Review: The Battle for Hearts and Minds–Using Soft Power to Undermine Terrorist Networks (Washington Quarterly Readers) (Paperback)

4 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Diplomacy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Several excellent contributions, fails to connect to open source intelligence,

April 9, 2006
Alexander T. J. Lennon
This is a pretty good volume from 2003, with a good mix of academics, journalists, and practitioners. The most useful pieces for me personally were on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which manages the Voice of America.

On balance this is a solid reference on all but two of the aspects of soft power: it completely neglects the importance of getting a grip on historical and cultural reality through open source intelligence (OSINT) and also neglects the strategic bottom line that demands an educated American public that is fully informed about the real world and demanding of intelligent policy choices.

The book certainly does well with the limitations of military power, the importance of nation building, the urgency of having a massive capability to do stabilization and reconstruction operations as needed, and the critical roles that public diplomacy and foreign assistance could, but do not, play in winning hearts and minds.

Of special interest to me was the failing report card on the broadcasting board of governors, whose equipment is 30 years old in many cases. I applauded the informed judgement of the author who made the case, based on experience, for keeping the short wave and middle band capabilities that too few understand is essential for Africa and other locations.

Across the book it becomes clear that the US needs to upgrade the Combatant Commanders or mirror them with a civilian coordinator for non-military strategy, power, and resources. As someone who grew up overseas with the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and served in three Embassies overseas, it is crystal clear to me that we need to double the Department of State, in part by reconstituting USIA as a separate organization, and by placing USIA, the BBG, and a new Open Source Agency (for collecting and making sense of all public information in all languages all the time) in a tight partnership. We need to double and triple aid, develop a peacekeeping from the sea program, as well as the ability to do multiple Berlin Airlifts.

This is a good basic book for anyone thinking seriously about “soft power,” a term popularized by Joe Nye, whose varied books I have reviewed and recommend very highly.

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