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Analyzes past U.S. strategic influence campaigns and looks at how and in what circumstances such campaigns can best be applied to today's struggle against terrorism.
Analyzes past U.S. strategic influence campaigns and looks at how and in what circumstances such campaigns can best be applied to today's struggle against terrorism.
The U.S. government has long used influence campaigns in pursuit of national security objectives. These efforts range from covert support for the anticommunist underground media networks in Eastern Europe during the 1980s to public diplomacy efforts in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the subsequent struggle against terrorism have raised new challenges. The U.S. government must now consider how it can prevent terrorists from attacking the United States, discourage sympathizers from supporting terrorist adversaries, and reduce the number of potential new recruits for terrorist groups.
This report examines the potential uses and limitations of influence campaigns in the struggle against terrorism, particularly with regard to al Qaeda and the Muslim world. As such, our study does not explore debates on the root causes of terrorism, the susceptibility of weak states to terrorist threats, or U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East. Instead, it focuses on the intersection between the following trends: (1) animosity toward the United States, (2) support for radical Islam, and (3) violence as a means of political activism. Taken in isolation, any one of these factors is not a significant threat to U.S. national security.However, the combination of all three lays the foundation for terrorism against the United States, as typified by al Qaeda.
Animosity Toward the United States
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Gallup Organization commissioned a series of polls to survey attitudes toward the United States in the Muslim world. In a summary document, the authors presented the following findings:
At almost every opportunity within the survey, respondents overwhelmingly agree that the United States is aptly described by such negative labels as ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked and biased.
The people of Islamic nations also believe that Western nations do not respect Arab or Islamic values, do not support Arab causes, and do not exhibit fairness towards Arabs, Muslims, or in particular, the situation in Palestine.
These surveys and other expert commentary on al Qaeda fueled a debate among policymakers and in the academic community on Muslim misperceptions of the United States. After all, the United States stands for freedom and democracy-how could anybody hate those things? Yet at the same time, this public discussion raised the issue of American misperceptions of the Muslim world. In addition to the Gallup study, Zogby International published a survey titled, "What Arabs Think: Values, Beliefs, and Concerns." In it, the author stated that the purpose of the survey was to provide American citizens and policymakers with a deeper understanding of the Arab world. The following excerpts are taken from the Zogby publication:
... what we learned is that Arabs, not unlike other people all over the world, are focused principally on matters of personal security, fulfillment and satisfaction. What matters most are the things that affect them most directly: the quality and the security of their daily work, their faith and their family.
... after more than three generations of conflicts, and the betrayal and denial of Palestinian rights, this issue appears to have become a defining one of general Arab concern. It is not a foreign policy issue, since foreign policy issues rank near the bottom of priority concerns. Rather ... the situation of the Palestinians appears to have become a personal matter.
It is clear from both the Gallup and Zogby studies that anti-Americanism exists in some Muslim communities around the world. What is less clear is whether this animosity is strong enough to translate into violence against the United States. Exploring this interrelationship is a key objective of our report. Indeed, we are not concerned in this study with reducing general hostility toward the United States, unless this hostility causes individuals to support or join terrorist groups that attack U.S. interests.
Support for Radical Islam
"Islam" connotes a number of different philosophical debates and traditions. The two primary categories of beliefs in Islam are Sunni and Shia. Yet even within Sunni Islam, many philosophical differences exist. For example, Wahhabism-the term used to refer to the philosophical tradition that emerged from the teachings of 18th-century Islamic scholar Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab-generally emphasizes Arabic as the true "language of revelation," the authority of religious leaders in interpreting Islam, and a return to the practices of the early Islamic period. In contrast, scholars from what could be termed as the liberal Sunni tradition advocate a belief system that emphasizes modernization and is very much in line with Western liberalism. These two schools of thought illustrate the diversity in the intellectual world of Islam. The philosophical differences also affect the daily lives of Muslims, though to varying degrees. For example, proponents of Wahhabism emphasize personal piety, which translates into, for example, women wearing the hijab covering. Notably, this analysis does not probe the philosophical traditions of Islam but rather turns its attention to the application of these beliefs.
