Wednesday, June 22, 2005

We Have Not Yet Began To Fight

Information War

"Give us the tools, and we'll finish the job." [1]

Five months have passed since I spoke to the British nation and Empire on the broadcast. In war-time there is a lot to be said for the motto "Deeds, not Words." All the same, it is a good thing to look around from time to time and take stock. And certainly our affairs have prospered in several directions during these last four or five months far better than most of us would have ventured to hope. [snip]

So, if our first victory was the repulse of the invader, our second was the frustration of these acts of terror and of torture against our people at home.[snip]

Here, then, we see the beginnings of a process of reparation and of the chastisement of wrong-doing which reminds us that though the mills of the gods grind slowly they grind exceedingly small.[snip]

One of our difficulties is to convince some of these neutral countries in Europe that we are going to win. We think it is astonishing that they should be so dense as not to see it as clearly as we do ourselves.[snip]

But I must drop one word of caution, for next to cowardice and to treachery, overconfidence leading to neglect or slothfulness is the worst of martial crimes.[snip]

Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your blessing, and under Providence all will be well. We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job.

Winston Churchill February 9, 1941

Other Churchill Quotes

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs - Victory in spite of all terrors - Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

Winston Churchill

I have not yet begun to fight!

John Paul Jones USS Bonhomme Richards 1779

Thoughts keep going round and round in my mind: "Stay engaged. Stay engaged. Stay engaged."

I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about the administration and the American people. In this war, as in every war, part of the battle is the battle of information. The war of words and images, both in the United States and abroad.

I'm not the only person thinking it or talking about it. I actually wrote Kit Bond, my local Senator on the subject. I asked him where was the administration's information war? Of all the things that one would think this administration would be half way decent about, considering the alleged prowess of one Karl Rove, it would be knowing how to prosecute a war of words.

Anyone that thinks that we can win this war simply by allowing the free press to say whatever they want without the administration having its say, too, is fooling themselves. And, as I've noted on more than one occassion, the administration has been absent most days on this issue. Barring a few moments like State of the Union Addresses and Innaugural Addresses, the administration has abandoned the field on the war of words concerning our fight against the terrorists and particularly the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, two separate, but equally important fronts on the war on terror.

They are making the mistake that has haunted us since Viet Nam: allowing the enemy and opposition to frame and define the battle.

As in political battles and, as John Kerry and John Edwards know, once you allow the enemy to define you and your cause, you now have an upward battle if not lost the war. Frankly, we are spiraling that way now.

It's not as if the opposition or the enemy haven't been trying to do it all along, but long wars require long and concerted efforts. It can't rest solely on the shoulders of Condi Rice going to the Middle East and talking about freedom and democracy. That is an excellent start, but it certainly shouldn't be the limit of our efforts.

And what about our other efforts?

Well, it's about like advertising a pogo stick when motorized scooters are all the rage. In other words, it stinks. Bad.

Let me say the obvious; there are two fronts in this war: the home front and abroad.

It should be more than obvious to anyone with eyes to read and see that we aren't winning this battle on any front. Yes, it was great that the Iraq election happened, but guess what? People are still dying over there. It didn't end the war. The terrorists still come and die and our men and women still get wounded or die. Thus, the war is not over and we should not be sitting back pretending that it will all just dwindle away eventually and we need not be concerned about the long term efforts to keep the public engaged in this "war of generations".

On the home front, the President has not been visible talking about the progress in Iraq. Neither have many of the senior officials. Press releases are nice, but they only get so much play time. Even the press releases from the front are drilled down to "number of US, Iraqi forces and "insurgent" deaths". And when I say that the administration should get out there and talk, I mean, instead of giving some general blah, blah, blah about schools built and construction underway, how about a weekly press confrence by the President or upper official that talks about specific positive incidents? Like this from Austin Bay:

