July 27, 2005

"Listening" and "wanting to learn more" is not enough, not even close.

Anne Applebaum does not think Karen Hughes is at all up to the job that was just handed to her:
Her formal title is undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. In plain English, her job is to fight anti-Americanism, promote American culture and above all to do intellectual battle with the ideology of radical Islam, a set of beliefs so powerful that they can persuade middle-class, second-generation British Muslims to blow themselves up on buses and trains.

Presumably, President Bush selected Hughes for this task because she was very good at running his election campaigns. And indeed, in the testimony she gave last week to a nearly empty room, she sounded like she was still running an election campaign. Like Hillary Clinton, she said she wanted people around the world to know that she would be "listening" to them: "I want to learn more about you and your lives, what you believe, what you fear, what you dream, what you value most." Like Jesse Jackson, she deployed alliteration, alluding to the four "E's": "engagement, exchanges, education and empowerment."
Much more is needed, Applebaum writes:
[W]e need to monitor the intellectual and theological struggle for the soul of Islam, and we need to help the moderates win. This means making sure that counter-arguments are heard whenever and wherever Muslim clerics and intellectuals are talking, despite the impact of Saudi money.

The United States has engaged in a project like this once before. In the 1950s and '60s, the West European left was also bitterly divided, with social democrats on one side and pro-Soviet communists on the other. We backed the social democrats. CIA money was used, for example, to found Encounter, a small but influential magazine whose editors promoted not just pro-Americanism but also the principles of democracy and capitalism, largely through allowing both sides to argue their cases.

Read the whole thing!


Joaquin said...

"help the moderates win"
Win what?
What does that mean when there is a deafening silence from the Muslim world??
"monitor the intellectual and theological struggle for the soul of Islam"
What struggle?
What we need to monitor are Muslim males in the US between the ages of 15 to 45!

Robert Holmgren said...

Ann Applebaum thought Karen Hughes job was important enough to do a column about how she has failed before starting. Nothing about Democrats not attending the hearings that approved her. Such is the stuff of the free pass given by the press for one party.

amba said...

Thanks, great find. Applebaum is so lucid.

knox said...

It seems to me that what makes Hughes' position so difficult is that the extremist propaganda she's supposed to counter-act is being presented in religious terms. I don't see how anyone but fellow moderate Muslims, arguing in religious terms, are going to be able to effectively combat it and thereby influence or change minds. An excerpt from the article says:

"the documents denounce moderate Muslims, especially those who advocate religious tolerance, as infidels. If a Muslim commits adultery or becomes a homosexual, one pamphlet...advises that "it would be lawful for Muslims to spill his blood and take his money." "

Part of me also isn't interested in engaging "intellectually" with stupid invective like that. It seems as fruitless as trying to rationalize with a bigot or homophobe. I don't envy her that job...

I'm Full of Soup said...

Would someone please remind to email Applebaum and rebuke her for failing to include one of the key Dem talking points.... we are not "winning the peace or the hearts and minds of the Muslim world".

btw, Dax and Menlo Bob nailed her quite nicely.

Aaron said...

I usually like Anne Applebaum. She is right that this is an important task. I'd say that given who Karen Hughes is to the President he takes it more seriously than the Dem's who never showed up. I suppose if they did they might have to make recommendations on what to do about the situation. Something Ms. Applebaum was rather light on. Furthermore - if the Dem's are unwilling to show leadership and advocate for the war on terror to our own citizens what help will they be reaching out to European or Middle Eastern muslims.

It strikes me that having a free press in Iraq where there are different religious voices might be a big help on this front down the road.

It would be interesting if someone knowledgeable discussed what it would take to create media outlets in Europe that reach Muslim communities. What about the European countries themselves? They seem more attached to anti-Americanism than dealing with issues of assimilation. It will be very difficult to reach Muslim communities when the European host country is also starting from an inhospitable political climate to America's messages.

I suppose support for American initiatives is secondary. What we want to create in the Islamic world is a climate where randomly killing innocents is repugnant. Seems like a pretty short debate to hold. It is odd that this needs to be debated at all.

Joaquin said...

Aaron - Presently, that debate is NOT being held in the Muslim world. It never has been held.

Aaron said...

Dax - I think you are wrong. This debate has been held. We just don't agree with the outcome. There are lots of Fatwas saying that it IS ok to kill innocents - as well as yourself. You get a bunch of ass in return. Or - if you are a woman you get ass for your husband, father, or brother. What we want is a debate where the non-blow-yourself-up and kill some kids or whatever side gets the stamp of religious approval. Has even one American Imam issued a fatwa against terrorism? I know one Spanish Imam did post 3/11. Yay! Maybe what we want is the State department to makea propaganda program that will cause muslims to mostly ignore their religious leaders. They can become the Islamic equivalent of Unitarians.