Taking a little break from painting, I’d like to recommend Jonathan Stevenson’s new book, Thinking Beyond the Unthinkable, which was just released by Viking today. Stevenson explores the intellectual virtues of the civilian strategists of the Cold War, and thinks about how to apply some of their genius in the very different Age of Terror. In Wired magazine this month, Stevenson argues that we need to tackle al Qaeda where it thrives — online. “The problem is that our ham-fisted policies, centering on a reckless war of choice and forced democratization, have eviscerated US public relations efforts. So Washington leads its Web campaigns on tiptoe. The Pentagon has begun launching foreign-language news sites to counter jihadist propaganda, but their sponsorship is intentionally obscure. The name of the site for Iraq (Mawtani.com) references the Iraqi national anthem, and its Department of Defense provenance is revealed only when you click on the About link. These kinds of unattributed information ops will never create a decisively positive view of the West.
“Whoever wins the White House in November should take the opportunity to give US foreign policy a makeover, which would allow us to emerge from the cybercloset. From there, the path is clear: harness the Net’s unique combination of community and privacy to shape the debate within Islam about the best mechanisms for political change. A new tone in Washington could make moderate Muslims less averse to linkages with the US, which might in turn quietly provide support for anti-jihadist clerics — like Abdul Haqq Baker of the Brixton mosque in London — encouraging them to speak up in the blogosphere.”
Update: In September, Thinking Beyond The Unthinkable won the Connecticut Book Award for Non-Fiction.
We Need a New Think Tank For the War on Terror
Posts about painting will resume tomorrow.
Tags: Jonathan Stevenson