The Iraqi Army is assuming responsibility –in large measure– for security operations outside of Baghdad. MOI is taking the lead in the Baghdad region. That noted, one particular Iraqi Army battalion has had huge successes in Baghdad. Led by a Sunni colonel identified as “Colonel Muhammad,” in early 2005 this battalion “cleaned up” Haifa Street. Last week a platoon from this battalion found and freed the Australian hostage, David Woods. (I should mention a second hostage was freed in that operation, an Iraqi civilian who had been kidnapped and was held for $50,000 ransom. A military source told me that the hostage takers were “former regime elements,” not Baghdad criminals, but had taken the Iraqi hostage to raise money. He saw this as an indicator that this particular resistance group was running out of cash.) [snip]

Haifa Street is indeed an improved situation. BG Horst and Colonel Muhammad had shared a cup of tea in a sidewalk cafe on Haifa Street. The notorious “boulevard of resistance” has changed. [snip]

Mike Hedges joked that Colonel Muhammad is the “Rudy Guiliani of Baghdad.” The man is getting that kind of reputation. He has also — so far– had 43 threats against his life. I’ve written about heroic Iraqis and we’ve seen the purple-ink stained fingers. Colonel Muhammad is a revolutionary hero.

Yes, Austin Bay is a national columnist, but these stories need to be recognized by the administration and spoke about specifically, to the public in general and at large. Pictures would be nice. You know, the only pictures we get to see are pictures of burning things, car and body parts. Why don't they give a presentation on a regular basis?

Let's see another story from Austin:

On June 7 SFC Villalobos and four Iraqi soldiers defeated a close-in urban ambush. Villalobos is the mortar platoon sergeant in Fox Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd ACR, but he was working with a US team advising an new Iraqi Army brigade. An Iraqi Army battalion was conducting the raid with back-up provided by US troops. Villalobos described the intense action –where a US soldier died– in a careful, humble voice, but then so often that is the voice of extraordinary valor. Five insurgent fighters ambushed a US adviser in a narrow, twisting street. The resulting firefight lasted ten minutes. Part of the Iraqi platoon withdrew, but SFC Villalobos and an Iraqi Army fireteam returned fire and tried to reach the wounded US officer. Villalobos finally threw a heavy fragmentation grenade at the insurgent position, killing one and wounding three.

These kinds of stories including specifics about rebuilding efforts and pictures of anything that resembles "normal life" would go a long way.

I said pictures because, despite all the hoopla about the sophistication and cynicism of the new generation concerning "propaganda", any person in advertisement will tell you that "pictures speak a thousand words" and I'm afraid the pictures coming out of Iraq say, "insurgents are running free blowing up our soldiers and Iraqi citizens at will and all our military can do is drive up after the explosion; by the way, exploded cars and screaming people are all that exists in Iraq."

Nobody, especially the administration, is making an effort to change that image or give it context or opposing views of our boys going in and rousting out a bad guy or taking children to the hospital after the homicide bombers do their disgusting deeds. Where's the images of the atrocities the insurgents have committed? They get about two seconds on the air and are quickly replaced by repeated images of white faced Jacko or Durbin's referring to our folks as "Nazis".

As I noted, I'm not the only one wondering. In the same article, also printed here at Real Clear Politics:

This return visit to Iraq, however, spurs thoughts of America -- to be specific, thoughts about America's will to pursue victory. I don't mean the will of US forces in the field. Wander around with a bunch of Marines for a half hour, spend 15 minutes with National Guardsmen from Idaho, and you will have no doubts about American military capabilities or the troops' will to win.

But our weakness is back home, in front of the TV, on the cable squawk shows, on the editorial page of The New York Times, in the political gotcha games of Washington, D.C.

It seems America wants to get on with its Electra-Glide life, that Sept. 10 sense of freedom and security, without finishing the job. The military is fighting, the Iraqi people are fighting, but where is the US political class? The Bush administration has yet to ask the American people -- correction, has yet to demand of the American people -- the sustained, shared sacrifice it takes to win this long, intricate war of bullets, ballots and bricks.

