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Tuesday, April 19

Operation Muslim World Outreach: US government takes on mind-boggling task of helping to modernize Islam

When the Establishment media are good, they are very, very good. Hats off to US News & World Report for their investigative report on the US government's epoch-making decision to stop futzing around and make a coordinated effort to help Muslim reformers bring Islam into the 21st Century.

The report outlines the chaos, confusion, and waffling that have gone on Inside the Beltway since 9/11, as officials agonized over whether the US government should dive into the vast waters of religious ideology.

From the details of the report, common sense finally prevailed and is now US policy and procedure known as Muslim World Outreach. The road ahead for MWO is still not clear but the journey of a thousand miles has officially begun, and there is no turning back now.
[Karen] Hughes's predecessor at State, acting Assistant Secretary Patricia Harrison, told U.S. News that she felt at times like Sisyphus, the Greek king banished to forever push a boulder up a steep hill, only to have it roll down again. The lesson Washington needs to learn, Harrison says, goes back to the Cold War--that the world matters and America needs to stay engaged.

"You never declare victory," she warns. "You do not declare that it's the end of history and go home."
The report is chock full of hard data and revelations that will surprise the general public (e.g., it was conservatives, not liberals, who insisted on gutting the USIA, leaving the "management of America's image abroad to Hollywood producers and rap musicians.")

Pundita advises that you break out a beer or aspirin before embarking on the report. You'll find yourself nodding and muttering, "This is what I've been saying for years they should do" so many times that you'll risk a crick in the neck. And there are anecdotes to send up the blood pressure.
During a mission to Cairo by a State Department panel on public diplomacy, visitors were repeatedly told how grateful Egyptians were to the Japanese for building their opera house. Yet they seemed wholly unaware that Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid--nearly $2 billion a year--and that Americans have funded Cairo's systems for clean water, sewage, and electricity.
For the other side of the battle for hearts and minds, read the fourth rail's short and (to my mind) grimly funny report on Zarqawi's efforts to set up his own website.

I now turn over the podium to US News & World Report. This link directs the reader to the April 25 issue's table of contents because there are three important companion pieces to the main report titled, In an unseen front on the war on terror, America is spending millions to counter the hate of radical Islamists.

Why, one wonders, didn't U.S. News make an earth-shaking report, and one that took much effort and expense to create, the cover story? Pundita has no answer but urges her readers to take a moment, after receiving so much good free data, to write a thank-you note to the editor. The email response form ("Respond to this article") is handily at the bottom of each page of the report.
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