Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Weapons of Mass Persuasion

There are many things I find frustrating about the war in Iraq and the larger, ill-named "Global War on Terror," but one of the most maddening is the way we have ceded the information war to our enemies.

In an interesting article in yesterday's Washington Times, reporter Jim Saxton wrote about the brilliant war al Qaeda and its partners have waged on video and the internet, demonstrating a keen appreciation for what moves their intended audiences. The explosion of roadside bombs and the killing of American soldiers by snipers appear on the internet and in professionally-produced DVDs, accompanied by stirring music, poetry, and narration. Masked murderers and the bearded, turbaned mullahs who encourage them pump out video tapes and internet websites which incite their followers to violence with the most rabid and disgusting hate speech, masquerading as religious pronouncements and self-righteous anger against the evil West.

The fact that this happens at all is maddening, but what's even more frustrating to me is that we don't fight back. The American media replays the hectoring videos of vile morons like Osama bin Laden and his murderous flack Ayman al Zawahiri, yet objects when our own forces try to insert good-news stories in the newspapers. I somehow doubt that Iraqi insurgents consult their huge staffs of lawyers to worry about whether their activities are legal before doing them, while we allow our hands to be tied in this way.

What's wrong with this picture? Why is it permissible - indeed, legally protected - for thugs and murderers to freely distribute their hate propaganda, while American attempts to distribute our own information (okay, our own propaganda) are fought tooth-and-nail by our own media?

Welcome to what Thomas Hammes, a retired Marine Colonel, refers to in his book The Sling and the Stone as "fourth generation warfare" - warfare which "...uses all available networks--political, economic, social, and military--to convince the enemies' political decisionmakers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit."

No one on earth can beat the US military in a stand-up fight. But we can beat ourselves if we allow ourselves to be attacked by weapons of mass persuasion without firing back with our own. It's long past time to take back the initiative from the bad guys and those who would protect their speech while limiting our own.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post, Bilbo.

I agree with you completely. I find it interesting that during WWII, we had both overt and covert propaganda programs of very high quality, WHICH WERE HIGHLY REGARDED BY THE AMERICAN LEFT. Elmer Davis headed the overt program, and of course the covert programs fell under the OSS.
I guess the modern left doesn't want us to defend ourselves.