The War for Muslim Minds

Bruce Hoffman reviews three books in the Washington Post:

IslamThe United States encountered many frustrations during the Vietnam conflict, but a lack of understanding of our adversary was not among them. Indeed, as early as 1965, concerted, voluminously detailed Pentagon analyses of Vietcong morale and motivation illuminated the need to win what was then often termed the “other war” — the ideological struggle for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. Even if the fundamental changes required in U.S. military strategy to overcome the Vietcong’s appeal went ignored, tremendous effort and resources were devoted to understanding the enemy.

Today, Washington has no such program in the war on terrorism. America’s counterterrorism strategy appears predominantly weighted toward a “kill or capture” approach targeting individual bad guys. This line of attack assumes that America’s targets — be they al Qaeda or the insurgency in Iraq — have a traditional center of gravity; it also assumes that the target simply needs to be destroyed so that global terrorism or the Iraqi insurgency will end. Accordingly, the attention of the U.S. military and intelligence community is directed almost uniformly toward hunting down militant leaders or protecting U.S. forces — not toward understanding the enemy we now face.

More here.