Template:Tone Template:Npov The War of Ideas is a clash of opposing ideals, ideologies, or concepts through which nations or groups use strategic influence to promote their interests abroad. The “battle space” of this conflict is the target population’s "hearts and minds", while the “weapons” can include, inter alia, TV programs, newspaper articles, the internet, blogs, official government policy papers, traditional as well as public diplomacy, or radio broadcasts.

The Strategic Studies Institute, part of the U.S. Army, defined what is believed to be the War of Ideas:

Simply put, a war of ideas is a clash of visions, concepts, and images, and— especially—the interpretation of them. They are, indeed, genuine wars, even though the physical violence might be minimal, because they serve a political, socio-cultural, or economic purpose, and they involve hostile intentions or hostile acts. Wars of ideas can assume many forms, but they tend to fall into four general categories (though these are not necessarily exhaustive): (a) intellectual debates, (b) ideological wars, (c) wars over religious dogma, and (d) advertising campaigns. All of them are essentially about power and influence, just as with wars over territory and material resources, and their stakes can run very high indeed.[1]

Methods to waging War of Ideas[edit | edit source]

There are two principal schools of thought on how to approach the war of ideas. The first approach advocates treating the conflict as a matter best addressed through public diplomacy—defined as the conveyance of information across a broad spectrum to include cultural affairs and political action. Accordingly, this view calls for revitalizing or transforming the U.S. Department of State and many of the traditional tools of statecraft.[2] This school of thought contends that American public diplomacy declined after the Cold War, as evidenced by the demise of the U.S. Information Agency in 1999, and the reduction or elimination of strategic communications programs such as “Voice of America,” and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The remedy, then, according to this view, is to re-engage the world, especially the Arab-Muslim world, by revitalizing both the form and content of U.S. public diplomacy and strategic communications, and by reinforcing those communications with concrete programs that invest in people, create opportunities for positive exchanges, and help build friendships. In fact, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and its Iraqi component, Radio Free Iraq, and Al-Hurra TV are now actively participating in U.S. strategic communication efforts, though with debatable effectiveness; all this has occurred, in part, by taking resources from Voice of America.[3]

In direct contrast, the second school of thought advocates treating the war of ideas as a “real war,” wherein the objective is to destroy the influence and credibility of the opposing ideology, to include neutralizing its chief proponents. This approach sees public diplomacy as an essential, but insufficient tool because it requires too much time to achieve desired results, and does little to aid the immediate efforts of combat forces in the field. For this school of thought, the principal focus of the war of ideas ought to be how to use the ways and means of information warfare to eliminate terrorist groups.[4]

Use during the Cold War[edit | edit source]

File:Quema de libros.jpg

Book burning following the 1973 coup that installed the Pinochet regime in Chile

According to Dr. John Lenczowski, former Director of European and Soviet Affairs for the National Security Council during the Reagan administration, ‘The Cold War took many forms, including proxy wars, the arms race, nuclear blackmail, economic warfare, subversion, covert operations and the battle for men's minds. While many of these forms had the trappings of traditional conflicts of national interests, there was a dimension to the Cold War that made it unique among wars: it centered around a war of ideas—a war between two alternative political philosophies.[5]

During the Cold War, the United States and other Western powers developed a robust infrastructure for waging a ‘‘war of ideas’’ against the communist ideology being promulgated by the Soviet Union and its allies. During the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, the so-called golden age of U.S. propaganda, counterpropaganda, and public diplomacy operations, the U.S. government carried out a sophisticated program of overt and covert activities designed to shape public opinion behind the Iron Curtain, within European intellectual and cultural circles, and across the developing world.[6] The United States was able to reach as much as 50–70% of the populations behind the Iron Curtain during the 1950s through their international broadcasting.[7] High-level interest in such operations waned during the 1970s, but received renewed emphasis under President Ronald Reagan, the ‘‘Great Communicator,’’ who, like Eisenhower, was a firm advocate of the informational component of America’s Cold War strategy.[8]

However, with the end of the Cold War official interest once again plummeted. During the 1990s, Congress and the executive branch disparaged informational activities as costly Cold War anachronisms. The budget for State Department informational programs was slashed, and USIA, a quasi-independent body that reported to the secretary of state, was disestablished, and its responsibilities were transferred to a new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.[6]

Use in the War on Terror[edit | edit source]

Terrorism is a form of political and psychological warfare; it is protracted, high-intensity propaganda, aimed more at the hearts of the public and the minds of decision makers, and not at the physical victims.[9] There is growing recognition among U.S. government officials, journalists, and analysts of terrorism that defeating al-Qaida— arguably the preeminent challenge to U.S. security—will require far more than ‘‘neutralizing’’ leaders, disrupting cells, and dismantling networks.[10] The 9/11 Commission concluded in its final report, eliminating al-Qaida as a formidable danger ultimately requires ‘‘prevailing in the longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism.”[11]

As Akbar Ahmed, a Muslim scholar who holds the Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, explains: Properly understood, this is a war of ideas within Islam—some of them faithful to authentic Islam, but some of them clearly un-Islamic and even blasphemous toward the peaceful and compassionate Allah of the Qur'an.[12]

Americans, in general, are fundamentally opposed waging what seems as a blatantly ideological struggle seems quite unnatural to Americans and other Westerners, who tend to downplay intangible factors such as ideas, history, and culture as political motivators, preferring instead to stress relatively more concrete driving forces such as personal security and physical well-being.[13]

The United States military has recently began incorporating a strategic communication into their overall battle operations in the War on Terror, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to the military’s traditional role of using force they are beginning to use political as well as ideological warfare against the enemy as a method of influencing the local populations into opposing say the Taliban or al Qa’ida. The ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu once said that to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.[14] The War of Ideas attempts to “break the enemy’s resistance.”

