The Education of Doug Feith
Posted by Patrick Barry
It's not at all surprising to read today's New York Times opinion section and find that Doug Feith continues to be a font of lazy thinking. This time he uses the tragic bombing of a shrine to Pashtun Poet Rhaman Baba to outline his scheme for countering Islamic extremism through a public diplomacy initiative patterned after Radio Free Europe:
The United States conducted impressive strategic communications during the cold war. Radio Free Europe, Voice of America and other programs conveyed information and ideas that contributed to the discrediting and ultimate defeat of Soviet communism.
Strategic communications directed at the Muslim World, patterned after Radio Free Europe? Sorry Doug, maybe you shuld have gotten involved with al-Hurra, the Bush administration's attempt to replicate the success of Cold-War era public diplomacy, but which has been widely regarded as a sham by the Muslim world.
There is unquestionably a need for the U.S. to update its public diplomacy infrastructure. But to do it via analogies that show no appreciation for the complexities of the audience we're trying to reach, such as how a conservative, sometimes violent strand of Islam reacts with longstanding political and juridical grievances (see Joshua White discuss the current state of affairs in Swat), is just not the way to go.