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Terrorism is really an information war disguised as a military conflict


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.





Filed under Morale Operations, Old Media, PSYOP Auxiliaries

What Powers Terrorist Organizations?

8. Media

Terrorists rely on the media to magnify the effects of their attacks. The media is also “the battlefield of ideas” for waging political and ideological warfare. In fact, a good case can be made that the real battleground in the GWOT is the media and that the only terrorist victories are in the media.

Nineteenth-century terrorists relied on newspapers and the telegraph. Twenty-first-century terrorists crave video imagery via television and the Internet. The Internet is also useful for spreading rumors. Thanks to the Internet, a rumor is now heard the same day by several million people instead of a few dozen.

Austin Bay, via Kat.

The Bad Guys can terrorize people thousands of miles from the scene of their latest atrocity.  Plenty of “journalists” and other enablers profit from disseminating their propaganda.  If it bleeds, it leads.  My favorite Westphalian nation-state has done a good job since 9/11 protecting my homeland physically while leaving us almost entirely unprotected from Islamist efforts to influence our emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and behavior.  The regularly constituted organs of public information shrink from confrontation with internal oppositional elements who also seek regime change and diminished American power in the world.  Cynicism, pessimism, hatred of key leaders, thought control through political correctness, and undermining respect for Western Civilization through multiculturalism benefit enemies foreign and domestic.

Who can engage domestic enemies in the War of Ideas?



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Filed under Old Media

The media told the story the media wanted to tell

Great thinkers over at ThreatsWatch talking about GoI vs JAM.  Ralph Peters stole the show nuking the MSM’s execrable coverage of this historic event:

I watched much of this from Panama, and I immediately wondered about the port facilities myself—they’re just crucial—but was mystified when I heard no mention of them. All I heard (not least, from poor, old Nic Robertson of CNN, who resolutely refuses to understand military affairs after all these years as a “war correspondent”) was wailing about the problems the government forces encountered. Well, there are always problems in warfare—especially, when a newly formed military is learning its trade—problems complicated, of course, by the complexity of Iraqi society. As one would expect, the media obsessed on two things: the fact that a few Iraqi units did, indeed, fail badly, and the mortar rounds lobbed into the Green Zone up in Baghdad (fired by Iranian-backed Special Groups). But there was no mention of the numerous Iraqi units that fought fiercely, nor any explanation that mortars, while difficult to use with precision, are so easy to fire as irritants in a general area that even a journalist could do it (and journalists—headlines—were the real target of those mortar rounds). Basically, the media told the story the media wanted to tell—and the story our enemies wanted it to tell—but not the full story.

I don’t always agree with the good Colonel’s harsh assessments. I do this time. Bolding added by me. More:

An even deeper problem here, on both the left and right, is naivety about warfare. We’re all conditioned to believe that perfect results can be achieved by the end of the movie. Well, I can find no war in history—not one—that brought perfect results. There are always disappointments, failures, frustrations and unintended consequences. As I wrote in an article for an upcoming issue of Armed Forces Journal, unreasonable criteria for “success” pose a greater impediment to us than either al Qaeda in Iraq or the Taliban in Afghanistan. We don’t know what we’re jabbering about. If you want perfection, join a Buddhist monastery, but don’t go to a war zone.

Roughly 270 out of 300 million Americans are so abysmally ignorant of war, military affairs, and national security that they can be told just about anything and they’ll believe it, having no personal frame of reference to make any valid judgements about the veracity of what they’re being told. The family hero has gone to his reward now, in what intact families are left, and most Americans don’t have a personal connection to the military anymore. We are more vulnerable now to misinformation, disinformation, propaganda and Morale Operations than we have ever been. And the far enemy partners with internal oppositional elements to exploit the hell out of our vulnerability. Milblogs, Muddy Boots IO, attempted to address some of these vulnerabilities. Now they’re being herded on to For Offical Use Only Army Knowledge Online forums inaccessible to the general population. The press is not the enemy, don’t ya know. Back to Peters:

Do we really want to lose? The first duty of those of us who assume the right to interpret events to the public is to make an honest attempt to know what we’re talking about. No form of human endeavor is more complex than making war…and wars are won not by the most-competent military, but by the least-incompetent (and, sometimes, just the luckiest). I wish, just once, a star correspondent would focus on the difficulty and complexity, instead of implying that, were he or she in charge, things would be straightened out promptly. Instead, we got the pro-Obama version of Iraq yet again.

Yes, some “Americans” really do want to lose.

