Tony Corn’s Revolutionary Thought: a Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs

Tony Corn has another provocative article in Policy Review, this one titled The Revolution in Transatlantic Affairs. Tony, you may remember, also wrote the “conservative, chewy, [and] cantankerous” article, also published on Policy Review, World War IV as Fourth-Generation Warfare (see MR post on it here).

His latest article looks primarily at the apparent rise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a new NATO and EU bundled into one in the shadow of heliocentric-like view of perpetual and natural global US dominance. While some question the viability of the SCO and its ability to weather competing interests of Russia and China, we’re already seeing some rhetorical unity come from the partnership with the recent warning from Russia, China, and Iran (a non-voting member of sorts) on US involvement in Central Asia. Highlighting the potential of SCO to become at least an imperfect bloc should be worrisome at least in the near term if not mid and long term.  

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When nobody is shooting, you’re winning

From Michael Yon (h/t OP-FOR):  

Some of our own commanders believe that units who are not “in contact” or fighting here are perhaps not out beating the bushes enough. If there is a criticism of Marines on this, I heard Marines and American Army officers say on many occasions that some of the higher Marine command is stuck in the kinetic mindset, and this is very frustrating for Marines and Soldiers who realize that WHEN NOBODY IS SHOOTING IT MEANS YOU ARE WINNING.

Enlisting Madison Avenue by RAND

Read RAND’s report Enlisting Madison Avenue (by Todd C. Helmus, Christopher Paul, Russell W. Glenn) for two reasons. First, it does a good job of laying out the realities of how perceptions are created and provides recommendations on how to operationally manage those perceptions, both proactively and retroactively. Second, MountainRunner is cited on p132 (H/T to Adrian for pointing that out).

If you’re interested in IO, PSYOP, or Public Diplomacy (PD), you should consider this report. On describing the challenges and realities of info age warfare, I didn’t find anything particularly ground breaking — a lot of the report says what this blog has written about for a while, albeit in better war (probably because they spent more time editing than I do, and because they were paid 🙂 — but it is, unfortunately, new ground for many policy makers still confused about the struggle of hearts and minds.

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LTC John Nagl on the Daily Show

It’s worth watching, even if you know the manual. About 80% in, John avoids a question that, if he wasn’t on TV, he would have given a different answer. John’s a good guy and his personality and humor comes through in the interview.

Note the host of the video. Didn’t CC stop allowing vids on YouTube? Did DOD cut a deal? 

I’m sure more detailed analysis will come from others, but I have to cut and run…

Hotel Tango: SWJ.

Monday Mash-up for August 13, 2007

I am traveling this week, presenting at a workshop about a half-hour west of Harrisburg, PA. If you’re around, drop me an email. Between limited internet access and a busy schedule, posting is likely to be light this week.

  • The Army goes hybrid (finally).
  • SecNav: The terrorist enemy is more likely to be a “engineer in a lab” than an “evildoer in a cave.”
  • Buy your kids the toys the military wishes it had.
  • Jason posts on the PRT discussion from the Blogger Roundtable
  • Remember the walls? Well what’s going on inside isn’t getting the golden glove treatment is should.

Mash-Up for Friday, August 10, 2007

I’m short on time for the blog so I am just going to dump a bunch of recommended reads here. I am at a conference next week, so posting next week is likely to be very light.

From the Pew Research Center: Internet News Audience Highly Critical of News Organizations

The American public continues to fault news organizations for a number of perceived failures, with solid majorities criticizing them for political bias, inaccuracy and failing to acknowledge mistakes. But some of the harshest indictments of the press now come from the growing segment that relies on the internet as its main source for national and international news.

The internet news audience – roughly a quarter of all Americans – tends to be younger and better educated than the public as a whole. People who rely on the internet as their main news source express relatively unfavorable opinions of mainstream news sources and are among the most critical of press performance. As many as 38% of those who rely mostly on the internet for news say they have an unfavorable opinion of cable news networks such as CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, compared with 25% of the public overall, and just 17% of television news viewers.

