Monday, November 29, 2004

Sweet Logic and Reason!

Amen and Hallelujah! The Deptartment of Defense's Defense Science Board released a report last week on Strategic Communication that contains some of the most incisive and cogent analysis of the War on Terror produced by any part of the government to date. The report is 111 pages long and is a remarkable work. The Christian Science Monitor has a roundup of coverage, you can find the actual report here. I have to restrain myself from blockquoting the entire thing, but here are some tasty excerpts (and these are from the beginning of the paper, I haven't finished reading it yet):

"To succeed, we must understand the United States is engaged in a generational and global struggle about ideas, not a war between the West and Islam. It is more than a war against the tactic of terrorism. We must think in terms of global networks, both government and non-government. If we continue to concentrate primarily on states (...), we will fail."


"Policies, diplomacy, military operations, and strategic communication should not be managed separately. Good strategic communication cannot build support for policies viewed unfavorably by large populations. Nor can the most carefully crafted messages, themes, and words persuade when the messenger lacks credibility and underlying message authority."


"A year and a half after going to war in Iraq, Arab/Muslim anger has intensified. Data from Zogby International in July 2004, for example, show that the U.S. is viewed unfavorably by overwhelming majorities in Egypt (98 percent), Saudi Arabia (94 percent), Morocco (88 percent), and Jordan (78 percent). The war has increased mistrust of America in Europe, weakened support for the war on terrorism, and undermined U.S. credibility worldwide. ... Negative attitudes and the conditions that create them are the underlying sources of threats to America’s national security and reduced ability to leverage diplomatic


"There is consensus in these reports that U.S. public diplomacy is in crisis. Missing are strong leadership, strategic direction, adequate coordination, sufficient resources, and a culture of measurement and evaluation. ... The number and depth of these reports indicate widespread concern among influential observers that something must be done about public diplomacy. But so far these concerns have produced no real change. The White House has paid little attention. Congressional actions have been limited to informational hearings and funding for Middle East broadcasting initiatives, Radio Sawa and Al Hurra.


"Frames simplify and help to communicate complex events. But like the Cold War frame, the terrorism frame marginalizes other significant issues and problems... Often the terrorism frame directs attention to tactics not strategy. The focus is more on capturing and killing terrorists than attitudinal, political, and economic forces that are the underlying source of threats and opportunities in national security.


"Information saturation means attention, not information, becomes a scarce resource. Power flows to credible messengers. Asymmetrical credibility matters. What's around information is critical. Reputations count. Brands are important. Editors, filters, and cue givers are influential. Fifty years ago political struggles were about the ability to control and transmit scarce information. Today, political struggles are about the creation and destruction of credibility."


Update: Holy crap, IT GETS BETTER. I'm reading Chapter 2 - The New Strategic Environment, and my jaw is on the floor. Great Scott, man, who wrote this thing?!!

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