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March 23, 2007

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It's so counter-productive that the military is treating Michael Yon — Michael Yon — so badly. He's been consistently pro-military and pro the Iraq war for the longest time. And, if your post is correct, then with surge appearing to be working, you'd think Yon would be their go-to guy to get the story out.

Just bizarre.

The US military has been fed a steady diet, for the last six years (and in some cases longer), of language to the effect that reporters are nothing but a bunch of al Qaeda-loving traitors. Is it any wonder, then, that they've started treating embeds "like crap," Charles?

I can think of plenty of good reasons why DOD wouldn't want embeds behaving as Yon did.

Perhaps Information Operations refers to something other than journalism?

If the Post is right, then Petraeus's surge strategy is having positive results (I'm not commenting here on Yon's or other journalists' situation), but it makes me uneasy that he is still referring to the insurgents as "al Qaeda". My understanding is that "al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" is a name picked for its PR value by a bunch of fellow travelers, but does not indicate any actual aid flowing in from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that they are a small part of the insurgency anyway.

Is this not true? Is our Afghanistan adventure so spectacular a failure that such aid can flow across a hostile Iran? Or is this the new political correctness, that we have to brand all our enemies with this magic name? Or does Petraeus truly not know who his enemies are?

Did you actually expect the Military to allow for free journalism in a war zone? The same military that when their helicopters were blown up by insurgents called those crashes "technical malfunctions."

Journalists want to report the news. Military information operations are intended to tell people whatever will get them to support the military.

Two different goals, you have to expect some friction.

And consider -- a soldier who does something that hurts the mission can expect a courtmartial, even if he's supported the mission wholeheartedly every day for hundreds of days before. And an iraqi who's caught doing something that hurts the mission will be killed or detained. A journalist who hurts the mission might get sent home or harrassed a little in the cafeteria. Pretty mild stuff when you think about it.

If a journalist wants to get cooperation from the US military he can report everything in the best possible light -- every single time. If he ever once reports something that makes the military look less than its best, then he isn't on the team.

Or is this the new political correctness, that we have to brand all our enemies with this magic name? Or does Petraeus truly not know who his enemies are?

The former. Lots of people are opposed to al qaeda, here and in iraq. Being against al qaeda is like being against international bolshevism.

Whether or not DoD lets military bloggers work or not is fairly trivial to the outcome.

Positive assertions and anecdotes are a dime a dozen (so are negative ones, of course)

I'll wait for March stats.

(Not that all of those are always trustworthy, either, but what the hey, can't control evrathing)

The General who wants to silence Yon is Brigadier General Vincent K. Brooks.

In 2005, Brooks was the the lead Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for the United States Army. The stories that got Yon in trouble with Brooks were Proximity Delays and Gates of Fire. Proximity Delays got Yon in trouble, and in Gates of Fire, Yon picked up a rifle and joined combat to help LTC Erik Kurilla, who had been shot three times by an insurgent while CSM Robert Prosser was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with another insurgent. For inserting himself into battle (which violated embed rules) to help fallen American soldiers, and then having the gall to write about it, Brooks tried to kick Yon our of Iraq.

Brooks is back in Iraq, this time as deputy commanding general - support for Multinational Division-Baghdad, and he still obviously carries his grudge against Yon. I confirmed last night with Michael Yon that it is this same General Vincent K. Brooks that sent Yon the email threatening to kick him out of Iraq.

The Bizarro World version.

Good link, Ugh: I especially liked this bit:

We see the same today with nominally American media outlets interviewing and giving air time to al Qaeda and insurgents under the guise of "equal time" like there was actually two valid points of view and ignoring the beheadings and car bombs.

I really wonder what "media" streiff has been watching of late: Al-Awraa? Maybe it's a matter of sticking to "mainstream" media, but I have seen really little (as in: none) "airtime" devoted to al-Qaeda, outside the occasional review (as in: dismissal) of the intermittent videos they release - not many thumbs-up there. Bizarro World, indeed.

This is a mixed bag. I do think Petraeus' approach is solid and is undoubtedly having results. The biggest element is earning the trust of the citizens, which has always been a major thrust of his.

What we don't know is what happens down the road when we do withdraw from these areas (which we will have to eventually). I really don't think Americans have a good understanding of the different conception of time that we have and people in the Middle East and Asia have.

Nor do we have a real understanding of the depths of animosity that exists between some of the groups there.

Plus, although Baghdad is a little quieter, there is an increase in violence away from Baghdad.

A key element of this whole plan will be to what degree we and the Iraqi governmental forces can wrest support away from al Sadr, and that will involve a lot more than just maintiaining a force presence. We allowed al Sadr to get as much influence as we did by not acting quick enough to get services, economic support and other infrastructure in place. He worked to do so. The people in Sadr city felt that he cared and the Americans didn't. If they can be convinced we care, then an impact can be made. If we can't, nothing else matters.

Slightly off topic but this has been nagging me for a while...:

West of Baghdad, Bill Roggio is reporting on the success of the Anbar Salvation Council and its confrontations against al Qaeda terrorists.

Is it me, or is Roggio always reporting on the success of this or that effort in Iraq? I know that he's an intelligent guy, and many people that I respect laud his analytical skills and breadth of knowledge. He is a frequently cited source of information and insight. But I have one large overriding problem with his analysis:

If the situation in Iraq had really been going as well as Roggio has been claiming for so many years, why is the situation still so FUBAR?

It just seems that there is a steady cheerleading slant that tends to taint his analysis to the point that it is difficult to take him at face value.

Am I misreading him?

