So seriously does the Bush administration take the task of winning over Muslim public opinion that it has dragged the president’s top media flak, Karen Hughes, out of retirement and named her Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy — a job that her predecessor, former high powered ad exec Charlotte Beers, can testify is something of a fool’s errand.
But this time, according to the New York Times, the Bush administration is going into the task with eyes open. So, as Hughes confabs with Condi Rice at the Crawford Ranch, their discussions are premised on the reality that, as one of their consultants, Ed Djerejian, put it, 80 percent of the negative image of the U.S. in the Muslim world is a result of U.S. policies — and those policies, they insist, are not about to change. But get this: “Mr. Djerejian said that in talking with Ms. Hughes and Ms. Rice, it was clear that they understood that roughly 80 percent of the explanation for the poor American image stemmed from American policies, but that much could be done to improve the communication of those policies to affect the other 20 percent.”
I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade or anything, but if the crucial battlefield in the U.S. struggle against al-Qaeda is Muslim public opinion, and U.S. officials freely concede that 80 percent of that battle is currently unwinnable because of the policies the U.S. is pursuing in the Middle East — but that instead of revising those policies, it’s planning to do a better job of coming a distant second with a mere 20 percent — you have to imagine that Osama bin Laden must believe that Allah has blessed him with some remarkably dull-witted adversaries.