Thursday, December 28, 2006
Propaganda has become a dirty word to Americans. It conjurs up images of Joseph Goebbels, and movies by Leni Riefenstahl. But the truth is, propaganda is essential to winning a war. It can provide a warring nation with a sort of psychological momentum, while denying this to an enemy.
Our enemies in the war on Islamic extremism have made excellent use of propaganda. The infamous sniper videos, for instance, can be used to recruit troops for their cause (when shown on Arabic news channels) and to demoralize their enemies (when shown on CNN). War crimes by Americans are played up, exaggerated, or even completely fabricated.
And what is the American media's response to this? Why they lap it up, of course; always willing to be spoon-fed any story that paints the US military or the current situation in Iraq in a bad light, regardless of the source.
If we're going to win this war--not just the war in Iraq, but the global war on terrorism--we're going to need to learn wage a propaganda war. In his recent Townhall.com column, Michael McBride takes a hard look at what he calls the "information war," and the role that our news media has played in it so far.
Vietnam forever changed the relationship between the military and the Mainstream Media. I think that the case can be made to some degree that the real issue is between various administrations, their Pentagon inhabitants, and the media…not between the media and the troops on the ground. But what happens in this food fight is that the cafeteria fare almost always ends up on the faces, and uniforms of the troops. (good references here…A Bright and Shining Lie, Dereliction of Duty, Once Upon a Distant War, The Best and the Brightest, The Pentagon Papers) And all the troops I know are pretty unforgiving when their uniform is stained by someone else’s careless behavior, or their reputation is smeared through careless and biased reporting. (Hugh Hewitt’s interview with LtGen Mattis makes the case here.)
This fissure, first noticed after ApBac in Vietnam, and widened irreparably by Walter Cronkite’s 1968 Tet reporting, has only festered since. The military has done its part…successful campaigns in Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm and the current war in Iraq. There have been setbacks, Iranian Hostage Rescue, Beirut (driven by political constraints of the day, see The Root by Eric Hammel ), the USS Cole, but-by-and large, the military has more than upheld its contract with the citizens of this country by responding superbly when tasked by the nation Command Authority.
Their reward?...continuous deriding and minimalization of their accomplishments by the MSM corps. The badgering of generals, the callous showing of soldiers and Marines dying at the hands of snipers, the blatant disregard for other metrics of success other than US casualty counts, only reinforces the utter disrespect and disdain that the MSM has for the military, and by extension…the troops in the field.
As a result of the MSM messaging, our field generals, and our troops are being portrayed as failing. I think this is an incorrect representation of what is happening…we are really losing the information war, and as with Vietnam, if we don’t adjust fire soon, we may lose the war in Iraq…a vital battle in the Global War on Terror.
McBride goes on to outline what needs to be done to turn things around. Among other things, he suggests cutting much of the mainstream media out of the loop. That's a pretty radical solution, but I don't see any other choices. As things stand now, I have serious doubts about our ability to wage an extended war. No matter how much the country may be behind a war, the media--always in search of another scandal, higher ratings, and more awards--will turn on the military. It's not they they won't aid in spreading propaganda, it's just that they tend to do it for the wrong side.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The "milestone" crowd in the media is at it again. The total number of US personnel killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom has exceeded the total killed in the 9/11 attacks. From ABC News:
In a span of a few hours, 2,973 people were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In a span of 45 months, the number of American troops killed in Iraq exceeded that grim toll as the war continues.
The milestone in Iraq came on Christmas, nearly four years after the war began, according to a count by The Associated Press. In announcing the Monday deaths of three soldiers, the toll from those fighting the war surpassed the toll from those killed by terrorists in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
For a little historical perspective, the number of US personnel killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was 2388. Total US war dead for World War II: 418,500. That total includes those killed in the European Theater of operations fighting the Germans and Italians; who, by the way, never attacked us.
Look, either OIF was the right thing to do, or it was the wrong thing to do. The numbers game is nothing but a diversion, and the last thing we need right now is yet another diversion.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
As the sectarian violence in Iraq increases, I find myself wondering whether we ever really had a choice about fighting there. Had we left Saddam in power, we would have found ourselves embroiled in a sectarian war in the Persian Gulf eventually, anyway. In other words, it was a case of deal with the problem now, or deal with it later. And the longer we waited, the bigger the problem would have been. Rather than being caught in a sectarian war in Iraq, we'd have found ourselves caught up in a regional sectarian conflict.
