The lamp under the bushel basket
In From the Cold links to an American Enterprise Institute article by Michael Rubin who argues that the US goverment, the State Department in particular, is playing by gentleman's rules in the information war with Iran.
Force, though, is not the only component of the Hezbollah playbook. In Lebanon, Hezbollah used Iranian money to create an extensive social service network. It funded schools, food banks and job centers. It's a tried and true strategy. ... Driving through Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, similar scenes unfold. While the U.S. Embassy boasts billions of dollars spent, it has little to show ordinary Iraqis for its efforts. Not so the Shiite militias. Mr. al-Hakim's son Amar has opened branches of his Shahid al-Mihrab Establishment for Promoting Islam throughout southern Iraq. They distribute food and gifts of money, so long as patrons pledge their allegiance. For impoverished Iraqis lacking electricity and livelihood, it's an easy decision. ...
It is in the info-war that Washington has stumbled most severely. The U.S. operates in Iraq as if the country is a vacuum. Sheltered within the Green Zone, diplomats are oblivious to enemy propaganda. Resistance to occupation is Hezbollah's mantra. It is a theme both the Badr Corps and firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army adopted. Why then did Foggy Bottom acquiesce on May 22, 2003 to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483 which formalized U.S. and Britain as "occupying powers." What U.S. diplomats meant as an olive branch to pro-U.N. European allies was, in reality, hemlock. With the stroke of a pen, liberation became occupation: Al-Manar and Al-Alam barraged ordinary Iraqis with montages glorifying "resistance." They then highlighted U.S. fallibility with images of withdrawal from Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.
In From the Cold adds this comment:
Rubin reminds us that Iran's Arabic language TV service aimed at Iraqi audiences (Al-Alam) began broadcasting three months before its U.S.-funded counterpart. Today, Al-Alam remains a centerpiece of the Iranian strategy, well-funded and rewarding anyone who can provide footage that is damaging to the U.S. Meanwhile, American efforts to establish a free and independent Iraqi media have been hampered by revelations that the U.S. "paid" local papers to run favorable stories. In reality, we need to use every means at our disposal to generate positive coverage in the Iraqi media, but the episode illustrates how American idealism often hinders the accomplishment of a critical mission, in this case, achieving victory in the information war.
In a open post session to identify ways to improve US information warfare, many Belmont commenters believed that the government was by nature incapable of doing the job. Some suggestions of private and legal information warfare activities to take up the slack included:
- Using private resources, such as bloggers, volunteers, institutes to monitor open source foreign language newspapers, broadcasts and websites to augment the official intel effort. Roger Simon at Pajamas Media tried the idea out on James Woolsey at a videotaped interview and received some encouragement;
- Providing support for individuals being persecuted for supporting the allied cause in the War on Terror in the manner of the "Underground Railroad".
Just giving speeches and writing articles debunking enemy propaganda is "information warfare". The Times of London has an article describing Douglas Murray on his way to address a memorial service for Pym Fortuyn.
Would you write the name you’d like to use here, and your real name there?” asked the girl at reception. I had just been driven to a hotel in the Hague. An hour earlier I’d been greeted at Amsterdam airport by a man holding a sign with a pre-agreed cipher. I hadn’t known where I would be staying, or where I would be speaking. The secrecy was necessary: I had come to Holland to talk about Islam.
Last weekend, four years after his murder, Pim Fortuyn’s political party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn, held a conference in his memory on Islam and Europe. The organisers had assembled nearly all the writers most critical of Islam’s current manifestation in the West. The American scholars Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer were present, as were the Egyptian-Jewish exile and scholar of dhimmitude, Bat Ye’or, and the great Muslim apostate Ibn Warraq.
The event was scholarly, incisive and wide-ranging. There were no ranters or rabble-rousers, just an invited audience of academics, writers, politicians and sombre party members. As yet another example of Islam’s violent confrontation with the West (this time caused by cartoons) swept across the globe, we tried to discuss Islam as openly as we could. The Dutch security service in the Hague was among those who considered the threat to us for doing this as particularly high. The security status of the event was put at just one level below “national emergency”.
It might be only a slight exaggeration to say that Daniel Pipes, Bat Ye'or, Ibn Warraq and Hirsi Ali by themselves do more information warfare damage than the whole State Department cumulatively. Private effort should definitely not be discounted.