Resolve and the War of Ideas
We are losing the greater War of Ideas. It's not because we have no ideas or ideals. Nor is it because we do not know how to convey them in a compelling manner. (Are you watching the crush for the latest Air Jordan sneakers from Nike? It's not because there is gold bullion in every 100th pair.)
We've plenty of ideas as important today as nearly 250 years ago, and we've mastered the art of communication. No, the problem is greater than either of those potential obstacles.
To begin to demonstrate, consider some important paragraphs below from a Jerusalem Post analysis titled Nasrallah's existential dilemmas. The context of the first paragraph cited is a speech from Hizballah's political leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered at a Beirut mosque last week and broadcast by Hizballah's Al-Manar TV. The excerpt is relatively lengthy, but read through it. You will see that it applies here.
The Hizbullah leader [Nasrallah] railed from his unknown hiding place against the 'robbing and murdering Zionists', whom he accused of killing prominent Hizbullah official Imad Mughniyeh. Behind the Hizbullah leader's customary defiant rhetoric, however, his movement currently faces a series of dilemmas.
Firstly, the movement's attempt to bring down the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, launched in late 2006, has gone nowhere. A few Hizbullah supporters (and a lot of tents) remain at the movement's 'permanent demonstration' in downtown Beirut. But the Saniora government has stood firm.
The constitutional crisis over the presidency is dragging on. There is a growing sense that Hizbullah's only non-Shi'a ally, the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun (Christian Maronite), is becoming an irrelevancy, because of the failure of Aoun to emerge as a realistic presidential candidate.The result of this is to make Hizbullah's camp look more and more like a narrow, sectarian Shi'a force. The movement has spent the last decade and a half cultivating an image of itself as a 'patriotic' Lebanese and pan-Arab movement, rather than a sectarian, Iran-sponsored militia. This image is now looking increasingly frayed.
Perhaps it is looking frayed with Aoun, seen by some Lebanese Christians as a leader and by other Christians as a traitor, failing to live up to Hizballah's expectations - or his own.
But to whatever degree Hizballah's image as a nationalist movement is seen (or not) as frayed, it is most certainly not for lack of marketing effort. Pay close attention to the astute and skilled usage of imagery, compelling music and language in this recent Hizballah video effort.
Matt Armstrong took note and asked, "Terrorist or Nationalist?" And, in my view, that's precisely the question such groups would love the West to be asking themselves. For my money, it's important in this context to acknowledge that Hizballah was birthed by Iran and Syria more for the cause of fighting and killing the invading Israeli Jews and American and French forces than to win a civil war based on any indigenous love of Lebanon.
For Iran, it was a matter of exporting its revolution, only four years young at the time of the bombing of the US Marine Barracks in Beirut. For Syria, it was about the maintenance of a base through which it could later exert control of Lebanon from within, eventually fully realized in the 1989 Taif Accord.
In Hizballah's own language still today, the above video propaganda notwithstanding, its own aims are less about a love of Lebanon than hatred for "Zionists" in Israel and the certainty of its "disappearance." This, Nasrallah reminds us, is an "established fact."
This is not beside the point. Rather, it is demonstrating it. Because Hizballah is thus required to effectively sell their hatred for the Jews of Israel as love of Lebanon in order to broaden their base. They must effectively market and sell an idea.
The video propaganda above, well produced and effective, is far more compelling than any message directly or indirectly employed (or not) to counter it among the target Lebanese audience. As Matt says, "you need to know to counter the message effectively." Note that he did not say you need to know how to. Because it's less a matter of knowing how if you don't know to.
There is a raging War of Ideas shaping this century. And the nation that turned certain stripes on rubber soled leather shoes into objects of desire that people have fought and killed over, and that promoted the shape of a soda bottle into a cultural icon, the country that invented "Guerrilla Marketing," is simply not engaged.
This. Must. Change.
We clearly know how. We must resolve to.
The latter is significantly more important and fundamental an obstacle than the former.