Many people write as if the sectarian warfare in Iraq was caused by coalition intervention. But it is surely obvious that the struggle for mastery has been going on for some time and was only masked by the apparently iron unity imposed under Baathist rule. That rule was itself the dictatorship of a tribal Tikriti minority of the Sunni minority and constituted a veneer over the divisions beneath, as well as an incitement to their perpetuation. The Kurds had already withdrawn themselves from this divide-and-rule system by the time the coalition forces arrived, while Shiite grievances against the state were decades old and had been hugely intensified by Saddam's cruelty. Nothing was going to stop their explosion, and if Saddam Hussein's regime had been permitted to run its course and to devolve (if one can use such a mild expression) into the successorship of Udai and Qusai, the resulting detonation would have been even more vicious.
And into the power vacuum would have stepped not only Saudi Arabia and Iran, each with its preferred confessional faction, but also Turkey, in pursuit of hegemony in Kurdistan. In other words, the alternative was never between a tranquil if despotic Iraq and a destabilizing foreign intervention, but it was, rather, a race to see which kind of intervention there would be. The international community in its wisdom decided to delay the issue until the alternatives were even fewer, but it is idle to pretend that Iraq was going to remain either unified or uninvaded after the destruction of its fabric as a state by three decades of fascism and war, including 12 years of demoralizing sanctions.
The Middle East has been headed for a major war for decades. I don't think there was anything we could have done to stop it, short of military intervention. Iraq will wind up being the focal point of much of the war. And the real lesson of 9/11 is that the U.S. is not insulated from the problems brewing--or boiling over--in the Middle East. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans can't protect us. Our economic prosperity can't protect us. And our advance technology can't protect us. We can't hide anymore. Welcome to the real world, America.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
This just keeps getting better and better.
Boston--Massachusetts is considering following New York City’s lead and banning restaurants from serving artery-clogging artificial trans fats — a move some lovers of greasy food are giving a thumbs-down.
State Rep. Peter J. Koutoujian, D-Waltham, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, filed a bill yesterday to make Massachusetts the first state to impose the ban.
“It’s basically killing people,” Koutoujian said.
Killing people? Well, we can't have that, can we? We have to ban anything that can kill people. Like trans fats. And saturated fats. And smoking. And alcohol. And cars. How about refined sugar? That's bad for you, we should ban candy and most breakfast cereals. Yeah, we can ban anything dangerous. We can create a world without risk. Without pain. Without freedom, too. But that's a small price to pay, right?
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I have come to a conclusion about my country that I knew then in my bones but lacked the courage to act on: America is good enough to die for even when she is wrong.
This is today's must-read item. Conroy doesn't pull any punches about his own behavior. I have to give him credit for having the courage to go public with such an honest self-examination.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Obese should have health warnings on their clothes
Oversize clothes should have obesity helpline numbers sewn on them to try and reduce Britain's fat crisis, a leading professor said today.
And new urban roads should only be built if they have cycle lanes, according to Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of Glasgow.
He is calling for more government intervention with a central agency set up to deal with the problems of obesity.
Britain's fat problem is so acute that it could even bankrupt the health system if nothing is done.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: once the "government" is paying for your healthcare, they're going to use the cost excuse to take control of how you live your life. This is not a paranoid conspiracy theory, it's just the logical outcome of signing over personal responsibility to the state. Don't say I didn't warn you.
As it turns out, by the modern definition of tolerance no one is tolerant, or ever can be. It's what my friend Francis Beckwith calls the "passive-aggressive tolerance trick." Returning to the classic understanding of tolerance is the only way to restore any useful meaning to the word. Let me give you a real life example.
Earlier this year I spoke to a class of seniors at a Christian high school in Des Moines, Iowa. I wanted to alert them to this "tolerance trick," but I also wanted to learn how much they had already been taken in by it. I began by writing two sentences on the board. The first expressed the current understanding of tolerance:
"All views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another."
All heads nodded in agreement. Nothing controversial here. Then I wrote the second sentence:
"Jesus is the Messiah and Judaism is wrong for rejecting Him."
Immediately hands flew up. "You can't say that," a coed challenged, clearly annoyed. "That's disrespectful. How would you like it if someone said you were wrong?"
"In fact, that happens to me all the time," I pointed out, "including right now with you. But why should it bother me that someone thinks I'm wrong?"
"It's intolerant," she said, noting that the second statement violated the first statement. What she didn't see was that the first statement also violated itself.
I pointed to the first statement and asked, "Is this a view, the idea that all views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another?" They all agreed.
