Is the US military allowed to have an information warfare strategy? Or is every effort we make to assist the Iraqis secure their country and win some hearts and minds to be exposed, ridiculed and countered by the media? I have stood on the tiny coral outcrop called Ie Shima where Ernie Pyle, the GIs best friend, died near the end of WWII. With him may have died the last time the press and the military felt like they were on the same team. The press alternates between complaining the administration and the military aren’t doing enough for the Iraqis, and complaining about everything they are doing. I think it would be self-evident that publicizing the depravity of a foreign terrorist who is responsible for many of the deaths of their countrymen, might help spur resistance to the insurgency. But the Washington Post begs to differ:
“The documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. U.S. authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.”
I guess the best way to ensure the continued success of this program is to claim it is a disinformation program and try to paint it as evil propaganda.
“The military’s propaganda program largely has been aimed at Iraqis, but seems to have spilled over into the U.S. media. One briefing slide about U.S. “strategic communications” in Iraq, prepared for Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, describes the “home audience” as one of six major targets of the American side of the war.”
I have difficulty with the press pushing back every time it finds out the military doesn’t trust it to inform the American public, or the world, about our operations. Every time they sniff out any foray into information warfare, they begin with the propaganda meme, and attempt to discredit it. Yet the same folks will bemoan the inability of the administration to stir public sentiment in our favor at home or anywhere else. It would be nice for the media to admit they have waged an aggressive propaganda campaign of disinformation and disinterest in anything positive that has actually harmed our war effort and made our work in Iraq more difficult.
I am not blaming the press for the current situation in Iraq, except as an agent spreading doom and gloom. There have been plenty of serious problems and the techniques, tactics and overall strategery employed are open to debate. As a matter of ongoing policy the military is actively involved in cataloguing lessons learned and best practices, one they need to capture is how to operate in a hostile and opposed media environment. This is a major concern, both in theater, where opinions of the Iraqi populace are the determining factor for the violence level, but also here at home, where the relentless drumbeat of defeat and quagmire has overwhelmed the public’s tolerance for any sacrifice.
The loss of every life in the service of our country is the highest call we make on our citizenry. The public is predisposed to believe our soldiers fight for truth, justice and the American Way. It has taken the combined efforts of the national media and a very recalcitrant Sunni insurgency to shake this belief. We cannot allow a defeat to be created in the information war, when the facts on the ground tell a different story. The military does not conduct information operations targeting the American public, so we can either rely on the same media that created and conveyed the negative messages, or we can factor in their biases, and look for other sources of information. Michael Yon anyone, or maybe Michael Totten, and some Bill Roggio for good measure.
kosovodad’s comment to uncle jimbo:
I agree that the MSM–at least certain members of it–have a clear agenda no matter what is actually happening on the ground.
As an army public affairs officer though, I have to wonder–do we keep having to make it easy for the MSM to attack us?
What are the limits when it comes to information? This isn’t an easy question. You can certainly can say this: We should have an active information operations campaign that includes telling the Muslim world how bad Zarqawi and others are. What happens when we lie–even a little bit–about him?
Do we just say “hey, it’s part of PSYOPS. We just wanted to make people give him up.” Okay, but do we win the battle but lose the war when people stop believing the other information that we give out?
Look, I’m not saying I have the answers for this. I don’t. The problem is that PSYOPS, public affairs, and all these other disciplines now have access to the same cheap and prevalent communications technologies that everyone has. This makes the lines very blurry.
It used to be that us PAOs just took reporters around and wrote the base newspaper while PSYOPS guys dropped leaflets on the enemy…the clearly defined enemy.
Now all that’s changed. We’ve both got web pages, the bad guys have podcasts, lots of folks in the grey area have the same stuff and talk about it on their blogs. (NOTE: this in NO WAY means I consider mil blogs the “grey area”…I love the support we’re getting from the folks in the blogosphere…hell, it’s why I started my own as well.)
My point is that everyone has access to the same stuff. The playing field is level and, let’s face it, no one likes that. We all want a playing field that’s slightly tilted in our favor.
Back to the point.
The MSM often looks to say America–especially American Government is bad. AGREE
The government should have an active information plan to quickly disseminate accurate and factual information. AGREE
It’s the MSM’s fault that we can’t catch a break when we choose to stretch the truth a little. MAYBE NOT SO MUCH.
Now, before you all tar and feather me. I wonder whether we shouldn’t just say “screw it”, and call it an active PSYOPS campaign.
It’s probably the attempt to act like “there’s nothing behind the green curtain” that draws the hounds.
As Dennis Miller says, “that’s my opinion, I could be wrong”.
The national media is on their own side, but since 90% of them vote Democrat, supported Kerry, hate Bush, consider themselves citizens of the world, have no useful prior service experience, and have a fine contempt for Red State America and it’s sons and daughters in uniform, their own side has many common interests with others who fervently work towards regime change in America. I categorize most journos as Enemies-Domestic.
PSYOPS are being run on the American domestic target audience. Hostile media are IO operators for the enemy. DoD IO and PAO are not allowed to target domestic audiences. So who does domestic counter-PSYOPS?
Who can do it, legally?
The Civilian Irregular Information Defense Group volunteer cyber militia can do it. Think Minutemen.