[written October 12, 2001]
My goal is to keep this brief.
The anti-terrorism coalition is fighting a scattered enemy, many hidden among its allies, in the Afghani mountains, or in densely populated areas rife with anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment. These terrorists have taken the US hostage and right now people are pretty much in hysteria mode.
Some experts are saying bombed Taliban targets were for the most part long abandoned, and wouldn't do much to change things. Others point out how military conflicts would fail given prior evidence by hundreds of years of fighting. Still others think going after bin Laden only makes him a martyr and strengthens the terrorist cause.
In short, everyone is saying the US is fighting an impossible war. Even sentiment in the US suggests that Americans are so bitter from Vietnam that they hesitate whenever any military acts are put into action.
Well, I say that things are not lost, and that it's surprising to see so many people doubt the most efficient and advanced intelligence and creator of military tactics in the world. They doubt the largest source of biotech development, propaganda, economic output, and brainpower in the entire world. They doubt a country that has, despite all attempts to discredit it, is still the most philanthropic country to ever exist.
What we need is a propaganda war. And no kids, propaganda is NOT always a bad thing. It has become a term that is a catch-all for anything, right or wrong, just or unjust, legitimate or illegitimate. But it's always a part of hostile situations, from warfare to hostage negotiation to siege campaigns to police negotiating, everything.
It can be used to plant a seed of doubt and erode morale, like in the Cold War, which was a philosophical battle as well as a nuclear one, or it can be used to galvanize support, like the "support our boys" propaganda campaign in World War II. The point is that propaganda is a tool that is used to create or destroy the will mainly of the populace of a country or organization who aren't directly involved in the conflict. A military campaign with no public support will fail, and even anti-war rhetoricians know that.
So we come to the issue of how to use propaganda against terrorists. Well, all that aside for a moment, I do not believe the majority of people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and other Islamic countries are willing to die in order to kill Americans. I believe, at their heart, that they are still human, and care first about their family and its well-being, to varying degrees. Some people keep building up villages only to see them get destroyed again. They want to live their lives. You cannot expect me to believe they support self-imposed governments that would commit mass murder on whole villages. They may hate America, but only because they have no reason to believe anything else.
But even these terrorists who are supposedly so gung ho as to die for Allah, they evidently would not pay a lower price for prostitutes, perhaps unaware that they were going to die. I do not think all terrorists are filled with so much conviction. Again, they are only human.
Of course, you DO have plenty of extremists left. And how do you convince these people that what they're doing may not be the best thing? You can't really promise them peace -- they want your destruction, and they don't really care about raising family and towns. You can't give them money or bribe them, they will react against it as a temptation by evil.
And most of these people are probably illiterate, so you can't expect them to know references to things, particularly western sources, and you can't expect to use printing to drop thousands of pamphlets containing your version of the truth.
But you can still use propaganda. It's just a lot more difficult trying to get that to the people. I propose, since none of the Islamic countries or religious leaders seem to be out condemning these extremist religious sects, that the US employ its finest experts of Islam and Arabian culture to produce every type of media available and beam or drop it inside the city centers of Arab countries. I know that most people are illiterate, but also most people are populated in certain cities, which are full of ways to produce powerful propaganda machines.
If it ever gets to the point where US military is stationed in certain areas, they can broadcast via loudspeaker and radio such propaganda.
American scholars of Islam can serve their country and can try their best to point out how the 9/11 terrorists were not only lucky in their attempts, one plane being taken down by unarmed civilians, another plane unprofessionally missing its target and exploding its payload OUTSIDE of the building. They can point out that these terrorists lived in the US, free to pray at their own mosques and teach their own students, coming to their final day unaware that their leaders kept them in the dark and ready to spend money on prostitutes and strippers. They were, overall, failures in the eyes of Allah in their indiscretions.
Scholars and intelligence experts can work together to compare the extremists' views with those of true Islam, citing texts and current leaders as examples of the stark differences. They can point out how the US has no intention of wiping out Islam, and indeed constitutionally allows such religion in its own homeland. Fuck, a lot of people I talk to are completely against Christianity. How is it a holy war? I mean, thank goodness for separation of church and state. Lesser degrees of the Taliban were what our forefathers sought to protect against.
Scholars can point out how the US has been giving food to the region for ages. All the things that anyone who isn't completely anti-US knows already. That the US, while it is certainly not without its own serious mistakes, DOES actually try to help.