Then I pointed to the second statement—the "intolerant" one—and asked the same question: "Is this a view?" They studied the sentence for a moment. Slowly my point began to dawn on them. They'd been taken in by the tolerance trick.
If all views have equal merit, then the view that Christians have a better view on Jesus than the Jews have is just as true as the idea that Jews have a better view on Jesus than the Christians do. But this is hopelessly contradictory. If the first statement is what tolerance amounts to, then no one can be tolerant because "tolerance" turns out to be gibberish.
Mr. Koukl uses simple logic--something that modern politcal debate is almost ompletely devoid of--to show the ridiculous trap of moral relativism that most of us have been caught in for the last couple of decades. A trap we'd better escape from soon, if we want our culture to have any hope of surviving.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
A total withdrawal from Iraq would play into the hands of the jihadist terrorists. As Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, made clear shortly after 9/11 in his book “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner,” Al Qaeda’s most important short-term strategic goal is to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world. “Confronting the enemies of Islam and launching jihad against them require a Muslim authority, established on a Muslim land,” he wrote. “Without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.” Such a jihadist state would be the ideal launching pad for future attacks on the West.
And there is no riper spot than the Sunni-majority areas of central and western Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — the most feared insurgent commander in Iraq — was issuing an invitation to Mr. bin Laden when he named his group Al Qaeda in Iraq. When Mr. Zarqawi was killed this year, his successor, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, also swore allegiance to Al Qaeda’s chief.
Another problem with a total American withdrawal is that it would fit all too neatly into Osama bin Laden’s master narrative about American foreign policy. His theme is that America is a paper tiger that cannot tolerate body bags coming home; to back it up, he cites President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 withdrawal of United States troops from Lebanon and President Bill Clinton’s decision nearly a decade later to pull troops from Somalia. A unilateral pullout from Iraq would only confirm this analysis of American weakness among his jihadist allies.
I don't agree with Bergen on a lot of things, but there's no denying he makes a good point here. The analogy he makes later in the column compares a pullout from Iraq with the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, which eventually gave us the Taliban. And we all know what that eventually lead to.
The propaganda victory for al Qaeda should not be underestimated either. Check out this passage from bin Laden's 1996 fatwa:
Few days ago the news agencies had reported that the Defence Secretary of the Crusading Americans had said that "the explosion at Riyadh and Al-Khobar had taught him one lesson: that is not to withdraw when attacked by coward terrorists".
We say to the Defence Secretary that his talk can induce a grieving mother to laughter! and shows the fears that had enshrined you all. Where was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983 AD (1403 A.H). You were turned into scattered pits and pieces at that time; 241 mainly marines solders were killed. And where was this courage of yours when two explosions made you to leave Aden in lees than twenty four hours!
But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge , but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the "heart" of every Muslim and a remedy to the "chests" of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu.
Adding Baghdad to the list of cities where we have been "defeated" by mujahedeen will not help our efforts in the war on Islamic extremism. If you think our presence in Iraq is creating new terrorists, just wait and see what our withdrawal would do.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
East Greenbush, NY resident Lisa Robinson was on a quest to raise money to send care packages to troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. An honorable gesture, to be sure. But one that was rewarded with a dishonorable act, prepertrated by dishonorable people. From the Albany Times Union:
While Robinson was living on the roof of an American Legion post in Rensselaer to raise money to benefit U.S. troops, someone burglarized her Barber Road house.
"They got my jewelry. I just talked to my husband and found out they got my pocketbook, too. I'm sitting here in a tent up on the roof with no identification. It's probably in a Dumpster somewhere," she said.
The burglars who struck sometime Sunday afternoon also took jars filled with spare change and ransacked desk drawers inside her home office.
Robinson was hoisted to the roof of the American Legion Melvin Roads Post No. 1231 in Rensselaer at 9 a.m. Saturday with a sleeping bag, tent and provisions, and vowed not to come down until she raised $25,000. The money will buy supplies for troops in Iraq, who are often lacking practical and comfort items like batteries, beef jerky and DVDs.
I don't know who broke into Robinson's house, but I do know what they are: assholes. Don't get me wrong, I think all burglars are assholes. But these clowns are gold-medal winning assholes. Especially if they learned about Robinson in the news and targeted her because they knew she wouldn't be home.
In breaking news, Lisa Robinson is down from the roof of the Legion after raising $20,000. My hat is off to Ms. Robinson for her support for our troops.