DARPA sees the future, and it’s not the world where we can rest on our technological asses. We must take into account a smart and adaptive enemy. The wizz-bang devices don’t play and weren’t designed for the information game. This informational asymmetry reduces the fungibility of our kinetic assets:

There’s a tendency to view Islamists as backwards barbarians, Winter said.  This image is “misleading and very dangerous.”  The terrorist enemy is more likely to be a “engineer in a lab” than an “evildoer in a cave.”

Growth in commercial computing power has “eroded” America’s Cold War “technical edge,” Winter said.  The same – or even better – gear gets out to kids worldwide, before soldiers ever see it.  “The playing field has thus been leveled.”  Just look at how Iraqi insurgents have been able to the Internet to recruit, train, and spread propaganda. And check out the network-like “command and control” structures that these guys are using, compared to our old military hierarchies. 

On PRTs, Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club, adds some important points on PRTs not raised in my post, namely State’s out of touch regs and a mil-based Civil Response Corps already in operation (h/t SWJ Blog):

I was just on the blogger round table with Philip Reeker, US Embassy Baghdad, on the subject of PRTs. And it was clear that they were trying to building things from the bottom up in a society where the tradition of local government (as opposed to tribal government) was nonexistent. But it was also clear that the assets necessary to accomplish this are pretty thin. They’re still building the doctrine. And there’s no enabling bureaucratic structure. One of the things, for example, that Ambassador Crocker had to do was waive the State Department security regs to get people out. To provide any security at all, the PRTs either have to be embedded or escorted, except in places like Kurdistan where they can mostly operate unescorted.

Interestingly, the PRTs found the military’s reserve system very useful because it provided a pool of specialists for which State had no analogue. There was some reference to the need for the equivalent of a Goldwater-Nichols for the civilian arms of government to provide an institutional cure. But that’s still prospective. The sense you got was that State is trying to field people and is succeeding somewhat, but that many hurdles remain.

To summarize, from what I understand there’s a clear recognition now — and there may have been a former reluctance — to create the capacity to conduct political work at the grassroots. But there remain questions about whether a) it is still possible, given the time elapsed; b) US Government agencies can [mobilize] effectively to accomplish this task.

My own sense, without any pejorative reflection on State, is that they are struggling to match the political work with the security gains. And this is due, I think, almost wholly to the circumstance that we are now asking diplomats to do something they never in their wildest dreams thought they would be doing. As Mr. Reeker ran down the list of this or that person voluntarily leaving a post in such and such European capital for duty in some provincial Iraqi dustbowl you got the sense that the State guys were individually making one heck of an effort but that the institutional capacity still isn’t there.

Abu Muqawama gave this timely link on Jeep’s and Humvee’s that included this important realization:

Yet the Humvee’s biggest drawback may actually be the false sense of security it imparts. American troops, many military theorists now argue, are too removed in their vehicles, fighting for Iraqi hearts and minds with a drive-through mentality. The open-air jeep meant that soldiers could, and had to, interact with the people of occupied nations; the closed, air-conditioned Humvee has only isolated American forces from Iraqis. This is even more of a problem with the MRAP, which offers only small, armored windows to peek out of. Though the tactics of the current surge seek to get troops out of their vehicles more often, many politicians involved in the debate over Humvees assume—perhaps erroneously—that more armor means more safety and success.

Over one thousand contractors have now died in Iraq, but, no surprise, we don’t know the true number. David Ivanovich writes in the Houston Chronicle:

And as of June 30, 1,001 civilian contractors working for U.S. firms had died there since the war’s start more than four years ago, including 231 in the first six months of 2007, according to Labor Department statistics the Chronicle received Tuesday.

How many of those killed were Americans is unclear, since the Labor Department records do not provide the nationalities of the casualties.

Lastly, and for something completely different, cycling’s sponsors have finally had enough of being associated with doping. The latest news on this front is Team Discovery, formerly USPS, will end their sponsorship in February and director Johan Bruyneel will retire. While they team was in negotiations to replace the main sponsor, they decided to cut negotiations because “the situation in the sport is so bad that nobody wants to be involved with us.”