Terrorists' use of mass media[edit | edit source]

The jihadist terrorists' strategic communications goals are aimed at legitimizing, propagating, and intimidating their audience. Their skilful use of the mass media and the internet to compensate for asymmetrical disadvantages has enabled them to keep generating new generations of jihadist terrorists.[15]

Al-Qaida’s message, disseminated widely and effectively through all forms of mass media, including the Internet, has a powerful appeal in much of the Muslim world.[16] In 2007, an al-Qaeda spokesman described Osama bin Laden's strategic influence of mass media in the Arab world:

Sheikh Usama knows that the media war is not less important than the military war against America. That’s why al-Qaeda has many media wars. The Sheikh has made al-Qaeda’s media strategy something that all TV stations look for. There are certain criteria for the stations to be able to air our videos, foremost of which is that it has not taken a previous stand against the mujahedeen. That maybe explains why we prefer Al-Jazeera to the rest.[17]

Media and the internet enable terrorists to thrive in a cancerous manner in the freedom that democracies provide. The intensive, sometimes obsessive coverage in the media about a terrorist act generates the desired psychological effect. Terrorist actions are planned and organized in a manner that causes a strategically maximum communicative effect, while requiring minimal resources. The symbiotic relationship between terror events and the media is apparent: the perpetrators would have far less impact without media publicity and the media can hardly be expected to resist reporting.[18] Satellite TV and the internet offers terrorists expanded possibilities of influencing and manipulating audiences.

Terrorist media publication companies[edit | edit source]

Terrorist groups are utilizing mass media, particularly the internet, to win the "War of Ideas" because their inability to win a traditional head-to-head war against a military force. The following list of their media outlets are examples of how they wage this asymmetrical warfare to strategically influence their audience:

Methods[edit | edit source]

Ensuring one’s own credibility while undermining your enemy's credibility is one of the key elements to winning this battle. For instance in the West's battle against jihadist terrorists, it is possible to counteract the three primary communication goals, the propagation and enlargement of their movement, the legitimization of their movement and the coercion and intimidation of their enemies. Next to eliminating root causes and alleviating the underlying conditions, motivators and enablers of terrorism, such as terrorists' physical bases, developing an effective counter strategic communication plan, which exploits weaknesses and contradictions in the jihadists' use of strategic communication techniques, is vital in winning the asymmetrical conflict with jihadist terrorists.[19]

See also[edit | edit source]

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Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. "Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria, WARS OF IDEAS AND THE WAR OF IDEAS". Strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil. http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=866. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  2. Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria, WARS OF IDEAS AND THE WAR OF IDEAS, p.26
  3. Lisa Curtis, “Efforts to Deal with America’s Image Abroad: Are They Working?” Testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, April 26, 2007, p. 6.[1]
  4. Walid Phares, "The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy,"(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007); Waller, "Fighting the War of Ideas"; Zeyno Baran, “Fighting the War of Ideas,” Foreign Affairs,Vol. 84, No. 6, November/December 2005, pp. 68–78.
  5. Dr. John Lenczowski,Emboldening Domestic Resistance to Communism: Presidential Rhetoric and the War of Information and Ideas Against the Soviet Union
  6. 6.0 6.1 William Rosenau,The RAND Corporation, “Waging the “war of Ideas,”(The McGraw-Hill Homeland Security Handbook, Chapter 72, pp. 1131–1148, 2006)
  7. Susan L. Gough,‘‘The Evolution of Strategic Influence,’’ USAWC [U.S. Army War College] Strategy Research Project, Carlisle Barracks, Pa. (April 7, 2004), p. 16
  8. Susan L. Gough,‘‘The Evolution of Strategic Influence,’’PP.20–24
  9. J. Michael Waller, Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War (The Institute of World Politics Press,2007), p.20-21.
  10. William Rosenau,The RAND Corporation, “Waging the “war of Ideas,” (The McGraw-Hill Homeland Security Handbook, Chapter 72, pp. 1131–1148, 2006)
  11. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States,The 9/11 Commission Report (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2004), p. 363.
  12. J. Michael Waller, Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War, Washington, DC: The Institute of World Politics Press, 2007, p. 68. [2]
  13. Carnes Lord, The Psychological Dimension in National Strategy, in Frank R. Barnett and Carnes Lord (eds.), Political Warfare and Psychological Operations(Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1989): 22.
  14. Sun Tzu, Art of War, http://suntzusaid.com/book/3
  15. Dr. Carsten Bockstette, "Jihadist Terrorist Use of Strategic Communication Management Techniques" http://www.marshallcenter.org/mcpublicweb/MCDocs/files/College/F_Publications/occPapers/occ-paper_20-en.pdf
  16. Anonymous [Michael Scheuer], Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror (Washington: Brassey’s, 2004), pp. 209–12.
  17. Angela Gendron,Trends in Terrorism Series: Al-Qaeda: Propaganda and Media Strategy(2007) ITAC Presents Vol. 2007-2.
  18. Katz, Elihu & Liebes, Tamar, "‘No More Peace!’ How Disaster, Terror and War have Upstaged Media Events." International Journal of Communication (2007), 157–166.http://ijoc.org/ojs/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/44/23
  19. Dr. Carsten Bockstette, "Jihadist Terrorist Use of Strategic Communication Management Techniques." p.5. http://www.marshallcenter.org/mcpublicweb/MCDocs/files/College/F_Publications/occPapers/occ-paper_20-en.pdf
  20. "Public Diplomacy: Ideas for the War of Ideas". Mepc.org. http://www.mepc.org/journal_vol16/3VanEveraFull.asp. Retrieved May 2, 2010. [dead link]
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