Winning the Hearts and Minds - NOT!
Today the Pentagon released a highly critical report that said that the US is losing the war on terrorism because we are losing the hearts and minds of the Islamic world. The report said that after the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, significant percentages of the Islamic world are markedly more negative about the US than before.
The New York Times headlines this story with U.S. Fails to Explain Policies to Muslim World, Panel Says which totally belies the main point that needs to be considered: the Muslims don't hate what we say, they hate what we do.
The report, titled "Strategic Communications", covers the problems of not doing a better job of explaining what the US policies are toward Muslims but points out that there are no communication strategies that can make up for bad policies.
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."
As a cynical observer of the Bush administration, I would not be surprised if the only result of this study would be to hire Frank Luntz to conduct some focus groups to see how to sell Bush's vision by finding the right words to "explain" our policies rather than adjusting the policies themselves.