winning the war of ideas
Okay, this isn’t about polling or the fate of the White House, but about what happens after the election …
Talking with me today, Mike Weiksner made a profound cautionary point about how the U.S. and the non-Arab world could engage the Arab community and Islamic fundamentalism in particular: We must not forfeit the war of ideas being fought against the U.S. by Islamic fundamentalists and in statements like the bin Laden message of last week.
Thinking about the work of Dan Yankelovich – and in particular a presentation he made for Public Agenda earlier this year – I said that we ought to keep in mind the difference between negotiating with terrorists and assassinating their ideologies. The first is unacceptable, the second is a vital part of any real war against terrorism.
Before the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. and others were living by policies that helped provoke the attacks. In the post-Iraq international climate, the U.S. has alienated the world so profoundly that our allies shy from us and our enemies can recruit using newsfeeds.
We had an opportunity to respond to the attacks with both military might and forceful persuasion in the war of ideas. Our response was not especially balanced between the two. Whoever the President is tomorrow, he will make a mortally dangerous error if he continues to let the fight for Fallujah eclipse the campaign for Muslim hearts and minds.
We can’t afford to dismiss everything our enemies say as war-cries or propaganda. We must engage the poison of these ideas using the tools of dialogue and deliberation, even as we fight to behead the serpents spewing the venom.