I concur. Certainly, the president's past speeches have been inspiring. But, I put Winston Churchill at the top of this post for a reason. He knew that he had to get out in front of the war effort and keep his people's spirits up and engaged lest the stiff upper lip begin to wobble and thoughts of committing peace with a terroristic, tyrranical regime start to filtrate into the public. Of course, they were under constant bombing so it probably stayed on the Brits' minds more than our own war, but it still makes the point: the leader of the free world must continue to engage his people and buck up their courage, even in the darkest hours, especially when the war is long and the end is not clear nor in sight.

I'm also reminded of Roosevelt's "fireside" radio addresses. In today's world, the President gives regular Saturday radio addresses still. What's wrong with that? Nothing except that it's not carried on major radio stations across the country and that television is still the major media market. Where's the budget for buying time on these stations? Where's the pressure on these stations to allow some time for the President to make addresses?

What are we worried about? That suddenly the President will become one of those "cult of personality" leaders? How about just convincing the stations that the President will have something interesting to say or present? Is there something wrong with developing a good information program to accompany this war?

I'd say "propaganda", but every time I say it, people shudder because the words have such negative impact, but, whatever you want to call it, propaganda or information, it's missing.

It's not just the efforts at home that are missing, but our efforts abroad are lacking funds, focus and creativity. Hey, you don't believe me, read what the folks in the "far and abroad" have to say about our efforts:

Daily Demarch: we have met the enemy and the enemy is us

Earlier this week an alert reader sent me a link to an article entitled "Real Men Moisturize" at I did not, at the time, follow up on it. Now Little Green Footballs has beat me to the punch. The Townhall piece refers to an article from "Hi" magazine (Sharp-dressed Men). I have long been an advocate of aggressive public diplomacy (see here, and here, and here and here for a few examples), and I believe that the use of the Internet to reach out to audiences we may not reach with "traditional" methods, via an on-line magazine, is a great way get more bang for our PD buck. But this is ridiculous.

Mona Charen, the author at asks the following:

Is this what the U.S. State Department thinks America is really like? [snip]

Why? For the specific, stated purpose of ridding us of our macho culture. And so we must present ourselves as girlie-men (aka metrosexuals) to our opponents.
This is not some kind of blunder by the State Department -- it's a conscious policy decision.

Maybe the next issue of this stupid magazine will include articles like "Real Men don't blow up children" and "Real Men don't commit honor killings" or "Real Men don't get bent out of shape cus somebody looked sideways at their stupid koran"
Maybe getting them to moisturize is just the first step down the road to being civilized.

I agree whole-heartedly with the second commenter quoted above, and have to assume that there was some editorial control over the article, so it certainly is someone's policy. What I can't figure out is why. Why are we not providing articles on Muslim success stories in America?

Exactly. That was exactly what I was thinking when I was reading this article from the Jordan Times, via Terrorism Unveiled:

Al Hurra, the US government-funded satellite television facility that airs its product to the Middle East, hasn't caught on. Kicked off with much fanfare on Valentine's Day 2004, the $100-million-plus station (the name of which means “The Free One” in Arabic) has been met with more disdain than acceptance in the Arab world. But abandoning it altogether is not an option at this point. What is urgent is determining how to fix it. [snip]

The station can provide a nuanced expression of the interest Americans have towards Arab lands in an effort to establish a dialogue. It could also stimulate audiences to find out more about the United States in all its complexity.

Al Hurra's strategy, however, does not jibe with these objectives. Its focus has been to win audience share in perceived Middle East “media wars” by aiming for slick commercial television — by trying, if you will, to out-Al Jazeera, [snip]

Judging from the Arab and other media, Al Hurra is in fact widely considered dull US propaganda, unsubtle American imperialism in electronic form, which does little to stir audience interest in the United States.

