By General Oleg Kalugin (Retired)

The United States may have won the battle for Afghanistan, but it is loosing a war for huma The United States may have won the battle for Afghanistan, but it is loosing a war for human minds worldwide. The rising tide of anti-Americanism across the world suggests that something has gone terribly wrong in the wake of the brutal terrorist attack on this country. That wrong is easily identifiable: the over reliance on strong-arm solutions of pressing international problems. Few if any people have doubts about American military might and its capacity to obliterate a potential foe. Most of them viewed America’s initial response to the attack as an absolutely indispensable and justifiable act of self-defense.

But months afterwards, with new US military budget exceeding all records, with new unprecedented anti-terrorist financial package and accompanying it inflammatory speeches, with searches, arrests, surveillance cameras and ugly barricades around government offices, one has a feeling that the spirit of bellicosity, reanimated arrogance of power have been permeating the atmosphere in this country and in effect distorting America’s image and values.

No wonder even allies and friends of the United States today ask the question:  will not the greater power of this nation result in more abuse endangering world peace?  Will not the simplistic approach to complicated problems exacerbate the international situation?

The end of the confrontation between the West and the Soviet Empire has brought sweeping changes in world politics, but it did not and could not remove economic and social contradictions that separate industrialized and developing nations; it did not and could not eliminate poverty and frustration of millions of people.

The West won the Cold War, yet it failed to win the hearts and minds of those who continue to live in misery and ignorance. The evil empire is defeated. Why bother?  But misery and ignorance breed fear, intolerance and hatred. For nations that are doomed to live under these conditions the answer of despair to the better off world is terror. To combat the forces of poverty and hopelessness on which terrorism feeds by military means alone is to invite more troubles. The show of military prowess and belligerent rhetoric will not stop the erosion of America’s leadership.

These days, with Islamic terrorism and its implications for international peace and concerns of perpetrators gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, so much on people’s minds, the United States should also be prepared to deal with bigotry, totalitarian mentality and extremism of all brands, seething in different parts of the world.  From Argentina shifting away from the US and calling for Latin American unity against “US domination and imperialism,” to Russia, where the recent scandals around the Olympic medals sparked an outburst of anti-American sentiments, the US policy makers will be confronted with dilemmas not easily solved.

As a Great Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev said decades ago,  “Communism cannot be destroyed physically. It must be eradicated from our souls.”

It should not be overlooked that for millions of Russians brought up in the spirit of anti-Americanism the demise of the Soviet Union confirmed their worst apprehensions. The spiritual leader of the country’s orthodox Christians and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Patriarch Alexei warned in 2000, “The American way of life with it’s cult of violence, cruelty and immorality is not acceptable to Russia.” According  to recent opinion polls conducted before September 11th, Russian antipathy for the US has grown 4.5 times over the past 5 years and reached 39.3 percent in 2001. The professed Russian intention to work together with the US against international terrorism may have entered a bumpy road.

The negation of America’s unique historic experience and her spectacular achievements in every sphere of life should not be smugly and condescendingly dismissed or tolerated. But again sheer force will not work here. Major economic assistance to better social conditions in poor nations may significantly reduce chronic anti-Americanism and threats to the US security. The Tokyo accords to infuse several billion dollars into ravaged Afghanistan should prove to be an effective way of grappling with problems of the post-war reconstruction of this country.

But in this strategy one very important element is missing:  a major Government sponsored information and propaganda drive to restore and maintain the true image of the United States across the world.

Former Soviet leaders knew all too well the potency and the corroding power of propaganda. They poured billions of dollars into jamming foreign broadcasts and intercepting literature deemed hostile to their regime and, conversely, in their efforts to subvert other countries and undermine their social and political institutions. The Soviet information warfare played an important role in creating an illusion, particularly in the Third world, of a Soviet system as a model for all developing nations.

The United States, unlike the Soviets, does not need to sow illusions and spread disinformation about itself and its policies. On the contrary, it must project on the world its true values and merits and its flaws, without distortions, emphasizing the evolving nature of human societies where democracy, however imperfect, represents the best answer to human endeavor.

To leave this vast area of pursuit to CNN, Hollywood or McDonalds would not be conducive to the success of the mission, if not totally counterproductive. To limit it to military propaganda overseas as envisaged by the Office of the Strategic Influence would fall far short of the objectives.

In all perspective plans and moves of this nature one should bear in mind what former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said in 1993 of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,   “It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of their contribution to the destruction of the totalitarian regime.”

Unfortunately, the current US propaganda establishment is woefully inadequate and is unlikely to perform effectively as dictated by the current situation. With the end of the Cold War it has been under funded and understaffed. The United States Information Agency (USIA) has been practically shut down as a political and propaganda arm of the government. The Voice of America has lost its vigor and luster. Radio Liberty has survived and still does a fairly good job in the post Soviet space, though its status in the Czech Republic is uncertain. The Peace Corps activities and citizens’ exchange programs have been curtailed.

It’s high time to take a fresh look at these problems. Secretary of State Colin Powell has recently called for building, “a new history that will protect and ennoble us all.” One of the surest ways to achieve this goal is to mount a massive worldwide information program designed to stop and turn back the anti-American pestilence that has been affecting so many nations.

A sustained, long-term information offensive may be costly, but it will definitely save billions spent on war and help preserve mankind from moral and physical devastation.

Oleg D. Kalugin
KGB Major-General (ret.)
Former People’s Deputy of the USSR
Professor at the Center of Counterintelligence and Security Studies (USA)
Oleg Kalugin
Silver Spring

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the Daily Report on Russia and the Former Soviet Republics.

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