, that counts on individual empowerment and acts, require tools, such as a national information agency within a national security strategy focused on terrorism, above that already provided by diplomatic missions and programs such as USAID?

    What laws would govern it? What message would it send? What is its target audiences? Would domestic political divides cause it to be more schizophrenic and less effective than any other program currently in existence? Or, would its singular mission allow it to succeed despite domestic politics or changes in national leadership?

    This represents the first great divide that must be spanned within our own national politics before we can even propose the re-constitution of a US Information Agency. Even more so when the post Cold War mentality still in effect today saw such an agency as a necessary evil, on par with the Soviet propaganda agencies and state controlled Pravda.

    The question as to whether the USIA should be reconstituted cannot be answered until we first decide that there is a national security threat that requires the USIA to be the answer.

  13. Thanks, kat. I figured you’d have some thoughts on this.

    does Islamic extremism represent a dangerous ideology on par with Nazism or Communism?

    That’s the lens through which Americans Observe the threat, if they acknowledge the existance of a threat.

    Pre-existing ideological Orientation determines whether an ideology is judged dangerous or useful. One who recognizes Islamic terrorism as meshing well with multiculturalism, political correctness, and radical environmentalism will Decide Islamic extremism is or is not a threat based largely on their antipathy towards or adherence to Marxism and Western Christendom.

    USIA represented a Westphalian nation-state with a bi-partisan consensus that Soviet Communism should be opposed. I don’t see such unity today. One wing would likely dominate a reconfigured USIA, and the other wing would obstruct, delay, defund and negate anything useful they might attempt.

  14. QuickIO, bloggers and hackers aren’t enough. The bloggers are primarily for domestic TA’s, anyway.

    What USIA did during the Cold War was generally good. The law that created it was flawed, and complications over domestic blowback from externally-oriented programs is what got it killed.

    I just don’t see any realistic chance of a viable, technologically agile, non-partisan, USIA being reconstituted in the current schizophrenic political environment in which election results are not accepted and the losers relentlessly vilify, demonize and deny the legitimacy of the winners.

    I’m beginning to think that USIA-style outreach, if indispensible, might better be done by the Parties, with no illusions of bipartisanship, no Government Employees, and no taxpayer money involved..

  15. To get around this problem, I would create a press savvy corp at state whose job it is to appear on media programs in other nations. Must speak very well. Would be probably the deputy ambassador to the country with a small cadre at the embassy whose sole job at state was to evaluate press stories, gather information (to arm the would be media warrior), and organize appearances or interviews.

    Nothing too hokey. No big brother’s house, though be prepared to have to appear on some shows that cater to the “youthful” since it is people between 20-35 who are most likely to try to kill us.

    We need media warriors at state. But, people are afraid of saying the wrong thing. They are afraid to have to sell a message that doesn’t quite fit in the nation they are residing in. They don’t want to become apologist for any administration. And, when you put yourself out there aggressively you could appear to be more open for attack and look less like a friendly hand than an apparatus of “the oppressor”, “great satan” or whatever.

    then there is the issue of going off message or too many fingers in the pie. And yes, state likes to be low profile and under the radar in places.

    So, we need some great thinking on the subject of how and what message we are going to put forward.

  16. suek

    >>What do you think needs to be said?>>

    I went to sleep last night thinking about this one! Then this morning, I read this: http://americanpowerblog.blogspot.com/2007/11/toward-moral-brinkmanship.html

    I haven’t yet read the original article, but this excerpt helps put a finger on the heart of the problem. What _would_ we use the USIA for – or a similar organization?
    When I read your links, I realized that the function had been incorporated into the State Department. As far as I’m concerned, that makes it useless – a wing of the left leaning members of Congress. I’m not sure just how the State Department became the antagonist of the President, but it seems to me that it is. If I were elected Pres (yeah…right!), first thing I’d do is fire every State Department person I had the power to fire. I’d reappoint individuals who believed in the same mission I believed in, and suggest that they focus on neutralizing any “non-fireable” civil service members who they believed were engaged in executing their own personal agendas.
    We need a _military_ based program. It’s true that the Iraq war is not one of survival – but the islamic caliphate _is_. The message we need to get out is one of political incorrectness – that we are engaging a war with a religion – or at least with a faction of that religion. The faction has power and control over the majority of the members of the religion who would not normally be active members of the aggressive faction. I think the only way to combat the aggressive faction is to appeal to the inactive members by offering a theory of islam which would allow them to co-exist with the West – Christianity. There seem to be muslims who are willing to take this approach. The crux here, of course, is that the military would be using religion to fight religion, so to speak. They would be using islam to defend Christianity. Only the military could do this, and even then I suspect there would be problems. Among them, I believe that extremists have infiltrated the Chaplain’s Corp – and that there would be an outcry. I don’t know this, but I suspect this. There are all kinds of Trojan Horses – but it’s because defeating the enemy from the inside is more effective than trying to beat down defense systems.
    This is going to be a very long war. I think Iraq is going to turn out to be more critical than most people today ever imagine – militarily, it gives us a presence in the heart of the enemy. Psychologically, the children of Iraq have been given a shot of anti-toxin against the poisonous propaganda that the US is “the great Satan”. They may be taught that by their elders, but they’ll also remember the way the US soldiers treated them and their families, and the changes we made in the way they live. (the last, a maybe – read yesterday that Fallujah is working on a complete sewage system – for the first time in history, when the project is finished, there won’t be sewage running in the streets. US is a major part of this, but the Iraqis are also a major part of it. They’re doing for themselves, and that’s a good thing!)
    If we’re talking “Can’t we just get along”, then it’s a State Deparment thing. If we’re talking propaganda, then it’s a military function. Keep the politicians out – as much as possible.

