Journalism vs. Information Operations

From the LA Times article today:
As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the
How ridiculous is this? Are we seriously applying Columbia School of Journalism standards to a IO (information Operation) campaign in a young democracy embattled in counterinsurgency operations? Give me a break, LA Times. Check this out, from the OC Bookshelf:
FM 3-13: Information Operations:Doctrine, Tactics,Techniques, and rocedures.

Army forces routinely employed the elements of IO separately in past conflicts. Psychological operations, operations security, military deception, physical destruction,and electronic warfare were viable tools of Army commanders during World War II. The Gulf War demonstrated the benefit of employing these elements together and synchronizing them with ground operations.
…. Because adversaries have asymmetric abilities to counter finite friendly IO capabilities, the probability of maintaining information superiority over long periods is unlikely. Therefore, commanders execute IO to gain information superiority at times and places where it supports their intent and concept of operations.
Which is EXACTLY what this incident was- an IO operation targeted at countering terrorist propaganda (some of it no doubt delivered in mosques, where we cannot interfere with actual free speech.) The LA Times is presenting a distinctly liberal, uneducated, and knee-jerk slant on this. Let me break it down for them:

If printing bald-faced lies in Iraqi papers save American lives, we should do it, and not feel the least bit upset about it. If printing truth does the same thing- why is this even a news story? Could this have even been reported in WWII?

Remember Folks, we’re in a media war here. Is it any surprise that we’ve dug in?

Al-Jazeera Embarrasses Itself

The head of al-Jazeera is delivering a letter to Tony Blair demanding the facts on reports that President Bush suggested bombing the Arab TV station. He wants a memo published which is alleged to show Tony Blair dissuaded President Bush from bombing its HQ. Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has warned newspaper editors against publication, citing the Official Secrets Act.
The White House dismissed reports of the conversation as "outlandish", but US officials have openly accused al-Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Mr Khanfar said: "Al- Jazeera is in the foremost of free form and democracy in the Arab world and therefore this news that we have heard is very concerning. "So we demand a proper explanation and we would like to know the facts about this letter."
First of all, we should call a spade a spade. Yes, AJ does broadcast some content that is wholesome and useful, but it is hardly “the foremost of free form and democracy in the Arab world.” Where is the democracy in the Arab world? Last I checked it was in Iraq, the real “foremost of free form and democracy in the Arab world”, where AJ is banned!

Here is the hear of the issue:
First, it has been Osama bin Laden's propaganda outlet, taking delivery of his videotapes and broadcasting them. Second (and this is the one that has raised ire most recently), it has shown footage of the bodies of two dead British servicemen, and of captured troops paraded by the Iraqis. Third, it shows far more harrowing pictures of civilian casualties than western outlets are prepared to run, and fourth (a sum total of the first three) it is therefore peddling Iraqi propaganda.
AJ’s treatment of the terror issue (like broadcasting the disgusting beheadings of hostages live) amount easily to material support of the enemy during wartime, especially in this new media war we find ourselves in. So a high-level discussion of military action against an enemy propaganda outlet isn’t out of the realm of possibility:
The aim of propaganda is to influence people's opinions actively, rather than to merely communicate the facts about something. For example, propaganda might be used to garner either support or disapproval of a certain position, rather than to simply present the position. What separates propaganda from "normal" communication is in the subtle, often insidious, ways that the message attempts to shape opinion. For example, propaganda is often presented in a way that attempts to deliberately evoke a strong emotion, especially by suggesting illogical (or non-intuitive) relationships between concepts.
The bottom line here is that bombing AJ would have probably been a bad PR move, but the destructive presence of AJ in Iraq HAD to be dealt with, so it was banned. During wartime, are terror-propagandists allowed access to high-level memos of their adversaries’ commanders-in-chief? Is anyone allowed access to them?

AJ should be counting their blessings that they were not attacked, and only banned in the one Arab democracy. Free speech is one thing, airing hostage beheadings and the latest “death to Israel/America” message from Osama isn’t what OUR Founding Fathers wrote into OUR Constitution.

