Psychological Struggle,  Public Diplomacy

Mike Doran at HASC: Strategies for Countering Violent Extremist Ideologies

Below are excerpts from Mike Doran’s testimony for the hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities titled “Strategies for Countering Violent Extremist Ideologies” (31k PDF):

Countering extremism is part of a larger enterprise. For the sake of discussion, let’s call it “strategic communication.” This is an imperfect label for what we are talking about, but I do not want to get bogged down in definitional debates. When I say “strategic communication,” I mean the effective coordination of all of the activities of government that are intended to persuade, inform, and influence foreign audiences. …

The Obama administration can dramatically advance the enterprise simply by designating an office as the lead for government-wide strategic communication, vesting that office with the requisite authorities and resources to do its job properly, and holding it accountable for results.

Where should this office reside? One school of thought supports placing it at National Security Council. Appointing one of the president’s advisors to monitor the enterprise is certainly a good idea, but doing so will not entirely solve the leadership problem. Those who argue in favor of the NSC ignore the strong (and healthy) aversion, which exists throughout our system, to an operational White House. …

The key to [Jim Glassman’s, the last person to serve as the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs,]success was that he wholeheartedly embraced the notion that the business of the Under Secretary is national security. By contrast, his predecessors viewed the position as a public relations portfolio. They shied away from associating with the Department of Defense (DoD) and other agencies. …

The answer to this problem, in my view, is to develop thicker connective tissue between the State and DoD, especially in the fields related to strategic communication. Exactly what I mean by “thicker connective tissue” is itself a subject for another discussion – one that would touch on mutual training, compatible planning processes, and institutional reorganizations. We need not go into those details now. My main point today is that closer coordination will not take place until we create a strategic-operational center in the government that can act as an effective proponent for a whole-of-government effort. And with that point, I circle right back to where I began: with all roads leading through the Department of State.

Read the whole testimony here.