Magazine article Insight on the News

War on Terror Requires a PR Battle Plan

Magazine article Insight on the News

War on Terror Requires a PR Battle Plan

Article excerpt

In the dark days of the Revolutionary War, George Washington made an about-face that changed the rules of combat. Washington abandoned the principles of the gentleman soldier to which he had aspired all his life. He could not defeat the British by fighting them on their terms. To win he had to, in essence, lose face, abandon the European ideal of warfare and become a guerrilla fighter. Washington's genius was that he was able to see what the times demanded, withstand the scorn of friends and enemies and wage the battle that needed to be fought.

History is demanding no less of us. After the most heinous terrorist act in history, we need to check our initial justifiable impulses and examine the seeds that grew this hatred. Misdirected military action could leave our enemy unshaken and thousands of innocent people homeless, maimed and killed. Those incendiary images would fan the flames of hatred, giving terrorists the greatest tool imaginable: the ability to martial millions of young men, many of whom already fear America, into holy warriors set on our destruction.

Yes, the terrorist cells will have to be found and their infrastructure destroyed, but that's simply the first battle. No amount of killing can win this war. We will not be sending cruise missiles toward a central target but into a swarm of bees. This war must be won through our ability to communicate with, and to listen to, the rest of the world.

Our image abroad is splintered into a thousand shards of national arrogance, terrorist propaganda and junk culture. We often state with pride that we don't care what the rest of the world thinks. Yet, when it comes to business, no one understands better than us that perception is vital to success. Corporations spend millions ensuring their positive images.

When a company's image is tarnished, classic damage control follows these principles: Tell the truth, admit possible error, offer reparations and collaborate. What could be more unthinkable as we stare in horror at the charred remains of the World Trade Center twin towers? Yet it is time to humanize ourselves to the rest of the world. We no longer can afford to rely solely on military solutions. We are the masters of mass communication. Now it is essential effectively to use this power.

At the Rahatabad religious school located in Peshawar, Pakistan, hundreds of boys and young men are told of an America that is the "great Satan. …

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