  17. suek

    Oh yeah…and about the use of blogs. They should be a part of the operation, but obviously they’re voluntary and unorganized. Given an organizing oversight which encourages those who volunteer with the support for their particular approach/skillset, but one which is capable of filling in the “blanks”, I think you’d maximize the talent available. There are undoubtedly limits and problems with this approach, but even in the military there are limits and problems – people selected, promoted, transferred, retiring. Nothing is permanent, but I suspect bloggers might even be longer term than military members, and certainly may have more talent and interest to do the job needed. A combination of the two might be manageable…!

  18. I totally disagree on the use of religion in this battle either as a weapon or a communication tool. The entire point of counter-insurgency, even on a global scale, is to separate the insurgent from the people. It’s the reversal of Mao’s principle. The main claim to association with the people (Umma) is their religious ideology. Therefore, our goal must be to diminish or destroy that link.

    Primarily by insisting that their religious association is a coincidence, that their acts and plans are not religious or in the name of any god, but the acts of depraved men alone without any concept or association with faith or the good.

    You don’t do that by addressing your target audiences’ religion head on or implying that they have the same religion (ie, terrorists religion = bad religion = Islam = all Muslim’s bad). That is disaster.

    We focus on the very secular goals and man made acts of depravity and destruction while continuously praising the “peaceful” nature of Islam itself. I know this is frustrating to many who see Islam as the “source”, but I submit we are talking about winning a war and destroying an insurgency, not changing a religion or going on “crusade”. Our job is to insure that most of the 1 billion adherents a) don’t buy Osama’s jibber jabber and b) put peer pressure on any who might sway.

    We’re not going to destroy or otherwise change the belief system of a billion people. We are just going to insure that the dregs don’t become the leaders. For that, government focuses on secular goals and interactions. Religious institutions can debate religion.

  19. QuickIO

    I agree with not using religion, however you must understand how your advesary is thinking and what background his is pontificating from to better defeat him. It may not be an outright or direct use of religion but when it comes to using spheres of influence then religious leaders are a must.

    My question to you is that in many of the major conflicts of the past we have had a central organization that delivered information to the world and domestically. I point to OWI (Office of War Information), Committee on Public Information (CPI) during World War I and then USIA/ Voice of America to tell the world the American story during the cold war. I believe that there has to be an equivelent for the War on Terror.

  20. In continuing thoughts on the “great divide”, I believe our two main questions have to be answered:

    1) Do we see terrorism as a threat that needs to be answered with our full capabilities?

    2) What is the message?

    I think that, as sec def said, there are many small and large things we need to be aware of and the message is simple. Freedom, democracy and peace.

    but, you have to get bi-partisan agreement that that is our message. JFK – defend democracy, promote freedom – everywhere.

    If I had a chance to ask a democrat candidate a question, I would ask them how they intend to do both of those. And not settle for some namby pamby answer about “diplomacy” as a catch all. What exactly would they do or insitute to promote these ideas.

  21. suek

    >>Primarily by insisting that their religious association is a coincidence, that their acts and plans are not religious or in the name of any god, but the acts of depraved men alone without any concept or association with faith or the good.>>

    Sounds good, but unfortunately, false. The koran specifically requires acts of violence as part of islam. There are other parts of the koran which are _not_ warlike. When I say “fight religion with religion”, what I mean is to accentuate the peaceful parts of the koran instead of the warlike parts, which is what the “insurgents” are doing. They are _not_ “insurgents”, by the way, they are jihadists who are fighting to expand the ummah – which is the body of the muslim faithful – under the grand caliphate. They are fighting a religious war, and you cannot separate them from this without separating them from the koran. As long as they use the koran to justify their actions, and as long as muslims accept the koran as the direct word of god, you’re fighting a losing battle. You cannot “insist(ing) that their religious association is a coincidence” because it is taken directly from the koran, which is the only authority they accept.

