Hugh Hewitt: Well, transformation has been a watch word of your tenure. But has the Pentagon’s focus on the information war that’s aimed at the American public undergone a similar transformation?
Donald Rumsfeld: Well, it has to. I can’t say that it has, but there’s no question. This is the first war that’s ever been conducted, in the 21st Century, in an era of these new media realities, where you have the internet and 24 hour talk radio and news and bloggers and video cameras and digital cameras and instant communications worldwide. And the enemy understands that they can’t win a battle out on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan. The only place they can win a battle is in Washington, D.C. So they have media committees, and they get up in the morning and figure out how they’re going to manipulate the American media, and they do a very skillful job.
HH: Against that backdrop, that’s really what I wanted to focus on. Are the pressers like the sort you just concluded, ten minute interviews and an occasional Sunday show, sufficient for you and the military to get across not only the good news, but the bad news, the challenges, the strategy? Are you using last war techniques in the new war?
DR: To a certain extent, we are still using the old 20th century techniques. And we’re trying to figure them out and adjust them, and adapt them to the 21st Century. But it’s painfully slow. People get set in their ways, and it’s a difficult thing to do. We do provide, the Pentagon does, an enormous amount of information. There’s someone briefing at the Pentagon, somewhere in the world, every day. And there are people providing information to people in a variety of different ways: through our website, through the Pentagon channel, through radio and television and print media. But it is still basically, I would guess, 80% 20th Century, and maybe 20% 21st Century.
HH: You’ve got people like Col. Austin Bay down in Austin, Texas, you’ve got Mudville Gazette, a bunch of bloggers, you’ve got Specialist Claude Flowers down at Centcom. They’re all fighting the new media battle. Are any of those inside the E-ring, close to the control of actually the message machine?
DR: I don’t know how to answer that. First of all, the truth is, and it’s embarrassing to confess this, that I suppose I work about 13 hours a day. And I’ll bet you that 12 1/2, or 12 3/4 of those 13 hours a day, I spend doing things instead of thinking about how I communicate, and what the message ought to be, and fighting the enemy on their level, against their media committees, and their active efforts at disinformation. And I probably ought to spend, and we here in the Department, ought to spend more time thinking about those messages, and how we can counteract the lies, because they are enormously successful. They can put out a lie, and then we’re asked the question is that true. And we can know we think it’s not true, but we have to be honest, and we have to be accurate. So we then have to spend two or three days trying to find out what the truth is, before we can rebut the lie. Well, the lie’s been around the world 15 times by the time we even get our boots on.
HH: Right, quoting Twain. Specialist Flowers, for example, sent me your foreign relations speech, your Council on Foreign Relations speech from a few weeks ago, where you talk about this new media thing. And I want to press you on this, Mr. Secretary. Do any of the generals care? Or do they just view that as the press office will handle the American public’s information, and we’ve got an enemy to kill?
DR: Oh, I think it’s uneven. You know, when you’re coming up through your career, these folks are not necessarily trained extensively in communications. They’re trained in war fighting and specialities, which is understandable. Second, people who stick their head up in the media get bitten. They get hurt. And they say something that comes out a different way, or someone prints it a way that’s different than they actually said it. And then somebody says to them, well what in the world? Why’d you say that? And then they have to say well, I didn’t say that. They printed it wrong. And then you’re on the defense. And so people, you know, they become conditioned, and learn that it’s not necessarily career enhancing to stick your head up and be the one out in front on the spearpoint talking, because you’ve got a whole array of people who are just waiting to pop you every time you open your mouth.
SECDEF gets it. The will of the American people to prosecute the Jihadi War is under constant attack by a media-savvy enemy who tailors their kinetic operations to maximize negative coverage in the MSM. What he doesn’t come right out and say is that he and his people are very restricted in what they can do domestically. Targeting domestic audience for psychological operations is a no-no, thus hobbling DoD in the struggle over the will of the people. This is where the cyber Minutemen come in. The milbloggers and the 101st Fighting Keyboardists are our last line of defense against enemy psychological warfare.
If you can write, start your own blog. If you can comment, comment. If you have money, hit the Paypal button (not here, I do this for free). Communicate. Spread the word. Help us win the war.
UPDATE: Greyhawk talks about the Global Reach of blogs.
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