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Pursuing Strategy in the Wrong Language: The Consequences of Political Correctness - Conclusion: Defining an Effective Strategy
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Article Index
Pursuing Strategy in the Wrong Language: The Consequences of Political Correctness
Indifference to Religion Undermines Effective Relations with Muslim Leaders Who Oppose Al-Qaida
Identifying the Strategic Center of Gravity
Conflicting Views on the Center of Society
Conclusion: Defining an Effective Strategy
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Conclusion: Defining an Effective Strategy

The strategic task for America's senior leaders is to communicate in explicitly religious terms an understanding of the Islamic dilemma and to assist Muslim leaders in finding a truly Islamic solution to their intractable predicaments. Strategic leaders must support the moderate (diin al wasata) elements regardless of the fundamental differences that exist with the West. The strategic task here is to make it possible for Muslim moderates to dominate normal religious discourse. A subtask is enabling moderates to ascend in the economic and political structures of Muslim society. American Strategic Leadership must support or at least cooperate with moderate Islamic elements. In this effort, Americans can afford to be the “heavy,” or the “bad guy” — doing things to defeat Islamists that might not be politically or religiously possible for Muslim leaders.

For Western minds it is difficult to understand that there is no separation of church and state in Islam. Political decisions, in Muslim nations, must be religiously conditioned and vetted. In Islamic nations, everything is stipulated by religion even if individual national leaders often proceed out of seemingly non-religious motives. The Islamist worldview is radically opposed to both Western and existing Muslim governments in the belief that religion is primary over all things. This may be a non-existent difference to Americans, but it is an enormously important distinction for Muslims. This primary conflict is an everyday reality in Muslim society. Western issues are a distraction for Muslim leaders, not the center of their attention.

While the prevailing interpretation of the U.S. Constitution enforces a strict separation of church and state at home, there would seem to be less stringent American Law governing such actions overseas. It could be argued that the Constitution seems to allow leeway for U.S. policy to assist the development of moderate religious leadership abroad. Supporting a wide-ranging moderate Islamic culture would serve to crowd out extremists. This sort of effort may not directly contribute gaining allies in the Islamic world, but it certainly contains the potential for defeating our Islamist opponents. The old Middle Eastern adage applies — “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The first principle of Just War must always be to settle disputes nonviolently (Mt. 5:25). To win without warring would be in keeping with principles of Just War (probability of success and proportionality). This ethical value has escaped many leaders who should have considered it very carefully. In order to avoid the necessity of armed conflict; our national listening skills must be developed. The Chinese warrior Sun Tzu’s principle is that the epitome of military skill is to win a battle without shedding blood.

That the officially secular American government should actively support religious factions in other nations may be controversial. Certainly, Congress should become involved by structuring effective legal authorization for such action. Strategic military leaders often find themselves acting in legal shadow lands72 because there is no settled law for the existing situation. Through use of appropriate channels, America’s Strategic Leaders ought to request that the Executive, Congress and the Courts provide the legal authorization necessary for such a complex strategic design, and the actions necessary to insure its success.

Modern era conflict between Sunni and Shi’ia, exacerbated by Islamist ideology, is trending the Umma toward its own internecine religious war(s). Religious diplomacy can serve to share the long and difficult lessons Christians learned during European religious strife,73 and assist Muslim allies to avoid those mistakes. The West has learned much from indiscriminate slaughter during the Inquisition, Reformation, Counterreformation, 30 Years War, Cromwell’s England and other eras of European religious strife. European religious wars taught the West about the dangers of religious extremism, and about living in peace, pluralism and prosperity. This is not a struggle between faith and culture. It is effectively working out one’s faith through culture.

