Saturday, April 9, 2016

America’s war of ideas

Nida Khan,

image (not from article) from

America has an overwhelming presence in the international system, is a state responsible for global peace and security, a state is known to be a prospered democracy and a state recognized as a super power, but when a Muslim is asked about how he sees the America’s role in the world the answer is not very positive. After the Great War, during the era of cold war, America had managed to build cordial relations in the Muslim world. There existed a comparative harmony between the west and the east; it was mostly because American public diplomacy was effectively fashioning the public opinion that was in the favour of America.

Post 9/11 the American policy of non-intervention shifted to the policy of intervention and the American public relation activities got stalled. At the same time, Bush administration waged a War against Terrorism and steered the operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Since then the America has failed in its war of ideas. Therefore, the reason behind the rise of Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world is the limited approach to public diplomacy. These two major operations were somehow more targeted towards the Muslim Integrity than it was War against Terrorism.

The questions that rise are first, where have the American Public diplomacy failed? Second, Does American approach to post 9/11 policies more Islam-centric? Third, were the nation branding efforts by America justified? And lastly, do the Americans ever consider why the Muslims have Anti-American sentiments?

When the Bush administration launched the War against Terrorism, a lead instrument in the battle for hearts and minds was Public Diplomacy, but it was second to the military offensive. Though the concept regarding Public Diplomacy that prevailed was explained by Lee Hamilton, co-chair of the influential 9/11 Commission, “Public diplomacy is how we stop them from coming here to kill us.”America adopted the two-prong objective of U.S. public diplomacy that required promoting the values of hope and freedom while demoting and isolating the extremist message of hate and fear, but this policy was applied in a way that created an image of Muslim in the western world that was not pleasant. Muslims were now being perceived as the terrorist and then they started to have Anti-American sentiments.

Despite the efforts made by Bush administration, the American Public diplomacy failed to communicate with the Muslim world. These failures were the lessons for current Obama regime; it is said that Obama’s administration was a game changer in the Muslim world. In his inaugural address, he spoke openly to the Muslim world stating “mutual interest and mutual respect.” It was during his regime that gave rise to the idea that every Muslim is not a terrorist, and every American is not anti-Muslim.

Still the American media is stereotyping the Muslims in their dramas, movies and more recently election camping. This is where the American public diplomacy fails again. In movies like GI Joe: Retaliation (2013), Iron Man 3, Dear John, etc. TV series like Home Land they have presented the American soldiers as the victims and created the perception that Muslims around the world support terrorism. Constructing the medium that is one way, the Americans do not get the opportunity to listen to the others side, however creating the perception that has damaged the public relations in the Muslim world. Therefore, another reason that America is always failing in their public diplomacy is that their local public is not willing to see the Muslims as the normal peace loving people, which in turn has concreted the Anti-Americanism in the hearts of the Muslims.

Somehow if we compare the previous Bush regime and the current Obama regime, the latter has been successful in maintaining the peaceful relations. Muslims had started to have some faith in the American policies, Obama’s constant support towards the Arab world, interest in Pakistan and declaring terrorist with no religion were some of the steps towards the new beginnings. But the recent election camping’s done by the Donald Trump are weakening the trust that was build.

A recent statement by the American presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has again created doubt in the minds of the Muslim world. The open hate speech against the Muslims is making America lose its legitimacy and respect. Since the 9/11 Muslims have been the open target in the name of extremism and unjustly judged by the American population. In order to eliminate fear and panic from their country, they have distorted the image of Muslims among their own population.

At this moment what America need is not to pick a fight with the whole civilization, it is the state of opportunities, and Muslim world has the talent. What America need is to rebrand itself and educate their population about the Muslim community by creating the scenarios where the two can meet and talk. The two-way communication is essential at this moment because the Muslim world is not being heard and they need the voice to their opinions.

The anti-American sentiments are rising, and Muslims are wrongfully being accused of the extremist activities. Right now the global peace and security is at stake and instead of solving this problem America is busy playing the blame game, thus igniting the situations to its worst. The pigeon-holing done by the America has created the wall between east and west, a wall that is not of bricks but of minds and hearts and once this wall is well-founded, it’s difficult to break it down. America may be able to win back its legitimacy of being a superpower, but they may not be able to reclaim the hearts and minds of the Muslims with their current policies.

America is said to be a great nation but the battle of strength cannot be won without the battle of ideas, and this is where Americans lack efficiency. Any religion or state do not support terrorism, and America needs to recognize this. They have to change their approach of either you are with us or against us, to a neutral one. They have to fight the terrorism, not the states that have fall victim to menace.

The writer is a student of BDDS at Fatimah Jinnah Women University.

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