SECDEF Strategically Communicates His Embarrassment

Civilian Irregular Information Operators in Kansas alerted me to this speech by Secretary Gates yesterday:

The way you institutionalize these capabilities is probably not to recreate or repopulate instutions of the past such as USAID or USIA.  On the other hand just adding more people to existing government departments such as Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, Justice and so on is not a sufficient answer either.  Even if they were to be more deplyable overseas.  New institutions are needed for the 21st Century.  New organizations with a 21st Century mindset.

For example, Public Relations was invented in the United States, yet we are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals.  It is just plain embarrassing that al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the internet than America.  As one foreign diplomat asked a couple of years ago, how has one man in a cave managed to out-communicate the world’s greatest communications society?

Speed, agility and cultural relevance are not terms that come readily to mind when discussing U.S. Strategic Communications. 

That part starts at 36:26 on your RealPlayer feed.  The War Lord of Argghhh! was in the audience and thinking about me while SECDEF said that.

I’ve lived through some history myself, but my memory holds no recollection of a Secretary of Defense seeking funding for OGA’s.  He has seen how low-speed, high-drag, lackadaisical route-step  InterAgency  non-hackers are gumming up the wheels of progress and it sounds like he seriously wants to do something about it.  But I’m afraid he’s out of his lane, and the same heroes who think a tour in the IZ is a death sentence will fight the program, unless echelons above SECDEF burn a few pour encourager les autres, which I don’t see happening.

UPDATE:  After I record the above and transcribe it myself the Warlord of Arggghhh!!! finds the DoD transcript.

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12 Comments

Filed under Idea War

12 responses to “SECDEF Strategically Communicates His Embarrassment

  1. After I record the above and transcribe it myself the Warlord of Arggghhh!!! finds the DoD transcript.Something to which you could truly reply “ARGH!!!” 🙂

    I do hope the SECDEF can figure out a way to make this work. But I still think that the best thing they have going is the independent blogs. You and I and the rest of the bloggers don’t have a political card in play, and therefore I think are more likely to call things as we see them. Any organization that has any politics in play will always be suspect.

  2. How low would the President’s approval numbers be without the pro-victory blogs? But the blogs are mostly for domestic consumption.

    Everybody should be suspect until proven trustworthy. I make no pretense of nonpartisanship. I don’t have any political cards but I know who I want to win.

  3. QuickIO

    This issue is the crux of what the military is facing right now. The state Department is doing a less than stellar job at communicating and the mlitary is the one doing the strategic communications job. There has to be a happy medium in there somewhere. The main reason that we are stuck in this hole is that we look at the problem through the political lens and not the promugation of democracy and national will.

    As a military member I have the luxury of not having to be politcal unless I choose to be.

  4. I’ve pointed quite deliberately at the importance of media and ideology (or the mastery of both) in 5GW. Setting aside theory, for the moment, and focusing on the real and tangible I’d say it’s pivotal for today’s “long war.” I think we’ve got a ways to go in the kinetic aspect (though the Iraq “surge” and the focus on tribal cooperation rather than sectarian or even political cohesion are a good start) but we’re, as SecDef Gates says, leagues behind in the non-kinetic facet, in my opinion. Not only does AQ

    Sounds fantastical, even Orwellian (Machiavellian? I’ve got lot’s of -ellians today) but to hell with another bureaucracy. Why not a second Manhattan Project that focuses on both domestic resilience (on the communal scale, a la John Robb) and building a framework for projecting media ops both domestically and abroad?

  5. As one foreign diplomat asked a couple of years ago, how has one man in a cave managed to out-communicate the world’s greatest communications society?

    One man in a cave has a unified message with loyal adherents such as Zarqawi (PBUH) and Zarwahiri. America neither has a unified message nor do Americans think a unified message is a good thing. This is kind of like having a huge army with the detriments being that it also requires a huge amount of logistics and time to move it to where it is of use. Bigger is not better, and smaller does not mean less lethal.

    He has seen how low-speed, high-drag, lackadaisical route-step InterAgency non-hackers are gumming up the wheels of progress and it sounds like he seriously wants to do something about it.

