MR. BAY: Glen Reynolds, let’s bring you in. Glenn, you’ve covered this war’s media and political elements as closely and acutely as any commentator. You know, I think the Bush administration did a terrible job with the information and — at least political information side of the war. Did they and, if so, why did they?
MR. REYNOLDS: Yeah, they did. And I think there are a couple of reasons for it. I think part of it is that they concluded early on that it was a game they couldn’t win, that the media deck was so thoroughly stacked against them that they were better off employing their resources and energies elsewhere. It certainly was a game that was stacked against them. And we’ve seen that over and over again from, you know, Eason Jordan’s admission that CNN actively covered up Saddam’s crimes before and during the war in order to get access to the various fake photo scandals and bogus news reports that we see on a pretty steady basis coming out of Iraq to this very day. So they had an uphill battle. Nonetheless, I think it was a mistake to cede the battlefield to the enemy which I think is what they did. I think that, you know, terrorism, as somebody said — it might have been you — is really an information war disguised as a military conflict.
MR. BAY: I did say that.
MR. REYNOLDS: If you opt out of the information war part of it, you’re really handicapping yourself. And I think it was also been quite damaging.
MR. BAY: Well, let’s talk about Abu Ghraib. Now I realize that Jules Crittenden’s on here and Jules understands the gunfire aspect. I spent a good slug of 2004 in Iraq. But looking at the conflict since March of 2003 — Abu Ghraib. Abu Ghraib still crops up in headlines. I saw Leonard Pitts had an essay on Abu Ghraib within the last week. How does Abu Ghraib rate, Glenn? Is that America’s biggest defeat?
MR. REYNOLDS: Well, you’ve got to realize that for a large part of the media, Abu Ghraib was a far more significant event than, say, the 9/11 attacks ‘cause in the 9/11 attacks, you know, Muslim terrorists looked bad and Americans died. But in Abu Ghraib, all the iniquity that they had always believed was part of the American military machine seemed to have appeared tied up with a ribbon. It was a major defeat though — you know, and this is maybe where my earlier criticism of the Bush administration sort of cuts both ways. It was an inevitable defeat because they were looking for anything they could tie up in that package. And given the kinds of things that go on in war, they were bound to find something sooner or later. However, the Bush administration didn’t deal with it very well. And, you know, as usual, their strategy in these PR debacles has been mostly just to go hunker down and wait for them to go away.
I think the Bush Administration has done a horrible job building and maintaining support for whatever the hell we are calling this war. How much of this failure is due to deficiencies in the character and personality of George W. Bush, and how valuable is it really to blame it all on him? And valuable to whom?
Plenty of BDS in the counterinsurgent-supportive blogosphere. I Blame Bush!
But there is plenty of blame to go around. Rumsfeld was right about the media deck being stacked against him. The MSM was then and still is, in my humble opinion if not in Secretary Gate’s, AN ENEMY. But the serving military officers, career bureaucrats, contractors, political operatives and visiting PR flacks never had the fire in the belly or the stones in the sack to fight the MSM. Rumsfeld did, and they destroyed him.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The people who thought milblogs were a good thing are gone or going. The internal struggle within .gov over how to reach the domestic target audience has been resolved in favor of Public Affairs, which is essentially Stockholm-syndromed by the MSM. The Psychological Operations of countering enemy propaganda, defeating Morale Operations, and mitigating threats to national will have proven too hard, too unpopular, too controversial, too easily lawfared. The Regulars, most of them, have given up.
But everybody isn’t a Regular.