Which leads to several points he makes on what could be done:

Focus on C-Span-type programming relevant to Middle East audiences[snip]

Air in-depth documentaries on serious, relevant issues produced by local filmmakers. A priority theme should be the historical links between the United States and Arab countries[snip]

Create an effective website. Al Hurra's current site at consists of only one page, an almost offensively simple listing of its programmes in English and Arabic. Given the increased importance of the Internet in the Middle East, especially among young people, the site should be far more detailed and user-friendly, providing up-to-the-minute news and links. [snip]

Establish a legal mechanism that would allow Al Hurra to be seen more widely in the United States, making it possible for interested lay persons and specialists to view its programmes easily and thus be better able to critique it constructively[snip]

Nonetheless, there should be a better way to inform Americans — including Arab-Americans, who could provide valuable feedback on Al Hurra's programmes — about what their government is doing in the field of information in the Middle East.

On this channel, I'd definitely be showing some reality TV or interviews of Arabs living in freedom and democracy, how they square their religious life with living in a democratic, liberal country, how they maintain their cultural ties, etc.

How about carrying sports? Baseball, football, etc? National Geographic? Right now I'm watching bull riding. Wouldn't that be an interesting thing to show once in awhile? Want to see cowboys? Here you go. Then some suburban and urban life.

There have got to be better things than what we're showing now.

Frankly, the guy that wrote this article says they can't operate 24/7 and can't afford to have stringers on site that can report incidents around the world or even locally. Why aren't we giving this more money? Because it hasn't proven legitimate yet?

I know that Arab music videos are very popular. Why don't we use a similar selection of music from Al Sawa radio for an hour? How about putting some effort into marketing and getting commercial advertisers?

This ought to be an all out effort and our politicians should be giving interviews to this station left and right, interviewing democracy movement folks from Egypt and Lebanon and Iraq. They ought to be showing Iraqis building their country. How about a 60 mins of the middle east? (sans Dan Rather of course)

How about some movies? The Patriot with Mel Gibson comes to mind. The recent A&E movie about George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Independence Day with Will Smith. Glory with Matthew Broderick? Of course, it doesn't have to be war movies, I'm just saying, something that shows that the American people believe in freedom. I'd even settle for some documentaries about the founding of the country, the consitutional process, civil rights movements, anything at this point.

What are we doing and why have we ceded this ground to the opposition? Why are we ceding the ground to the enemy?

We've got Gitmo and Nazi comments and Koran abuse. Where's the indepth stories about the bad guys torturing and murdering people? Rape, drugs, pillaging, chained into homicide cars and blown up remotely in case they chicken out?

Where's our propaganda war?

I intend to start asking this question a lot. It's being left to a few to try and get this done. It's being left to some writers, the blog world and Fox news to keep fighting the war of words in the US with little support or assistance from the administration with anything as simple as some decent press conferences.

Our Iraqi allies, particularly the bloggers that were pro-invasion, are getting nervous, too:

Dear Friends,

Just a quick note, to the American public: this is no time to lose heart, the fight is just now changing gear. We the Iraqis are confident of winning this battle. This so-called “insurrection” may be characterized as the “Unpopular Revolt” rather than the opposite. It is doomed to failure. We have never pretended that this can be achieved overnight. It takes time and struggle, but to those who think that the insurgency is growing I would like to say this: It is the power of the people that is growing, it is the strength and effectiveness of the new patriotic security forces that is growing, such forces that are for the first time in our history representative of the majority of the people. Time is on the side of the people and not their enemies.

Yes, this is no time to lose heart friends.

You think anyone could get this printed in the news papers, read on Fox News?

Just to be plain here, because I think that we should be plain spoken. As much as I am interested in the domestic scene and believe that we cannot abandon domestic issues, even during a war, the president wasn't re-elected because of gay marriage, social security or activist judges. Sure, that scores points with a nice group of Republican folks. Frankly, the social security issue concerns me, too.

BUT, and that is a big "BUT", this president was re-elected for two reasons and two reasons only: The war on terror (strong defense and foreign policy) and the fact that, after September 11, his policies kept us from falling into a depression, circa 1929.

That's it. He had political capital but he is quickly spending it away and he isn't getting it back. If the Republican party wants to be re-elected in '08, they better make sure that Iraq comes out right and we get a few more top bad guys. Another democracy movement would be good.

