Strategic Communication with the Muslim Community

Strategic communication recently made the news because of a column Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff wrote for the Joint Forces Quarterly. His basic point was that by making it an organizing item, strategic communication has become a goal in itself, rather than being a process to enable the larger objectives. Lacking credibility and trust, and by having double standards between words and actions, leaves the US in a position where it is not effective. As he states:

The Muslim community is a subtle world we don’t fully—and don’t always attempt to—understand.

In a similar vein, Beth Noveck, the Deputy Chief Technology Officer from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy gave the keynote address at a United States Institute of Peace event “Smart Tools for Smart Power.” She highlighted the Obama administration goal of renewing the US relationship with Muslim communities, and asked the question of how serious gaming or any other technologies can be used for achieving the purpose (and several others).

There seems to be a general and open acknowledgement in the Obama administration that actions speak louder than words, and the US needs new actions (and policy) to engage with Muslim communities. There also seems to be a void that needs to be filled regarding “what should we do about it?”

How can credibility be built without resorting to propaganda and patronizing? How will a culture of respect and dialogue (that includes listening!) be established when the recent harsh memories are those of arrogance and disregard for human life? Abu Ghraib, Haditha and Guantanamo are not just news stories but the reality for many. It will be a long uphill struggle for hearts and minds requiring a commitment that stretches beyond four year presidential terms.

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