A recent symposium hosted by the secretary-general of the United Nations points the way forward: an international, multilingual effort to sponsor networks of Web sites, publications, and television programming. The United Nations can and should play a significant convening role, bringing together victims to help meet their material needs and raising awareness by providing platforms through which to share their stories.
The U.S. government also has a critical role to play in creating a framework for victims' stories. No single agency will lead; the days of centralized, top-down communications campaigns are over. Nongovernmental organizations and millions of private citizens will make this work by adding their own experiences to the tales. Adopting this kind of decentralization, the Obama administration can make a clean break with its predecessor's strategy.
Al Qaeda rose to prominence through a story that explains history, justifies violence, and promises victory. Giving its victims a chance to make their stories heard as well will cast a harsh light on al Qaeda's actions, helping delegitimize and deglamorize the terrorist narrative. End of Story.
Photo courtesy of Tariq Mahmood/AFP/Getty Images
Frank J. Cilluffo directs the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University and is former special assistant to the president for homeland security. Daniel Kimmage is an independent consultant and a senior fellow at the Homeland Security Policy Institute. This article originally appeared at Foreign Policy.