We now return to your regularly scheduled Al Jazeera Programming:
7:00- Does Al Qaeda Exist?
8:00- Hostage Execution
9:00- Special Report: Hostile Jordanians Arrest our Reporters for supporting “terror”

The Flypaper Offense

In a conversation recently, an interesting phrase -"flypaper strategy"- was used to describe Iraq and Afghanistan. Out of that idiom came a fairly heated argument over whether or not we are employing this flypaper method to attract terrorists into an arena where there are plenty of American military and not a whole lot of American civilians.

To call either the Iraqi or Afghani theatre a "flypaper strategy" would be a misnomer. The word strategy implies that our intentions from the very genisis of Operation Iraqi Freedom were to spawn the tough insurgency that we have been fighting. Our strategy was to win, pacify, and democratize, not to attack and occupy.

But to call the military's posturing in Iraq a "flypaper offense" would be perfectly reasonable. Critics say that the coalition is bogged down, when in fact the real victim of quagmire is the insurgency . Composing of mostly foreign fighters, fighting a terrorist war with no purpose other than to kill, the insurgency has opened a conflict that it can only win through our own decision to withdraw and lose. We have freedom of movement and of choice. The terrorists do not.

Insurgents enter Iraq, become ceaselessly occupied with killing without rhyme, reason, or strategy, and eventually make themselves conspicuous enough that coalition finds them and deals with them. An insurgent's chances of leaving Iraq alive are substantially lower than American soldier's chances of leaving Iraq alive.

Thus the insurgents become "stuck without strategy" while the coalition serves as the swatter. This may not have been a "flypaper strategy," but a "flypaper offense" is a superb narrative for the ongoing coalition operations.

Flypaper Offense may not prevent another 9/11. It may not prevent Al Qaeda from penetrating our borders again. But it sure to hell has the jihadists' watching their backyard, as opposed to our own.

China's Spies

As John pointed out earlier, it appears that four have been arrested in Los Angeles under suspicion of conducting espionage for the Chinese government.

I'm not going to link to the article, since it seems that only one story on the topic has been written and one news source (the Washington Times) has carried it, though a few others have "re-broadcast". (This is interesting in itself: even CNN isn't covering it... But I guess John hit on that too, so I'll leave it.)

This revelation shouldn't come as a surprise. Espionage is, as they say, the second-oldest profession, and has just as many morals as the first. Nations spy on each other regularly; they've been doing it for hundreds of years, in times of war and peace. It's a fact of life. What this should do is cement the conclusions that Red China has dreams of superpower-status, is willing--even interested--in going toe-to-toe with us to get it, and has been working toward that end for many years. In fact, after doing a bit more digging, I found an interesting article from about five months ago: two Chinese dissidents (one a senior member of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney) seeking asylum stated flatly that China had over a thousand agents working in Australia.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Anyway, the upshot is that this spy ring has been funneling information to Beijing for about fifteen years or so, and that apparently a sizable chunk of it had to do with our Naval weapons and engineering systems: specifically Aegis technology (like that found in our Ticonderoga and Arleigh-Burke Class ships) and submarines, up to and including our new Virginia Class boats.

Authorities say that, based upon preliminary investigation, "China now will be able to track U.S. submarines." I'm not going to try to discern what information could possibly give them that capability (since there's really a myriad of things that interplay), but I will submit that to actually track a submarine is not merely a question of technology or knowing "secrets," but one of guts, cunning, training, and determination. While the Chinese may have an upper hand in some respects, I think it's a bit of a stretch to suggest that they can, at present or in the near future, track any U.S. sub at any time.

When reading the article, I also recommend paying particular attention to what it has to say about Mr Chi's visit to the USS John C. Stennis and how these things bode for the safety of our carrier force. We have made the aircraft carrier, a symbol of American power and our single strongest offensive unit, the very centerpiece of our battle fleet; perhaps a change in operational doctrine might be in order?

I submit these things for your consideration.

UK General on Troop Withdrawl

Major General J.B. Dutton, Commander of the Multinational Division Southeast, held a press conference earlier today.