Anything. Otherwise, they can kiss '08 good bye.

Besides that, if we want to avoid another embarrassing pull out like Viet Nam (the only Viet Nam comparison I intend to make) where we left the people to their own devices for "peace with honor", the US citizens need to get involved. I'm not the only one thinking along these lines either.

Viet Nam Syndrome.

Cutting out in the middle of an insurgency would have incalculable consequences. Islamist extremists would see this as the defeat of the world's only superpower -- and a clear track for jihadi mayhem in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan, not to mention a civil war in Iraq.

But the American people know more about Social Security's cloudy future than about the stakes in Iraq. It is now incumbent on Mr. Bush to use the bully pulpit to spell out the tragic geopolitical consequences of failure in Iraq. Failure is not an option. But at present, failure is an all too tragic possibility.

Karl Rove can't wait for the dog days of August -- or another Michael Jackson circus to keep the president's poll numbers from getting any worse. But only Mr. Bush can do that. From Abu Ghraib to Sen. Richard Durbin's addlepated remarks about Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot, the U.S. continues losing ground all over the world. Repair work is long overdue there.

Austin Bay also made this comment:

One afternoon in December 2001, my mother told me she remembered being a teenager in 1942 and tossing a tin can on a wagon that rolled past the train station in her hometown. Mom said she knew that the can she tossed didn't add much to the war effort, but she felt that in some small, token perhaps, but very real way, she was contributing to the battle.

"The Bush administration is going to make a terrible mistake if it does not let the American people get involved in this war. Austin, we need a war bond drive. This matters, because this is what it will take."

She was right then, and she's right now.

My next post on this subject I will be exploring WWII Department of War Information and why it was so successful.

Just for starters, don't think it was successful because everyone believed in the war. Before Pearl Harbor, folks wanted to avoid the war, too. It was a big debate.

What's different now?

Update: Read Winds of Change

It remains to be seen whether the US and the current administration will be able to successfully counter this strategy while it still has the political will and capital to do so. If they want to, however, they're going to have be willing to fight for Iraq as hard politically as our troops have been on the ground.


Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

A quote from my favorite movie, "The 13th Warrior":

"Wars are won in the will."
--crazy old lady shaman

DaKruser said...

Good flick, smoker. It is a WHOLE lot deeper in meaning than any of the Critics ever figured out.
You are right, Kat. WE MUST get the real word out. SOMEHOW!
The REAL word is not that everything we do is wonderfully successful. The REAL word is not that we are failing miserably. The REAL word is, that there is a REAL LONG WAY TO GO if we stay on this path. The REAL word is, that many Iraqis fear some sort of "Interuptus" as when we pulled out early in the First Gulf War. The REAL word is, that American Soldiers die, Iraqis die, and no one STILL really has a picture in their mind as to what it should look like in Iraq when we leave. The REAL stories just dont' sell. They dont' sell to the people who watch CNN, and they don't sell to those who watch FOX.
We are involved in a struggle that is deeper than anything we have been involved in since Korea. This is a stuggle, not of Religion, not of Politics, not of Nations, but of Structure of Society. This war, and I have come to believe that it is a full-blown war, is about whether a chosen few, or the majority rule. It is about whether the "Global Society" or the "Nationalist Movement" will emerge superior. It is about whether or not people can and will, or simply REFUSE to live in a world where you can worship anything/body or only this way. WHY?!?! doesn't the MSM realize this? My answer is, that they don't WANT to. The American public doesn't want to admit it. The Europeans seem only want to see Uncle Sam take one in the Kisser and damn any further repurcussion. The "Arab Street" is lost in its own crushing poverty, and the US seems to be the most obvious target of their rage. The NATIONS of the ME, maintain that rage, because it redirects that anger outward instead of at them.
CNN and FOX could fill WEEKS of coverage if they moved on these, but what do we watch? Micheal Jackson's trial, a girl is missing in Aruba, etc. I'm so tired of the lack of Priority here, I'm nauseaus.
Thanks for the chance to rank. Keep up the good work!