  22. Sounds good, but unfortunately, false. The koran specifically requires acts of violence as part of islam. There are other parts of the koran which are _not_ warlike. When I say “fight religion with religion”, what I mean is to accentuate the peaceful parts of the koran instead of the warlike parts, which is what the “insurgents” are doing.

    We do accentuate the peaceful parts by saying Islam is a religion of peace. However, there are few Muslim scholars on this blog or at state or in any other organization. It would be hard pressed to have any skillful theological or philosophical nature of the warlike or peaceful aspects of Islam and what sunna or hadith permits or denies certain acts or comprises the relgio-legality of a defensive or offensive jihad.

    We do need a working knowledge of the religious and cultural aspects in order to insure our engagement is appropriate. However, my original point is that not all Muslims are terrorists, however many are right now or support it. Thus, the majority’s religious ideology is not in question nor in need of any modification that we should or would directly engage in. As long as we engage the secular aspects, it can have a peripheral effect on the philosophy of actual scholars.

    Like Christianity over the years, secular developments, education, science, business and relations with other cultures has effectively softened a religion that was very strict, controlled public and private life, intervened in politics (medieval church, papal bulls, etc), was war like and used as a justification for torturing and burning anyone who was a heretic.

    I am not noting that as any sort of equivalence to modern day fanaticism. Simply to note that religions change by those who practice it and by those who practice it having expanded reasoning, access to information and the chance to explore that. It did not happen because Suleiman knocked on the doors of Vienna and suggested Islam or any of its tenets as an alternative. In fact, such occurrences were more likely to re-enforce and “strengthen the faith” as a common denominator among the defenders than it was to change it. Change came from the inside.

    I expect the same from Islam and see that the current war is a part and parcel of that actual struggle within Islam. Qutb rightly noting that secularism and materialism was, in fact, changing Islam.

    They are _not_ “insurgents”, by the way, they are jihadists who are fighting to expand the ummah

    First, the term “insurgent” represents their fighting style. They are guerillas or insurgents fighting a classical guerrilla war. That is their tactics regardless of final strategic aims or stated goals. Thus, our methods of combating them are classical counter-insurgency with a modern twist of global communications and terrain.

    – which is the body of the muslim faithful – under the grand caliphate. They are fighting a religious war, and you cannot separate them from this without separating them from the koran. As long as they use the koran to justify their actions, and as long as muslims accept the koran as the direct word of god, you’re fighting a losing battle. You cannot “insist(ing) that their religious association is a coincidence” because it is taken directly from the koran, which is the only authority they accept.

    While you are right on some aspects, I have to say that is a rather narrow view of Muslims who, in fact, spend plenty of hours debating the meaning of the Qu’ran, Sunnah and Hadith. If your assumption was correct and we followed it to its natural conclusion, instead of 1% of 1 billion being radicalized and 10% supporting, we’d have 1 billion enemy.

    I don’t believe that to be the case. Again, our job is to separate them from the 989 million not antagonize them by suggesting they have the wrong faith or that their religious book is wrong or somehow fallible as opposed to convincing them that the “jihadis” are men, not selected representatives of god and thus falible.

  23. QuickIO, an OWI is exactly what we need but can’t get because we have no formal declaration of war and no buy-in from Hollywood and the media. OWI did white propaganda for all audiences, internal and external. Some of the best talents of the 1940’s entertainment industry were working for OWI. OWI could censor and kill hostile media and sanction hostile reporters. We can’t do that now and it appears unlikely that we ever will be able to.

    OWI was essential to the maintenance of morale and national will. We don’t have an OWI for this war and morale and national will suffer severely for the lack of it.

  24. kat, freedom, democracy and peace are not as universally desired as Americans think, especially amongst tribals and Islamicists. When that’s our message we lose the indig leadership who are threatened by it.

    No matter what our message ends up being, what passes for a “Loyal Opposition” in this country will negate it and half the “supporters” will carp that it’s the wrong message. There is no unity.

  25. sue, are there “Good Muslims”?
    Must Islam be destroyed for you to rest easy?

    The Jacksonian supporters of the war effort like to carp that Bush isn’t tough enough. I understand that point of view very well because I hold it myself, BUT I try to bite my tongue because I don’t think a “Final Solution” to the Muslim problem is technologically possible without fouling our own nest. 1.2 billion Muslims. Too many to kill them all. How many would we have to kill to terrorize the rest of them forever?

    The decision has been made for us by our leaders that killing Muslims in large numbers is not the way to go, and from that we get restrictive Rules Of Engagement, excessive concern for collateral damage and lots of kissing Muslim ass, because we want to use Muslim surrogates to take out the Bad Guys in their midst for us.

    Softly softly sucks for Jacksonians.

  26. No matter what our message ends up being, what passes for a “Loyal Opposition” in this country will negate it and half the “supporters” will carp that it’s the wrong message. There is no unity.

