Remember back during the Vietnam War, the whole “hearts and minds” campaign? You know, the one that said we have to win their hearts and minds to get them to trust us? I personally don’t remember it due to my age, but I’ve heard enough about it to have a pretty good idea what it was about. Well, it looks like we have another “hearts and minds” campaign that has been going on since the beginning of this fiasco. But there’s a new hitch: Al Qaeda does it better than us (from CNN.com).
According to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and I quote:
Modernization is crucial to winning the hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide who are bombarded with negative images of the West, Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Pentagon chief said today’s weapons of war included e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras and Web logs, or blogs.
What is troubling about these statements is how ridiculous they are. In a country as poor as Iraq is now, how many people do you think are carrying around Blackberries or have high-speed internet in their homes so they can publish their blog? Hell, we haven’t even secured the country’s infrastructure yet and it’s coming up on 3 years! What Rumsfeld and the rest of the clowns in the Bush Administration don’t get is this: We are losing the so-called “hearts and minds” because they hate our policies, not because we “aren’t spending enough on publicity”! The same reasons why we couldn’t win the hearts and minds in Vietnam apply here with regards to Iraq. It is our policies toward those in the Muslim community and other Arab states that they hate. If we showed them a bit of respect and actually tried to see things from their point of view instead of calling them a part of an “axis of evil”, we might fare a little better.
If this Administration could be trusted, things like this wouldn’t be a problem. But it is a problem. Specifically because they can’t be trusted. How many times since we invaded in 2003 has the message from the Whitehouse changed about why we went to war? First, it was because Saddam had WMDs and we didn’t want the “smoking gun” to come in the form of a mushroom cloud. Next we heard that Iraq was tied to 9/11. Then it was to facilitate regime change so freedom and democracy could be spread throughout the Middle East. And we expect these people to believe us when we hand out our propaganda or drop it from airplanes? The fact of the matter is that our version of “freedom” and “democracy” may not necessarily be what the people of Iraq want. Just look at their election results if you need further proof. Holding elections and everyone who votes getting an ink-stained purple finger may be a great thing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that “freedom is on the march”. The recent Palestinian elections that put Hamas in power are proof of that. Even Iraq’s own elections are proof of that.
If we want to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, we need to change our policies toward Arab countries in the Middle East. Plain and simple. We need to speak language that they understand and I don’t mean Arabic. We need to show them that their concerns are our concerns and then take steps to address them. We need to work with them rather than against them. That is how we’ll win the hearts and minds, not hiring a top-notch PR firm to utilize modern technology to keep telling them the same things we’ve been saying over and over.
The bottom line is that “Hearts and Minds” didn’t work then and it won’t work now.