Saturday, April 30, 2005

Reengineering Islam In an unseen front in the war on terrorism, America is spending millions to counter the hate of radical Islamists (4/25/05)

When I was a naive young Watson Fellow, I thought I'd come up with a great way to describe the efforts then underway to accelerate the fertility transition in many countries facing carrying capacity problems. I developed a "theory" I called "social engineering". I even wrote a fairly awful paper describing my theory; it was then that I learned that the term was not new, and it had some pejorative aspects.

Despite all that, I think the concept is a useful one. I think it applies to Washington's attempts to direct the evolution of Islam.
... After repeated missteps since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has embarked on a campaign of political warfare unmatched since the height of the Cold War. From military psychological-operations teams and CIA covert operatives to openly funded media and think tanks, Washington is plowing tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to influence not only Muslim societies but Islam itself. The previously undisclosed effort was identified in the course of a four-month U.S. News investigation, based on more than 100 interviews and a review of a dozen internal reports and memorandums. Although U.S. officials say they are wary of being drawn into a theological battle, many have concluded that America can no longer sit on the sidelines as radicals and moderates fight over the future of a politicized religion with over a billion followers. The result has been an extraordinary--and growing--effort to influence what officials describe as an Islamic reformation...

...The White House has approved a classified new strategy, dubbed Muslim World Outreach, that for the first time states that the United States has a national security interest in influencing what happens within Islam. Because America is, as one official put it, 'radioactive' in the Islamic world, the plan calls for working through third parties--moderate Muslim nations, foundations, and reform groups--to promote shared values of democracy, women's rights, and tolerance,
I approve of course. I outlined the problem and the approaches a few years ago. It's about time, though it remains to be seen how competently this will be executed.

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