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U.S. Middle East Policy

‘They hate our policies, not our freedom’

Pentagon report contains major criticisms of administration.

By Tom Regan
Christian Science Monitor
November 29, 2004

Late on the Wednesday afternoon before the Thanksgiving holiday, the US Defense Department confirmed the contents of a report by the Defense Science Board that is highly critical of the administration’s efforts in the war on terror and in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report had been originally placed on the DSB’s website in early November.

‘Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies [the report says]. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.’

The Pentagon confirmed the study after The New York Times ran a story about the report in its Wednesday editions.

The Defense Science Board, reports Disinfopedia, is “a Federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense.”

‘The current Board is authorized to consist of thirty-two members plus seven ex officio members’: the chairmen of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Policy, Ballistic Missile Defense Advisory Committee, and Defense Intelligence Agency Science and Technology Advisory Committee. ‘Members, whose appointed terms range from one to four years, are selected on the basis of their preeminence in the fields of science, technology and its application to military operations, research, engineering, manufacturing and acquisition process.’

China’s Xinhuanet reported that the board’s report criticized the US for failing in its efforts to communicate its military and diplomatic actions to the world, and the Muslim world in particular, “but no public relations campaign can save America from flawed policies.” The report also takes the administration to task for talking about Islamic extremism in a way that offends many Muslims.

In stark contrast to the cold war, the United States today is not seeking to contain a threatening state empire, but rather seeking to convert a broad movement within Islamic civilization to accept the value structure of Western Modernity – an agenda hidden within the official rubric of a ‘War on Terrorism,’ [the report states].

MSNBC notes that the report, in a comment that directly goes against statements made by President Bush and senior cabinet members, says the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have united otherwise-divided Muslim extremists and given terrorists organizations like Al Qaeda a boost by “raising their stature.”

In fact, Wired News reported the board as saying, the US has not only failed to separate “the vast majority of nonviolent Muslims from the radical-militant Islamist-Jihadists,” but American efforts may have “achieved the opposite of what they intended.”

Al Jazeera reported Thursday that the board called for the creation of a strategic communication’s “apparatus” within the executive branch and “an overhaul of public diplomacy, public affairs and information dissemination efforts by the Pentagon and State Department.”

If we really want to see the Muslim world as a whole [the report states], and the Arabic-speaking world in particular, move more toward our understanding of moderation and tolerance, we must reassure Muslims that this does not mean that they must submit to the American way.

As columnist Thomas Freidman of The New York Times wrote Monday in an opinion piece, the lack of planning and a ‘clear channel of communication to the Muslim world’ means that the US is losing the PR war to people that “saw off the heads of other Muslims.”

Wars are fought for political ends. Soldiers can only do so much. And the last mile in every war is about claiming the political fruits. The bad guys in Iraq can lose every mile on every road, but if they beat America on the last mile – because they are able to intimidate better than America is able to coordinate, protect, inform, invest and motivate – they will win and America will lose.

The New York Times reported last Wednesday that although the board’s report does not constitute official government policy, it captures “the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire United States government.”

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Additional Resources

Magazine – Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Book – Fallen Pillars: US Policy towards Palestine and Israel since 1945

Book – Fifty Years of Israel

Book – Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts about the U.S.-Israeli Relationship

Book – Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy

Book – Taking Sides: America’s Secret Relations With Militant Israel

Book – Living by the Sword: America and Israel in the Middle East, 1968-87

Book – America and the founding of Israel: An investigation of the morality of America’s role

more resources

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