Friday, September 30, 2005

Karen Hughes 

Fred Kaplan makes makes a good point:
The main task of this posting is to improve America's image in the Muslim world. Let us stipulate for a moment that Hughes is ideally suited for the job that she can figure out how to spin sheiks, imams, and "the Arab street" as agilely as she spun the White House press corps in her days as Bush's communications director.

Even if that were so, why would anybody assume that she is the one to do the face-to-face spinning? Wouldn't it be better to find someone who oh, I don't know, speaks the language, knows the culture, lived there for a while, was maybe born there?

Put the shoe on the other foot. Let's say some Muslim leader wanted to improve Americans' image of Islam. It's doubtful that he would send as his emissary a woman in a black chador who had spent no time in the United States, possessed no knowledge of our history or movies or pop music, and spoke no English beyond a heavily accented "Good morning." Yet this would be the clueless counterpart to Karen Hughes, with her lame attempts at bonding ("I'm a working mom") and her tin-eared assurances that President Bush is a man of God (you can almost hear the Muslim women thinking, "Yes, we know, that's why he's relaunched the Crusades").

At first, for some reason, I thought maybe Hughes would be a decent choice, but apparently it's not working out too well. Obviously, the Bush Administration still doesn't get how to sell the U.S. to the muslim world. I don't have all the answers either, and with troops and car bombs in Iraq, selling America isn't going to be easy. However, would it be possible to find a Muslim American to give the job to? Or at least, someone who speaks Arabic? In my mind, reaching out to "moderate" Muslims, in hopes of convincing them that the U.S. is not the enemy, AND killing/capturing Al Qaeda are close to being on par with each other. We're doing a pretty good job of killing/capturing Al Qaeda, but why is the reaching out not working? I would guess it's a cat-chasing-its-tail-scenario: our fighting the terrorists/occupying Iraq/torture/Guantanamo isn't a good way of show Muslims that we really want them to have the "freedoms" that we enjoy. It's more complicated than that, but it's a good place to start.


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