. . . the aggressive negativity of the reporting from Iraq remains inexcusable—there’s no question but that the global media (including our own) is shamelessly partisan, anti-American and anti-Iraqi-government: For all of the al Maliki government’s failings—and, God knows, they’re beyond counting—it’s accomplished more under difficult wartime conditions than plenty of developing-world governments have accomplished in decades…yet, favored dictatorships get a pass from the press, while Iraq’s struggling democracy gets picked apart mercilessly. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the Iraqi legislators passed more significant laws last year than did our own Congress—and we, who inherited the Anglo-American tradition, have had eight hundred years of practice. The standards we apply in judging Iraqis are just plain unfair. Now, this doesn’t mean we should excuse corruption—that greatest bane of humankind—or electoral cheating or the like—but it does mean that, while criticizing that which deserves criticism, we should be willing to acknowledge the difficulties this government faces and to give praise when it’s earned. I go back to one of my initial points: A great many partisans, here and in the Middle East, want Iraqi democracy to fail.

For Bush, or Cheney, or Rumsfeld to be proven right on anything is more than some people can bear.



Filed under Idea War, Morale Operations, Old Media

concerned Afghan citizens dime out Taliban

First official use of the term “concerned Afghan citizens” I’ve seen so far. 

Afghan, Coalition Forces Detain Taliban Facilitators

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Filed under G-2

Prine vs. Burden for the Military Information Championship of the World

In this corner,

Matt Burden,

blogging as BlackFive .

In this corner, Carl Prine,

commenting as

Action Hero Sock Puppet.


Action Hero Sock Puppet has been a troll at Blackfive going on two and a half years, tolerated because he served and in my humble opinion is thus afforded courtesy he would not otherwise receive. 

one of the Trib’s investigative reporters, was embedded with the 1st Marine Division. Prine, 36, joined the Trib’s special-projects team in July 2000. His reporting on local heroin abuse has won state and local journalism awards. His 2002 special report on security lapses at chemical and nuclear-power plants was a finalist for the prestigious Oakes Awards and has been recognized by two journalism organizations — Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is a U.S. Marine veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and previously worked as a combat correspondent in Sierra Leone for the Christian Science Monitor.

An investigative journalist for a second-tier Main Stream Media outlet with significant military experience.  Embedded with  1st MAR DIV, went to Baghdad with them.  A cursory peek at what he reported five years ago looks fairly decent to me.  I first heard of him the other night when he came on PBS.  It was an old rerun, but it was new to me.  He enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and went back to Iraq as a shooter.   Whatever douchebaggery he may or may not be guilty of, he has cred.  Cred which he is attempting to trade on in bolstering the reputation of the Main Stream Media as purveyors of Strategic Communications pertaining to the United States Armed Forces and running down the effectiveness of New Media as purveyors of same.

Milblogs exist because millions of serving and former American military personnel and their family members and friends and supporters lost confidence in the objectivity of the MSM.  The anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-military BIAS of the American MSM, the objectively pro-insurgent tone of most of the reporting, and an intolerable predisposition on the part of the press to believe the worst about those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan created a demand for

real experiences flying unfiltered to anyone with an Internet connection and an interest.*

The unfiltered part was the basis of milblog credibility. 

In a nation with decreasing numbers of citizens who have any personal connection to the military, blogs serve to educate those who are interested about the values, beliefs, and humanity of those in uniform. To augment the efforts of Army journalists, blogs offer readers a soldier’s-eye report that seems more credible – straight from the trenches, complete with interesting anecdotes and colorful descriptions – a perspective that is clearly unsanitized by Army leadership.17  According to one retired officer, “The best blogs offer a taste of reality of Iraq or Afghanistan that the news media rarely capture. And they’re often a grand, irreverent hoot.”18

MAJ Robbins understood the value of hundreds of unofficial  part-time PSYOPers contributing to the effort to engage the domestic target audience’s attention, interest and support for the mission and the people carrying it out.  But those days are gone.  PA, IA, and OPSEC triumphed over PO.  Active duty bloggers face ever more restrictions.  Blogs are being blocked from government computers.  Milbloggers, potential milbloggers, and commenters are being herded into pass-word protected, IA-approved Army Knowledge Online cyber ghettoes inaccessible to the unsponsored.

The people who thought milblogs were a good thing are on the way out.

Whoever gets in will be even less appreciative. 

Regime change in Washington is going to reverberate throughout the blogosphere for as long as it lasts, which may not be long. 

Interpreting milspeak to the general public, encouraging support for the troops and their missions, cheerleading, disseminating good news, bolstering the people’s will to endeavor to persevere, pushing back against those who would blow up recruiting stations, vandalize memorials, desecrate funerals, and spit on soldiers is a campaign in the War of Ideas that will continue after the election, but it will have to be fought by the only force left that is free to speak, while they still are free to speak.

MSM War Correspondent vs. Virtual Warlord.  Credibility is in the eye of the beholder. 


