Anti-Terrorism Critical Success Factors: Propaganda (AKA Communication) and Morale

Volume 4, Issue 30

Map of Middle East

Propaganda (my stipulated definition) is any attempt to influence by any means — a very broad definition including advertising, much of marketing, packaging, and even product and service design.

The advertising business received many high-ranking former OSS (the CIA of the time) officers, indicating the existing two-way street between these disciplines. Volunteers from the advertising industry do pro bono work for most public service announcements and would pitch in if called upon by the US for help communicating the messages we most need to get across to soldiers fighting terrorists, terrorists, potential future terrorists, victims of terrorists, allies, potential allies, and everyone else.

Propaganda in my view can be waged most effectively with the weapon of The Truth.

ISIS (or ISIL) is, as we all know, the cadre of terrorists using the predictable propaganda weapon of declaring themselves the world’s first Islamic State. In retrospect, it’s a wonder this hasn’t happened before now.

Courage is an emotion that depends on feeling that one is in the right. We can observe in animals that those defending their own territory fight harder than those who would casually invade. However, the intruder can shake the confidence of the defender, and that changes the odds.

ISIS's clever albeit obvious propaganda innovation has caused the Iraqi army to fear them despite the best of American training and weapons (UK Guardian reports US to increase flow of weapons and Iraqi news reports 13,000 US troops arrive). This is because the claim to being the Islamic State inevitably makes a Muslim wonder What if ISIS is in the right? Wondering this, without closure, reduces the Iraqi army’s will to fight ISIS, and generates the worrisome thought that if Allah is actually on their side, of course that will cause ISIS to win.

Propaganda and morale are closely intertwined. Effective propaganda can lower the enemy’s morale and change the odds in a fight. The best propaganda unites everyone including noncombatants on one’s own side, and reduces the confidence of the other side including their noncombatants. This is the decisive factor, above and beyond weapons systems, training, and sheer numbers.

And we have not been playing the game well lately. The US has signaled that we are divided, tied up in our own shorts and so can be messed with. We have not communicated our policies clearly so that everyone can follow the logic and see us as the good guys. This has gone so far as to cause some of us to wonder if we are the good guys. If this nonsense does not stop now, we are going to continue to drift into a much worse situation. And Iraq is the place where it is likely to start — the same place where civilization started, full circle.

Just before the US invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam, some predicted such a war would cause the resumption of the centuries-old civil war. It was also predicted that the country would be left too weak to defend itself and would be invaded by its neighbors. Both of these dire warnings came true following the removal of US troops as insisted upon by the Iraqi government and as prayed for by a large proportion of Americans. Iranian, Syrian, and Lebanese (Hezbollah) forces are operating in Iraq, the US is arming the Iraqi army and the Kurds, many countries are considering doing something whether in the air or on the ground, and the brewing of something big and nasty is pretty obvious.

It would be good to learn how to communicate well in a situation like this — and fast.

First of all, the emphasis should be on drawing a distinction between Islam and ISIS. The ground should be cut away on which ISIS stands as the Islamic State. The US and the world should clearly state that any nation wishing to make one religion its basis has the sovereign right to do that. The US and many other countries prefer and strongly embrace freedom of religion and thought for themselves, but that selfsame humanitarian spirit behooves everyone to allow a person or nation to make its own choices. We have to make it clear that we are not fighting Religious Statism, even though we would not choose to live in such a state. We are simply continuing to fight people who are murderers, people who make you fight them therefore who must be fought, even though we would prefer to make peace. Someone who seems insanely determined to kill you in the most humiliating way possible has to be stood up to and controlled, changed, jailed, or killed, because self-defense is defensible.

Allah through the Koran has revealed: “Hasten to virtuous deeds.” Or as Jesus put the same message, “Judge them by the fruit of their actions.” How virtuous is it when ISIS brutally kills children? Is ISIS virtuous enough to be calling itself an Islamic state or is that claim itself an offense against Islam?

The Koran also says “Be cautious of them, lest they seduce you.” Implying that “If someone says they are coming from Me, check them out carefully” — and judge them by their effects not their claims.

Until our propaganda is more effective than theirs in every city and village and dwelling in the world, we are not doing all that we can to make the world a better place. This is priority number one. And we can become far more effective communicators and truthfully-inspired propagandists. We certainly have the abundance of patriotic and humanistic creative/media talent for it, in the advertising/ entertainment industries and everywhere else.

Best to all,

Bill

PS — Thank you for the many positive emails about the serialized story of The Great Being. The series will continue in future issues, interspersed with other stories I am more inspired to write at the time. cool

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