Washington Times book review: public diplomacy in the “Global War on Terror”

Losing Hearts and MindsJoshua Sinai reviews Losing Hearts and Minds?: Public Diplomacy and Strategic Influence in the Age of Terror in the Washington Times this week. It’s interesting, and a good sign, that from within the defense establishment (the book’s author is a professor at the Naval War College and was previously with the National Security Council) and presumably somebody more aware of the value of hard power, should come out and speak to the need for and value of soft power. What would be nice is to have somebody on the soft power side come over and say the same thing about the need for and value of hard power.

The timing of the review is interesting: the book was released August 30, 2006. Perhaps telling is how Sinai begins his review:

Drawing on his high-level public policy experience, he outlines what he considers to be an appropriate strategy to develop the organizational mechanisms within the U.S. government needed to carry out an effective public-diplomacy campaign to defeat the “center of gravity” of Islamic terrorism, which “lies not in its organizational structure but in its ideological inspiration — the real source of the fresh recruits who continue to flock to the terrorist banner.”

This jointness is a popular idea of late (well, publicly of late, quietly it’s been popular for years). Carnes Lord, the book’s author, then establishes some vocabulary, according to Sinai:

Effectively countering the type of warfare being conducted by our terrorist adversaries to win the “hearts and minds” of the larger publics that support such violence, Mr. Lord points out, requires an understanding of “public diplomacy,” “psychological operations,” “psychological warfare,” “political warfare,” “political action” and “strategic communication” — some of which are political and others military and intelligence measures. 

To synthesize these discreet components into a unified response, Mr. Lord uses the more comprehensive umbrella terms of “public diplomacy and strategic influence.” Such “soft power” measures are distinguished from a government’s use of its military’s “hard power.”

So, what does Lord recommend?

  • “Name the enemy”. Establish the terminology to be used and not buy into the propaganda of the enemy of all against all: articulate the true nature of radical Islam.
  • Use IO and PsyWar: make would-be terrorists know it’s their families that will suffer; sow “confusion, suspicion, and enmity in its ranks, turning its leaders against one another.”
  • Enlist support in the region and really support our democratic goals and visions.
  • Perhaps most importantly, revive the United States Information Agency and make it “institutional base of public diplomacy in the U.S. government,” such as in “managing public diplomacy operations in the field, including jurisdiction over the Public Affairs Officers in the embassies.”
  • Capping the jointness, create a “Joint Strategic Communications Command” within DoD.