Blogger’s Roundtables and PRTs in Iraq

Unfortunately I missed the Blogger Roundtable on PRTs in Iraq with Philip Reeker, counselor for Public Affairs at the Department of State out of the US Embassy, Baghdad. On the call were Andrew Lubin of On Point, Grim of Blackfive, Dave Dilegge of Small Wars Journal / Small Wars Council (go to SWJ’s post for a good summary of questions as well as background resources), Austin Bay, Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club, David Axe of Aviation Week, Charlie Quidnunc of Whizbang, and Jason Sigger of Armchair Generalist. But not me, the wife’s conference call at the same time and my son waking up messed up my schedule. However, I do have the transcript of this valuable and allegedly secret-handshake-required conference call.

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Talking about talking in Iraq, Nineveh specifically

On the blogger roundtable last week, I’ll be brief and generally punt to Grim at Blackfive to talk about the Blogger Roundtable Call last Friday with Colonel Stephen (“ste-FAHN” to you and me) Twitty. COL Twitty is commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav, stationed in Ninewah province, the largest in Iraq. The full transcript is here for your reading pleasure, but a searchable version is here (I’ve asked the PAO to make the bloggers archive version searchable as well).

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IEDs as “Weapons of Strategic Influence”

Armchair Generalist and Plontius discussed IED’s as Weapons of Strategic Influence last month. Some thoughts as Plontius apparently didn’t understand the real, and intended, ability of IEDs to influence public perceptions, and thus opinions, through both direct and indirect actions.

First, Plotinius looked at the mission of the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). JIEDDO sees IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) for what they are: tools of influence. IED’s cannot kill enough personnel or destroy enough material to reduce or eliminate American operational capabilities. But through persistence, they can, and have, cause a change in tactics, and posture, to achieve or supplement other informational victories.

IEDs, by forcing a change in tactics and openness alter the effectiveness of American military and civilian personnel. IEDs influence public perception of security not only in Iraq, but around the world, most notably in the United States. As a personal example, the mere suggestion that I might go to Iraq, Wife of MountainRunner immediately responded with a scenario of MountainRunner being killed by an IED. The inability of US forces to protect their own is amplified by insurgent media as well as domestic media, especially as casualties mount.

Continue reading “IEDs as “Weapons of Strategic Influence”

Donate to the Smart / Small Wars Journal Empire

MountainRunner has financial virility! I did and I got this really cool certificate for it (no t-shirt, just a certificate). Dave and Bill spend a lot of time and energy on the Small Wars empire, like the Magazine, Council, and Blog.

Have you donated? Where else are you able to engage the likes of Dave Kilcullen, Bing West, much of MNF-I, and so much more?Just think of all that money you never gave to Sally Struthers and think of all that knowledge, insight, and distraction you received from the SWJ Empire.

Upcoming movie screening: No End in Sight

If you are in Los Angeles Tuesday, July 24, 2007, you might want to checkout “No End in Sight”, a movie direct by Charles Ferguson, a political scientist and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Based on over 200 hours of footage, this critically acclaimed film provides a candid retelling of the events following the fall of Baghdad in 2003 by high ranking officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine (in charge of Baghdad during the Spring of 2003), former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, and General Jay Garner (in charge of the occupation of Iraq through May 2003), as well as Iraqi civilians, American soldiers, and prominent analysts.

A panel discussion evaluating the arguments set forth by the film will follow the screening.

RSVP for this event here.

7p at the Landmark Theater in West Los Angeles

10850 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Required Reading: two posts on Small Wars Journal

swjblog Quickly becoming the site to find thought leaders in modern conflict, the Small Wars Journal has two new posts that should be required reads for anyone interested in understanding modern conflict, and more importantly, the value of information in a world of blurred lines between civilian and military in friend and foe alike.

From Malcolm Nance, an expert with a very long resume and author, comes a post on aggregating the enemy for US domestic political purposes. Malcolm goes a different direction than Clark Hoyt. Instead, he focuses on details of who is doing what and why and explains why this aggregation will prevent success.

Defeating, disarming or buying out key insurgent groups could yield greater results and a lessening of combat losses through targeted military operations, negotiation, reconstruction, civil affairs projects and cash.  From down here at the deck plates level this seems like common sense but it has yet to filter up to the policy makers.

