The man blogging as Spook86 at the In From the Cold blog has an interesting post this evening on the violence in Iraq around the Samarra shrine bombing. Like many, he sees the hand of Zarqawi in this madness. Who am I to disagree? (And I don’t.) But the more interesting part of the Spook’s pronouncements are at the end:
Using information operations to connect Zarqawi to the Samarra attack–based on solid evidence–would turn his tactical success into a strategic defeat, and further undermine the insurgency.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has long-standing problems in countering enemy propaganda and information operations. I found this article in an Air Force journal, written more than five years ago, which describes some of our difficulties in overcoming Serb propaganda during Operation Allied Force. It’s a bit long, but take a glance, and see if you find any similarities between what happened in 1999, and what we see in Iraq today.
Until we understand that all forms of public information are a battlespace that must be contested and defended, we will face an uphill battle in winning the struggle for hearts and minds. In football, “Hail Mary” or if you prefer, “Hail Allah” plays should have a low probability of success. Zarqawi’s desperation heave in Samarra can also be deflected, if we use all the tools at our disposal, including information operations.
I know what he means. Having just returned from a few days in Washington, I have the sense that one of the areas our government is weakest in is in the construction of just such “information operations.” They are frankly too square to handle it. I certainly enjoy the whiff of power and the aura of history in DC, but when it comes to thinking “outside the box,” Inside the Beltway is out to lunch. (Okay, not always, but they could use a little Graham Greene and a little Sigmund Freud.)