Charge of the Light Brigade
August 24, 2006: Starting this October, the United States, under the supervision of America officers in Iraq, will fund an Information War campaign to communicate to the Iraqi people, and the Arab world, what the U.S. is trying to accomplish in Iraq. Normally, the best way to deal with the media in the Middle East is to bribe, own or terrorize it. These are the traditional ways of controlling your message. Western media techniques, like running with the stories that have the most popular appeal ("if it bleeds it leads," and all that), have become popular in some Middle Eastern countries, where the media is allowed some leeway. But many "Westernized" Arab media must operate from the West, to avoid pressure from unhappy governments or terrorists. Most Arab journalists and editors have been remarkably resistant to accurately reporting what is going on in Iraq. Most of this is because of Sunni Arab contempt for Shia Islam, and fear of Shia Iran.
Despite these obstacles, the new American campaign will run for two years, and will rely on constantly monitoring the Arab media, and trying to craft messages that are accurate and acceptable. It's a challenge, but going native was not very successful, and the rumors and fabrications are overwhelming any attempts to report accurately on what is going on in Iraq. Getting this message across has been difficult, partly because the concept of Information War is new (even if controlling media is not), and there's been a lot of disagreement in the U.S. government over who is in charge of information operations.
When you've got something new, like Information War, everyone is an expert, and it's hard to find someone who will take charge, and responsibility.