    If he was the President with powers of arrest and execution, he might actually be able to do something about it. However, the way he is doing it, trying to work out bureacratic incompetence and corruption by using the bureacrat’s rules and pre-chosen battlefield, will produce no real results.

    For every step forward, one step back and another step sideways.

    So long as people think there is one enemy that they are fighting, the foreign insurgency, they will get nowhere. One must combat spies, the ones Sun Tzu mentioned, as well as foreign generals. The domestic insurgency is just as important as the foreign insurgency.

  6. The real weakness is the American people. Programs that teach Americans how to recognize and resist propaganda campaigns should have been the first things done in counter-terrorist efforts after security had been achieved against terrorist physical attacks post 9/11.

    If the terrorists can’t scare you by killing you, they can sure as heck scare you by making things up as they go along. Haditha deathblossom. Blackwater death blossom. Marine Force Recon death blossom in Afghanistan. You get the picture.

  7. Btw, Bush can only effectively “make his case” if he orders propaganda movies made from DoD funds. A billion or two a year should do it. But even a million a year would be enough for small time production.

    Everyone talks about Bush needing to make his case. He can’t do it with the media around. So bypass the media and reach the American public personally, through their living rooms and their community theaters. With two hours, you can adequately portray your side of the situation. And if the media and critics won’t push your movie, then go for Word of Mouth advertisement.

    Guerrilla warfare has always emphasized avoiding an enemy’s strong point. There is no point in trying to beat the media on their own territory. There is no need.

  8. ymar,
    The C-in-C and his surrogates could be using the hell out of YouTube. He has people working for him that read blogs. Keep hammering and eventually we’ll see him on YouTube But time is getting short and it may be too little too late

  9. A Pashtoon VOA could be a good place to start. in and around Swat they have 30 mobile FM stations, USA has none that I know of.
    Pentagon could start a web site, match up Terrorist combat videos with USA’s combat videos, show both sides of attacks.

    This would be a Huge surfer magnet, and mix in Propagqnda.

    USA has 150m troops in Iraq alone, give them all videos and run everything thru censor for the our and their combat videos,
    huge audience on both sides.

    Don’t even need usa propaganda as al Qaeda paradigm in violation of Islam, Muslim killing Muslim, women,children and bombing mosques and market places, all counter Islam and anti-koran. Thier hypothesis is in error.

    INFO WAR, USA MIA.

    G

  10. ymar,

    re: #6 – Programs that teach Americans how to recognize and resist propaganda campaigns should have been the first things done

    Woulda, shoulda, coulda

    IMHO, telling the American people to go shopping and let the Regulars handle everything WORKED for the first year after 9/11. The economy did not tank. Wall Street went back to work. Most people went back to watching Dances with the Stars. Most American’s sense of security was restored and they tuned back out.

    But things changed in the run-up to OIF and the Strategic Communications didn’t catch up. Official counterpropaganda would have called unwanted attention to things bettter forgotten by the masses that first year, but the continued absence of counterpropaganda after the start of OIF was a serious omission. My SWAG is Bush would be at 50% approval right now IF the enemy propaganda had been countered.

    Countering that part of it disseminated by our own media and “Loyal Opposition” would have required a change in tone from the Administration, but there was no stomach for hardball against domestic enemies.

  11. Ymarsakar

    There is nothing wrong with staying optimistic even as you teach people about the threats around them. People fighting wars do it all the time. THey get optimistic if they believe the forces deployed provide them an advantage, even though what they are considering is pretty violent and destructive potentially.

    I’m not against stabilizing the economy in the year after 9/11. And it realy isn’t a shoulda would have situation, since Bush can still get a lot of mileage from producing such programs now. It is not too late. It is just late.

    Official counterpropaganda would have called unwanted attention to things bettter forgotten by the masses that first year

    The American public did not forget about the terrorist threat in the first year. How could they? Everytime they raised the color coded alert, people were reminded of the possibilities for mayhem. In trying to avoid such things, they didn’t deal with it in a way that reassured people that folks were competent on the job.

    Countering that part of it disseminated by our own media and “Loyal Opposition” would have required a change in tone from the Administration, but there was no stomach for hardball against domestic enemies.

    Yes, I think that is true.

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