One of the issues he touched on...without cue from a reporter...was the topic of troop withdrawl and force downsizing. He had a few notable points:
We are developing plans to enable the Iraqi security forces to provide for their own security with decreasing support from ourselves, the MNF. Now, obviously you have to tailor these plans to the area of Iraq you are in. The plans for the South are clearly going to be different than the plans for, let's say, Baghdad or Al Anbar province.
In other words, different force requirements for different demographics. Iraqi Security Forces will be able to "stand up" in some areas before they can do so in others. It doesn't all have to be one big sweeping "okay! you guys are in charge now, good luck!" situation with the transfer of security responsibilities.

A reporter from the AP followed up, asking for specifics on the responsibilities of the Iraqi Army and police. General Dutton replied:
We are in a situation here now and have been for some time when Iraqi forces take the lead for security. We are not after all fighting an insurgency down here. The sheer insurgency finished in August `04, and since then there have targeted attacks against ourselves and also sometimes intra-Shi'a and Shi'a-Sunni violence. But in general, there is not an insurgency going on down here. So we are already in a situation in the southeast where the security lead is taken by the police, and when the police need assistance, they call on the Iraqi army.
To echo what our commanders have been saying for two years now, Rome wasn't built in a day. We're making solid progress (as quoted by General Dutton), but different areas of Iraq require different troop strengths, have different costs, and will take different amounts of time to "hand-over."

I think that many Americans assume that the transfer of power -from Coalition to the Iraqi Army- was going to happen in one fell swoop, at some nebulous date in the next 5-10 years. Success will come in phases, not in a big lump. Patience!

Joint Task Force Katrina

Relief efforts in the Gulf are off of the news page, but are still going on. I served during the immediate weeks after the storm hit. My infantry battalion provided security for the local Gulfport, MS goverment as they began the long task of reconstruction.

This was a "bread and butter" mission for the National Guard- exactly the type of thing the Guard exists for. The mission consisted of working with a detachment of MPs, and local police and fire-rescue. Civil-Military operations in a disaster area like Gulfport were akin to conducting steady-state operations in a third world country. The lack of water, food, services, and power when we arrived were stark, and living conditions consisted of GP-mediums and showers every couple of days.

The re-building effort was in itself amazing. The small air field in the Trent Lott National Guard Combat Trainig Center was stacked with C-130's landing every hour delievering more supplies and more equipment for the troops there. The sheer ability of the government to put so much in theatre in such a small amount of time is testament to the military's training and operating capability.

After a few weeks in September, the local authorities began to project more power into areas they could not after the disaster, and the necessity for out-of-state troops in the area decreased. Our battalion was re-deployed at the end of the month. The operation itself went like clockwork, but what will always remain in my mind was the gracious manner in which the local civilian population treated us. Seeing someone who just had their house destroyed offer a private at a security checkpoint something to eat did it for me. A family, who didn't have anything, and were just in town to collect their effects from their smashed residence, offering an unknown infantryman a meal, out of the kindness of their heart. This was common, and it made a month spent helping fellow Americans especially worth it.

More on U.S. & Japan's Growing Military Links

Just read a fascinating article from Aviation Week & Space Technology on the strengthening military ties between the United States and Japan. According to AW, the growing North Korean and Chinese missile threats have the Japanese concerned to the point where they restructured their entire joint command staff. They noted:
The Japanese Defense Agency is centralizing its command authority in response to a rise in regional threats, particularly North Korea's ballistic missile program, and in international terrorism. Scrutinized for two years and approved by the parliament in July, the restructuring means the chairmanship of the Joint Staff Council will shift from being a largely ceremonial role into one of command authority, meaning the Japanese joint chiefs will work more directly with their U.S. counterparts
Sounds promising. I recommend checking out Aviation Week for more on the subject, as they also have a terrific article on the Japanese J-2 Fighter Jet (Japanese version of the F-16) and the U.K.'s development of a new carrier to accommodate the new Joint Strike Fighter.