Half in jest I suggested that the government and military use Hollywood for ideas and production of such techniques. Can you imagine computer-generated or enhanced photos, words, and footage of Allah or Muhammad making its way through the streets of Muslim cities? Remember, I'm sort of being facetious. Sure, some would identify it immediately as a fraud, but can you imagine people who have no CNN/MSNBC/NY Times/independent press seeing a fake Bin Laden or Al Qaeda telling them what to do? Intelligence agencies inserting false commands among the military and leaders of the terrorist organizations? Their communication structure at best is patched together and extremely vulnerable both in terms of time taken to pass messages, and the verification of authenticity in such messages. This is a huge exploit to be taken advantage of.
Overall, the effect is to make the earth tremble through words, to throw the terrorists and their supporters off balance through techniques they have never encountered before, to make them lose their morale and reason for fighting, to make them question their own beliefs and the inevitable result of their actions. Propaganda is a great tool, despite what people say about most of our targets being illiterate and impervious to such techniques. I think that propaganda is even more effective against people who have no distributed communications than against an industrial, well-connected opponent.
At the same time, of course, propaganda must be used to placate the rabid anti-American Americans in the US, who have the potential to arouse so much distrust of the government and military and lack of confidence so as to render attempts to stop terrorists on their own home turf useless. Do people have a right to free speech? Of course. But personally I think much of the anti-American and anti-war rhetoric in this case is outdated and irrelevant.
And then underneath all of it, of course, the RIGHT THING MUST BE DONE. The US must try to temper its support of Israel and appear to want peace for both sides, with fair terms. Arguably they are doing this now, but most don't think so. For those who say the US must stop dealing with Israel altogether, they must be ignorant of the fact that it'd be MORE irresponsible to NOT try to mitigate things in that region. For those who say the US has always meddled, they disrespect the fact that the Jews have been continual targets of genocide and terrorism since thousands of years ago. Not to slight the Palestinians, who also have claim to the land. But some people astonish me with their ignorance of reality, which is that both groups are there to stay, not going anywhere, and they'd probably blow each other up if no one else was there to try and help.
Bin Laden must be captured. I don't care what the fuck you think about making him a martyr or whatnot. Keeping him alive is far worse. The Saddam effect. Do you think that assassinating a president does not weaken a nation, but only gives rise to a new wave of American presidents? Leaders provide hope and guidance and experience to those below them, and the absence of leaders makes even the most motivated groups of people powerless and ineffective. Terrorists are not like the US military -- the command structure is a short list. Most are mindless, vision-less boys with no intelligence or survival skills. Think of our mafia. Any mafia, really.
Capturing Bin Laden and his advisors and bringing them to justice in a court of law is crucial towards morale and support for anti-terrorism effects.
It seems clear to me that the Islamic countries will be completely useless to the coalition. They are so wishy-washy that they are unreliable. They will only take the coalition's side once good things start happening. They are full of politicians who don't want to be caught on the wrong side in a conflict. They're in control of people who know only what they're told. Such totalitarian countries are houses of cards, and when you attack the base, the rest crumbles. Compare that to an attack on the US, which is far more distributed, like the Internet, and could withstand crippling blows against its cities and people and still mobilize all its people and government/military agencies into a stable country.
Do not be afraid! The terrorists are wise in the ways of propaganda. They put up a big front of scare tactics and possibilities of attack, but in the end are not capable of mounting huge offensives. It is about time we stop recording our silly pop covers of old kumbayah songs, whining about how we shouldn't "let the terrorists win" while we bawl our eyes out, and do other silly stuff that only encourages terrorists. Terrorists' barks are always worse than their bite, and the US's bark right now is far less than ITS bite. The US can unleash the most devastating things in all respects upon even the most scattered enemy. But it's important to act swiftly, and to suppress the terrorists using military technology, and then mount a propaganda machine of our own to erode the will of the terrorists, and then use good old-fashioned American knowhow to clean up the rest.
Most of all, it is important for the US and other strong members of the coalition to realize that what we're doing is right. Anti-American and anti-war people have good points -- the US has indeed made huge mistakes in intelligence and acceptance of other countries' sovereignty and disrespect of other countries, but it is still trying to do the right thing in the end. Only history will tell us, I guess, but my money is on the bet that says the US promotes peace and diversity in the long run, and not organizations like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and even the dictatorships and totalitarian regimes that exist elsewhere in the world.
I guess if you disagree, you need some fucking perspective. And you need to stop stating the obvious: things like how Islam is peaceful and legitimate, and how people have their own reasons for hating the US, and whatnot. Well, DUH, but that doesn't actually SUGGEST any solutions to the problem, does it? Try to be constructive for once.
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