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November 13, 2006
A "Referendum on Iraq" (Part three: Cheers and Fears)By Greyhawk
If the 2006 U.S. elections were a "referendum on Iraq" - who won? "The Democrats" of course - that's an easy answer. But here we've always asked the tough questions, and the full answer to that one isn't so obvious. This is part three in a series - part one is here, part two is here. More will follow.
Over the weekend the AP reported al Qaeda's response to the U.S. elections:
But New York Times readers only got part of the story - if they found it on page 8 (see if you notice what's been added, and what's left out...)
That's all part of the script for al Qaeda's "Working Paper for a Media Invasion of America" - use the American media to "throw fear into the American people's hearts".
There's no denying that plan is working - American media have done little to acknowledge its existence and (wittingly or not) much to help them achieve their goals.
But have U.S. politicians responded to al Qaeda's latest media blitz?
From President Bush's weekend radio address:
And here's the Democrats response, from Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
A careful read will reveal that while the President does not definitively argue for "stay the course", Dr Dean is not arguing for "cut and run". Democrats - with an increased say in US policy, are now confronted with the very real fact that they could be perceived as architects of defeat - as opposed to the pre-election "Cassandra" position they no longer enjoy. Still, they've promised "change" - an amorphous concept that is actually a near-daily reality in Iraq, and has no significant current Republican opposition. But while U.S. politicians move slowly towards a new, improved, compromise definition of "change", al Qaeda is able to act fast in declaring victory.
This fits in with another aspect of that "media invasion" - divide and conquer America. Sap the will of half the people, and the other half will not be able to confront a (seemingly) distant enemy while being obstructed on the home front. Until now that split has been defined by political party affiliation. But any upcoming "compromise" will likely have the interesting impact of alienating half of Republican voters and half of the Democrats -each for different reasons, of course, but this promises a potentially interesting variation from the pre-election partisan separation.
But worse than that "new direction" might be the perception of no action whatsoever, and unless American politicians act swiftly, we have months uncertainty ahead - months that al Qaeda is prepared to use to their advantage.
Here's the potential beginning of the death spiral: As Americans debate, Iraqis lose faith that Americans will stand with them long enough to secure their country. This will lead to the strengthening of regional (or in Baghdad, neighborhood) militias at the cost of the government forces - Iraqi Army and Police. American troops attached to those units will be first to see the tipping point. While not seeing the elections themselves as reason for despair, they will recognize the reality of any second- or third-order results on their mission, and the futility of their efforts. "Battles" - primarily for external support of and internal fortitude from their charges - once thought worth the effort will become increasingly hopeless, and less frequently waged. The number of empty spaces in formations will grow...
None of this will be invisible to the Iraqi population - or al Qaeda, whose task will become increasingly easy. Along with their media strategy, it's worthwhile to review their "military" strategy that it complements so well. Its brutal simplicity requires very few "soldiers" to implement, and determined opposition - civil and military - to fail. (Undermining that opposition is the complimentary purpose of the media strategy, and it's working quite well.)
Meanwhile, back in Washington, politicians - and other Americans - will spend precious time debating whose fault it all is. And any hope for solutions will likely be sabotaged by a press that touts al Qaeda successes and body counts without any balance - as the New York Times does above - portrays any tentative steps towards American political compromise as anything but, and immediately discounts any talk of American commitment as lacking credibility, as the LA Times does here:
A detailed recitation of the death count follows - less any victories by the good guys. Victory is the bad word. Success is unobtainable. A "war on terror" is un-winnable. Use those terms and your credibility is questionable. - it's only been a few days from the American elections, but thus far that trend in American media has not changed.
A clock is ticking for Americans and Iraqis alike - fast action and concrete statements of intent from politicians is called for. Accurate reporting of progress is essential. If that seems difficult, its because it is.
If that seems impossible, its because you're letting al Qaeda's strategy defeat you.
Update: Opening salvos, from today's New York Times:
These are what's known as starting positions.
The clock ticks...
Posted by Greyhawk / November 13, 2006 7:17 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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