If General Petraeus and his excellent counterinsurgency advisor David Kilcullen are to succeed then the hard reality of enunciating to the American public requires that the terms we use to label the opposition have to be changed.  If this is part of an aggressive information operation, as some have suggested, to turn the Iraqi people against the Iraqi Insurgents by giving them all a bad name (AQI), then it’s a desperate gambit as most Sunnis know who the real insurgents are in their neighborhood.  This rhetoric has already had a negative operational effect by making our own soldiers believe that all of the Sunni insurgents and community supporters are Al Qaeda.  This may have led to several instances of battlefield murder, torture and abuses of prisoners. 

The other post is from John Sullivan, a lieutenant in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, a member of the Los Angeles Terror Early Warning Group, and co-editor of Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network. Implicit in his argument is all information is global and one can easily take away from his argument the antiquated “anti-Goebbels” provisions of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 must be removed, as well the need for an active and functional diplomacy with publics, foreign and domestic, against modern subversion.  

Countering the reach of the global jihad within networked diasporas is a global security priority. Police and intelligence services worldwide—especially in “Global Cities” with international political and economic importance and transnational connections—must develop relationships with diaspora communities. These efforts must build upon community policing and develop the cultural understanding and community trust required to recognize the emergence of extremist cells, radicalization, efforts to recruit terrorists, and efforts to exploit criminal enterprises or gangs to further terrorist activities. These efforts need to be linked to develop the intelligence needed to combat a global networked threat. This requires more than “information-sharing” and co-operation, it requires a multi-lateral framework for the “co-production” of intelligence so police and intelligence services can recognize global interactions with local impact and local activity with global reach.

The US still does not holistically approach the struggle for minds and wills, instead conducting isolated campaigns that hopes to “win” support like a model walking on a catwalk. Counterinsurgency and counterterror thought leaders understand the need for functional information networks that both inoculates and informs.

When will the supposed thought leaders in American public diplomacy drink the same punch? More on this in a later post, my editor probably wants me to finish my chapter on the subject, but read my recent comments (and here, here, and here) on the leadership of public diplomacy. (As an aside, I had an excellent conversation with the new DOD Office to Support Public Diplomacy. Two comments. One, I find it slightly ironic that OSPD is led by someone who cuts his teeth on extremist websites when Hughes isn’t sure how many bloggers she has. And two, OSPD gets it. That’s it for now.)

Question: Will there be any representatives from public diplomacy at the New America Foundation’s discussion on the report from RFE/RL, itself a poster organization for public diplomacy, on Iraqi Insurgent media?

COIN Manual came in the mail today, and a post on FM 3-24 by Nagl came yesterday

Is it wrong to be excited that the US Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual came in the mail today? It probably is, but I am.

Obviously it’s now shipping. See previous post on FM 3-24 (and thanks to Andrew Sullivan for linking to that post, it really spiked the viewers).

At the Small Wars Journal blog yesterday, they posted John Nagl’s foreword. Why re-write the manual?  

Although there are many reasons why the Army was unprepared for the insurgency in Iraq, among the most important was the lack of current counterinsurgency doctrine when the war began….It is not unfair to say that in 2003 most Army officers knew more about the U.S. Civil War than they did about counterinsurgency.

Consider the “whole of society” involvement of the new manual Nagl describes in detail on the SWJ post, substantially abbreviated below.

To take lead on perhaps the most important driver of intellectual change for the Army and Marine Corps—a complete rewrite of the interim Counterinsurgency Field Manual—Petraeus turned to his West Point classmate Conrad Crane…He took advantage of an Information Operations conference at Fort Leavenworth in December 2005 to pull together the core writing team and outline both the manual as a whole and the principles, imperatives, and paradoxes of counterinsurgency that would frame it….[at a mid-February 2006 conference], which brought together journalists, human rights advocates, academics, and practitioners of counterinsurgency, thoroughly revised the manual and dramatically improved it. Some military officers questioned the utility of the representatives from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and the media, but they proved to be the most insightful of commentators. James Fallows, of the Atlantic Monthly, commented at the end of the conference that he had never seen such an open transfer of ideas in any institution, and stated that the nation would be better for more such exchanges.

And while we’re on the topic of counterinsurgency readings, see the recent post by the Combined Arms Research Library (CARL) with their 2006 School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) monographs.

Here is a comprehensive list of COIN, irregular warfare unconventional warfare, low intensity conflict, small wars, peacekeeping operations, and urban operations monographs from the SAMS program going back from 2005 to 1985.

