J. Michael Waller suggest fighting the War of Ideas like a real war (pdf).
Waller suggests that decentralized information operations are the only way to counter Islamist propaganda. It is a military operation to break the enemy’s mythology and supplant it with an American one. This is not a job of diplomats and requires a different mentality than diplomats.
Waller discusses the main points of government communication: Public Diplomacy (handled by the State Department), Public Affairs, Military Information Operations and Psychological Operations. The goal is to marginalize our enemies and show how others have common interests with America.
Public Diplomacy only engages other centralized governments, not the new threats of non-state actors. It’s too slow and inflexible.
The difficulty is countering a decentralized info war. Terror attacks are an information operation. The tactic does not to capture territory, protect resources or establish political control, but to wage Info Warfare. It is the military’s duty to effectively create counter messages to nullify or defeat the enemy in the information sphere. We have experience with this concept from the Cold War. In many respects, this is Cold War II.
Waller advises the military to respond directly. This is primarily a military matter and cannot be left up to State Department diplomats who lack the ability to counter enemy propaganda.
Decentralized Military Info-Ops are critical for this war. Milbloggers are already changing the nature of reporting in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theatres. Soldiers are the first know comprehend the progress in a war. Their reporting is a valuable indicator. In the past, their only way of communicating was letters home to family. Now, the internet allows them to access a much larger audience in a decentralized way. Military bloggers and public affairs officers can spread news to the American homefront. We can expand this tactic in order to attack and destroy the Islamist propaganda campaign.
He also notes that Islamism is a political ideology, not a religion, so we should engage it. This includes breaking their mythology. We can do so through rational argument, emotional appeal and mockery.
Jokes are a useful tactic.
lolterrorists helps in its own way.
Language is another tool to influence foreign opinion. Jim Guirard introduces The New Lexicon:
To make a medical analogy, this is an enemy which is not in the nature of a state-based, clearly definable tumor to be neatly cut out by a scalpel but is, instead, an ideology-based cancer which been metastasizing for several decades and is attacking far-flung elements of Western Civilization simultaneously and seeking a “death by a thousand cuts” result.
The first of Kilcullen’s five steps toward an effective antidote — a worldwide chemotherapy counterattack — on the raging AQST cancer is his call for “a new lexicon based on the actual, observed characteristics of [our] real enemies …”
In so doing, he clearly recognizes that in order to meet Sun Tzu’s ancient admonition that we must “Know The Enemy,” we absolutely must have a truthful common language by which to achieve that end and then to communicate such knowledge effectively to multiple audiences.
Irhab means terror. Hirabah means Unholy War and is the opposite of Jihad. Takfir means apostates and those hostile to Islam. And so on.
This is actually working in the Middle East. Many Iraqis deeply hate Islamism and Al-Qaeda following AQIs terror campaign. Al-qaeda men are sometimes called takfiris.
The words need to be true however. Al-Qaeda has killed tens of thousands of Muslims over the past few years. By doing so, they revealed the emptiness of their idea of “Jihad”. Al-Qaeda’s primary enemy has always been the “Near Enemy” – the Muslim governments and their supporters. Al-Qaeda and Islamist political parties have to fight an uphill battle for legitimacy as they attack Muslims.
This was actually the problem Zawahiri attempted to resolve by directing terrorist attacks against Americans and other non-Muslim countries. The American response brought this struggle back to its roots in the Middle East.