    That is exactly my point in mentioning the “great divide”. Our divide is not only about whether terrorism or any other major threat exists that needs to be countered with such efforts as a USIA, but that the method or message is a question of the political aisle one sits in. Why I also mentioned JFK’s inaugural address which basically re-stated our National Strategy.

    Neither do I suspect that everyone wants democracy and freedom, but some or many do depending on the nation and place. If everyone were great democracy and freedom lovers we wouldn’t have resurgent dictatorships in places like Venezuela or Bolivia. Yet, that does not mean that no one wants it or that the idea can not grow within a nation, particularly one that has experienced tyranny or other forms of repression under any other system.

    At the same time, even if people do want freedom and democracy, I don’t expect that they all want it to look exactly like ours.

    The point, however, is to find those pockets, sustain them, build on them and support them through all means including publicly stating it as our mission. (I will have to tell you about my “manifest destiny” conversation with a Euro someday).

    This idea is directly opposing to detente, multi-cultural concepts that it is better to have whole populations under the control of murderous dictators who are willing to negotiate, pander and sell themselves to the highest bidder in order to sustain our own economic, military and political power. As long as there is stability. And we can claim we are “right” because we are not interfering with other people’s right to manifest government as they see fit (sort of a bad interpretation of our own declaration of independence – I am not sure that our founders meant that we should not support freedom and democracy for other people, particularly when a the first paragraph says that they are announcing their ideas and cause to the world )

    I believe the problem is that these represent two ideological halves of a real policy. But, people feel that, if we support both, we are hypocritical. They want black and white. They want little compromise.

    So, we are stuck with people unwilling to make Cold War pragmatism fit within their ideological constructs.

  27. Why I also mentioned JFK’s inaugural address which basically re-stated our National Strategy.

    I didn’t finish that thought. JFK democrat v. post Vietnam democrat. They do not resemble each other much.

  28. kat

    find those pockets, sustain them, build on them and support them through all means including publicly stating it as our mission. = declaring proxy war on every despotic regime on Earth. Uncle Sugar is now the bank for every rag-tag and bobtailed resistance movement in the Third World. The UN will love that. I think we have enough on our plate, and can use some of those dictators for our own purposes.

  29. suek

    >>sue, are there “Good Muslims”?
    Must Islam be destroyed for you to rest easy?>>

    Still working on that one. There are several issues involved. I think most people just want to live and let live. For the moment, I’ll call these “good muslims”. I suspect that on a worldwide basis, many of them are in the US, and of muslims who are in the US, most of them are in this category, but I don’t really know about that. There are also some who are in the US who are _not_ GMs, and who plot the downfall of our system of government and the establishment of shari’a – the grand caliphate. How do we (those who are Christian and who prefer the Judeo-Christian form of culture and government) know the GMs from the Bad Guys? You’re familiar with taqiyah – if it’s a virtue to lie to the infidel in order to further islam, which muslim can I trust? If I don’t know who I can trust, then I’m going to trust no one. That’s undesireable, but I don’t see an alternative.
    If a muslim’s primary loyalty is to islamic law, can s/he pledge allegiance to a government that is non-islamic? If a muslim _believes_ that the koran is the dictated word of God, then won’t his primary loyalty be to the koran and islam? So, if a muslim is a believing muslim, how does this person get around that issue?
    It seems to me that there are three options here:
    a)yield to islam
    b)destroy islam
    c)modify islam

    a) is unacceptable
    b) is probably impossible or at least very highly improbable

    so I see us left with c)
    The question then is how can c) be accomplished? My understanding is that the koran has conflicting ideas. They are generally called the Medina phase and the Mecca phase – one phase is peaceful, the other aggressively warlike. They are treated today by jihadists as being phases dependent on the strength of the ummah – peaceful when in the minority, aggressive when a certain population density is achieved. I read recently of a group of anti-jihadists who are treating this differently – they are assuming that:
    a) the koran is the word of God.
    b) there are contradictions in the koran
    c)God cannot contradict himself
    d)therefore, there have been inaccuracies over time in copying the koran.

    If this idea is cultivated, then perhaps islam _can_ be modified. You point out to the modification of the Christian religion – this was possible because early Christianity had a single voice – Catholocism – and even in early Catholocism, the bible was considered to be _an_ authority, open to interpretation, with traditions and the voice of the church doctors considered to be modifying factors. Islam does not allow modification. Islam cannot “interpretet” the koran – it is to be taken literally, and “good” muslims are supposed to look to it to direct every action of daily life. Check out “ask the imam” sometime.
    Anyway – I would use a propaganda function to assist in the development of this idea – which is the modification of islam through the koran – so that ultimately, we can have peace between the Christian, Jewish and islamic worlds.