Kilcullen on the Walls in Iraq

Noah Shachtman interviews the best thing to happen to the US war effort, Dave Kilcullen, at Danger Room. Dave is the Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor in Iraq and is the man bringing the servers hosting the Small Wars Journal’s blog to their knees with his rightly popular posts, most recently this update and reality check on the surge.

“The point of the walls was to structure the environment, to hold the city and keep it safe,” he tells DANGER ROOM. “It’s like [keeping] guard inside a concrete building, instead of in the middle of a field… You don’t need vast maneuver forces to do it… It’s the principle of economy of force.”

Now that the eleven sets of walls across Baghdad have been built — “controlling access, preventing attacks on the community, and preventing attacks from being launched on someone else,” Kilcullen says — “we’re now in a position to move against the [insurgent] havens.”

“Murders and sectarian killings have dropped 63%” in Baghdad’s Adhamiya neighborhood, since the wall has been put in place, he claims.  Residents are “thrilled.”

Initially, the barrier there — and in other locations around Iraq’s capitol — drew protests and international outcry.  Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki even called for a halt in construction, saying, “I oppose the building of the wall and its construction will stop. There are other methods to protect neighborhoods.”  But Kilcullen asserts that most of the local protests were “information operations” conducted by insurgent groups, meant to undermine U.S. plans to improve Baghdad’s security.   

“Every district in Baghdad [already had] its own defense,” the counterinsurgency adviser says.  The walls were built after consultations with local leaders, “figur[ing] out together how to make the community safe, what part of the defenses needed repair.”

Readers will note I was critical of Adhamiya wall, not because they were inherently wrong, but because of our failure to anticipate the impact of their perception and proactively get in front of enemy propaganda. Which is why Adhamiya, the third wall to be built, gained worldwide attention as Dave notes above. All of our actions must be considered in the context of information. We must appeal directly to “the people of the media, speakers and writers. [We] must tell the truth and cast [our] arrows at falsehood, for media is half of the battle.”* It seems we’re doing better at local, tactical IO.

*May 2, 2007, proclamation signed by the Iraqi Army of Iraq (IAI), Mujahidin Army, and Ansar al-Sunnah. See the RFE/RL report on Sunni insurgent media.

The Sunni Insurgency and their Media: The War of Images and Ideas

I read through the RFE/RL report posted on yesterday and it’s the best I’ve seen in the open domain. Daniel Kimmage and Kathleen Ridolfo looks at the Arabic media products in its native form, comparing producers, their messages and audiences, cross-referencing online products with print products, looking at trends, and more.

Saving the analysis for the chapter I’m finishing on the topic, I’ve selected some of the more interesting passages from the report, but if you’re in any interested in this, download the report and at least skim it. The report does not discuss US/Coalition responses except to note insurgents mimic the official tone and content for legitimacy.

Kimmage and Ridolfo see a decentralized psychological warfare operation that is seeing success with sympathizers and financial contributors.

The report shows that media outlets and products created by Sunni insurgents, who
are responsible for the majority of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and their supporters
are undermining the authority of the Iraqi government, demonizing coalition forces,
fomenting sectarian strife, glorifying terrorism, and perpetrating falsehoods that obscure the accounts of responsible journalists. Insurgent media seek to create an alternate reality to win hearts and minds, and they are having a considerable degree of success…

The impressive array of products Sunni-Iraqi insurgents and their supporters create suggests the existence of a veritable multimedia empire. But this impression is misleading. The insurgent-media network has no identifiable brick-and-mortar presence, no headquarters, and no bureaucracy. It relies instead on a decentralized, collaborative production model that utilizes the skills of a community of like-minded individuals….

This report brings Iraqi insurgent media from the margins to center stage so that outsiders without a command of Arabic can glimpse the “other half” of what is happening in Iraq as it is presented by the other side.

However, being decentralized and do-it-yourself (DIY) creates its own challenges.

