Sunday, December 05, 2004

I know it's long but you really must read this

(Or if you don't read it, just go down to the last hyperlink and download the DSB's report.)

Thanks to Chris for forwarding this one to me. Today's ombudsman column in the Washington Post is titled "What Readers Saw, and Didn't See." After detailing reader complaints on a couple of editorial choices, Michael Getler writes about a story the Post did not carry--the recent report released by a task force of the Defense Science Board, a federal advisory committee:
In some ways, the report -- titled "Strategic Communications" -- is dry, bureaucratic fodder. But deep inside, it goes to the heart of both the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, and it raises many crucial issues that don't get probed deeply enough by news organizations, in my opinion.

. . .

Now comes the Pentagon's advisory board with a sharply critical report that says U.S. efforts to separate "the vast majority of non-violent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists . . . have not only failed . . . they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended."

Here are some of the key points:

• "American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the U.S. to single-digits in some Arab societies."

• "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states."

• Since Sept. 11, 2001, "American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. What was a marginal network," the report said, is now a community-wide "movement of fighting groups."

• "Muslims," the board says, "see Americans as strangely narcissistic -- namely, that the war is all about us . . . no more than an extension of American domestic politics and its great game." The critical problem for American public diplomacy, the section concludes, 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."

I'm not a fan of Getler and I wasn't really sure what to make of his--it seems to me--implied critique of the Post's omission. So I skimmed the report. Good fucking god. Have any of you all read it??? It's a marketing plan to win the "hearts and minds" of "undecided" Muslims. I kid you not. Yes the report states in no uncertain terms that US actions have, in fact, distilled anti-American opinion in Iraq and other Muslim countries. This opinion shift is the "change spectrum." "The change spectrum," the report says, "reveals target demographics for U.S. public diplomacy that offer at best a highly constricted opportunity--how constricted it actually is can be shown by mapping the change-spectrum above onto the marketing construct presented in Chapter 3 which defines the 'where to put your marketing effort' spectrum." I'm not trying to be naive here. I understand the importance of public relations and the need to try to communicate. Just see my absurdly long post below about progressive rhetoric. But for fuck's sake.

Here's another extract:
More specifically, strategic communication planning should very selectively borrow private sector best practices and begin to maximize the U.S. "brand" positioning in its five key dimensions:

Presence: How will we develop awareness of the U.S. "brand" in terms of its constituents and audience?

Relevance: How will the U.S. define the role of its "brand" in terms of the needs and
wants of key target audiences?

Differentiation: How will the U.S. distinguish its "brand?" While the U.S. Government clearly shares respect for human dignity and other values with many nations, there are attributes that set us apart and are especially admirable and inspirational to others.

Credibility: How will the U.S. ensure that its "brand" fulfills its promises and delivers on defined expectations?

Imagery: What images, icons and symbolic elements will help communicate and enrich this "brand" meaning?

The US brand?? Are we talking a nice swoosh with "Just Kill It" underneath?

It may sound callous given the tremendous loss of life in Iraq, particularly this weekend, but this is the most repulsive thing I read all weekend. And that's a hard contest to win, ladies and gentlemen.

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