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American Idol After Iraq: Restoring America's Influence in the World

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American Idol After Iraq engaged my interest from start to finish. It is a profound work that deserves wide-ranging attention from policy makers in Washington, producers in Hollywood and all of us concerned with a central issue of our time -- the competition for the hearts and minds of people in a global world. The tone of the book is pitch perfect -- combining a passionate appeal for soft power with a rigorous analysis of what it will take to restore America's influence in the world.

I was drawn to the book in part because my youngest son, Joe, a captain in the Army, has been working in the office of Strategic Communications in Kabul, Afghanistan where the effort to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan villagers will play an increasingly important role in the months ahead. Joe had volunteered for the army after September 11th, served as a platoon leader in Baghdad and was working at NBC when he was called back for a second tour of duty this past fall. As soon as I finished American Idol, I sent it to him. But the more I think about its message, the broader its appeal.

It has been famously said that the American Revolution was won in the hearts and minds of the American people before the first shot at Lexington and Concord was fired. And still today, as Nathan Gardels and Michael Medavoy observe, "the most attractive attribute in our arsenal of soft power is the image of America as the promised land of infinite possibility and opportunity, where personal liberty reigns and the rule of law is reliable." Yet too often, they argue, the strength of this positive image is undermined by the picture of America that Hollywood exports abroad in its films and entertainment, given the reigning ethos that "anything goes if it expands market share." The book ends with a powerful challenge to Hollywood to accept its responsibility as a major player in the struggle to restore America's moral influence in the world.