Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How Much Power Does The Military Have?

Charvakan called me out -- gently -- for possibly overstating the power the military wields in Washington. I'll get to that in short order, because it's something I'm interested in considering in a little more detail, but for now I'll leave you to chew on this:
Pentagon memo reveals launch of new PR war

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is buttressing its public relations staff and starting an operation akin to a political campaign war room as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld faces intensifying criticism over the Iraq war.

In a memo obtained by the Associated Press, Dorrance Smith, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said new teams of people will "develop messages" for the 24-hour news cycle and "correct the record."

...Another branch would coordinate "surrogates." In political campaigns, surrogates are usually high-level politicians or key interest groups who speak or travel on behalf of a candidate or an issue.

The plan would focus more resources on so-called new media, such as the Internet and Weblogs. It would also include new workers to book civilian and military guests on television and radio shows.

Remember, this is the Pentagon, so this is all paid for by your tax dollars. Rumsfeld would rather use public money to wage his internal battle for political survival than face up to his errors and resign as he should.


Anonymous mikeswanson said...

Wow, dynamite stuff. It all sounds so innocuous, doesn't it, "developing messages" to give the 24 hour news cycle. It's scary that these Rove-esque tactics of managing elections are now being used by Rumsfeld's Pentagon to wage politically-motivated information warfare from within the halls of the pentagon. It’s even scarier that these tactics are justified as anti-terrorist. Political=national interest=military interest=media interest. This is actually the first time I’ve heard Rumsfeld overtly equate anti-war sentiment with a treason-like undermining of the war-on-terrah effort. In the article, Rumsfeld reveals that he believes that domestic anti-war sentiment is manipulation by terrorists. So his solution (though I doubt he sees it this way) is countermanipulation. You’re right, Lapp, this represents an unholy manipulation of media by government brought to us by the cursedly well-intentioned US Armed Forces; though it should be pointed out that the media in many ways allows itself to be manipulated in their blind deference to power and their zero-sum competition against each other in the market. I found the story to include several amazing quotes:
Ruff said the effort grew out of Rumsfeld's criticism of the department's communications capabilities, which the secretary compared unfavorably to how quickly and effectively terrorists can get their message out.
Rumsfeld has complained bitterly that the press focuses too much attention on bad news coming out of Iraq, and not enough on progress being made there. As an example, during a trip to Nevada earlier this year, he said he was deeply troubled by the success of terrorist groups in "manipulating the media" to influence Westerners.
"That's the thing that keeps me up at night," he said during a question-and-answer session at a naval base.

It’s clear to me that this is the start of a new effort at coordinated domestic information warfare about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. It’s heartening to think that the American people really can influence the war on terror; that we are really this important, that ideas we accept are being fought against by Rumsfeld, that we can stop the war if we speak out and get anti-war representation. But to Rumsfeld, it seems that everything I wrote was manipulated into me by terrorists. And to further discredit myself, I’ve read passages from the Koran.

3:50 PM  
Blogger charvakan said...

Well, Rummy is gone. I don't think the Pentagon should be doing most of this stuff, but I'm not as afraid of it as you seem to be. If the military could get its way, we'd be out of Iraq pretty damned quick. It's the political people that are doing the propaganda, not the military ones, and we can do something about that.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous mikeswanson said...

So charvakan you don't think it's scary that the US spends more than the rest of the world combined on its military?

5:15 PM  

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