Strategic leaders must recognize the incredible resource available to them in our own military chaplaincies. While the narrative is little told, chaplains in recent military operations have, at times, made a decisive difference. Chaplain Patrick Rattigan, a Roman Catholic Priest serving with Special Forces in the 1990’s, broke a political impasse in Haiti. (Father Rattigan is fluent in several languages, including French.) He accomplished this by concelebrating the Mass with an influential Haitian Bishop while an A-Team sat in the front row of the standing-room-only Cathedral. Following this experience, the Bishop gave his blessing, thus enabling American effort in that nation. Another unsung chaplain was Dr. Lynn Brown,74 who was fluent in Arabic. His reserve Civil Affairs Command often employed him during multiple tours in Iraq in direct “Holy Man-to-Holy Man” interaction. This sort of communication paved the way for effective work in their sector.

Dr. Chris Seiple,75 recently speaking to Senior Army Chaplains, maintained that Chaplains are the “soft edge of American hard power.” Chaplains are already fluent in the language of religious worldview. Most are also expert in people skills that are necessary for effective communication and negotiation. American military chaplains already successfully navigate the difficulties found in the secular American worldview, their particular denominational beliefs, and the pluralistic demands of military society. They possess skills that are largely absent (or atrophied) in our diplomatic corps and strategic leadership. Chaplains need not depart their own religious faith, for religious persons have respect for others who have long training and spiritual conviction. This occurs in much the same way that warriors generally have great respect for other warriors, especially their enemies.76 They are professionals, and appreciate competent tradecraft.

Military Chaplains are arbiters of religious discourse. They ought to be immediately placed in the forefront of relations with Islamic counterparts. A small but significant number of senior chaplains, from each of the services have been trained in strategic skills at our war colleges. These soft-hard power skills can be enhanced by advanced training in diplomatic skills as well as development of language skills. Strategic leadership can learn the soft skills of religious dialogue from their chaplains. With all of this, the Chaplaincy remains the guarantor of the free expression of religion within the military. Military-to-Military (Mil-Mil), Pol-Mil, and military-to-civilian diplomacy will always remain a secondary but important competency for the Chaplaincy.

Strategic Leaders must learn effective pathways to be conversant in religious dialogue. As any religious person knows, faith and action are inextricably linked. For instance, Islamic people regard Friday as their holy day for worship; Jews reserve Saturday; and Christians keep Sunday. Aside from POL-MIL necessity, American strategic leaders will earn legitimacy by observing a Friday through Sunday hiatus to honor days of worship. Regardless of personal piety, Islamic people regard Americans who insist upon doing business on a worship day as irreligious or worse, atheist.77 While this may be personally true (for both the Muslim and the American!), non-observance of a day of worship communicates disrespect for one’s deity. If you have contempt for a person, it is very difficult to negotiate seriously with them. It is also quite possible that more real business will be accomplished in the remaining four days with Islamic counterparts because of earned respect. Such action won’t change U.S. — Islamic relations by itself, but it certainly is a beginning toward that goal.

This paper has explained and presented an effective strategic approach for our senior political and military leaders that conveys real, religious meaning to Islamic counterparts. It is critical that Americans truly understand and connect through their own religious traditions to Muslim religious sensibilities. In this manner, we may communicate that we also are a religious people whose civilization has a strong, morally-ordered society that possesses a knowledge of the divine.

Wylie W. Johnson has served as the Senior Pastor of The Springfield Baptist Church, Springfield, Pennsylvania, since May 1997. Ordained in 1982, he served five years as Assistant Pastor at First Baptist Church, Metuchen, New Jersey; followed by 10 years in the active Army Chaplaincy prior to coming to Springfield. His education includes a D.Min. (Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia); M.Div. (Denver Seminary); MSS (U.S. Army War College), and a B.A. (The King’s College, New York).

He also serves as the Command Chaplain for the Military Intelligence Readiness Command of the U.S. Army. He is a veteran of five conflicts and a master parachutist. In his Army career, Chaplain Johnson served in Honduras, Korea, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Haiti, Germany, Afghanistan, and Iraq, as well as numerous locations in the continental United States.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 April 2012 16:30