  30. suek

    >>For that, government focuses on secular goals and interactions. Religious institutions can debate religion.>>

    In islam, these two organizations – government and religion – are one and the same. They are inseparable. Therefore part of countering islam is to make separation acceptable. I don’t know how that can be done, but it _must_ be done.

  31. suek

    Just found this. It’s worth reading. I do go to the AtlasShrugged website, but not when I’m short of time – takes _forever_ to load.

    http://www.vigilantfreedom.org/910blog/2007/11/27/atlas-importing-the-jihad-massive-muslim-immigration/

  32. Cannoneerno4,

    From post # 11: “The more I read about USIA the more I realize how Cold War it was.”

    Absolutely. USIA was created in 1953, in part to implement national objectives established by NSC Policy 174 (signed by President Eisenhower that year) which sought to undermine the USSR via political / psychological operations directed at the East European Soviet satelites. That policy governed USG propaganda actions in Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War. Here is a key objective from NSC 174:

    (para 16) “Foster satellite nationalism as a force against
    Soviet imperialism, while avoiding commitments to national
    ambitions which would interfere with U. S. post-liberation objectives.”

    You can find the entire policy document in the national archives. The full title and archives citation are as follows: “U.S. Policy Toward The Soviet Satellites in Eastern Europe, NSC Planning Board Report, Dec. 11, 1953.” U.S. National Archives, Eisenhower Presidential Library, NSC series, Planning Coordination Group sub-series, Box 1, File no. 4.

    I’ve done some research on USIA and its radio arm, VOA, in the Cold War case of Hungary, trying to determine whether we can credit them with some part in the 1956 Hungarian uprising. I found that USIA / VOA programming to Hungary during 1955-56 definitely did foster Hungarian nationalism, as per NSC 174, and that the U.S. Legation in Budapest provided feedback to USIA by judging impacts on the radio audience, reviewing draft VOA programs, suggesting specific media themes, etc.

    It’s would be going too far to say that USIA’s efforts caused the anti-Russian revolution that occurred in November of 1956, but there are some good indications that it helped. Evidence for that was provided by opinion research USIA contracted for in December, 1956. Hungarian refugees in Austria, who at that time totaled over 100,000, or slightly over 1% of Hungary’s population, were assessed and a demographically representative sampling were interviewed. It did indeed appear that most Hungarians saw the world, and interpreted political events, pretty much as USIA had encouraged them to. That research report is also in the National Archives [full title and archives citation: “Personal Interviews with 1,000 Hungarian Refugees in Austria,” International Research Associates, 1957, U.S. National Archives, RG306, USIA Country Project Files 1951-1964, Hungary, Box 39].

    BTW, two good recent histories of USIA and the Cold War are:

    “The Truth Is Our Weapon: The Rhetorical Diplomacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower And John Foster Dulles” by Chris Tudda, a State Department historian, and “Parting the Curtain: Propaganda, Culture, and the Cold War, 1945-1961” by Walter L. Hixson, an academic historian.

    FYI, my bottom line on USIA and the Cold War is that the propaganda strategy we employed against the USSR was successful because (1) we were on the same Western cultural wave length as the target audience, and the USSR was not, and (2) the USSR restricted information into the eastern bloc, which gave our radio messages a certain built-in credibility. I don’t see how either of those factors would apply today regarding propaganda to the Islamic world. Al-Jazerra has the advantage over us there.

    The best we could do to dial-down the jihadis through our propaganda, in my opinion, would be to support media efforts by Islamic sources that attack world-jihad movements. There are a number of such efforts (by the Saudis for example) which exploit the split between those jihadis who only attack “the near enemy” and those, like al-Qaeda, that attack “the far enemy.” See Fawaz Gerges’s book, “The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global” for plenty of good information and insight on that.

  33. declaring proxy war on every despotic regime on Earth. Uncle Sugar is now the bank for every rag-tag and bobtailed resistance movement in the Third World. The UN will love that. I think we have enough on our plate, and can use some of those dictators for our own purposes.

    Well, first I did mention that, while making declarations of supporting freedom, we would make pragmatic decisions. We are talking about Cold War concepts. During which time, we did both: offered physical and moral support to certain movements while propping up certain dictators.

    Also, you don’t think that we are, right now, “banking” any number of movements. For instance, the 75 mil we have budgeted for Iranian democracy. That is the point of those statements.

    Bush made similar statements in his 2004 inaugural address supporting democracy and freedom.

  34. >>sue, are there “Good Muslims”?
    Must Islam be destroyed for you to rest easy?>>

    You can’t break an enemy’s will without being willing, capable, and eager of destroying them. It just won’t work otherwise. In that vein, it actually produces more local allies in Arabia if they think you are serious about Total War. Many will try to help us, in order to prevent their own people’s destruction. Those people will be the best of the Middle East, just because.

    Total War is always a long term method to a long ranged objective. It is very permanent, but only because so much is called for in terms of operating and initial costs. Wars on the cheap aren’t just due to lack of funding, wars on the cheap can also be conducted by refusing to use every weapon in your arsenal, hoping that local auxiliaries or mercenaries will do your job for you.

    Such things never did work well for Carthage. Professional armies and military geniuses are powerful, such as Belisarius and his legions. Without the correct leadership and logistical support, however, nothing good will come in the long term.

    Acquiring local allies, aka Iraqi shock troops for assaulting Muslim strongholds, is only a means to an end. It can only be a means to an end. They cannot do the work themselves, even if Iraq became stabilized and secure. For the rest of the Middle East would continue to produce terrorism and despair.

    It is no good to save a healthy cell only to have it surrounded by diseased ones.

    I have supported this and I still support the creation of an Iraqi expeditionary force with the express intention of invading their neighbors Syria and Iran and Saudi Arabia, with the land conquered being parceled out under a fair system to the Iraqi army and their family members.

    Americans may not like empire, but that can’t be said for our best and potentially most loyal allies. Loyalty is created by returning that loyalty. The Kurds can have their homeland. The Shia a better and safer Haj. The Sunnis payback against the Iranian mullahs.

    Of course, it doesn’t need to be stated that if the American leadership can’t even handle information warfare, they are no where near qualified to handle such a long term strategic vision.

    People learn by baby steps in war. Americans included. Hopefully, eventually we will acquire a Sherman or a MacArthur that will know how to end the war with our enemiespermanently. Not just in their generation or their children’s generation, but for the next 1,000 years.

  35. suek

    >>There are a number of such efforts (by the Saudis for example)>>

    The Saudis are interested in pursuing the jihadists only insofar as the jihadists are a threat to the throne. If that threat is neutralized, they could care less what happens to the West. In fact, Saudi money is at the heart of supporting the far flung “missionary” activity of the islamic push into the West.
    I don’t “believe” in Global Warming – that is GW as caused by human activity. Nevertheless I support many of the energy-saving initiatives being pushed by the GW advocates – as long as we accompany those initiatives by opening access to oil within our control. Goal – to minimize the wealth we are pouring into the mid-east countries like Saudi Arabia, and to reduce our energy dependence on them.

  36. Islam cannot “interpretet” the koran – it is to be taken literally, and “good” muslims are supposed to look to it to direct every action of daily life. Check out “ask the imam” sometime.
    Anyway – I would use a propaganda function to assist in the development of this idea – which is the modification of islam through the koran – so that ultimately, we can have peace between the Christian, Jewish and islamic worlds.

    Actually, for all that there is this “non-interpretation” concept and the Qu’ran as the “final word of Allah”, there are sixteen schools of jurisprudence that actually do interpret sunnah and hadith, applying concepts to shariah law, based on the interpretation of the Sunnah and Hadith in relation to the Qu’ran. Thus, the Qu’ran may be “infallible” written by Allah, but, without the Sunnah and Hadith, that puts many parts of the Qu’ran in context, Muslims would find it difficult to decipher. The Sunnah and Hadith are written by men outside of the Qu’ran. Thus, they are debatable and fallible. The idea that Islam is a monolithic entity without dispute or dissension about its rules or interpretation is a fallacy.

    In fact, Qutb, Al Qaida’s “god father” in regards to ideology, wrote his theological concepts in “Milestones along the way”. His ideas were challenged by the established Imams at several universities (schools of jurisprudence) and subsequently declared an apostate.

    He is not the first write any theological thesis from within Islam, nor the first to be branded a heretic (Taymimi was, too, in the 12th century). Though, not everyone who writes such philosophical books and papers are excommunicated. Most aren’t, in fact.

    Still, beyond the split of Shia and Sunni, there are many different schools of thought or jurisprudence. And, there is much debate among the groups. In fact, this “debate” process is one of the concepts of “dawa” or proselytizing that the extremists use to convince young men to follow their path.

    Through this same method, there is debate among the scholars and others as to the legitimacy of offensive jihad, the idea that an Islamic leader can be challenged by someone or group who is basically beneath the leader in terms of ancestral relationship to Mohammed, designation as defender of the faith (ie, Aziz al Saud, founder of the modern Saudi royal family, was declared an Imam by Muslim scholars, essentially to solidify his position as ruler of all Muslims; like European kings who would be anointed by a priest or crowned by the pope).

    There are a lot of things that go on internally that, as non-muslims and certainly not members of any scholars association, we are not privy to.

  37. suek

    >>There are a lot of things that go on internally that, as non-muslims and certainly not members of any scholars association, we are not privy to.>>

    There are muslims in the military. Either they are loyal to the US or they are not. If they are not, then we should get them out of the military. If they are, then they could be assigned to such study and such teaching to others as to allow a group to begin to make use of the acceptable various teachings that might be compatible with peaceful co-existence.