But insurgent media also display vulnerabilities. The lack of central coordination impedes coherence and message control. There is a widening rift between homegrown nationalist groups and the global jihadists who have gathered under the banner of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Moreover, insurgent media have not yet faced a serious challenge to their message on the Internet…

As the propagandists / information warriors / public diplomats (loosening the definition) learn, they recognize and warn of the threats posed by the lesser qualified among them. The report breakouts producers, the insurgents themselves, and disseminators when they may be different. The Media Centers act like a PRNewsWire or other news clearing house for insurgent media. The study by Al-Boraq below should be noteworthy for its very existence, regardless of quality.

Thanks to the decentralized, “do-it-yourself” nature of the insurgent media enterprise, virtually anyone can, in theory, create a pro-insurgent media product. In practice, this is discouraged. The Al-Boraq Media Center published a study in October 2006 titled Media Exuberance, warning that the ease of Internet-based media production is a threat to the credibility and authority of jihadist—and, by analogy, insurgent—media.

The purpose of the media varies and one of the opportunities the report’s authors note is the increasing fissure between insurgent media groups.

The written word everywhere remains the preferred medium of record and authority. For insurgents, who are eager to present themselves not as ragtag bands of guerillas, but as the tip of the spear of a far larger and more significant movement, the creation of a body of written materials is a crucial indicator of the insurgency’s durability and seriousness.

While insurgent groups represent a variety of ideological platforms, hard-line Islamist rhetoric has come to predominate…the actual commitment of individual insurgent groups to global jihadist ideology is questionable…

…Iraqi insurgent groups such as the IAI and the Mujahidin Army hold a fair amount of animosity for ISI/Al-Qaeda, which they blame for hijacking and defaming the “honorable resistance”.

Groups seek to distinguish themselves from others, as is natural with entities competing for scarce resources.

In form, insurgent operational statements strive to convey credibility by mimicking
press releases issued by official organizations elsewhere. They bear the official logo of the issuing group even when they appear on Internet forums…

What the press releases represent is the image of themselves that insurgent groups would like to present—who, why, how, and how often they attack, and what results they claim to achieve…

Against this backdrop, it is noteworthy that an insurgency that emerged to combat a foreign occupying force now claims to direct the majority of its attacks against fellow Iraqis.

Despite differences between insurgents, there are certain themes that pervade the spectrum of their media.  

This explicitly religious framing of the conflict in Iraq renders insurgent rhetoric virtually indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the global jihadist movement. Foreign jihadists have flocked to Iraq, but it should be recalled that Iraq has never had a robust domestic Islamist, let alone jihadist, movement. Moreover, there is no evidence that jihadist ideas hold any great appeal for Iraq’s Sunni population, which provides the bulk of the insurgency’s rank-and-file fighters. Nevertheless, jihadist rhetoric is the rule, not the exception, in most of the statements issued by Sunni insurgent groups, whatever their declared ideological beliefs may be.

It is perhaps no accident, then, that the most media-savvy and politically vocal insurgent group is also the most openly jihadist. ISI/Al-Qaeda is the latest iteration of an organization founded by Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and commonly known in the West as Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia or Al-Qaeda in Iraq…

…the core media products made available globally through the Internet by Iraqi
insurgent groups, whatever their ideological orientation or stance on Al-Qaeda, are, it should be stressed, also effective propaganda for global jihadists and their sympathizers. This is especially true in light of Muslim views on Al-Qaeda attacks against civilians, which evoke strong disapproval [PIPA report, pdf]. Arab respondents to a recent poll overwhelmingly supported attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, however. Thus, insurgent media products showcasing attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq reinforce an aspect of the jihadist message that is viewed positively in the Arab world.

Insurgents treat local Iraqi audience different than their global audience.

Materials obtained by RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq correspondents in Baghdad and Al-Mosul illustrate an important difference between the statements made available on the Internet and the printed leaflets distributed within Iraq. The former are intended for an international audience and focus on the attacks carried out by insurgent groups and broader ideological issues.

There are no newspapers or radios specifically affiliated with insurgent groups. There are four television stations described in the report: Al-Zawra, Al-Rafidayn, Al-Jazeera, and Al-Firdaws (Caliphate Voice Channel, or CVC).

The impact of insurgent media operations is global, feeding money and sympathy, and less often recruits.

