Information Warfare: October 29, 2003

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The Arab press in general, and Moslem media in general, have been increasingly anti-American since September 11, 2001. The message has been largely one sided, as dissenting opinions are less tolerated in Moslem, and especially Arab, nations than in Christian ones. Many people in the Department of Defense pondered how to at least get the American message a hearing. In the course of this brainstorming, it was mentioned that thousands of senior military officers and civilian officials in these nations received their college education in the United States. A quick, and informal, survey of Pentagon officers who had served in several Moslem nations discovered that the locals who had received an American education did, in general, retain friendly feelings for the United States. But it was also discovered that no effort had ever been made to keep in touch with these American educated foreigners. No newsletter or "reunion" program, no nothing. It proved to be difficult to even compile a list of such individuals. If were some way to communicate with these people, they might be persuaded to be interviewed for radio and television shows where they could give a local voice to the American view of the situation. This can't be done now, as long term relationships must be present for American educated Moslems to be willing to risk local displeasure by speaking out. As it is, some Moslem journalists are criticizing the lopsided criticism of the United States, but they are a small voice in a storm of demagoguery. 

But some of these pro-American Moslems have been contacted for advice, and they have provided valuable insights. For example, attacking Osama bin Laden personally doesn't work, as bin Laden has become a folk hero. But al Qaeda and their terrorist tactics are not popular. So going after al Qaeda in Arab language broadcasts does some good. Hammering on the tactics of extremists in general resonates, as most Arabs see those tactics as futile. This tends to inhibit terrorist recruiting. Also, getting out information about corruption in the ranks of terrorist leaders works, as even al Qaeda has its bad apples. Corruption is a major grievance in the Arab world, and reminding people that al Qaeda is not as clean as it claims makes people more willing to provide information. But that only works if you make sure that rewards are paid, and paid in a way that people can spend them. That means offering asylum (green cards) to go with large rewards. And then publicize that. While many Moslems may demonstrate against America, even more will line up outside the American embassy for a chance to move to the United States. 

American educated Arabs are not necessary pro-American, but they are often willing to tell Americans what the U.S. is doing wrong in trying to communicate with the Moslem world. This is valuable and is being used. 

 


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