Glassman and “beyond violent extremism”

Former Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Jim Glassman responds to my remarks on Thursday about the need to expand the "war of ideas" conception beyond combatting violent extremism.  Glassman argues: "Lynch makes it sound as if the only way that public diplomacy during my tenure engaged with the “Islamic world” was through anti-violence and ...

Former Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Jim Glassman responds to my remarks on Thursday about the need to expand the "war of ideas" conception beyond combatting violent extremism.  Glassman argues:

"Lynch makes it sound as if the only way that public diplomacy during my tenure engaged with the “Islamic world” was through anti-violence and anti-extremism activities related to the war of ideas. That’s ridiculous." 

He writes that his office had only a few million dollars, while international exchange and educational programs had a far larger share of the overall public diplomacy budget.  He didn't try to cut any of those programs, he says, but only wanted to add the "war of ideas" against violent extremism to the mix. 

Former Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Jim Glassman responds to my remarks on Thursday about the need to expand the "war of ideas" conception beyond combatting violent extremism.  Glassman argues:

"Lynch makes it sound as if the only way that public diplomacy during my tenure engaged with the “Islamic world” was through anti-violence and anti-extremism activities related to the war of ideas. That’s ridiculous." 

He writes that his office had only a few million dollars, while international exchange and educational programs had a far larger share of the overall public diplomacy budget.  He didn’t try to cut any of those programs, he says, but only wanted to add the "war of ideas" against violent extremism to the mix. 

Fair enough.  I’m a fan of traditional public diplomcy as well, and I’ve often expressed my admiration for Glassman’s efforts to expand such activities into the new media realm and to adapt to the new information environment. But on this specific, very important, point…. why might I think that Glassman intended to shift the focus of the war of ideas on combatting violent extremism? 

Jim Glassman, June 24, 2008:

While educational exchanges and other such efforts seek over the long term to encourage foreigners to adopt more generally favorable views of the United States, the war of ideas today should have a different, specific focus. The aim must be to ensure that negative sentiments and day-to-day grievances toward the U.S. and its allies do not manifest themselves in violence. We want to create an environment hostile to violent extremism, especially by severing links between al Qaeda and like-minded groups and their target audiences. 

 

Jim Glassman, July 8, 2008:

The focus of today’s war of ideas is counterterrorism. As the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism of 2006 puts it: "In the long run, winning the War on Terror means winning the battle of ideas."

So let me be specific. Our mission today in the war of ideas is highly focused. It is to use the tools of ideological engagement — words, deeds, and images — to create an environment hostile to violent extremism. We want to break the linkages between groups like al-Qaeda and their target audiences.

….

Unlike traditional functions of public diplomacy like education and cultural exchanges, the aim of the war of ideas is not to persuade foreign populations to adopt more favorable views of the United States and its policies. Instead, the war of ideas tries to ensure that negative sentiments and day-to-day grievances toward the United States and its allies do not manifest themselves in the form of violent extremism. 

 Jim Glassman, December 1, 2008:

In the war of ideas, our core task in 2008 is to create an environment hostile to violent extremism. We do that in two ways: by undermining extremist ideologies and by encouraging young people to follow productive paths that lead away from terrorism.

 

Perhaps I somehow misunderstood Glassman’s intentions, and he did not mean that the focus of engagement should be on creating an environment hostile to violent extremism and not trying to build support for U.S. foreign policy?  

Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).

He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements. Twitter: @abuaardvark

More from Foreign Policy

Soldiers of the P18 Gotland Regiment of the Swedish Army camouflage an armoured vehicle during a field exercise near Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland on May 17.
Soldiers of the P18 Gotland Regiment of the Swedish Army camouflage an armoured vehicle during a field exercise near Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland on May 17.

What Are Sweden and Finland Thinking?

European leaders have reassessed Russia’s intentions and are balancing against the threat that Putin poses to the territorial status quo. 

Ukrainian infantry take part in a training exercise with tanks near Dnipropetrovsk oblast, Ukraine, less than 50 miles from the front lines, on May 9.
Ukrainian infantry take part in a training exercise with tanks near Dnipropetrovsk oblast, Ukraine, less than 50 miles from the front lines, on May 9.

The Window To Expel Russia From Ukraine Is Now

Russia is digging in across the southeast.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken participate in a virtual summit with the leaders of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries at the White House in Washington on March 12.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken participate in a virtual summit with the leaders of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries at the White House in Washington on March 12.

Why China Is Paranoid About the Quad

Beijing has long lived with U.S. alliances in Asia, but a realigned India would change the game.

Members of the National Defence Training Association of Finland attend a training.
Members of the National Defence Training Association of Finland attend a training.

Finns Show Up for Conscription. Russians Dodge It.

Two seemingly similar systems produce very different militaries.