The reach of Iraqi insurgent media is global and seeks to promulgate a message that the resistance is conquering occupation forces in Iraq…

…the most popular websites carrying insurgent and pro-insurgent materials are equal,
and in some cases superior, in reach to many mainstream Arab media sites

While home-grown groups do not have a policy of recruiting foreign fighters, they may receive financial support from abroad—from the Iraqi diaspora or from sympathizers in other Arab countries—and their media efforts would only benefit such activities.

…mainstream Arab media access the materials and use them in their print and broadcast reports.

The media operations target two general groups of “consumers”, sympathizers and opinion makers.

…factors point to a relatively well-defined profile for the average consumer of insurgent media products: A native speaker of Arabic with a strong interest in politics and access to a high-speed Internet connection. This consumer most likely resides in a Persian Gulf country, where high-speed Internet access is most widespread in the Arab world, and is probably a member of at least the middle class…. the largest number of visitors to most sites [come] from Saudi Arabia (although Egypt and the Palestinian territories are often high on the list as well)…

Within the community of “typical consumers,” two groups stand out. The first are sympathizers who seek out insurgent materials on the Internet in order to obtain more details than they can find in mainstream Arab media. From the insurgent perspective, of course, sympathizers are important as a potential source of financial support. Recruitment appears to be of lesser importance to insurgent groups, some of which have stated that they neither need nor want foreigners to join the fight…

Just as important as potential financial backers are opinion makers, the second community within the “typical users” targeted by insurgent groups. These are the media professionals who create the content of mainstream Arabic language media. It is, of course, their job to follow and report on the media activities of insurgent groups. For the insurgent groups, making materials available to media professionals ensures that the insurgent message reaches a larger audience through the “amplification effect” of mainstream media.

Differences in the messages are becoming more apparent, as well as similarities with notable IO in recent history.

[A film by] Ansar Al-Sunnah juxtaposes incendiary comments by Hazim al-A’raji, an aide to Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, with footage of the gruesomely mutilated corpses of Sunnis…the film’s unmistakable message to Sunnis is that they face the gravest peril and must take up arms. The combination of hate speech and glorification of violence calls to mind disturbing parallels with the media campaign that preceded the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

…the rift between nationalist and jihadist groups within the insurgency appears to be widening, with insurgent media reflecting the split. Against a backdrop of basic differences in ideology, with nationalist groups limiting their goals to Iraq and jihadist groups spearheaded by Al-Qaeda seeing Iraq as part of a global struggle, open conflict has become more common.

There’s more in the 76 page report, but you get the idea. Insurgent media operations has its challenges. There are opportunities to learn from their marketing strategies, to insert ourselves into the process and hive off potential sympathizers, the curious, and the neutrals, turning them against the insurgents. While proclaiming they deliver the truth, they often lie and yet these groups have “brand” loyalty, trust, and growing numbers of followers.

Perhaps soon the US will fully commit to combating enemy information operations, until that time, tactical solutions will not inoculate against hate, build our reputation and gain trust quick enough.

The War of Images and Ideas: a reality in modern conflict

Danger Room is on a cyber-roll with information warfare. Noah posts today on a report by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that “reveals weaknesses In Sunni-Insurgent media war“, a war we have yet to participate in. In the war of images and ideas, the United States (and some might say Karen Hughes) seems to think we’re fine sticking with print, the digital domain be damned (and there are others who think digital is the way to go).

I haven’t gone through the report yet (tonight), but it’s key findings are spot on and resonate with anecdotal evidence:

  • Sunni insurgents in Iraq and their supporters worldwide are exploiting the Internet to
    pursue a massive and far-reaching media campaign. Insurgent media are forming
    perceptions of the war in Iraq among the best-educated and most influential
    segment of the Arab population.
  • The Iraqi insurgent media network is a boon to global jihadist media, which can
    use materials produced by the insurgency to reinforce their message.
  • Mainstream Arab media amplify the insurgents’ efforts, transmitting their message
    to an audience of millions.
  • The insurgent propaganda network does not have a headquarters, bureaucracy,
    or brick-and-mortar infrastructure. It is decentralized, fast-moving, and
    technologically adaptive.
  • The rising tide of Sunni-Shi’ite hate speech in Iraqi insurgent media points to the
    danger of even greater sectarian bloodshed. A wealth of evidence shows that hate
    speech paved the way for genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
  • The popularity of online Iraqi Sunni insurgent media reflects a genuine demand for
    their message in the Arab world. An alternative, no matter how lavishly funded
    and cleverly produced, will not eliminate this demand.
  • There is little to counter this torrent of daily press releases, weekly and monthly
    magazines, books, video clips, full-length films, and even television channels.
  • We should not concede the battle without a fight. The insurgent media network
    has key vulnerabilities that can be targeted. These include:
    • A lack of central coordination and a resulting lack of message control;
    • A widening rift between homegrown nationalist groups and Al-Qaeda affiliated
      global jihadists.