This report focuses on "radical Islam." We define the proponents of radical Islam as those individuals who articulate a pan-Islamic worldview. That is, they view the world more in terms of religious unity (dar el-Islam) as opposed to nationalistic loyalty, incorporating African, Middle Eastern, and South and Southeast Asian countries with a Muslim majority. Radical Islam proponents also believe that all Muslims should work toward the implementation of Islamic law (e.g., sharia) in these countries. Finally, these individuals support the use of violence to achieve their goals.
Violence as a Means of Political Activism
Individuals' and groups' use of violence underlies this entire study, especially as it interacts with animosity toward the United States and radical Islam. Specifically, we focus on terrorism. In Inside Terrorism, Bruce Hoffman states:
Terrorism is specifically designed to have far-reaching psychological effects beyond the immediate victim(s) or object of the terrorist attack. It is meant to instill fear within, and thereby intimidate, a wider "target audience" that might include a rival ethnic or religious group, an entire country, a national government or political party, or public opinion in general.... Through the publicity generated by their violence, terrorists seek to obtain the leverage, influence and power they otherwise lack to effect political change on either a local or an international scale.
In contrast to insurgents or guerrilla organizations, terrorists do not use violence to confront state control over people and territory. The purpose of a terrorist campaign is, therefore, not as much control as it is fear. As a result, terrorist groups concentrate their attacks on civilians rather than military or police forces, which are the targets of guerrillas and insurgents. Terrorists also have a narrower popular base than insurgents.
Al Qaeda encompasses both types of militant organizations. The core of al Qaeda consists of operatives who conduct terrorist attacks. Yet members of the wider al Qaeda community fight in local insurgencies, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Kashmir, Algeria, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In the past, al Qaeda leaders have articulated four primary goals: (1) remove U.S. forces from the Persian Gulf region, (2) inspire a pan-Islamic revolution, (3) support the Palestinian cause, and (4) kill large numbers of Americans. The second objective, at least, requires an insurgent-like appeal to Muslim populations, whereas the other three could be incorporated into a terrorist-like strategy. This observation is relevant to our study: Although we focus on al Qaeda as the primary threat, the group does indeed draw some of its members and support from local insurgencies. Therefore, a successful influence campaign directed at al Qaeda will need to address the organization's "hard-core" terrorists, like-minded insurgents, and wider sympathetic communities.
The potential use of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons (CBRN) by these militant groups adds a new dimension to the threat. A CBRN attack could increase the number of casualties as well as the "far-reaching psychological effect" identified above in Hoffman's definition of terrorism. Indeed, CBRN capabilities allow terrorists to move beyond the indirect leverage that they gain from the psychological effects of a typical attack (e.g., suicide bombing) to a direct challenge against the state. In this way, terrorist groups can take on the power of an insurgent group, without the risk. State authorities can hold hostage insurgents' supporters and territory, deterring potential CBRN attacks. But this type of counteraction is difficult to achieve for the more unstructured and dispersed terrorist networks. The CBRN threat illustrates how al Qaeda's hard core might articulate objectives (e.g., a CBRN attack against U.S. interests) that place affiliated insurgencies at risk, demonstrating a divergence of interests. For our discussion of strategic influence, a divergence between al Qaeda and its affiliates is a key policy issue and, therefore, a recurring theme in this report.
Scope and Methodology
Immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks, academics and policymakers alike asked the question, "Why do they hate us?" Because many believed that anti-Americanism was the result of basic misperceptions about the United States in the Muslim world, the proposed solution was a series of policies aimed at providing more information on U.S. society and foreign policy.
For example, Radio Sawa broadcasts rock music to Muslim youth, interspersing these music programs with news and brief, pro-American summaries of U.S. foreign policy. The effectiveness of this information campaign on the struggle against terrorism is still questionable. Lacking are metrics and methods to determine whether attitudes are changing and, even if so, whether they are changing in the population relevant to terrorism and anti-American activities. We therefore suggest a different approach to the challenge of terrorism and begin our analysis with the question, "What can strategic influence campaigns hope to achieve?"
