The US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have created a shared anti-American cause among otherwise-divided Muslim extremists and raised the stature of the radicals in the eyes of ordinary Muslims, a Pentagon advisory panel says.
The report by the Defense Science Board concludes that the US government must urgently change its approach to understanding and communicating with the Muslim world. It says US public diplomacy is in crisis, and neither the White House nor Congress has done enough to fix it.
At the root of the problem, the report says, is a fundamental misunderstanding of why many Muslims are hostile toward the US. They "hate our policies," not our freedom, it said.
The report cites a "pervasive atmosphere of hostility" toward the US government that has intensified since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the US responses to them.
"The dramatic narrative since 9/11 has essentially borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars" against the US, the report said. "American actions and the flow of events have elevated the authority of the Jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims."
The report is available on the Pentagon's Web site. It is among a series of reports produced last summer by the board, a group of non-government experts who advise the secretary of defense on a range of issues.
The problem, as described by the report, is not so much the availability of information as a failure generally to understand how people in other parts of the world, particularly Arabs, perceive US policies and actions.