Just as there are counter measures for electronic warfare, and counter-counter measures, propagandists can anticipate likely responses of counterpropagandists and conduct counter-counterpropaganda. I stumbled upon some counter-counterpropaganda that uses the counterpropaganda technique of forestalling to poison the well and kill the messenger when anybody is taken to task for anti-war, anti-military opposition to the Iraq Campaign of the Long War.
I had never heard of Lieutenant Colonel William J. Astore, USAF (ret.) until today. Seems he’s concerned that the defeated and disgraced U.S. Army and Marine Corps are going to scapegoat their domestic “Loyal Opposition” like the defeated Kaiser Heer tarred the Socialists, Spartacists and Social Democrats with the Dolchstosslegende after the First World War, and he wants to nip that in the bud before anybody even thinks of going there. Dr. Astore is a bonafide historian! He served, man, unlike you chickenhawk Bushbots. He’s got cred! We shall explore where he has cred shortly.
The world’s finest military launches a highly coordinated shock-and-awe attack that shows enormous initial progress. There’s talk of the victorious troops being home for Christmas. But the war unexpectedly drags on. As fighting persists into a third, and then a fourth year, voices are heard calling for negotiations, even “peace without victory.” Dismissing such peaceniks and critics as defeatists, a conservative and expansionist regime — led by a figurehead who often resorts to simplistic slogans and his Machiavellian sidekick who is considered the brains behind the throne — calls for one last surge to victory. Unbeknownst to the people on the home front, however, this duo has already prepared a seductive and self-exculpatory myth in case the surge fails.
The United States in 2007? No, Wilhelmine Germany in 1917 and 1918, as its military dictators, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and his loyal second, General Erich Ludendorff, pushed Germany toward defeat and revolution in a relentless pursuit of victory in World War I. Having failed with their surge strategy on the Western Front in 1918, they nevertheless succeeded in deploying a stab-in-the-back myth, or Dolchstoßlegende, that shifted blame for defeat from themselves and Rightist politicians to Social Democrats and others allegedly responsible for losing the war by their failure to support the troops at home. The German Army knew it was militarily defeated in 1918. But this was an inconvenient truth for Hindenburg and the Right, so they crafted a new “truth”: that the troops were “unvanquished in the field.” So powerful did these words become that they would be engraved in stone on many German war memorial.
Dr. Astore wrote a book on Hindenburg, so he has unassailable moral authority. And he is not the only forestaller.
Back in 2004, Matthew Yglesias first brought up the possibility. Last year, in Harper’s Magazine, Kevin Baker detailed the history of the stab-in-the-back, suggesting that Bush’s Iraqi version was already beginning to germinate early in 2005, when news from Iraq turned definitively sour. And this October, in The Nation, Eric Alterman warned that the Bush administration was already busily sowing the seeds of this myth.
Other Iraqi myth-trackers have included Gary Kamiya at Salon.com, and Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith at Commondreams.org. Just this August, Thomas Ricks, Washington Post columnist and author of the bestselling book, Fiasco, worried publicly about whether the military itself wasn’t already embracing elements of the myth whose specific betrayers would include “weasely politicians” (are there any other kind?) and a “media who undercut us by focusing on the negative.”
Lots of projection in all the above angst. Dr. Astore’s bandwagon is not one I would care to jump on. al Jazeerah Magazine is not a venue in which I would like to see my by-line. He retired from active duty and got his Ph.D in history and I would normally be inclined to admire him, but he has revealed too much for that. I appreciate and respect his previous honorable service to our country, but I’ll save my admiration for another Air Force officer, Greyhawk, whose opinion I value much more.