The poll I'll link to below (last time I did this the whole post from that point on was a link, so I'll wait until the end) paints a fairly pessimistic picture of Iraq. Of course it's two weeks old and things could have totally turned around, maybe with people rising from the dead and so on. The poll was criticized by some on the right for oversampling Sunnis--assuming that the poll analysts didn't weight their data accordingly to correct for this, it's still no big deal because the responses are broken down according to sect, so you can see for yourself what the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds think.

Note that one out of 6 households reports someone "harmed" (22 percent for Sunnis, 17 percent for Shiites and 7 percent for Kurds.) Asked about the sorts of violence they'd seen, more Iraqis had seen unnecessary violence against citizens committed by US or coalition forces than by any other faction. (They don't compare the severity of the violence.) Car bombs and suicide attacks got the highest vote in the category of things Iraqis feared most (38 percent), with unnecessary violence by coalition forces coming in second at 16 percent, and then various forms of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence picking up the rest.

Here's the link

Well, this IS good news and just in time. Now we can turn our attention to Iran!
/snark

Charles - you seem to be viewing IO as being about informing the US public about what's going on, but that's simply not what it's about. The target for IO has to be Iraqis. I'd much rather see a total media blackout accompanied by effective IO operations undermining support for insurgents than total information access for western journalists with useless or counterproductive IO aimed at Iraqis. Obviously those are two extremes, but hopefully they illuminate my point.

Effective COIN IO would put most of its efforts on reaching the Arab press. No matter how good the reporter, articles in the NYT or WaPo will have minimal impact on the Arab street.

you seem to be viewing IO as being about informing the US public about what's going on

But winning the Home Front is half the battle.

Whether or not DoD lets military bloggers work or not is fairly trivial to the outcome.

Sometimes it takes publicity to shame the White House and Pentagon into doing what they said they were doing in Iraq.

"Charles - you seem to be viewing IO as being about informing the US public about what's going on, but that's simply not what it's about. The target for IO has to be Iraqis. I'd much rather see a total media blackout accompanied by effective IO operations undermining support for insurgents than total information access for western journalists with useless or counterproductive IO aimed at Iraqis. Obviously those are two extremes, but hopefully they illuminate my point."

I'd rather everyone just know what's happening. The whole idea of an information war is Orwellian.

you seem to be viewing IO as being about informing the US public about what's going on, but that's simply not what it's about.

It's much more than that, tog. I've got an update in the hopper.

CharleyCarp's comment seems not to've been picked up on ... Yon writes:

I broke some rules by, for instance, firing a weapon during combat when some of our soldiers were fighting fairly close quarters and one was wounded and still under enemy fire.

What other "rules" did Yon break? And does the military have to let embedded reporters play soldier?

Anyone recall how we lefties flipped out over Judy Miller wearing fatigues?

The problem with evaluating the surge is the same problem overall with this war -- what does "the surge is working" allegedly mean?

If the yardstick is that it lessens violence in the affected neighborhoods, that is fairly obvious and a rather poor definition for "it is working."

"Working" would be that political stability takes hold because violence has been brought under control. Well, violence has not been brought under control -- only lessened slightly, and there is no indication whatsoever that the surge is bringing political stability.

Is this an uptick or simply a temporary lessening in the rate of descent? I don't know, but I am extremely tired of war apologists pretending that they do know.

Iraq for the next ten years is going to look as lot more like Somalia than anything else. The surge cannot alter that reality on the ground -- only slightly lessen its ill effects at a cost to the US that does not match the benefit.

How many years should we keep surging to see if it works? ... Two? ... Five? ... Ten? The history of this war so far is that it is never-ending because so long as the glass had not gone completely dry for a long period of time, we should allegedly keep at it.

How many years should we keep surging to see if it works?

I believe CB is on record as giving it until summer.

The impression I get of the US approach to the press in Iraq is that the press are viewed as an unavoidable inconvenience. Additionally, press organs that are slanted against the US, such as Al Jazeera, are viewed as cooperating with the enemy. Unfortunately the exact press outlets most effective at reaching the Arab street are the likes of Al Jazeera. A with-us-or-against-us approach cuts off access to very effective channels for getting the US message to the people who most need to hear it.

I believe CB is on record as giving it until summer.

I think his position is a little bit ambiguous on that, but my remark was not a challenge to his specific position. It was directed at the general logic of surge supporters in general, and Charles support seems guarded rather than enthusiastic in view of the history of misconduct by the Bush administration in prosecuting the war.

Politically, it has served as yet another device for putting off into the future a decision about what is to be done, and will be milked for that purpose so long as Bush remains President. It presents no realistic possibility of improving the situation, as even its Pentagon proponents acknowledge (they emphasize correctly all of the political and reconstruction changes that needs to accompany it for there to be any success, which is the real point). It is the lessening of violence coupled with political progress that would have a chance of improving things. A temporary lessening of violence in response to a greater troop presence by itself means very little.

But so long as any tiny glimmer of good can be linked to the surge, then it allegedly is "working" and should be continued indefinitely (hence my snark about how many years to let it run). I think that sums up the political logic behind this activity.

I think his position is a little bit ambiguous on that, but my remark was not a challenge to his specific position.

I'm in complete agreement with the gist of your point, but CB has mentioned an actual date he will, er...excuse..."may" move into the "defeatist" camp (and with apologies, it's November, not summer):

If we've made no discernible progress by this November, I may just put myself in the defeatist camp and call for a phased drawdown. But not now, and not with this plan.

Yes, he's left himself alot of outs, but I think it's important to note, and remember, this.

I believe CB is on record as giving it until summer.

Nah. I initially said by November of this year and then extended it to year-end for seeing concrete, discernible progress. Instead of an update, I posted Part II.

dmbeaster: Iraq for the next ten years is going to look as lot more like Somalia than anything else.

That, unfortunately, may be the most concise and prescient comment I have read on the issue. Kudos to you for writing it, and dread to those of us who supported this.

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