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May 15, 2004
Al Qaeda is winning the war of ideas

In a previous post, I commented that the war in Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror. I've changed my mind. It is becoming clear the war of ideas is the most critical engagement in our efforts against Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists. Sadly, this is a battle we are losing.

The legendary Hugh Hewitt has posted a brilliant article written by a colleague. The anonymous academic describes several historical instances where great military forces have been defeated not on the battlefield, but by strategic blunders. He/she begins with the premise of the center of gravity:

People schooled in strategy wisely and routinely consult THE giant of strategic thinking, Carl Von Clausewitz and his tome On War. The great Prussian strategist discussed the concept of an enemy's "center of gravity" (COG). If one can successfully identify an adversary's center of gravity and destroy it, the war can be won. So the questions for American strategists are: What is al Queda's COG and what is the US center of gravity that must be protected at all costs?

The academic goes on to describe Americas defeat in Vietnam as strategic and not military in nature:

History now shows that the assumptions of General Giap, NVN's famous strategist who engineered the victory at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, were completely wrong and that militarily Tet was a disastrous defeat for the North and the VC. Giap was relieved in disgrace. But a funny thing happened on the way to the war. The American media reported the event as a major DEFEAT for the US and the South.

In a disturbing conclusion, Hughs colleague characterizes the scandal surrounding Abu Ghraib and the commentary on Nick Bergs slaughter as a devastating attack on Americas center of gravity:

Jump to bin Laden headquarters and imagine how gleeful Osama and his "generals" must be. An American is viciously slain for all to see and the US Congress and the victim's father blame NOT al Queda but the US Commander in Chief! Al Queda is winning this war, slowly, one newscast and daily sheet run at a time. The press sees the glory days of Vietnam and Watergate returning and it is acting in its own self interest and not in the interest of the American republic.

This is confirmation for the Muslim jihadists that all of the beliefs they hold with regard to America being corrupt are true, AND it adds to the strategic advantage I now believe to be held by al Queda. All al Queda needs to do now is NOT lose but to strike when able at the time and place of its choosing. Al Queda has correctly identified the US center of gravity. The US on the other hand has yet to do the same with regards to al Queda. The American elite media does not care that Nick Berg was murdered and is now wringing its hands like some Hamlet character while al Queda plots its next attack. America is losing this war, not tactically but strategically and THAT is the essence of warfare.

All is not lost, however! The academic suggests the US go on the information offensive. (I blogged on this topic last night, see a the post Checklist for victory.) If our center of gravity is our national will to fight, our free press is a key player in that regard. We cant force our liberal media to support the war on terror, but WE DONT HAVE TO LISTEN TO THEM. This is not the Vietnam error, and the internet has liberated us from Tom Brokaw.

The US must also identify Al Qaedas center of gravity and go after it. Afghanistan was a military and logistics center, but never the heart of Al Qaeda. I suggest Al Qaedas center of gravity is not a terrorist stronghold or even its affiliation with its state sponsors.

Al Qaedas center of gravity is the moderate Muslim community. They are the ones who rationalize its behavior, celebrate its victories, and believe America is the enemy. They might utter a few apologies here and there, but they have failed to denounce the terrorists as evil murderers. This is a force we cant diffuse by dropping bombs or announcing sanctions. Instead, we have the infinitely difficult task of winning their hearts and minds through the war of ideas.

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Posted by Whiskey at May 15, 2004 9:26 PM

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I was just thinking... and this may not be a startlingly original insight: I was alive during Viet Nam, but I was just a little kid, so it's possible that some of what's going on with the Iraq and Afganistan... [Read More]

Tracked on May 16, 2004 12:02 AM

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