See Dave Kilcullen’s latest post at the Small Wars Journal and consider each of his five facts in the context of information and psychological warfare empowered by the above. Then, see another recent post of Dave’s, especially number 5, “Develop a capacity for strategic information warfare”:

Contrast this with our approach: We typically design physical operations first, then craft supporting information operations to explain our actions. This is the reverse of al-Qaida’s approach. For all our professionalism, compared to the enemy’s, our public information is an afterthought. In military terms, for al-Qaida the “main effort” is information; for us, information is a “supporting effort.” As noted, there are 1.68 million people in the U.S. military, and what they do speaks louder than what our public information professionals (who number in the hundreds) say. Thus, to combat extremist propaganda, we need a capacity for strategic information warfare—an integrating function that draws together all components of what we say and what we do to send strategic messages that support our overall policy.

Now, pick a story you recently heard in the news. For discussion, let’s say you picked the Taleban’s attempted use of a 6 year old boy to be a suicide bomber. Fortunately, the lad didn’t know why he was told to push the button so he asked a police officer to remove the vest.

Karen Hughes, in one of her few recent attempts at public diplomacy, asked Where’s the outrage last year. Yes, where is the outrage of highlighting the un-Islamic tactic? Where’s the outrage in emphasizing the nihilist approach of the terrorist and insurgent against anybody who remotely opposes them, US or not? This requires participation in the information front and we’re not there.

Or maybe you picked the New York Times story this morning about insurgents wiring a whole neighborhood as a booby trap. Think the residents were keen on seeing their homes destroyed? Do we do anything to help place blame? Do find new homes of the IDPs (internally displaced persons)? Does anybody in Iraq (or elsewhere since support and recruiting is global) know if we are?

We have the advantage of the truth and yet we don’t use it. The reasons why not are numerous and all are invalid. More on that later.

There is more here than the number of “public information professionals”, this about finally realizing and operationalizing that kinetics is not the name of the game. We know the requirements, we can read about them, and yet we’re repeatedly in the same position. We know what information can do (Rwanda, as cited in the report).  

The “surge” won’t be successful without effective psychological warfare. At some point, we’ll have to stand up and play the game. Too bad trust will continue to erode, recruits will continue to be available, money will continue to flow, protection will continued to be offered to the bad guys, the people necessary to rebuild Iraq will continue to leave, and so many good men and women will continue die while we continue to sideline ourselves. It’s time we got into the real fight. “Ne cras, Ne cras”. No, it’s not like yesterday.

Who visits

Be sure to visit This is the quiet website of the U.S. Government Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative. There’s not a lot there besides the standard COIN quote at the top of each page.

The ICI’s mission is on the home page:

The Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative (ICI) seeks to inform and help shape relevant USG policy and programs by incorporating the theory and history of counters to organized movements that use subversion or violence rather than established political processes to undermine or overthrow governments, with the goal of focusing appropriate elements of diplomacy, defense, and development on the alleviation of such threats.

The website has been on my sites to visit for months now (see the left margin of MountainRunner’s home page).

Having blogged on the site when it was created November 2006, it’s interesting to note that MountainRunner is one of the top referring sites. I don’t think I’m deserving of an award for sending 20 people their way since it was created in November, but it’s perhaps more telling that I am a top referrer while only sending 20 people their way since November. Maybe with this post, that number will double I’ll pass, but I’ll still be behind and holding spots #10 and #11 with 61 and 55 respectively.

The number one spot, by the way, has 1,147 visits. But I don’t no why and didn’t spend much time there. Go to the hosted report and go to the #1 referrer yourself.