The war of ideas

In thinking about the ideological component of 4GW and our current war  I found myself thinking about the dotcom boom. I didn’t play any role in it, but rather watched from afar. It was a very exciting time. There was an explosion of entrepreneurship and people were coming up with all kinds of crazy business ideas. But it wasn’t a top down, centrally planned phenomena. People were driven by a vision. A vision of a new era: the endless possibilities of  the internet, a New Economy that operated by new rules, and the possibility of great wealth.  For our purposes it doesn’t really matter that most of the dotcoms went bust as the old economy realities dissolved the fantasies of the New Economy. What is important is that this is an example of how thousands of people all over the world could be inspired by a vision to create civil society institutions.
Now as we know the Islamic fundamentalists are also inspired by a powerful and compelling vision. And they are creating all kinds of civil society institutions in addition to the terrorist cells, training camps etc. Glenn Reynolds posted an excerpt from an article Thursday describing the institutions created in London that are promoting the jihadist agenda:
“In the past decade, the United Kingdom’s undisputed political, economic, and cultural center has also become a major world center of political Islam and anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American activism. Through its Arabic-language newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses, not to mention its flourishing network of bookshops, mosques, and community centers, radical Islam has taken full advantage of what British democracy has to offer for its anti-Western goals, reaping the benefits of London’s significance as a hub of global finance, electronic media, and mass communications.”
This is 4GW in action. The challenge that we face in the ideological war against radical Islam is finding a way to foster “Arabic-language newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses… flourishing network of bookshops, mosques, and community centers” that are promoting democratic ideals and institutions. How can we communicate a vision of a free and democratic society that will inspire people throughout the Muslim world to create civil society institutions and offer an appealing alternative to that of the Islamic fundamentalists? We can’t expect Muslims to be inspired by the vision of democracy if we in the Western democracies are not. We have to be driven by our own vision in order to be able to inspire people in the Muslim world with an alternative to radical Islam.
Usually when we address the issues of fighting an enemy, we are talking about what we think the military, CIA, State Department and other government entities should do. But because in 4GW
the enemy is using our own rich and thriving civil society to their benefit, not only to spread their ideas to potential recruits, but also to attack our culture, shouldn’t we then develop a civil society strategy to oppose that of the enemy? So what would a 4GW civil society strategy look like? It would certainly start with people who are driven by a passion for their own culture and its ideals and are willing to make the effort to create institutions to defend them. And there is no role for government here, this isn’t about founding organizations to influence policy. This strategy would bypass government altogether, both our own government and others, and would fight the ideological war within civil society, at home and abroad. What kinds of institutions would these be? Which would be the most effective at fighting a 4GW ideological war?

One thought on “The war of ideas”

  1. Phil,

    Wonderful post!

    If we want something up quick, we would use the world’s technological infrastructure to have a “running start”

    Sites like Iraq the Model, Big Pharoah, and others are a part of this: certain people in the Gap are technologically savy, and we can start building a Gap blogosphere creating a non-governmental forum for debate, discussion, and analysis. A respected blog can become a one-man NGO.

    A side point: The comparison to the dot-com boom is interesting. The bubble was caused when people overestimated revolutionary changes in communications. Could al Qaeda be doing the same thing — overestimating its new global reach in a radically changing world? Are we living in a “terrorism bubble”?

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