After reaching a high point in 2002-2003, the U.S. global war on terror has failed to stop the growth of the worldwide Islamic extremist movement, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments:
Since 2002–2003, however, the overall US position in the GWOT has slipped. To be sure, the United States has made considerable progress capturing or killing terrorist leaders and operatives, disrupting terrorist operations, seizing assets, and building partner CT [counterterror] capabilities. Those gains, however, have been offset by the metastasis of the al Qaeda organization into a global movement, the spread and intensification of Salafi-Jihadi ideology, the resurgence of Iranian regional influence, and the growth in number and political influence of Islamic fundamentalist political parties throughout the world. Both Salafi-Jihadi and Khomeinist branches of Islamic radicalism have spread rather than receded since 2003. The continued presence of US military forces in Iraq has been a boon for the jihadi movement’s propaganda effort and bolstered the legitimacy of its call to defensive jihad.
The report not only states that the U.S. presence in Iraq has fueled the worldwide Jihadi movement. It also suggests — just like Donald Rumsfeld did, a few weeks ago — that the government should create a strategic information agency:
By far the gravest strategic lapse, however, has been the US government’s anemic—if not, self-destructive—efforts to create and exploit divisions within and among jihadi groups, discredit their ideology, promote alternative Islamic voices, and isolate Islamic extremists. Over the past six years, the United States has failed to counter effectively the portrayal of America as an aggressive, predatory force that poses a threat to Islam. Indeed, the United States has reinforced this jihadi narrative through continued military “occupation” of Iraq, repeated missteps such as Abu Ghraib debacle and incidents at the Guantanamo detention facility, and frequent public statements by senior US government officials about promoting democracy, secularism, and other Western concepts that are considered anti-Islamic by many conservative Muslims. In short, the United States is losing the “long war” in the madrassas, on the air waves, on jihadi websites and countless Internet chat rooms, and during Friday prayers in mosques around the world. To regain lost ground in what is likely to be an indirect, protracted “war of ideas,” the US government should stand up an independent agency to plan and orchestrate a coherent, national-level strategic communication strategy.
I think the next person who suggests the creation of a strategic information agency should be locked into a tiny little room and forced to listen to Voice of America for 12 hours straight. They’ll repent in no time. No they won’t, actually, they’ll go nuts first. They’ll be begging for CNN and Fox News, I promise you.
Actually, I’m not unconditionally against this new agency, but I have yet to see someone present a convincing plan for how it would reasonably work (though I’m sure there are a number of private companies licking their lips with the thought of contracts this new agency would let). The argument is always: we can do strategic communications better. Here’s my question: How’s that? What do you propose to do differently than the (clearly failing) efforts going on now? When has creating new government agencies solved problems (take note of the Department of Homeland Security)? Usually, creating new government agencies concentrates lots of little problems into one big problem. That’s how I see a strategic communication agency: one big collection of problems.
The notion of a “strategic information agency” presumes that the government, the U.S. government no less, can compete with the global information market. That argument, on its face, is worth discussing before anyone goes forward with the creation of an entirely new bureaucracy.