Rumsfeld: U.S. Losing Battle of Ideas
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the students of the Army War College that the United States is losing the battle of ideas. In response to a question, he replied, “If I were grading I would say we probably deserve a `D’ or a `D-plus’ as a country as to how well we’re doing in the battle of ideas that’s taking place in the world today. I’m not going to suggest that it’s easy, but we have not found the formula as a country” for countering the extremists’ message.
He said the al-Qaida terrorist network and affiliated Islamic extremists are the most brutal enemies the United States has ever seen. Rumsfeld cited several examples of vicious terrorist assaults, including the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and warned that unless the terrorists are stopped they will continue to seek the means to launch even deadlier attacks on the West in the years ahead. “The enemy we face may be the most brutal in our history,” Rumsfeld said. “They currently lack only the means _ not the desire _ to kill, murder millions of innocent people with weapons vastly more powerful than boarding passes and box cutters,” he added, referring to the terrorists who hijacked the airliners Sept. 11.
Rumsfeld said progress is being made in the global war on terror, particularly in making it more difficult for terrorist groups to recruit, train, raise money, establish sanctuaries and acquire weapons. But he stressed that more needs to be done. “The strategy must do a great deal more to reduce the lure of the extremist ideology by standing with those moderate Muslims advocating peaceful change, freedom and tolerance,” he said.
Rumsfeld noted that his audience included an Afghan military officer and one from Iraq. “We welcome you and are proud to stand with you in the cause of freedom,” the defense secretary said.
That’s about right. Rumsfeld’s words echo those of British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivered last week:
This terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas, the poison that warps the minds of its adherents, are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core. By this I don’t mean telling them terrorism is wrong. I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd; their concept of governance pre-feudal; their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive; and then since only by Muslims can this be done: standing up for and supporting those within Islam who will tell them all of this but more, namely that the extremist view of Islam is not just theologically backward but completely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Koran.
But in order to do this, we must reject the thought that somehow we are the authors of our own distress; that if only we altered this decision or that, the extremism would fade away. The only way to win is: to recognise this phenomenon is a global ideology; to see all areas, in which it operates, as linked; and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists.
Neither man explained how, exactly, to improve our effectiveness in the ideological battle, though. Presumably, the US and UK have been trying for at least five years now.