During the past week we learned a great deal about the nature of our enemies. We also learned a great deal about ourselves. If we draw the proper lessons from what we have seen we will go far toward winning the war.
With their ghoulish presentations at the UN General Assembly, both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made clear their hostile intentions, their disdain for freedom and their foes, and their fanatical intent to use all murderous means toward their totalitarian ends. The men were so hostile that even their usual apologists in academia and the political Left were too embarrassed to be seen in their company.
The Chavez and Ahmadinejad show ensured that the Bush administration's gamble in permitting the two entry to the United States had paid off. Given a platform, the dictators demonstrated the gravity of the threat they posed, as the administration had doubtless hoped they would.
Yet laying out a gangplank and hoping the enemy will be stupid enough to walk it is hardly a winning strategy in war. The stark reality of the global Islamist jihad and its strong support from European appeasers and third world dictators alike makes it necessary for the US to enact an information campaign capable of effectively advancing the stated American war aim of destroying jihad as a governing ideology and social force.
The potential for victory in the information warfare arena is great, and the failure of the US to meet this challenge is a great shame.
INFORMATION operations are a vital part of any war effort. They serve four basic purposes: to rally supporters to the rightness of their cause and the wrongness of their enemies cause; to dissuade any potential allies of one's enemies from joining their forces; to gain an ideological foothold in the enemies' society; and to demoralize enemy societies and so convince them that they have no chance of winning the war.
In both the Muslim world and the West, massive Saudi and other Islamist funding of mosques, Islamic schools, Middle East studies departments in universities, and lobbying arms show that jihadists have placed a premium on their information operations. The jihadists' extensive use of the Internet, cassette tapes, DVDs, videotapes and the print and broadcast media in the Muslim world complement these efforts.
The goals of the jihadists are clear. They wish to recruit soldiers. They wish to buy supporters among Western elites who will act as their apologists. They wish to demonize and delegitimize their ideological opponents in both Muslim societies and in the West by calling them apostates or racists. They wish to convince their enemies that there is no way to defeat the forces of jihad.
While massive, these efforts should be easy enough to undermine. For all the billions of dollars the jihadists have spent indoctrinating Muslims and weakening the West's will to fight them, their cause is anything but attractive. The cause of jihad is the cause of totalitarianism. It is the cause of hatred, misogyny, bigotry, mass murder, slavery, barbarism and humiliation. It is fundamentally unesthetic and unsympathetic.
As a result, attacking those who sponsor jihad, or serve as its apologists or purveyors should be a simple matter that can be undertaken at vastly less expense than that which has already been paid by the other side.
BUT THERE is a catch, of course. In order to conduct information operations effectively you have to be willing to identify your enemies and your allies, and to point fingers at those who refuse to take sides and embarrass them for sitting on the fence. That is, you need moral courage and clarity. You need to be willing to make people angry at you if you wish to earn their respect and support.
For the past five years the Bush administration has shirked this unpleasant task. It has categorized Saudi Arabia, the prime financier and propagator of jihad, as its ally. It has labeled Egypt, the epicenter of jihadist propaganda and incitement, a paragon of moderation and a stalwart ally.
Then there is Pakistan, which created the Taliban and has served as a refuge for Osama bin Laden since November 2001. Pakistan, too, is labeled a great ally, as are the Europeans and the Russians.
Israel, on the other hand, is a problem. Israel is the excuse that all of America's "great allies" give for refusing to act like America's allies. In the interests of pleasing its great allies, America holds Israel at arm's length.
Unfortunately, this policy sends exactly the wrong message. It teaches America's "allies" that they have nothing to lose by double-crossing the US. And it teaches truly liberal forces in the Muslim world and in the non-Islamic world that the US will not keep faith with them, and that they are, essentially on their own if they wish to take on the forces of jihad in their own societies and throughout the world.
THE BUSH administration's refusal to acknowledge the difference between its enemies and its allies was most pronounced last week in the president's meetings with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier in the month Musharraf signed an accord with the Taliban that gave the group control over the Pakistani territories of north and south Waziristan. This agreement, which also involved Pakistan's release of some 2,500 Taliban and al-Qaida fighters from prison, is the Taliban's and al-Qaida's greatest victory since September 11, 2001. As military analyst Bill Roggio has reported on his Web site, The Fourth Rail, Musharraf's decision to hand Waziristan over to the Taliban and al-Qaida makes clear that he is a major enemy of the US.
But the Bush administration refuses to acknowledge this fact. Bush met with Musharraf in the White House and praised his leadership and his strong alliance with the US in fighting al-Qaida. The State Department praised the agreement that has caused NATO commanders to announce that more troops will be required in Afghanistan to fight the resurgent Taliban.
Likewise, Abbas has gone out of his way in recent months to forge an alliance between Fatah and Hamas on Hamas's terms. He agreed to form a unity government with Hamas that would unify their terror forces under one command to better wage war against Israel. He agreed that Hamas would not recognize Israel's right to exist. Fatah itself, which he commands, has committed more attacks against Israel than Hamas in recent years, and was involved in the cross-border attack on Israel in June where Cpl. Gilad Shalit was abducted. Under the agreement he offered, Fatah would maintain its terrorist agenda.
And yet, rather than announce that the US will have nothing to do with Abbas, Bush invited him to the White House and praised his commitment to peace. Rather than acknowledge that the Palestinian leadership – in Fatah and Hamas, as well as all other major parties – has shown by word and deed that it seeks not an independent Palestinian state but the eradication of the Jewish state, Bush has insisted that he wants nothing more than to see the creation of a Palestinian state.
THE BUSH administration's insistence on confusing friends and foes has been complemented by its refusal to make distinctions between jihadist political parties and non-jihadist political parties. Indeed, the US facilitated the participation of Hamas in the Palestinian elections, Hizbullah in the Lebanese elections, the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian elections, and the jihadist Justice and Development party in the Moroccan elections.
In all these cases, these forces of totalitarianism were legitimized by their participation in the elections and their empowerment has enabled them to more ably advance the cause of jihad in their own societies and worldwide, at the expense of those modera
te, liberal Muslims that must be empowered if jihad is to be defeated.
The world stands today on the edge of a potential upheaval. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas are poised to retake power in elections in November. In the US, on November 7, voters will decide the composition of the Congress and Senate and so, in many ways, decide whether the war will continue to be fought to victory or will be abandoned.
Israelis have awoken from the fantasy of appeasement and are poised to bring in a government capable of defending them. In Britain, Tony Blair's heirs operate with the knowledge that they will be better off politically if they abandon the US.
Information operations that expose liberal democratic civilization's foes and support its allies – be they states or individuals – have never been more vital. Yet unless the Bush administration finds the courage to properly identify those foes and allies, its message will do more to confound than to clarify, and US policies will continue to be plagued by confusion – to the detriment of America and humanity as a whole.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.