Matt Armstrong on losing the PR battle in the war on terrorism.
Iraq has become a stage on which terrorists, insurgents, and Coalition forces compete for a global audience. YouTube, blogs, and all other forms of citizen media ensure that every GI Joe and Jihadi has at least a bit part in the theater of public opinion. The result is a new public diplomacy that insurgents understand, and the U.S. State Department doesn't.Today, bullets and bombs often have a much smaller impact than the propaganda opportunities they create--opportunities to influence public opinion and build public support. For the insurgents, the most common weapon of strategic influence is the improvised explosive device. Tactically, IEDs force the military to be more defensive and less accessible to the Iraqi population. The actual death of Coalition Forces from IEDs is secondary to their utility as propaganda. IEDs simply cannot kill enough personnel to reduce or eliminate American operational capabilities. Instead, they give the world the perception that Iraq is explosive. They are also used in insurgent recruiting all over the Middle East. An Islamic version of the story of David and Goliath, IED videos posted on YouTube and elsewhere are the new "war porn." Whereas Americans are addicted to grainy green images of high-tech bombs raining down on the enemy, insurgent supporters prefer images of grassroots combat that sticks it to the Man.
|Bullets and bombs often have much less impact than the propaganda opportunities they create.|