*Matthew Currier Burden, The Blog of War, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, 2006, p. 4


Filed under Electronic Counter Media, Old Media, PSYOP Auxiliaries, Virtual War Lords

FM 3-0 INFORMATION ENGAGEMENT for Civilian Irregular Supporters

7-10. Land operations occur among populations. This requires Army forces to contend constantly with the attitudes and perceptions of populations within and beyond their area of operations. Commanders use information engagement in their areas of operation to communicate information, build trust and confidence, promote support for Army operations, and influence perceptions and behavior. Information engagement is the integrated employment of public affairs to inform U.S. and friendly audiences; psychological operations, combat camera, U.S. Government strategic communication and defense support to public diplomacy, and other means necessary to influence foreign audiences; and, leader and Soldier engagements to support both efforts. Commanders focus their information engagement activities on achieving desired effects locally. However, because land operations always take place in a broader global and regional context, commanders ensure their information engagement plans support and complement those of their higher headquarters, U.S. Government strategic communication guidance when available, and broader U.S. Government policy where applicable.

7-16. Psychological operations are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator’s objectives (JP 1-02).



Commanders focus psychological operations efforts toward adversaries, their supporters, and their potential supporters. They may integrate these capabilities into the operations process through information engagement and the targeting process. Psychological operations units may also be task-organized with maneuver forces.

Army forces must contend with the attitudes and perceptions of the American voter.   They have to communicate information, build trust and confidence, promote support for Army operations, and influence the perceptions and behavior of Americans.

Somebody who supports the mission has to convey selected information and indicators to American audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of American  politicians, organizations, groups, and individuals.  Somebody who supports the mission needs to induce or reinforce American attitudes and behavior favorable to mission accomplishment.  Plenty of elements who oppose the mission are doing this.  Domestic oppositional elements deter the military from doing this for itself.  Our defenders serve whatever political masters We The People saddle them with.

That Somebody is us.


Filed under Idea War, Info Warriors, Pamphleteers, PSYOP Auxiliaries

People’s Information Support Team

A People’s Information Support Team is a Civilian Irregular Information volunteer auxiliary on-line working group collaborating on electronic media engagement of oppositional, neutral and friendly blogs, forums, discussion groups and websites.  Irregulars have no official Table of Organization and Equipment and are under no obligation to follow doctrine, but this particular PIST  is a five-person element composed of a PSYOP officer Team Chief,  a noncommissioned officer Assistant Team Chief, two PSYOP specialists Civilian Irregular Counterpropagandists with photography, videography, journalism or editing skills; and an analyst with linguistic and area studies specialties.

Capabilities to be developed:

Disseminate selected  public information to target audiences.




Counter enemy propaganda.

YouTube Smackdown

Counter enemy Morale Operations

Attack anti-military arguments
Publicize heroes
Resist infantalization, victimization, marginalization and slander of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen

Engage Hostile Media

Relentless, destructive critique of MSM persons and publications
Expose media bias
Resurrect buried stories
Force corrections





The ultimate objective of PIST is to convince domestic audiences to take actions contributing to the defeat of Islamofascist terrorists and their supporters. PIST should promote resistance within the  domestic civilian populace against  hostile ideology or  enhance the image and legitimacy of  friendly ideologies.

Steven Metz, Rethinking Insurgency

p. 12 The most common evolutionary path for 21st century organizations—be they corporations, political organizations, or something else—is to become less rigidly hierarchical, taking the form of decentralized networks or webs of nodes (which may themselves be hierarchical).   Such organizations are most effective in a rapidly changing, information saturated environment.20   Insurgent movements organized as “flat” networks or semi-networks are more flexible and adaptable than rigidly hierarchical ones. Resources, information, and decisionmaking authority are diffused.   Such organizations are effective in
environments where rapid adaptation is an advantage.  In the contemporary era, polyglot organizations which combine a centralized, hierarchical dimension (which gives them task effectiveness) and a decentralized, networked dimension (which gives them flexibility and adaptability) can maximize mission effectiveness.

p.28-29 One other type of militia merits consideration. Some analysts contend that the Internet has made “virtual” militias (and insurgencies) possible and potentially dangerous.66 That runs counter to the definition of militias used here since “virtual” militias do not control territory or assume state functions. Perhaps, though, virtual militias and insurgents should be considered a separate category.   Interestingly, just as the emergence of “real” insurgents sometimes spawn the creation of counterinsurgent militias, the emergence of “virtual” insurgents has led to the formation of virtual counterinsurgent vigilantes. One example is the “Internet Haganah,” part of a network of private anti-terrorist web monitoring services, which collects information on extremist websites, passes this on to state intelligence services, and attempts to convince Internet service providers not to host radical sites.67   The logic is that it takes a network to counter a network.   As insurgents and terrorists become more networked and more “virtual,” states, with their inherently bureaucratic procedures and hierarchical organizations, will be ineffective. Vigilantes, without such constraints, may be.


Filed under Electronic Counter Media, Idea War, Info Warriors, Pamphleteers, PSYOP Auxiliaries