Counterterrorist public diplomacy is no war of ideas, says LeBaron
Successful counter-terrorist public diplomacy doesn't focusing on making potential terrorists like the United Sates, said Richard LeBaron, former head of the State Department Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.
In remarks (.docx) delivered by LeBaron June 20 to the Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired foundation and posted online by blog Jihadica, LeBaron said the center found that successfully nudging away people on the cusp of joining terrorist organizations isn't a war of ideas, and it doesn't matter whether the audiences like or dislike the United States.
"We were not focused on selling the American way of life," he said.
Rather, the center found success by "hammering away at the weaknesses and contradictions of al Qaeda," LeBaron said--in particular, it's record of killing fellow Muslims.
President Obama in September 2011 signed an executive order designating the center as the governmentwide coordinator of public communications directed against violent extremists and terrorist organizations.
LeBaron said he came to the center in summer 2010 and found that public diplomacy efforts against terrorists at State had previously fizzled out. Headquarters officials tended to treat the work as something that "could be carried out by an informally cobbled together group of individuals," and previous efforts had been undertaken with little input from the field, he added.
Under LeBaron, the center has emphasized digital engagement online by native speakers.
"They don't try to convert the converted; they do try to reduce the number of new adherents to violence," LeBaron said.
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