Should Cold War psyops be the model for Britain’s debate on Islam?

The Conservative thinktank Policy Exchange has been very active lately in the debate about the British Government’s engagement with Islam.

The group sponsored New Statesman editor Martin Bright’s paper When Progressives treat with Reactionaries: The British State’s Flirtation with Radical Islamism, which has been received rather more enthusiastically on the right that on the left, as Bright noted in the Observer yesterday.

Policy Exchange has also sponsored the launch of Tory MP Michael Gove’s book, Celsius 7/7, which was described by Mathew Parris as "stark, staring bonkers," but received a more sympathetic reception from the New Statesman’s Nick Cohen.

I agree with Gove that the Foreign Office approach of dealing with selected community leaders is in many ways a relic of British colonialism, a point also made by Amartya Sen.

However, Policy Exchange Research Director Dean Godson has put a worrying spin on this idea, contrasting Britain’s ‘late-imperial defeatism’ with America’s ‘self-confident liberal interventionism.’

To my mind, the methods which Godson advocates for promoting American interventionism, raise questions about the roots of Policy Exchange’s foreign policy agenda:

During the Cold War, organisations such as the Information Research Department of the Foreign Office would assert the superiority of the West over its totalitarian rivals. And magazines such as Encounter did hand-to-hand combat with Soviet fellow travellers. For any kind of truly moderate Islam to flourish, we need first to recapture our own self-confidence. At the moment, the extremists largely have the field to themselves. (The Times)

The IRD was a British psychological warfare unit, while Encounter was a magazine funded by the CIA. For an introduction to the milieu in which both were active see Robin Ramsay’s article: The Influence of the Intelligence Services on the British Left.

The article also mentions Joseph Godson, US Labour attache in Britain during the 1950s, and father of Dean Godson.

Joseph Godson’s other son Roy is a Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University in Washington DC, described many years ago as a centre of Cold War sentiment among US intellectuals. His books include Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards: US Covert Action and Counterintelligence.

Professor Godson defines covert action as "influencing events in other parts of the world without revealing or acknowledging involvement." According to one reviewer, he concludes that: "appropriate use of ‘dirty tricks’ and effective counterintelligence enabled the United States to accomplish many important objectives that might otherwise have been unattainable by more conventional means."

Roy Godson is also the Director of the National Strategy Information Center, whose stated aim is to promote the rule of law around the world.However, it has been described as "the first right-wing think tank to address such issues as national security strategy, low-intensity conflict, operations of intelligence agencies, political warfare, and the role of nongovernmental groups, especially labor unions, in furthering foreign and military policy goals."

A 1993 Special Counsel’s report stated that Professor Godson solicited funds for Nicaragua on behalf of Oliver North, with most of the money ending up in accounts linked to funding of the Contras.

One of Roy Godson’s associates at the NSIC was Abram Shulsky, who went on to head up the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, which has been accused of cherry-picking intelligence for propaganda purposes.

It would be interesting to know if the NSIC has any programmes in Britain.

Obviously, Roy Godson is not his brother’s keeper, although it is perhaps illuminating that the two siblings seem to share similar views about the value of covert operations.

The real question-mark is raised by Dean Godson’s own favourable references to the IRD and Encounter magazine.

How credible can Policy Exchange’s contribution to the debate on Islam in Britain be, when one of its leading lights sees a model for that debate in the covert state propaganda of the cold war?






2 responses to “Should Cold War psyops be the model for Britain’s debate on Islam?”

  1. Margaret Beckett avatar

    There was the opportunity to listen to schoolboy Gove and the scatty spinster Melanie Philips and others on Radio 4 Saturday morning (Talking Politics this Week ?) discussing the issue of Muslim fundamentalism (and natch, being the BBC plugging their books). My opportunity arose when I was listening to the programme on my superb ZEN MP3 player / Radio (highly recommended) whilst trying to photograph insects on a huge patch of field thistle so I was perhaps not as attentive as I might have been.
    Situated as we are in the heart of Darkness, i.e surrounded by towns with massive Asian / Muslim populations , plus Somalis, Africans etc., it was impossible to notice how ignorant the debaters were of life a she is lived in these Northern Lancashire and Yorkshire ex-milltowns.
    The metropolitan muttering classes, be they Right Wing / Left Wing. MI5/6/7 CIA , Girl Guides, whatever, they want to get a life and meet a few people away from the professional PR massagers of the Muslim Brotherhood. See life under the comfortable blanket of
    multiculuralism we have had laid over us.
    It would be interesting to do a scatter diagram of where “Londonistan” and “Celsius 7/7” are sold. It will not coincide with “Murder in Samarkand” written by someone who has a very deep and real understanding of what is happening in the Muslim world not only in the UK but overseas.

  2. Jonathan Davis avatar

    From: , my short review of Celsius 7/7
    5 Stars
    My habit of underlining key passages of good books was ruined by this short but brilliant book.
    I found myself underlining whole pages!
    Gove has written a concise and superbly argued account of not only political Islam and also its revolutionary ambitions (like Communism and Nazism before it) and the anti-Western appeasement that fosters it today.
    This is not another trite history of Islamic terrorist movements, but a concise examination of the ideas and intellectual foundations of Political Islam. It is to this subject what Peter Watson’s magnificent “A Terrible Beauty” was to 20th century history – an account not of mere events, but the ideas that underpinned them.
    Gove’s treatment of the role of Israel is superb. Over two chapters he carries out one of the most intellectually potent defences of Israel I have ever read.
    His comments on Iran and Hezbollah are prophetic and extremely timely considering current events in Lebanon.
    His analysis of the interplay and relationship between Western academics, the mainstream media, left wing politics and Islamism is outstanding.
    I rate this as one of the best political books I have ever read.
    It is up there with “Democracy in Europe” by Larry Siedentop and “Politics: A Very Short Introduction” by Kenneth Minogue as a “must read” for those who want a comprehensive understanding of Western values, the ideological threats to those values and the means to defend them.
    Gove’s thesis that global political Islam has is a standard issue 20th century revolutionary movement like Communism is utterly convincing. He demonstrates how all pretexts and supposed root cause grievances are mere devices used to throw off the western media and public.
    Their real ambitions are stated openly for anyone willing to see: The creation of a neo-fascist totalitarian theocracy with all the trappings of “purification” “volk” and “inferior races” that are to blame for all woes.
    Read this wonderful book. You will thank yourself.

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