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The Battle for Hearts and Minds: Uncovering the Wars of Ideas and Images behind the Global War on Terror

The Battle for Hearts and Minds: Uncovering the Wars of Ideas and Images behind the Global War on Terror by Timothy S. McWilliams. Privately published, 2011, 273 pp.

Building upon his experience editing a work published in the Marine Corps Gazette, Timothy S. McWilliams has privately published The Battle for Hearts and Minds that explores the difficulty in discerning the truth through the eyes of the media. McWilliams does grant that the US government and its military services improve the truth by putting their best foot forward, but it is clear enough that he is harder on the print and electronic media for their failures of omission and commission. The new Arab media were not aroound during Desert Storm but have quickly become a considerable factor. The public relations efforts of the Bush administration, on the other hand, were doubtful enough to alienate some US journalists, which hurt the cause. Too, the degree to which the journalists themselves repeated some of their errors of the Vietnam War made some of their reporting superficial and misleading.

McWilliams focuses much of his book on the war in al-Anbar Province. He shows that in the end, the attitudes of the local people were affected, and that caused them to reject al-Qaeda’s program and facilitate favorable outcomes there. He does recognize the pioneering work of Peter Braestrup’s Big Story and laments that many of the same problems cited there still exist. For strategists familiar with Big Story, the current work would therefore be a bit redundant. No reporter ever won a Pulitzer Prize arguing that a government had done about as well as could be expected; no commander wants his own organization to look bad.

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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