Proposal to support "anti-Islamist Muslims," with U.S. international broadcasting as an "element" (updated).
Posted: 15 Nov 2007 Print Send a link
"Because [Karen] Hughes was the most senior government official responsible for the 'battle of ideas,' her principal task should have been to answer the question: How can the United States most effectively empower anti-radical Muslims around the world to combat the spread of Islamist extremism? After all, the 'battle of ideas' is not a popularity contest about us; it is a battle for political power among Muslims, in which America's favorability rating is irrelevant. ... Rather than expend effort on winning Muslim friendship for America, our engagement with Muslim publics -- what we call 'public diplomacy' -- should focus on identifying, nurturing and supporting anti-Islamist Muslims, from secular liberals to pious believers, who fear the encroachment of radical Islamists and are willing to make a stand. This strategy would involve overt and covert ways to assist anti-Islamist political parties, nongovernmental organizations, trade unions, media outlets, women's groups, educational institutions and youth movements as they compete with the radicals. It calls for marshaling government resources -- our embassies, aid bureaucracies, international broadcasting units and intelligence agencies, as well as our commercial, educational and civic relationships -- to give anti-Islamists the moral, political, financial, technological and material support they need." Robert Satloff, Washington Post, 10 November 2007. "That’s the correct approach for supporting freedom around the world. A broad strategy, of which international broadcasting is one solid element." Former BBG spokesman Howard Mortman in his Extreme Mortman blog, 10 November 2007. This is why public diplomacy and international broadcasting must be separate activities, conducted by separate agencies, in separate buildings, even in separate cities. Audiences make the effort to tune to international broadcasting to get news that is more reliable than the news that they get from their state-controlled domestic media. Credibility is therefore the be-all and end-all of successful international broadcasting. The audience for international broadcasting is, collectively, smarter than those of us who work in international broadcasting. The audience will detect almost immediately if their newscast is "marshaled" or just an "element" in a "broad strategy." And they will tune elsewhere. There are ways to implement Satloff's ideas, but keep (overt) U.S. international broadcasting out of it. Update: "Satloff has been a part of public diplomacy by hosting a show on Al-Hurra, Washington's Arabic-language television channel. His show is fittingly called 'Inside Washington,' but what has his access taught him? ... People like Satloff ... have much to offer the debate, but only if they eschew the notion of an Islamic world that can be bent to the will and the wiles of outsiders." Editorial, The Daily Star (Beirut), 14 November 2007.