  38. There are muslims in the military. Either they are loyal to the US or they are not. If they are not, then we should get them out of the military. If they are, then they could be assigned to such study and such teaching to others as to allow a group to begin to make use of the acceptable various teachings that might be compatible with peaceful co-existence.

    Are you suggesting re-education camps, en masse, run by the military?

  39. TSB, thanks. Sounds like you have some in-depth knowledge on the original subject of this thread.

    I’ve added you to my blog roll.

  40. suek

    >>Are you suggesting re-education camps, en masse, run by the military?>>

    Good Golly No!! What I’m suggesting is that – per the original topic – we have a military unit assigned the mission of counter-propaganda which is _knowledgebly_ directed to counter aggressive islamic messages with those in the koran that are peaceably oriented. They would accentuate the idea that although the koran is to be taken literally, there _is_ interpretation necessarily going on, and that some have their own agendas in that interpretation. For this to occur, individuals in the unit would have to have intimate knowledge of the koran – which would require either already obtained knowledge (hence muslims) or time to acquire that knowledge. Muslims who are already in the military would be good candidates to teach that subject, presuming that military action or other means had been used to vet them so that we don’t end up indoctrinating our own troops!

  41. suek

    Bad form to respond to one’s own comment…but nevertheless:

    >>…counter-propaganda which is _knowledgebly_ directed to counter aggressive islamic messages with those in the koran that are peaceably oriented. >>

    For example: today’s story is about the British teacher in Somalia who has been threatened with whipping and imprisonment for allowing the children in her classroom to name the teddybear Mohammed. The court sentenced her to some fairly short time in jail, and no whipping. The public is out today calling for her to be killed for her blasphemy.
    If I were running a counter-propaganda unit, I’d be pushing out publications concerning the deification of Mohammed. The irrational response to the Mo cartoons are examples of near-worship of Mohammed. Now granting that respect is due, the violence of response is pretty equivalent to considering Mohammed a god himself, and that’s _very_ contrary to islam. Mohammed himself found the belief of Christians that Jesus was a Son of God instead of “just” a prophet was unacceptable, and told his followers not to fall into the same error – which is exactly what they’ve done. So that’s the kind of issue I’d start raising in the public domain – questioning the worship of Mohammed…

  42. Hey suek and kat, did either of you read David Weber’s Off Armageddon Reef?

    link to samples

    The reason why I am asking is because Weber posited a fake religion in that book, which brings to light interesting questions about faith, belief, correctness, and religious wars. It isn’t a stand alone, though, but you can probably guess where Weber will take it given his previous books like with the Honor Harrington series.

    It is much easier to defeat an enemy when you can obtain the allegiance of those that were born on the enemy’s side and serve in the enemy’s combat arm. Karzai and Massoud are good examples of people we can trust, that were born and lived in the climate of Islam.

    However, such people were forged through War, not peace. Even the Sunnis, or especially the Sunnis and their leaders, were cemented to the United States through war, not talk, not negotiations, and not diplomacy.

    So this brings up an interesting paradox. To win a war without suffering pyrrhic victories, one must have allies on the enemy’s side. Yet to get those allies, wars must be begun without the assurance of the existence of such allies or their identities.

  43. suek

    No…haven’re read the book – generally don’t read science fiction. I may consider making an exception…but there are _so many_ books out there waiting to be read!!! It comes down to books or internet, sometimes.

    This fits in here somewhere. I’m not exactly sure where, but somewhere.

    http://www.vigilantfreedom.org/910blog/2007/12/02/resisting-the-silencers/

  44. I have time for sci fi and military sci fi because I don’t read any modern day political books or anything of that nature, except on the net.

    I think I can quote this portion without spoiling the beginning.

    Weber: Nimue … is charged with breaking the Church’s stranglehold on human freedom and technology and preparing humanity to re-encounter the Gbaba on terms which will at least ensure that the human race is not exterminated.

    … [A] faction of the command crew which was horrified by the colony administrator’s decision to brainwash the colonists with his false religion. They believe in human freedom and human dignity…and that eventually, no matter what the Church of God Awaiting may do, advanced technology will reemerge on Safehold. In time, Safeholdian humanity will venture back into the stars, and without knowing that the Gbaba are out of there, they will run right back into the menace which almost exterminated the entire human race the first time around.

    As I’ve told people at conventions, my hero doesn’t really do anything until she’s been dead for about 800 years. Nimue is a brilliant tactical officer, only about 27 years old at the time of her biological death, and has never known a time when humanity wasn’t fighting a losing battle for its very existence. She volunteers to serve on the escort force’s flagship, knowing it will be destroyed, rather than continuing to Safehold with the officer upon whose staff she serves. In other words, she chooses to die when there’s finally an excellent chance that she could actually live, marry, have children. She does this because her PICA is essential to the success of the people conspiring to defeat the colony administrator’s plans. Only by officially taking the PICA with her to a ship which is going to be destroyed can she and her fellow conspirators drop it off of the equipment list and allow it to be “lost” until it is needed.

