Trylon Communications  - December 2004

Perception, Reality and the Middle East

As previously noted (see story), the U.S. has a long way to go to win the battle of the minds in the Middle East. A recent Defense Science Board report, Strategic Communication,” says the U.S. is failing to adequately explain its actions in the Muslim world. It adds that the government’s strategic communications institutions do not work and recommends an overhaul of the country’s public affairs structure.

The report cites the lack of a credible communications link to the Muslim world as the largest challenge facing the U.S. and calls for a permanent structure to be built in the executive branch - with an “information czar” named to the National Security Council, State Department and Pentagon.

While some communication vehicles have been in place for a few years, such as Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV, the report says that these stations are not trusted by the Muslim community in the Middle East, but considered to be propaganda arms of the U.S. government.

The very fact that these stations receive funding from the U.S. government causes many people to doubt the veracity of their reporting. While a recent AC Nielsen survey reported that 71 percent of Alhurra viewers believe the news programming to be reliable, the report from the Defense Science Board is not as optimistic.

"The critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim world is not one of 'dissemination of information' or even one of crafting and delivering the 'right' message. Rather it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none - the United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam," according to the report.