Imagine a real life PR victory for the U.S. in its war against ISIS.
Now, in addition to the image of a US PR victory, imagine a way for the U.S. to raise revenues to fund a war unconstrained by budgets and no longer fought with out-of-date equipment. Finally, imagine a powerful PR defeat for ISIS. Like that triptych image? It’s achievable by returning to what worked during wars in the past, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. The U.S. should sell bonds. [Are you certain you want to stop reading at this point? It’s not as crazy as you think, and when you do think about it, it makes a ton of sense.] Here’s why:
- The Financial Victory for the U.S.The war with ISIS is currently estimated to cost $3 billion annually. Let’s assume the government isn’t being totally forthcoming and that the cost is more like $5 billion annually. The sale of bonds to finance WW II led by FDR raised more than $185 billion, more than half the war’s cost. The campaign to sell bonds captured the support of adults and children, who, for pennies a day, could buy stamps that would be redeemable for $25.00 bonds. At the time, the U.S. population was about 135 million; today it is about 320 million. If the U.S. today could create a bond that made financial sense for the nation and the citizen/investor and we sold bonds at only half the rate of the WW II effort, the way I figure it, the U.S. could raise about $225 billion. [If you want to check my math, I wouldn’t be surprised that I calculated something wrong; my figures were not adjusted for inflation, which would significantly raise the prospects for a contemporary sale of bonds.] Even at one-quarter the rate of the WW II effort, we would raise about $112 billion. At a cost of $5 billion annually, that would pay for a war that would be a lot longer than anyone dreams. It will also pay for a more assertive General-led military strategy that might make the war shorter than people now worry about. The excess capital could be devoted to modernizing our military and making critical infrastructure more resilient and less at risk of terrorist attacks. Like that budget benefit? And it doesn’t even require much involvement of politicians: just create the bond and a non-political steering committee of volunteers to get it going, and get out of the way.
- The PR Victory for the U.S.During WW II, the nation unified behind the drive to buy bonds. That’s a powerful statement: the nation actually unified into one people and supported our war commitment, evidencing that commitment by kicking-in their own money to the cause. The nation’s most popular entertainers and sports heroes and business icons all were active and visible supporters of the bond drive. Could you imagine replacing the spirit of pessimism that currently imbues our nation with one overwhelming apolitical national pride-centric campaign? What a message the U.S. people could send to the ISIS fighters: “Do not think you are fighting a single soldier or even a team of soldiers; you are fighting soldiers that the whole nation stands behind.” ISIS needs to hear that. What a message the U.S. people could send to the rest of the world: “The U.S. is not a herd of sheep led by gridlocked politicians but is a nation of individuals who band together to attain a shared goal.” The rest of the world needs to hear that. What a message the U.S. people could send to themselves: “We are not a nation that rallies around fear and hatred and divisiveness, but one that has an unrelenting commitment to fundamental democratic values that made us exceptional.” We as a nation – as a culture, society, economy – need to hear that.
- It would also be – at last – a PR defeat for ISIS – delivered by the people of the U.S.I’ve written before about how ISIS is winning the PR war and about how badly the Obama-led PR strategy is failing (to the degree it exists at all). This is not a collateral issue in this new type of war. ISIS victories are achieved by recruiting supporters anywhere and everywhere in the world either as part of the formal ISIS terrorist forces or as so-called lone wolves. Those PR victories don’t come by a rifle but by changing the way people think – creating such strong loyalty that people will kill himself or herself for the cause. That’s a PR victory! Such victories would be harder for ISIS to win if the targets for that PR campaign began to think that ISIS is confronting a powerful and unified opponent rather than the weak and falling apart group of infidels, as ISIS now presents their enemies. In the process, ISIS itself might come down its pedestal a bit. Will that be the reaction of every possible Islamic Extremist? Hardly. But it could influence some recruits – maybe the people who otherwise would enter a local school with an arsenal for murder. If we could deal ISIS such a PR defeat it would be first such PR damage the US would inflict in this war – which is ultimately a war of ideas and concepts.
If you define a PR Victory as a campaign to change the way people think, this would be a real PR Victory.
So … a PR victory … a major budget benefit … and a significant defeat to ISIS: all by adopting the revolutionary old idea of selling bonds. To me, that sounds like three undeniable reasons why the U.S. should sell War bonds.
About Doug Poretz: After a four+ decade long career crafting public relations and communications strategies at the C-suite level, I now work with a limited number of clients, helping them rethink and improve their approach to how they communicate. For more about me, click here. For how I work with clients, click here. And for my numerous previous blog posts, click here. You can sign up for alerts about forthcoming posts by completing an easy form at my blog.
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