We use the term strategic influence to identify the entire spectrum of influence campaigns, from highly coercive or enticing efforts (e.g., force or bribes) through to public diplomacy. In general, the purpose of these campaigns is to affect the beliefs, opinions, attitudes, and actions of potential adversaries. Influence campaigns could include efforts to deter terrorists from attacking the United States-e.g., "Do not pick up a gun, or we will hunt you down." Alternatively, these campaigns could also incorporate a long-term, educational approach aimed at communities sympathetic to radical Islam to demonstrate that Islam and democracy are compatible. The challenge for decisionmakers is to match the appropriate objectives to the correct audience and then design an effective message. By asking the question, "What can U.S. policies hope to achieve?" we are able to outline both the possibilities and limitations of influence campaigns and help decisionmakers address this challenge.
To do this, we begin our analysis with an overview of the theory of persuasion. We draw from the scientific literatures of cognitive and social psychology, as well as the principles and practices of persuasion and indoctrination found in advertising, social marketing, sociology, cultural anthropology, and cultic studies disciplines. We chose these disciplines for two reasons. First, they address how one might alter individuals' or communities' beliefs and behaviors in a variety of environments. And second, the sources and methods in the literatures have been well vetted, through both experimental research and application. Although we highlight our sources in the relevant citations, a more thorough listing of the theoretical literature can be found in the bibliography.
We also examine past influence campaigns conducted by the U.S. government. These case studies demonstrate and clarify how strategic influence theory can and cannot be used in an operational setting. The case studies also provide some insight into the strengths and weaknesses of particular influence methods. Specifically, we explore U.S. psychological operations (PSYOPs) during the Chieu Hoi ("open arms") campaign in Vietnam. Chieu Hoi was the longest-running U.S. government-sponsored influence campaign in Vietnam. Among its many tactics, the campaign utilized defector testimonials -in written, recorded, and face-to-face interviews-to dissuade support for and attract defectors from the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong. A large body of published research exists on Chieu Hoi, including the circumstances surrounding the campaign's successes and failures, which helps present many valuable lessons for the role of strategic influence in the struggle against terrorism.
In addition, we draw lessons from covert U.S. government support of the Polish underground media in the 1980s. This influence campaign focused on supporting an indigenous anticommunist movement in Poland's urban centers, such as Warsaw, Krakow, and Wroclaw. Recently released studies outline how U.S. intelligence agencies covertly supplied equipment and money to an underground media network that distributed dissident pamphlets, newsletters, and books. Importantly, the U.S. government was able to work through existing structures to bolster indigenous anticommunist movements. We believe that parallels exist between the Polish Underground and many moderate Islamic movements. U.S. counterterrorism policy could, therefore, benefit from lessons learned during the Polish Underground campaign.
Finally, our analysis includes a discussion of American "de-Nazification" efforts in postwar Germany. After World War II, President Eisenhower asked Brigadier General Robert McClure, head of U.S. Psychological Warfare Division during the war, to oversee the Information Control Division (ICD) in occupied postwar Germany. McClure's influence campaign was extensive. One expert stated, "Their effort must be ranked as one of the single largest campaigns of purposive communication ever undertaken by a democratic society." Some policymakers have suggested that today's reconstruction efforts in Iraq could have an effect similar to those in post-WWII Germany. Thus, we determine that an analysis of the scope of this influence campaign could prove useful to U.S. decisionmakers.
Having begun with the question, "What can influence hope to achieve?" we next explore the application of strategic influence in the struggle against terrorism. Doing so requires a thorough understanding of our potential audiences. This report examines three countries with Muslim populations that have articulated animosity toward the United States, have supported radical Islamic agendas, and have members who have conducted attacks against U.S. interests. They are Yemen, Germany, and Indonesia.
In our analysis of Yemen, we examine the intersection between sources of animosity toward the United States, patterns of support for radical Islam, and political violence. To do this, we focus on the manifestation of these trends in the al Qaeda cell responsible for the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole. We also assess the same interaction with regard to the Moroccan diaspora in Germany and its representation in the "Hamburg cell" that participated in the September 11 attacks. Finally, we include an analysis of the terrorists who supported and perpetrated the October 12, 2002, attacks in Bali.
Excerpted from Dissuading Terror by Kim Cragin Scott Gerwehr Copyright © 2005 by RAND Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
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