    I think the decision she makes in this regard pretty much sums up her character. One of the ironies of the book is that Nimue—or, rather, Merlin—realizes at one point that he/she is the last Christian in existence … and that he’s a machine. Of course, he’s also the last person in the entire universe who’s ever heard of Islam, Shintoism, Hinduism, Buddhism or any other genuine religion, as well. Yet just as he doesn’t really know if he’s technically “alive” at all, he doesn’t know whether or not he has a soul? Or if Nimue took it with her at the time of her biological death?

    Obviously, Nimue/Merlin is a person adrift, outside the time and place which created her. She’s also effectively immortal, and … she has to deal with the mortality of those she allows herself to love. Not to mention the fact that however laudable her final objectives, and no matter how essential to the long-term survival of the species they may be, the consequences of her actions are inevitably going to lead to an incredibly bloody and vicious cycle of religious warfare.

    That’s David Weber’s words in an interview, which I linked to on a recent post at my blog.

  45. Off Armageddon Reef could be read as an anti-religion book. Would that be fair?

    Weber: I’m sure some people will read this book as an attack on organized religion. After all, the primary force for the restriction and manipulation of human freedom and character, not to mention corruption, on Safehold is to be found in a world-wide religion. I think, however, that reading this book that way would be a mistake. Yes, the Church of God Awaiting is a monstrous, deliberately fabricated, enslaving lie imposed upon the people of Safehold. But the very impetus for reform coming out of places like Charis is coming out of men and women who follow the logical implications of the Church of God Awaiting’s own moral teachings. Off Armageddon Reef is less about the evils of religion than it is about the use of any ideology or belief structure to manipulate, control and coerce. In the case of Safehold, it’s religion; it could have been communism, fascism or any other brand of authoritarianism or totalitarianism. I said that my books are about choice.

    To my mind, anything which removes or denies the right, ability and responsibility to make choices is evil, destructive and a perversion. Religion that closes off, that demonizes or dehumanizes the “other” as the first step in destroying him in the name of some intolerant, oppressive, thought-denying process can be a terrible force for evil. The cynical use of religion, of man’s belief in God, as a self-serving means of manipulating others is despicable. And yet religion can be an equally powerful force for good. The people who support Merlin in Charis believe firmly and fervently in God; they simply can’t accept that God is as small and mean-spirited as the Church of God Awaiting’s current leadership apparently believe He is.

    I am quoting only the parts that don’t give away too much about the book’s plot and occurences.

    Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, and what way was this story personal do you?

    Weber: In the most fundamental sense, almost all of my stories are about choices. I believe that the best measure of anyone’s character is to be found in the decisions they make in the face of adversity. Do they act responsibly? Do they place their own convenience or survival ahead of their moral obligations to others? Are they prepared to accept the consequences of their decisions and their actions? Are they prepared to pay the price of their decisions and their actions?

    In my books, the heroes are almost always the responsibility-takers, the ones who step up when a problem has to be confronted. They don’t usually worry about who’s responsible for the problem in the first place—or, at least, that particular concern is completely secondary to the question of how they fix what’s wrong. Quite a few of my characters are not particularly safe people to be around, for a lot of reasons, but the villains are those who don’t care about their responsibility to others, or who simply don’t see that they have one at all. I suppose you could think of it as the conflict between those who are prepared to give whatever it takes to meet a recognized need and those who are simply prepared to take whatever they can get for their own personal benefit. That’s a gross oversimplification, of course, but it’s a pretty decent thumbnail of how it works.

    Nimue Alban is pretty nearly the ultimate in responsibility-takers. Merlin is the electronic copy of the memories, beliefs and emotions of a young woman who voluntarily sacrificed her own life so that Merlin could be available to defend and restore human freedom and dignity. The allies Merlin recruits in Charis are also responsibility-takers, prepared to put their lives on the line for the things in which they believe. Indeed, the Charisians are prepared to confront the corruption of the Church and the restrictive manipulation to which they and everyone else on Safehold has been subjected without benefit of Merlin’s knowledge of what’s really happening and why. I think that actually requires even more moral courage than Nimue/Merlin’s decisions do.

    One of the funny and useful things about reading good fiction writers is that their fictional world already predicts the real world before the real world events even happen. I read David Weber’s account of anti-war sentiment in Honor Harrington before 2001-2, before the entire anti-war Democrat movement even got into full steam. Yet it might as well be a carbon copy description I had read in Weber’s book of what people do and say in war.

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