James K Glassman: America knows that bullets alone will not win this war

Share
Related Topics

Public diplomacy is, very simply, diplomacy aimed at publics, as opposed to officials. While some people associate it with marketing – with building a national brand – the truth is that public diplomacy, like official diplomacy and like military action, has as its mission the achievement of the national interest. Public diplomacy performs this mission by understanding, informing, engaging, and persuading foreign publics.

As the American Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, said recently: "Over the long term, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory. Non-military efforts – tools of persuasion and inspiration – were indispensable to the outcome of the defining struggle of the 20th century. They are just as indispensable in the 21st century – and perhaps even more so."

This is a statement that helps define the new age of public diplomacy. And, as Mr Gates' words reflect, there is now a broad consensus in Washington that public diplomacy is essential to defeating the violent extremist threat, to promoting freedom and social justice. In fact, I would argue – and many in the Pentagon would agree – that, in this struggle, ideas are more important than bullets.

While winning hearts and minds would be an admirable feat, the war of ideas adopts the more immediate and realistic goal of diverting impressionable segments of the population from the recruitment process. Ideological engagement comes down to a contest of visions.

Going beyond diversion, we seek to build counter-movements by empowering those opposed to violent extremism – movements (using both electronic and physical means) that bring people together with similar, constructive interests, such as women opposed to violent extremism , believers in democratic Islam, entrepreneurship, and technology.

Our work is ahead of us. There is a widespread belief in Muslim nations that the United States and other Western powers want to destroy Islam and replace it with Christianity. This root belief underlies much of the passive support for the violent extremism of al-Qa'ida and similar groups. The flow of new recruits has not stopped.

Have we been slow to react, to get it right? Yes, indeed. "Sometimes it is the case that democracies don't really organise themselves until there's a real wake-up call," said my boss, the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. "Now this country and, I would say, the international community are better organised to deal with this threat."

In the end, the American mission in this new age of public diplomacy is to tell the world of a good and compassionate nation and, at the same time, to engage in the most important ideological contest of our age.

James Glassman, the US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, was speaking at Chatham House last week

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all