The PsyOps Advantage

Max Boot: Coalition Loses the ‘Psy-Ops’ Advantage in Iraq [otbblog/jamesotb]

The coalition showed its own flair for psy-ops during the conventional war last year. Embedding reporters with allied troops was a stroke of genius that dispelled the ludicrous distortions of Saddam Hussein’s misinformation minister. But the coalition has shown less skill in countering enemy propaganda of late.

To give only one example: Why is it that the daily press briefings in Baghdad are conducted by two Americans, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt and Dan Senor, a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority? Even when an Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant for Sadr, it was announced by Kimmitt and Senor. This gives the rebels exactly what they want by furthering the impression that they are fighting against a U.S. occupation rather than an emerging democracy with broad international support.

Why not put an Iraqi face on current operations by having Iraqi officials brief reporters? Or, to emphasize the international nature of the occupation, why not have a British, Polish or Italian briefer?

This is a small thing, to be sure, but it is indicative of the ham-handedness with which the coalition has approached the hearts-and-minds campaign. Vietnam ought to serve as a potent reminder that the U.S. can win every battle on the ground but still lose the war unless it retains “information dominance.”

An interesting idea and one that hadn’t occurred to me. It rather makes sense to have a senior military officer present for these briefings, if not the lead actor, when the focus is on tactical matters. But it would be a smart move to ease the transition to June 30 to have an Iraqi face on political briefings.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.