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Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Failure of Public Diplomacy

The Defense Science Board just released a report that was very critical of America's public diplomacy. It turns out, for example, that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq haven't helped the US image in the Muslim world.

Shocking, really.

The NY Times reported the story Wednesday, though the document itself apparently isn't available:
"America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communications strategies," says the 102-page report, completed in September. "Interests collide. Leadership counts. Policies matter. Mistakes dismay our friends and provide enemies with unintentional assistance. Strategic communication is not the problem, but it is a problem."
This is a particularly telling excerpt:
"In stark contrast to the cold war, the United States today is not seeking to contain a threatening state empire, but rather seeking to convert a broad movement within Islamic civilization to accept the value structure of Western Modernity - an agenda hidden within the official rubric of a 'War on Terrorism,' " the report states.

"Today we reflexively compare Muslim 'masses' to those oppressed under Soviet rule," the report adds. "This is a strategic mistake. There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies - except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends."

The report says that "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather they hate our policies," adding that "when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy."

In the eyes of the Muslim world, the report adds, "American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering."

The report also says: "The critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim world is not one of 'dissemination of information' or even one of crafting and delivering the 'right' message. Rather it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none - the United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam."

Anyone think this will change the President's rhetoric?

Update: The AP story on the report says it is available on-line: "Report of the Defense Sciene Board Task Force on Strategic Communication." The AP story included this quote:
"In other words, Americans have become the enemy," it said. "It is noteworthy that opinion is (strongest) against America in precisely those places ruled by what Muslims call 'apostates' and tyrants -- the tyrants we support. This should give us pause."
For example, a large majority of Saudis apparently think the US is out to weaken Islam.

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