Public Relation on the War on Terror

Over at Neo-neocon there is a post about public relation and propaganda during a war. My response, with regard to the War on Terror is as follows.

The war against terror is a misnomer. This is a war against fundamental and militant Islam as represented by Wahhabism, spreading among the Arabs and through the Middle East. Thus if you see this as the primary threat, then you have to formulate a strategy to defeat it.

This administration's strategy is to fight fundamentalist Islam with liberalized Islam. They believe that if given the choice, most Muslims as most humans would not kill and maim innocent non-Muslims. Liberalism at its root is predicated on individual freedom. Where could they cultivate a sufficient number of liberal Arab Muslims to stand against the fundamentalists? By taking those who would crave individual choice after years of being denied individual choices and liberate them. You start with those oppressed the worse and work your way up. Thus first liberate the Afghans under the Taliban and follow that up with Iraqi under Saddam. Risky? Very.

Thus if you are about to undertake a massive social-political-religious transformation, do you declare you intent for all to hear, especially the target of your work? There was no way this could have or ever would be declared.

So where do you start after 911? By declaring an apparent target of threat, in this case terrorists in particular and states that harbor and support them. But if you are bound by certain international laws, like the UN charter, what are your options? With Afghanistan it was easy in appearance, the Taliban had al Qaeda and refused to hand them over, thus with a blur the Taliban and al Qaeda was treated as one and the same. Now it was Afghanistan-al Qaeda that attacked the US on 911 and thus we had the legal context to strike back. Done.

But Afghanistan is far away from the core of the problem of Wahhabism that is in the Middle East (Afghanistan more Central Asian). It would have been pointless to attack Saudi Arabia because you cannot cultivate the Saudi to fight Wahhabism. The Saudis were not craving freedom from oppression. Thus Iraq. Legal context? Violation of the ceasefire from 1991.

As much as possible all the international actions had to be interpreted as consistent with our international rights and obligations. The greatest stumbling block has been the American public perception that the war against terror should only be against terrorists in general and al Qaeda in particular.

What I am getting at is that while this administration has been poorer at PR than necessary, the nature of this war's strategy does not lend itself to a PR campaign. While it maybe easy now to sell capitalism over communism, this wasn't so clear 30 years ago. But at least we could announced that was your intention for all to hear. How do you go about declaring that we will turn moderate Muslims against their brethren the fundamentalist Muslims? How do you go about selling this to your domestic public and not let the international audience hear about it? I don't think it can be done well if at all.

I am satisfied with the reasons and motives for the war on terror, and its progress thus. Bad PR included, as you cannot always declare your intentions.


Solomon2 said...

Cute. But you don't have to do a PR campaign by hitting directly; you can do it through presenting alternate frameworks to fit the facts, different background music to listen to. That changes how your target audience will interpret things.

Example: See Jane run.

American: Isn't it cute to see the girl playing?

Communist: She's escaping!

Huan said...

Any indirect PR campaign will always be subjected to allegations of lies and deception. As we currently witness.

Solomon2 said...

You are being too intellectual. Indirect PR campaigns are not subject to such things. If you pick up an issue of People magazine because Britney is on the cover, you scarcely think about the background that made Britney interesting to you in the first place, yes? Most folks don't consider themselves "deceived" into buying a gossipy magazine because gossip is they were looking for. The brain said, "Oh, Britney's on the cover!", not "Who is this strange person? I don't need to buy this rag." That's the principle.

Huan said...

Actually I am being less intellectual. Those that react with cries of "propaganda" or "lies" usually do not think things through. Now they may not react to the face value as presented, they certainly don't take their analysis to the third step, fourth step or beyond.

The PR campaign in the WoT can only be both truthful and meaningful when kept on the basic premis of security and freedom.

Solomon2 said...

huan, from the first part of your response I gather that you may not understand what I'm trying to say.

However, I consider the second part to be one of those platitudes that may be a fine ideal, but is unsupported in practice. I urge you to reconsider this in the light of the history of ideas.

Huan said...

perhaps i did not grasp what you said. When you state "alternate frame work to fit the fact" in a PR campaign, i abreviated it to "indirect" PR. I believe that is exactly what this administration has been doing, which aggravates the charges of "lies" and "deceptions."

The people can tell the difference. And they deserve better. Not necessarily the whole truth. Unfortunately many will still see part of the truth as a lie.

Solomon2 said...

Please let go of any preconceptions and simply concentrate on my content.

But you see, sowing preconceptions that prejudice your audience to selectively filter and interpret information is precisely how the PR I'm describing works. It has nothing to do with spin, and is much more insidious and powerful.

Huan said...

i understand how PR works. i am surprise that you believe everyone is susceptible to PR.