Friday, June 24, 2011

OBL Validates R Bureau's Counterterrorism Communications Strategy

It seems that the late Osama Bin Laden believed the West had beaten him in the public image battle within the Muslim world, and he was searching for a re-branding strategy when he abruptly assumed room temperature.

Osama wanted new name for al-Qaida to repair image:

As Osama bin Laden watched his terrorist organization get picked apart, he lamented in his final writings that al-Qaida was suffering from a marketing problem. His group was killing too many Muslims and that was bad for business. The West was winning the public relations fight. All his old comrades were dead and he barely knew their replacements.

Faced with these challenges, bin Laden, who hated the United States and decried capitalism, considered a most American of business strategies. Like Blackwater, ValuJet and Philip Morris, perhaps what al-Qaida really needed was a fresh start under a new name.

The problem with the name al-Qaida, bin Laden wrote in a letter recovered from his compound in Pakistan, was that it lacked a religious element, something to convince Muslims worldwide that they are in a holy war with America.

-- snip --

At the White House, the documents were taken as positive reinforcement for President Barack Obama's effort to eliminate religiously charged words from the government's language of terrorism. Words like "jihad," which also has a peaceful religious meaning, are out. "Islamic radical" has been nixed in favor of "terrorist" and "mass murderer." Though former members of President George W. Bush's administration have backed that effort, it also has drawn ridicule from critics who said the president was being too politically correct.

That effort to "eliminate religiously charged words" from the USG's messaging to the Muslim world goes back at least as far as 2008 - remind me, who was President then? - when the leak of an official document from the Counterterrorism Communications Center caused a big internet stir about how the State Department had supposedly banned the word "Jihad" from its lexicon.

At least, that was the internet meme of three years ago. Google "State Department bans the word Jihad" for examples. Typically weasel-wording obscurantist Foggy Bottom political correctness run amok, etc., etc.

But today, it looks like that communications strategy had its intended effect. OBL believed that he and al Qaeda had failed to associate themselves with the Ummah, the commonwealth of Islamic believers, in the eyes of the Muslim world, where they were increasingly seen as merely terrorists rather than noble Jihadis. The fact that the USG refrained from branding them Jihadis may have contributed to the failure of OBL's strategy. Anyway, we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot for a change.

Those guys at the Counterterrorism Communications Center in International Information Programs ought to be taking a bow right now. By the way, does the Counterterrorism Communications Center still exist?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TSB: I think it's been renamed. (Like everything else!) And don't call Obama politically correct unless you want to be assigned a Chevy Volt! gwb