What do the weapons of the war of ideas look like? They aren’t bullets, missiles, or bombs. According to James Glassman, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, they are instead a group of programs designed to “push back against violent extremist ideology.” He claims these “may be the most important aspect of the war on terror.”
But how do they work? First, he aims to encourage moderate Muslims to speak out against extremism. Second, and likely based off of his experience overseeing U.S. broadcasting, he plans on creating educational and entertainment programs aimed at “diverting” young Muslims away from extremism. Programs such as Young Tribal Voices will use Pashtun radio dramas performed by students in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The messages of these broadcasts will promote the principles of justice through peace. Other programs include a Farsi-language social-networking site called Parsloop.com, giving Farsi speakers an avenue to discuss important Iranian issues. “What we try to do,” says Glassman, “is convene, facilitate and amplify mainstream voices.”
Glassman is also trying to get the State Department to do a better job facilitating interagency coordination. He recently established the Global Strategic Engagement Center (GSEC), an interagency body within the State Department supported by Pentagon, intelligence agencies and the Treasury Department. He claims, “Now we are beginning to put the programs in place.”
Although I fear he might be a little too optimistic—significant steps must be taken by Congress and the administration for the government to fully utilize all of its informational outreach tools—Glassman is on the right track.