A Defunct Paradigm That’s Got to Change, by Daniel Pipes (Jerusalem Post)
“Western governments ‘need to see public relations as part of their strategy.’
The West is fortunate to predominate in the military and economic arenas, but these no longer suffice. Along with its enemies, it needs to give due attention to the public relations of war.”
Soldiers, sailors, and airmen once determined the outcome of warfare, but no longer. Today, television producers, columnists, preachers, and politicians have the pivotal role in deciding how well the West fights. This shift has deep implications.
In a conventional conflict like World War II, fighting had two premises so basic, they went nearly unnoticed. The first: Conventional armed forces engage in an all-out fight for victory. The opposing sides deploy serried ranks of soldiers, lines of tanks, fleets of ships, and squadrons of aircraft. Millions of youth go to war as civilians endure privations. Strategy and intelligence matter, but the size of one’s population, economy, and arsenal count even more. An observer can assess the progress of war by keeping tabs of such objective factors as steel output, oil stocks, ship construction, and control of land.
Both aspects of this paradigm are now defunct in the West.
FIRST, BATTLING all-out for victory against conventional enemy forces has nearly disappeared, replaced by the more indirect challenge of guerrilla operations, insurgencies, intifadas, and terrorism.
Second, the solidarity and consensus of old have unraveled. This process has been underway for just over a century now (starting with the British side of the Boer War in 1899-1902). As I wrote in 2005: “The notion of loyalty has fundamentally changed. Traditionally, a person was assumed faithful to his natal community.
That assumption is now obsolete, replaced by a loyalty to one’s political community – socialism, liberalism, conservatism, or Islamism, to name some options. Geographical and social ties matter much less than of old.”
With loyalties now in play, wars are decided more on the op-ed pages and less on the battlefield. Good arguments, eloquent rhetoric, subtle spin-doctoring, and strong poll numbers count more than taking a hill or crossing a river. Solidarity, morale, loyalty, and understanding are the new steel, rubber, oil, and ammunition. Opinion leaders are the new flag and general officers. Therefore, as I wrote in August, Western governments “need to see public relations as part of their strategy.”
Even in a case like the Iranian regime’s acquisition of atomic weaponry, Western public opinion is the key, not its arsenal. If united, Europeans and Americans will likely dissuade Iranians from going ahead with nuclear weapons. If disunited, Iranians will be emboldened to plunge ahead.
Non-Western strategists recognize the primacy of politics and focus on it. A string of triumphs – Algeria in 1962, Vietnam in 1975, and Afghanistan in 1989 – all relied on eroding political will. Al-Qaida’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, recently codified this idea, observing that more than half of the Islamists’ battle “is taking place in the battlefield of the media.”
The West is fortunate to predominate in the military and economic arenas, but these no longer suffice. Along with its enemies, it needs to give due attention to the public relations of war.
The writer, based in Philadelphia, is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures.
The point of Pipes’ article relates heavily in Israel as well. The Arabs at all levels invest heavily in public relations, foreign language (particularly English) articulation and diction. Whereas, Israel’s Hasbara is made up, at all levels from various Senior Government Ministers, Foreign Ministry Ambassadorship appointments down to various spokesmen and sh’lichim, of fumbling, bumbling individuals going around the world speaking in heavily accented, broken English who issue statements and speak with an inability to string together even one complete, properly structured English sentence.
Further, Israel’s Hasbara, as currently constituted, lacks integration into an overall military/security strategy. Representatives are incapable of making cogent arguments in language the world can understand and relate to. They are totally incompetent in fields such as internet, such as understanding and debunking photo-trickery such as what dominated the Lebanon hostilities to Israel’s detriment.
Indeed, Pipes’ “Defunct Paradigm” has Israel written all over it.
But the bottomline is, if Jews do what Jews are supposed to do, all of this means nothing. As long as Military/Foreign Policy/Security decisions are made based on self-enhancement, self-benefit, self-aggrandisement, and “superpower” cheshbonot, i.e. Rav Kahane’s old adage “George Bush, not The Burning Bush”, the consequence is fumbling, bumbling and incoherence in in projecting Israel to the world has the look and smell of appeasement. MB