When the highest-ranking officer in the US armed forces, Admiral Micheal Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admits: “We hurt ourselves more [with Muslim nations] when our words don’t align with our actions… Our messages lack credibility because we haven’t invested enough in building trust and relationships, and we haven’t always delivered on promises,” it represents a rare but welcome insight from the military about US foreign policy.
“Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are,” Mullen has written in the Joint Forces Quarterly. “We’ve come to believe that messages are something we can launch downrange like a rocket, something we can fire for effect. They are not. Good communication runs both ways. It’s not about telling our story. We must also be better listeners.”
Some Muslims, such as Haroon Moghul of New York University’s Islamic centre, optimistically greeted Mullen’s statement as a remarkable sign of change: “It shows a military that is critically thinking, and empowered to do so by a White House that seeks to develop effective strategies, not ideological categories and uncritical postures.” However, Aziz Poonawalla of Talk Islam, urges: “Fundamentally, the Obama administration needs to articulate a clear set of explicit, achievable goals for our military in [Afghanistan] – with a clear timeline for withdrawal.”
Indeed, a recent poll of Muslim countries revealed that actions speak much louder than President Obama’s eloquent words promising “mutual respect” and “partnership”. Despite Obama’s well-received Cairo address earlier this year, animosity towards the US “continues to run deep and unabated,” according to the Pew poll, especially in Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. The most obvious reasons for such anger include the attacks by predator drones in Pakistan and the recent reinforcement of 17,000 US troops to Afghanistan, which now brings the total number of US soldiers deployed there to 57,000.
Tragically, the US presence in Afghanistan has failed to end the flourishing illegal drug trade that bankrolls and nurtures the Taliban’s existence. Furthermore, corruption and tribal rivalry threaten the Afghan government’s democratic sovereignty, as witnessed by country’s recent election, which are being protested by both leading candidates as being riddled with fraud. Continue reading