Do They Want Us To Win?

Reuel Marc Gerecht examines the kerfluffle over “propaganda” in this war:

Once again we are confronted with stories about how the Pentagon and its ubiquitous private contractors are undermining free inquiry in Iraq. “Muslim Scholars Were Paid to Aid U.S. Propaganda,” reports the New York Times. Journalists, intellectuals or clerics taking money from Uncle Sam or, in this case, a Washington-based public relations company, is seen as morally troubling and counterproductive. Sensible Muslims obviously would not want to listen to the advice of an American-paid consultant; anti-insurgent Sunni clerics can now all be slurred as corrupt stooges.

There is one big problem with this baleful version of events. Historically, it doesn’t make much sense. The United States ran enormous covert and not-so-covert operations known as “CA” activities throughout the Cold War. With the CIA usually in the lead, Washington spent hundreds of millions of dollars on book publishing, magazines, newspapers, radios, union organizing, women’s and youth groups, scholarships, academic foundations, intellectual salons and societies, and direct cash payments to individuals (usually scholars, public intellectuals and journalists) who believed in ideas that America thought worthy of support.

It’s difficult to assess the influence of these covert-action programs. But when an important Third World political leader writes that a well-known liberal Western book had an enormous impact on his intellectual evolution — a book that, unbeknownst to him was translated and distributed in his country at CIA expense — then it’s clear that the program had value. It shouldn’t be that hard for educated Americans to support such activity, even though one often can’t gauge its effectiveness.

If we weren’t using some kind of “propaganda” to help democratic values take root in the Middle East, we’d be failing to understand the nature of this war. We’re in the midst of a struggle that is as much, if not more, about ideology than it is about military force. The only way we can win this war is to win it in both a military and an intellectual sphere. And the breathless reporting of irresponsible liberal journalists at The New York Times and others is making that more difficult.

The whole issue of “propaganda” is another sign of why I don’t think the left wants us to win this war. The left has cultivated a deeply-rooted sense of anti-Americanism that permeates much of the reporting coming out of places like Iraq. It’s assumed that a program that helps Iraq developed a civil society is somehow wrong and equated with base “propaganda” – why, because it’s American “propaganda”. Never mind the fact that Iraq is awash in al-Qaeda propaganda, apparently we have to fight this war based on the notions of absolute purity concocted by some effete Manhattan liberal rather than actually fight the enemy.

Given the choice between blowing up a Sunni insurgent or convincing him to join the democratic process, it should be pretty easy to choose what’s the better option. Gerecht is quite right, programs which cultivate democratic voices in Iraq should be looked at as excellent ways of fighting the ideological aspect of this war.

It’s somewhat ironic that the military is the most trusted actor in American society while the mainstream media is the least trusted, according to the last Kennedy Center poll. From the arrogant attitude of The New York Times one would think it the other way around – the media’s constant barrage of ignorant criticism demonstrates a worldview that would tie the hands of this country to fight a group that has already slaughtered thousands of innocents, including the victims of the 9/11 atrocity. Yet the liberal mainstream media remains completely and utterly out of touch with the realities of warfare.

We’re fighting one of the most difficult enemies we’ve ever had to face, and yet the media seems startlingly unconcerned with the concept of achieving victory in this war. It’s not at all unsurprising that many people are asking where the media’s real loyalties lie – and why one should trust a group that uncritically accepts the word of the enemy and continually slanders those whose blood paid for their right to speak. Being critical of one side but not the other is not “objectivity” but just a sign of a deep and pernicious bias.

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