Losing the Information War
We've often taken the military to task for its handling of information operations in the GWOT. On many occasions, it seems that the terrorists are far more nimble and adept at getting information into the MSM or online, while the Pentagon moves at a glacial pace, relying on press briefings and releases that are often ignored.
Happily, that trend is beginning to turn. Over at the Danger Room, Noah Shachtman notes that some elements within the public affairs corps are taking a more proactive--and cutting edge--approach in highlighting the military's side of the story. U.S. Central Command seems to be taking the lead in this effort, providing regular updates and material for interested bloggers. And, just this week, I learned that U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) will mount a similar effort in the near future. Some of the military's professional schools (such as the USAF's Air Command and Staff College) are now offering classes and seminars about the blogosphere as an information tool, in an effort to educate future commanders.
While those developments are certainly encouraging, not everyone in the military is enamored with bloggers. Case in point? U.S. Army Major General Vincent Brooks, best remembered as CENTCOM's "official" spokesman during the invasion of Iraq four years ago. General Brooks is now back in Baghdad, this time as deputy commander of the coalition's Multi-National Division. For whatever reason, Brooks seem to have it in for Michael Yon, and is apparently trying to run him out of the country.
Given Yon's superb reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan--and the huge audience it attracts--General Brooks' effort is puzzling to say the least. Brooks is a sharp guy who should no better. Before returning to the Middle East, he served as the Army's chief public affairs officer, and was referred to as the "face" of that service. It is worth noting that CENTCOM's blog outreach effort began after General Brooks left that command and became the Army's Chief PAO. For that, I suppose, the blogosphere should be thankful, although it will be interesting to see how Brooks' efforts play out. The CENTCOM outreach effort clearly has the blessing of senior comanders. At some point (hopefully), wiser heads will tell General Brooks to shut up and color. If his approach carries the day, then his former command and the multi-national division will be taking a giant step back in getting their story to the American people.