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Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War

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ISBN-13: 978-0615144634
ISBN-10: 0615144632
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Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War + The Terrorist Perspectives Project: Strategic and Operational Views of Al Qaida and Associated Movements + How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns
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Editorial Reviews


"this guide offers ways that could discredit, divide and ultimately squelch the enemy into a blob of irrelevance. . ." -- Armed Forces Journal, May 2007

"'must reading' for anyone interested in cross cultural communications - summarizing in one reference work a commanding sweep of history one has come to expect of scholar Michael Waller and the Institute of World Politics." -- Alan L. Heil, Jr., Author, Voice of America: A History (Columbia University Press, 2003)

"For those who find themselves in a position . . . to influence our image among allies and adversaries, this book should be placed at the top of their must-read list." -- US Naval Institute Proceedings, August 2007

"unique and outstanding . . . will be of great value to all seeking an understanding of the history of this neglected discipline and its potential role today." -- Carnes Lord, US Naval War College

From the Publisher

Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War is the first title of The Institute of World Politics Press. IWP Press was established to support the curriculum of The Institute of World Politics, an accredited graduate school of statecraft and national security affairs in Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: The Institute of World Politics Press (April 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615144632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615144634
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,653,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr Waller is managing director of Oceanic Advisors, a Washington, DC-based company that provides niche solutions for international competition.


For 13 years, Dr Waller held the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Chair in International Communication at a graduate school of statecraft and international affairs in Washington. He is a scholar-practitioner in the areas of strategic influence, public diplomacy, psychological operations, information operations, counter propaganda and related areas.

He was a founding editor of Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, published in cooperation with the American University and Moscow State University. Dr Waller was a member of the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives and the US Senate, and has served as a consultant to the US Information Agency, the US Agency for International Development, the US Army, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and other agencies.

He has written for Forbes, Insight, Investor's Business Daily, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Reader's Digest, USA Today, the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. His books include the prizewinning Secret Empire: The KGB in Russia Today (Westview, 1994).

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Roberts on January 30, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War is a stunningly concise and incisive work about the propaganda and public diplomacy side of fighting a "small war." It is written specifically for our current war against Islamic Fascism and is geared towards just scratching the surface of how the US can mobilize its communications resources in a strategy to literally divide and isolate the enemy while winning the hearts and minds of allies and neutrals.

Despite its short size this book is dense with illuminating ideas and challenging new thoughts. My copy is practically entirely hi-lighted (admittedly probably defeating the whole purpose of highlighting) and every page has at least one note written in the margin.

The author argues for a basic strategy and simple actions that the US government -as well as the private sector- can adopt to start fighthing this war on all fronts. He also cogently argues that the US message strategy in this war should generally be shifted from the State Department to a military combatant command. (If you have read Shadow Warriors by Kenneth Timmerman you will probably have even more reason to agree with this assessment.) I will not delve into the authors many points as they should be read in their entirety to be fully understood and appreciated.

However as the author admits this book is not at all comprehensive. It lacked a lot of specifics on how to actually implement his basic strategy. This of course is probably not necessary for the public at large to worry itself about, but will have to be decided by those actually in charge of executing it. As a book about a communications strategy though it also lacks the most key element of any strategy: it doesn't consider how the enemy would react and adapt to our actions on the message front.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas O'Connor on November 3, 2009
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This little book is a true gem. I find myself re-reading it over and over again, probably because the writing is so concise or condensed that it makes the mind wander about what's being implied "between the lines" so to speak. Anyway, it's perhaps the only book out there on the subjects of humiliation and ridicule as tactics in asymmetric warfare, and it's a very well-done primer on those subjects. There are a few places where the author goes off-track, most likely to force a full-length book out of what he's got to say, but people who like executive summaries would like this book. It's simply to the point. I wish there was a follow-up. I'm left with wanting to hear more from the author.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Baby Sister on July 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
Michael Waller attempts to delve into the problem of the "war of ideas" regarding the Global War on Terror in "Fighting the War of Ideas Like a Real War." It is a laudable effort, and by and large his fundamental approach is correct. With that said, I will provide an essential review of this short volume (it's under 150 pages), to include its strengths and weaknesses. First I will provide an overview, followed by a more detailed analysis that includes some spoilers.


The key strength is simply the acknowledgement that the war against jihadi fighters is first and foremost a war of ideas. While the notion is nothing new, it is a somewhat novel approach when dealing with Islamic terrorism and warfare, or any modern warfare for that matter. For example, I have yet to see any analysis created by senior law enforcement in the US that the fight against drug cartels is a war of ideas (it is, but that's a different topic). Waller also explains that the primary purpose of war is to make an enemy conform to one's will, and he furthermore discusses the need to strike the terrorist's support network, which is a crucial concept sorely neglected in many books on terrorism. Unfortunately, he blunts his arguments significantly due to how he interprets Islam through western notions regarding religion, thus treating Islam as if it compartmentalizes life as modern Western Christianity does.

A more detailed analysis follows, which focuses on the key failings

Unfortunately, the book's few strengths are overshadowed by its failings. In my initial reading I thought the book had more strengths, but upon a second look I had to revise my initial opinion. In particular there are three areas that I need to discuss.
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