Rumsfeld: U.S. Needs Improvement to Win War of Ideology

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2006  - Asked how the United States is faring in the war of ideology against violent extremism, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld puts it squarely in the "needs to improve" box.

"If I were grading, I would say we probably deserve a D or a D-minus as a country as to how well we are doing in the battle of ideas taking place in the world today," the secretary said yesterday during a question-and-answer session following his address at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.

"I'm not going to suggest that it is easy," Rumsfeld acknowledged. "But we have not found the formula as a country."

That's a major shortcoming in this age of video cameras, 24-hour talk shows, blogs, e-mails and the Internet, the secretary said. These new technologies have speeded up the way people communicate and in many cases, amplified their message because it reaches multiple audiences, he noted.

"The problem is that we have not yet adapted to all of these new realities that exist, and we are going to have to do a much better job at it," Rumsfeld said.

He noted during today's Pentagon news briefing that it's a lot easier to get out in front of a story if you don't let the facts get in the way - something he said the enemy has become quite good at. Enemy "spinners" manipulate the media to get their distortions out quickly, "while the truth is still putting its boots on," he said.

"If we jump out and make a mistake, there's a penalty for it," Rumsfeld said, noting that's not so for the enemy.

"Clearly the U.S. government has not gotten to the point where it's as deft, clever, facile and quick as the enemy," the secretary said.

Another part of the problem, Rumsfeld told Army War College students yesterday, is that the United States is so concerned about self-promotion that it too often leaves it to others to define it - sometimes in inaccurate or unflattering ways.

"This is a wonderful country," he said, with its generosity, tolerance and acceptance of diversity. But it's often characterized by others in ways the secretary called "unfortunate."

That makes it tougher for the country to advance its causes, he said. "When people are leaning toward you, as you all know, things are easy," Rumsfeld said at the Army War College. "And when people are leaning away from you, things are much more difficult."

Yet, "every time the United States tries to do anything that would communicate something positive about what we are doing in the world, we are criticized in the press and in the Congress," he said. And the self-examination process begins again, he said.

The United States has some work to do to improve the way it communicates with the world, particularly as it wages the war on terror, a war Rumsfeld said ultimately boils down to a war of conflicting ideologies.

It's a battle, not between the West and the Muslim world, but rather, between a small number of violent extremists and the majority of the Muslim world who don't share their views or methods, Rumsfeld said. "And we are going to have to find ways to encourage and support those moderate voices," he said, "because they are the ones who are in the struggle."


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