Thursday, January 12, 2006

Beacon No. 76: Let’s Start with the Guys at the Top


Fellow policy wonk Andy Valvur points me to the right-ish RealClearPolitics site, where Tony Corn’s “World War IV as Fourth-Generation Warfare” has attracted attention mainly for its back-of-the-envelope estimate of how many suicide bombers the West may face:

Even if only 1 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims were to end up being seduced by the global jihad, the West and moderate Muslim regimes would still have to deal with some 12 million jihadists spread across more than 60 countries. And if only 1 percent of these 12 million were to opt for “martyrdom operations,” the West would still have to deal, for a generation at least, with some 120,000 suicide bombers.

But Corn's larger agenda is to frame global jihad and potential responses to it so that State and Defense can avoid inefficiencies secondary to today's “heterogeneous concepts, doctrines, lenses, frames of reference, metrics, etc.”

From a public-diplomacy standpoint, salient point in Corn’s roughly 10,000 words is that he eschews the bottom-up, hearts-and-minds, I’m-a-mom-too approach that’s in vogue at State right now. Since the countries where the U.S. most needs to change hearts and minds are dictatorships or at least authoritarian regimes, Corn argues, let’s focus on the minds (and religion) of the elites for a generation and watch the results trickle down:

... The destiny of 1.2 billion Muslims is today inordinately shaped by a few thousand Saudi princes, Egyptian clerics, and Gulf news editors, and that therefore the guiding principle of the war of ideas should be the principle of economy of force. Don’t say, for instance, “Islam needs its Martin Luther,” if only because his 95 theses ushered in a 150-year-long bloody insurgency within Christendom. Say instead, “The Saudi Caliphate needs to undertake its own Vatican II.”


First, in the Middle East, not only is political power in the hands of the military, but the armed forces are also economic actors in their own right, and incentives will have to be found if we ever want to see the military disengage from economic life. Second, the promotion by the West of a Russian-style “shock therapy” approach would not only alienate the Muslim Street (and thus undermine the battle for hearts and minds), but it would also be the surest way to contribute to the emergence of new mafia states. One thing is sure: Between phase one (religion-shaping and knowledge-building) and phase two (state-shrinking and market-building) of a forward strategy of freedom, the two crucial target audiences of public diplomacy and information operations will have to be not women and youth (the current fashion), but the Muslim clergy (first line of offense) and the Muslim military (first line of defense). [Emphasis mine.--PK] When it comes to the battle for hearts and minds in the Middle East, the old Clausewitzian trinity (government, people, military) will have to give way to a more focused mullah-media-military trinity.

It’s also interesting that Corn’s piece discusses exploiting the dialogue within Islam and within the Sunni-drive Iraq insurgency just as the opportunity to do so is ripening.

Corn’s paper is laced with the kinds of jargon he claims to dislike—note that “mullah-media-military” line even though he finds Barnett’s “disconnectedness defines danger” to be “crude and misleading”—but it’s worth sitting down with the paper and a cup of coffee for an unsentimental view at what the U.S. might do in both hard and soft power.

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