The Case for Cultural Diplomacy: Engaging Foreign Audiences

Making the case against the Clash of Civilizations and its wholesale aggregations (see other posts in the Cultural Warfare category), Helena Finn (in 2003) explains the need to engage. From the socio-political perspective this means listening and understanding. From the military-political persepective, this is the groundwork and foundation for Cultural Warfare. Either way, it is necessary to not see a binary world and not to assume that Arab speakers, Muslims, or some other "condition" as some would call it, as inherently defective and antagonistic to "us".

The Case for Cultural Diplomacy: Engaging Foreign Audiences (also at Foreign Affairs) abstract:

In the past few years there has been an alarming rise in anti-American sentiment around the globe, centered in the Middle East. To reverse this tide, the United States must begin working immediately to establish meaningful contact with the silent majority in the Muslim world, in ways other than through military force or traditional diplomacy. The anti-U.S. aggression witnessed today represents the boiling over of intense frustration, exacerbated by a sense that Muslims have somehow fallen behind. Rather than assuming that Islam is inherently more violent than other religions, U.S. policymakers should realize that there are practical causes of the widespread discontent in the Middle East, and try to offer practical solutions. As they do so, they should take inspiration from the successful cultural diplomacy of the Cold War, while tailoring their efforts to the new circumstances and enemies with which they are confronted. Cultural diplomacy is one of the most potent weapons in the United States’ armory, yet its importance has been consistently downplayed in favor of dramatic displays of military might.Like its predecessors during the early Cold War era, the Bush administration must realize that in waging its self-proclaimed war against extremism, winning foreigners’ voluntary allegiance to the American project will be the most important prize of all.

Cultural Warfare, continued

A vigourous discussion on an earlier post "How Not to Conduct Cultural Warfare" (to be continued here in a new category "Cultural Warfare") should have a greater obvious context with recent news. As Eccentric Star ("Murdered US Soldiers Linked to Rape & Murder of Iraqi Civilians") notes:

A link — however tenuous — between the two US soldiers who were abducted, tortured, and murdered in Iraq recently and the rape of an Iraqi woman and subsequent murder of her and her family is explosive. From an Iraqi’s perspective, this must make the insurgents who killed the US soldiers look more like righteous avengers than anything else.

At some point who we are, or rather how we see ourselves, becomes disjointed with what we do. At some point, what we do is who we are, especially if it is repeated often enough. Put yourself in the shoes of locals and consider the trend from their perspective. Cultural warfare and public diplomacy (wartime and peacetime sides of the same coin) does this and the Haditha videos (commented on in How Not to Conduct Cultural Warfare) reinforces stereotypes, the wrong stereotypes.

From the US side, Shawn Howard in The Difference Between Us and Them, writing before the news of the rape, echoed a sentiment leaning toward "kill them all, let [insert deity here] sort ’em out" (by the way, I’m not being politically correct, it’s just a tool to ack different perspectives… for all I care, assume God is written there):

…These insurgents have a long pattern of obscene violence that goes well beyond the rules of engagement.

I will not argue that the U.S. military and the private contractors are always choir boys….Also, when we find out about alleged atrocities, we investigate them and hold people accountable.  The insurgents are praised when they commit disgusting atrocities….

What we are fighting is a barbaric culture that refuses to develop into a civilized society.  Even if we stay for a decade, we will never be able to teach them to respect human life.  That is a fight we will not win.

This last paragraph essentially echoes Dan of tdaxp (in the comments here) in our recent discussion, most notably [for this discussion, I’ll move past the comment about investigating and holding contractors accountable]:

Iraq and Afghanistan are not Core [as in Core-Gap of Barnett’s Pentagon’s New Map] states that somehow went off the rails (like Germany and Japan did). They are from the deepest part of the AfroIslamic Gap.

As such a "hearts and minds," or even a narrow Westernization, strategy is out of the question . Attempting to make Iraqi Shia and Sunni like us because of who we are is a fools errand. So would attempting the reverse. Neither is much possible. We’re not going to enrage Iraqis with things like this. Too little, too late.

There is little need for our side to descend to aggregations of Them into a collective evil. It is wrong to say

…the "All in all, I’d rather not have Americans here right now" ship has long since sailed. Those Iraqis that support us do so because they think we can improve their lives…

There are more Iraqis that would support us if a) procedures and policies of both military and private forces and reconstruction efforts considered locals as assets and part of the solution, and b) fear keeps many from secretly or openly from supporting us and hence pushing away criminal and "insurgent" groups.

The reality is, now and in the past (another dig against tempo-centric and situational unaware 4GW here), that an overall environment is necessary to bring out allies as force multipliers (consider the role and purpose of the Green Berets and the fact we don’t need warm and cuddly friendships, just a mutual understanding who the bad guy is).

David Galula, writing in his 1965 CounterInsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, noted the clear need to get the population on your side which you do not do by alienating them. As an example, Galula cites mainland Chinese who, when expected to side with Nationalists during a quick hit and run in fact fought back viciously. Why? Because they knew where they were living and reality of the attack (not to free the people but simply to prick the side of Mao).

Does cultural intelligence matter? Consider this CS Monitor story "What US wants in its troops: cultural savvy" (and many other references to be posted soon, but the CS Monitor article was timely… posted this evening). If cultural awareness matters on the battlefield to diffuse or prevent tensions, why not in peacetime? Hence, public diplomacy… CW (cultural warfare) is a variant of PD (public diplomacy).