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Home > Blog > The New War Room: The Salon
Out of Our Minds
Saturday, July 24, 2004 10:35 AM
The New War Room: The Salon
Anita Sharpe on Culture

GREAT column today by David Brooks in the New York Times.

He makes the point that we're not really fighting a war against 'terror.' We're fighting a battle for minds. It's an ideological, intellectual war and terror is, for now, the weapon of choice. 'It seems like a small distinction -- emphasizing ideology over terror -- but it makes all the difference because if you don't define your problem correctly, you can't contemplate a strategy for victory,' Brooks writes.

How do we stage an intellectual offensive? One top U.S. military officer told Brooks that 'only 10 percent of our efforts from now on will be military. The rest will be ideological.'(Good news for all those 18 -year-olds still camped in the desert.)

'If you are a philanthropist,' Brooks writes, 'here is how you can contribute: We need to set up the sort of intellectual mobilization we had during the cold war, with modern equivalents of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, to give an international platform to modernist Muslims and to introduce them to Western intellectuals.'

Do I hear the sound of Ted Turner stirring?


6 comments

joseph duemer - 7/25/2004 9:08:26 AM
I haven't read the Brooks piece -- in all honesty, I tend to avoid him as a smarmy intellectual lightweight. But I was thinking about this issue the other day as I was preparing to apply for an intensive language study program in Vietnamese. I've spent a good deal of time in VN over the last several years & lived there for a year in 2001 & I can confirm that what 'they' think of the US is not what 'we' think of it, though in the case of VN, there is a surprising amount of goodwill toward Americans & American culture. Anyhow, I got to know a couple of State Dept types in VN & the very programatic sorts of 'exchange' they tend to promote -- with all the good will of good people -- tends to be ineffective. What does lead to understanding is informal intellectual exchange -- the sort made possible by the Fulbright program & a lot of the projects run by NGOs. Americans need to get out more -- & learn a language other than English. I can tell you that learning Vietnamese, in so far as I have managed to learn some, has been a lesson in humility, but also an opening to a world quite radically different in its assumptions about reality from the one I come from. If we can begin building such understanding in ourselves, we will find others more than willing to build understanding from 'their' perspective to 'ours.'
Matt (again) - 7/24/2004 11:37:04 PM
- My first post was far more personal than is warranted. I apologize.

- An 'intellectual offensive' does not sound like listening, it sounds like shooting. You're right, Anita, that dialogue is better than killing, but asking rich people to fund an intellectual offensive does not sound like earnest dialogue.

- The commission report mentions that we're dealing with a hostile belief system that can't be reasoned with, it can only be 'destroyed or utterly isolated.'

Is that the attitude we'll take with us as we march into foreign countries? Believing that they are entirely unreasonable people with ideas that must be crushed?

Extremists often can't be reasoned with, but there are large populations in these countries who really can be reasoned with. Let's not throw everyone into the same category and alienate them all.
Genevieve - 7/24/2004 7:54:34 PM
Can I say I can see both points of view having seen the effects of ideological warfare all through my youth.

The mere use of the word ideology is probably enough to upset Matt - he is right, the language used by Brooks is quite emotive, Sharpe qualifies it with her aside about the young soldiers.

Now that we have the web it would be harder perhaps for the kind of mind-control that set in during the Cold War to take place. In Australia it is quite widely known that the Congress for Cultural Freedom took money from the CIA.

While this has never stopped me reading anything their organs published, it is an important thing to know.

The interesting thing about that period was that alternative presses probably needed that kind of financial support in order to be heard at all. Hence the value of the Web today in keeping costs down for the 'winning of minds'.

Ideas should not be harnessed to serve political ends and minds should not be discussed as 'winnable' or as areas of influence, in the same terms as are sovereign territories or governments. Matt is entitled to object to a battle for his heart and mind.
anita - 7/24/2004 6:42:24 PM
What David Brooks seems to be proposing is an intellectual exchange -- 'dialogue,' not bullying. Sounds good to me. Sounds better than killing.
Dave - 7/24/2004 5:57:23 PM
Huh? Dude, you're speaking YOUR opinion so hard, you don't even realize that it is YOU that isn't listening.

Please, point out to mee where in this post Anita is 'shooting' or 'not listening'. She's merely commenting. And a mite less opinionated than you are I might add.

You say she has no idea what 'people talk about in other countries'. Care to state specifics? Care to maybe back this up with something that might make me believe YOU have a better idea what they talk about?

Yeah, I'm getting personal. And if they care to delete my comment, so be it.

My point is this Matt... you speak as though somebody here is accting elitist. But you justisfy this so poorly - and speak so harshly in generalities - that you have no clue that the only one being close-mided and elitist is you.
Matt - 7/24/2004 2:58:17 PM
Perhaps we're making a mistake when we assume that all foreigners even CARE what we think, why we do what we do, or what ideology we have.

I don't know what kind of social engineering experiment you're proposing (all I can figure out is that you're starting with the assumption that We're Right) but this kind of premeditated intellectual bullying is what gets people angry in the first place.

You have no idea what people talk about in other countries. Their idea of America has nothing to do with America's idea of America, and if you don't get off your soapbox to listen to them you'll make the same mistakes again and again.

It's sounding like we're simply switching guns. Instead of shooting bullets, we're shooting ideas. Why don't we STOP THE SHOOTING for a change?

Maybe the thought of slowing down to actually listen and become aware of the rest of the world is just too much for America to take.

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