Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The war of ideas: Let's fight it like a real war

It's been getting a lot of attention in the Pentagon, among our troops in Iraq, in the CIA and in other parts of the US government, and now it's available through Amazon: an immediate-term strategy to win the war of ideas.

My new book, Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War, offers low-cost, off-the-shelf ways to attack and destroy the enemy through the use of words, images and information in a quick-and-dirty but legal and moral psychological warfare campaign.
There are worse things to do to an Islamist extremist than kill him. This book describes some of those ways.

Here's what Armed Forces Journal recently said about the book:

The playground chant of "sticks and stones" is turned on its head in J. Michael Waller's intriguing book "Fighting the War of Ideas Like a Real War," in which he argues that words, images and messages can, in fact, hurt a lot. And in the terrorism war, these are sorely underused strategic weapons that could be every bit as powerful as the conventional sticks and stones of war we prefer to hurl.

Waller's concise book, published by the Institute of World Politics, where he is a professor of international communications, is at heart a cry for someone, somewhere to step up and lead the fight in the war of ideas. Whether this is a State or Defense Department role, the author remains circumspect.

Waller makes the case that the Islamist terrorist is successfully and without compunction using ferociously anti-American propaganda. Why then are Americans so slow and uneasy to fight like with like? Our idea of the ideas war is that we'll win hearts and minds simply by communicating all the good things about us. Not enough, says Waller. American messages of democracy and friendship get tuned out in the urban street hellhole; we must also start dishing the dirt on our enemies.

The book is packed with action points that could be implemented rapidly and at little cost. We could, for instance, stop feeding the terrorist's self-esteem and confirming his status as a martyr by using the term he selected for himself: jihad. The term "hirabah" has been defined as "killing by stealth and targeting a defenseless victim in a way intended to cause terror in society." This is an Islamic definition of terrorism the West could exploit.

Another strategic weapon could be public ridicule, which is more feared than death; it's destruction without martyrdom. Waller's justification for why ridicule works feels right. "It sticks. The target can't refute it. It gets better with each re-telling." This stuff is so blindingly obvious and seemingly both clever and simple that it begs the question, "Why aren't we already doing this?"

Is it too late to make any difference? Perhaps. But if this guide offers ways that could discredit, divide and ultimately squelch the enemy into a blob of irrelevance, then the debate shouldn't be whether it's too late; the question is how soon can we start?

Get your copy today on Amazon.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Ted said...

I am from County Tipperary and a distant relative of Dr Michael Waller. I was in the Royal Navy for 35 years and was involved in fighting several "terrorist" incursions: Aden, Cyprus, Borneo,Egypt for instance. The proposal to add words to the weapons deployed against them seems logical to me. signed, Edward William deWarrenne Waller OBE, Commander Royal Navy retired.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Yalta1945 said...

I didn't participate in any operation against terrorists but I know what is to be terrorised. I could not read the book but I had read interviews with Osama bin Laden before he became so notorious. Then I said to the editor in chief of my newspaper that we had to publish a series of articles as to draw people's attention to what was going to be a real war quite soon. He did not take it so serious.
Now I've read the annotation and I must say out of my experience and intuition it sounds as bad as when I listened to D.Rumsfeld before the war in Iraq, although I hoped I'd be wrong. But I didn't read the book, so I hope again I'll be wrong.
(Are your methods tested on the rats first? (joke))
p.s. I prefer conventional weapons. They cannot be stolen as easily as ideas written in a book that everyone can buy. Even if your methods work, they can be adapted and exploited by the third side (which you ignore) against you and your friends and allies.

9:09 PM  
Blogger bettie said...

It seems to me that much of this has occured to others because I have seen some of these ideas put in to action. The problem seems to be that there has been no coordinated planning and that we have approached this type of warfare like Highland Clansman, each individual fighting his own little battle while our enemy has chosen a phalanx. I would love to see and take part in Cannoneer No. 4's concept. We have more than enough warriors with more than enough talent, we just need a formation. The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need!



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