Monday, December 06, 2004

Imperial Dumb Ass

On Sunday the Scottish paper The Sunday Herald ran a story on The Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication, released September 2004 by the DSB arm of the Dept. of Defense, whose purpose is to "...provide independent advice to the Secretary of State." The report focuses on the abysmal job the U.S. has done in winning world opinion to its side, including the good will of Muslim countries:

“American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab societies.”
Referring to the repeated mantra from the White House that those who oppose the US in the Middle East “hate our freedoms”, the report says: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedoms’, but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favour of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing support, for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states.
“Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypo crisy. Moreover, saying that ‘freedom is the future of the Middle East’ is seen as patronising … in the eyes of Muslims, the American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. US actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.”
The way America has handled itself since September 11 has played straight into the hands of al-Qaeda, the report adds. “American actions have elevated the authority of the jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims.” The result is that al-Qaeda has gone from being a marginal movement to having support across the entire Muslim world.
“Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic,” the report goes on, adding that to the Arab world the war is “no more than an extension of American domestic politics”. The US has zero credibility among Muslims which means that “whatever Americans do and say only serves … the enemy”."
This is not some leftie think tank, mind you, but rumblings from the bowels of Rumsfeld's own ailimentary canal:

"America’s “image problem”, the report authors suggest, is “linked to perceptions of the US as arrogant, hypocritical and self-indulgent”. The White House “has paid little attention” to the problems.
"Rather than supporting tyranny, most Muslims want to overthrow tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia. “The US finds itself in the strategically awkward – and potentially dangerous – situation of being the long-standing prop and alliance partner of these authoritarian regimes. Without the US, these regimes could not survive,” the report says.
“Thus the US has strongly taken sides in a desperate struggle … US policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself … Americans have inserted themselves into this intra-Islamic struggle in ways that have made us an enemy to most Muslims.
“Americans are convinced that the US is a benevolent ‘superpower’ that elevates values emphasising freedom … deep down we assume that everyone should naturally support our policies. Yet the world of Islam – by overwhelming majorities at this time – sees things differently. Muslims see American policies as inimical to their values, American rhetoric about freedom and democracy as hypocritical and American actions as deeply threatening.
“In two years the jihadi message – that strongly attacks American values – is being accepted by more moderate and non-violent Muslims. This in turn implies that negative opinion of the US has not yet bottomed out."
Short version: We went in like a bunch of ham-handed neanderthals, ruined what little we had going for us, and managed to make a dangerous situation damn near inflammable. If you read Imperial Hubris, you'll be amazed at how much of this report mirrors the contentions of that book. It does give one a frisson of the bizarre to read it coming out of the DoD. I can't help wondering if it might be Colin Powell's parting shot, distanced from its source by enough layers to provide plausible deniability. It certainly doesn't sound like the usual neo-con blather.

On the other hand, if you were in the market for a good rumble to fill the conflict void after the Soviet Union took its ball and went home, what better way to get things started than to play the drunken cowboy, walk into the nearest saloon, and shoot the place up.

Pre-emptive, indeed.

You can read the report itself--all 111 pages--word for word here. It's worth your time.

No comments: