PDA

View Full Version : Insurgent Video Targets Blackwater



SteveMetz
04-23-2008, 09:42 PM
"Insurgents have put together hundreds of propaganda videos ranting about how oh-so-terrible the American troops in Iraq are. But this is the first flick I've seen that directly and exclusively targets the private military contractors like Blackwater that have become a hallmark of the Iraq occupation...."


Danger Room (http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/04/insurgents-have.html)

Ron Humphrey
04-23-2008, 10:44 PM
"Insurgents have put together hundreds of propaganda videos ranting about how oh-so-terrible the American troops in Iraq are. But this is the first flick I've seen that directly and exclusively targets the private military contractors like Blackwater that have become a hallmark of the Iraq occupation...."


Danger Room (http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/04/insurgents-have.html)

Thanks for the link.

I notice they cited your parameters piece as well.
Double Bonus:D

Ranger94
04-24-2008, 01:38 AM
Learning about the enemy is always a good thing. Is this the editorial goal?

SteveMetz
04-24-2008, 09:10 AM
I interpreted it as showing the adaptability of the insurgents, particularly in the vital psychological battlespace, and the multidimensionality of contemporary, "post Galula," insurgency.

Stan
04-24-2008, 11:22 AM
I completely agree, and in addition to the desired psychological (after)affect, it should be an up-close and personal reminder of just how carefully the 2004 assault on Blackwater employees was planned. If you recall the 2004 reports (I think it was CNN), there was also evidence of satellite imagery used to map out the insurgent's attack route on Blackwater's folks.

As Steve points out in Parameters (http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/parameters/07winter/metz.htm), the insurgents are engaging the international media ("fourth forces") to get their psychological messages out. And, as luck would have it, the journalists ate it up, hook, line and sinker :wry:

ODB
04-24-2008, 09:58 PM
I think this is another perfect example of how we are losing the I/O battle. The question is how do we gain the upper hand and maintain it in today's I/O environment?

SteveMetz
04-24-2008, 10:21 PM
I think this is another perfect example of how we are losing the I/O battle. The question is how do we gain the upper hand and maintain it in today's I/O environment?

I don't think we can win away games.

Ron Humphrey
04-25-2008, 12:15 AM
I think this is another perfect example of how we are losing the I/O battle. The question is how do we gain the upper hand and maintain it in today's I/O environment?


I don't think we can win away games.

Just depends on who we have workin with us.

Not sure I've seen anything from AQ or others which comes anywhere close to making Private Military Contractors look nearly as evil as these guys-

http://www.cbs.com/primetime/jericho/

ODB
04-25-2008, 12:27 AM
I don't think we can win away games.

I wonder if we didn't have as much red tape could we have a fighting chance?

SteveMetz
04-25-2008, 12:39 AM
I wonder if we didn't have as much red tape could we have a fighting chance?

IMO, wouldn't make much of a difference. No one can be consistently psychologically effective in a radically different culture.

Ken White
04-25-2008, 01:37 AM
who might be able to help us have no real incentive to do so and several incentives to avoid helping us. Being the big kid on the block has its disadvantages -- nobody thinks you need help and most think you're a little too big for comfort.

I don't think most nations wish us harm but I do believe most have a vested interest, no matter how minor, in seeing us stub our toes. They may not throw a banana peel in front of us but they also won't waste effort telling us it's there or trying to pick it up.

Goes with the territory...

marct
04-25-2008, 02:19 PM
I don't think most nations wish us harm but I do believe most have a vested interest, no matter how minor, in seeing us stub our toes. They may not throw a banana peel in front of us but they also won't waste effort telling us it's there or trying to pick it up.

Got to agree with that. Partly, I suspect, it's just self interest - "if the US fraks up then we'll do better and get better access to the resources" type thing. Another part, I suspect, is just sheer frustration of the "we've told them time and time again and they don't listen" type.


Goes with the territory...

Yup, it does ;).

Ken White
04-25-2008, 04:32 PM
...Another part, I suspect, is just sheer frustration of the "we've told them time and time again and they don't listen" type.and the fascinating thing is 'they' don't realize that we refuse to listen because we can see their track record in most spheres is not only no better than ours but in many cases is not nearly as good...:wry:

marct
04-25-2008, 05:30 PM
and the fascinating thing is 'they' don't realize that we refuse to listen because we can see their track record in most spheres is not only no better than ours but in many cases is not nearly as good...:wry:

we could spill a lot of electrons debating that without ever coming to a consensus :D. And, at any rate, in a lot of cases the specifics don't matter - it's a case of "are you treating us as allies or clients?" Constantly disregarding advice, even if it is bad (;)), has a tendency for people to think that the country disregarding the advice is a) rrogant, and b) feels entitled to command other countries. Again, it's a case of diplomatic perception rather than any reality - after all, when did the French last win a counter-insurgency? The Albigensians?

Ken White
04-25-2008, 05:36 PM
we could spill a lot of electrons debating that without ever coming to a consensus :D. And, at any rate, in a lot of cases the specifics don't matter - it's a case of "are you treating us as allies or clients?" Constantly disregarding advice, even if it is bad (;)), has a tendency for people to think that the country disregarding the advice is a) rrogant, and b) feels entitled to command other countries. Again, it's a case of diplomatic perception rather than any reality - after all, when did the French last win a counter-insurgency? The Albigensians?On the former, I take no position on it one way or the other, I'm merely repeating the most common US complaint on the issue I've heard over the years. I suspect there's some merit in it. We certainly have spent (as did the USSR) a great deal of time in the last fifty plus years fretting over arbitrary lines drawn on maps by Spain, italy, France and the UK (among other things)...

On the latter true -- and we're certainly entirely too guilty of arrogance. Based on watching a lot of people in a lot of places over more years than I care to recall, I think that, too, goes with the territory... :o

bluegreencody
04-25-2008, 08:30 PM
IMO, wouldn't make much of a difference. No one can be consistently psychologically effective in a radically different culture.

Especially with the history of colonization in the region, the history of racism/slavery in Western countries, and the nature of today's globalized liberal market economy...

Ron Humphrey
04-25-2008, 08:33 PM
Especially with the history of colonization in the region, the history of racism/slavery in Western countries, and the nature of today's globalized liberal market economy...

are a little slow. Could you elaborate on what exactly that means:confused:

bluegreencody
04-25-2008, 08:42 PM
are a little slow. Could you elaborate on what exactly that means:confused:

and I haven't observed these things as being a concern to this posting yet. Maybe these things are so obvious they don't need to be mentioned. It just seems to me that any conversation about how allies (or clients) see the U.S. needs to consider these issues... it is more helpful than just saying that we are arrogant, because it gives context to the situation. I don't think people around the world care if we brag, if we are arrogant, about going to the moon first, or even Mars (I don't know about Venus). The perception of arrogance wasn't created in a vacuum and I don't think it is a monolithic perception of the entire U.S. society.

bluegreencody
04-25-2008, 10:31 PM
are a little slow. Could you elaborate on what exactly that means:confused:

Frantz Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth" is a perfect example of what I am talking about. However people feel about his evolutionary theory of violence, I don't think anybody can disagree that it is a powerful example of, what I will call, an insurgent perspective that integrates a particular anti-colonial, non-white view of history.
BTW, is this suggested or required reading in military training/schools?

SteveMetz
04-25-2008, 10:56 PM
Frantz Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth" is a perfect example of what I am talking about. However people feel about his evolutionary theory of violence, I don't think anybody can disagree that it is a powerful example of, what I will call, an insurgent perspective that integrates a particular anti-colonial, non-white view of history.
BTW, is this suggested or required reading in military training/schools?

I've been known to quote him (http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB333.pdf). But to put that in context, I just Googled my name "and idiot" and got 5,260 hits (many dealing with an email I wrote to an old Cuban saying that I didn't put Castro near the top of the security threats faced by the United States).

Ranger94
04-27-2008, 05:34 PM
IMO, wouldn't make much of a difference. No one can be consistently psychologically effective in a radically different culture.

I am not following the logic in this one. Wouldn't this statement have to be true for AQ working against the West?

marct
04-28-2008, 01:16 PM
Hi Ranger,


I am not following the logic in this one. Wouldn't this statement have to be true for AQ working against the West?

Not really, it depends upon what specific cultural elements they are aiming at. For example, the are certain universals that anyone can use - children and violence against them being the simplest one to see. Fairly standard propaganda aimed at showing how the opponent attacks and kills children will pretty much work all of the time.

With regards to the West, there is a meme complex that can best be described as self-righteous, self-(i.e. West)hating and, most importantly, self-blaming which offers "salvation" through (cultural)self-immolation. While this is often referred to as "left wing", that's actually incorrect; it actually comes out of a rather psychotic other-worldly orientation (the same one that gave us Savonarola, the Stylites and the fraticelli). All AQ has to do is aim at this particular meme complex and its messages will be picked up and transmuted by the current carriers of that complex.

SteveMetz
04-28-2008, 04:58 PM
I am not following the logic in this one. Wouldn't this statement have to be true for AQ working against the West?

Sure, but what makes you think AQ's IO have been that effective in the West? I mean, if you look at their strategic psychological aims vis a vis the West, how many have they attained?

marct
04-28-2008, 05:02 PM
Sure, but what makes you think AQ's IO have been that effective in the West? I mean, if you look at their strategic psychological aims vis a vis the West, how many have they attained?

Withdrawl of Spain from the MNF
Decrease in UK troops in Iraq
Increase in global price of oil
Election of a Democrat congress (2006)
......

tequila
04-28-2008, 05:08 PM
How are any of those things attributable to AQ's IO campaign?

Bush's win in 2004 is also attributable, given this episode (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Osama_bin_Laden_video):



At the five o'clock meeting, once various reports on latest threats were delivered, John McLaughlin opened the issue with the consensus view: "Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President."

Around the table, there were nods....Jami Miscik talked about how bin Laden being challenged by Zarqawi's rise clearly understood how his primacy as al Qaeda's leader was supported by the continuation of his eye-to-eye struggle with Bush. "Certainly," she offered, "he would want Bush to keep doing what he's doing for a few more years."

marct
04-28-2008, 05:21 PM
How are any of those things attributable to AQ's IO campaign?


Withdrawl of Spain from the MNF

Distributed propaganda leading to a call for global jihad appears to have been, at least in part, a major source of the Madrid bombings which caused the change in the Spanish government leading to a withdrawl of Spanish troops once the new government took power.


Decrease in UK troops in Iraq

The London bombings and other activity has been spurred on by irhabi IO ops to the point where the always volatile British public is now extremely concerned with the possibility of aggravating the international Muslim community even more. This, along with Blair's resignation, has led to an increase in overall security in schools which, in turn, is increasing general levels of frustration with the government. Troop decreases in Iraq came about as a result of the change in government and efforts by the current PM to ameliorate the image of the UK as Bush's "lapdog".


Increase in global price of oil

Basically, take a look at how their IO campaign has raised fears globally as well as their destabilization efforts in a number of countries.


Election of a Democrat congress (2006)

Ask GEN Pelosi :D.

None of these are the direct result of AQ IO campaigns, but the IO campaigns set the stage for their interpretation and, in the case of irhabi attacks in Spain and Britain, were instrumental in making them happen.

tequila
04-28-2008, 05:49 PM
Distributed propaganda leading to a call for global jihad appears to have been, at least in part, a major source of the Madrid bombings which caused the change in the Spanish government leading to a withdrawl of Spanish troops once the new government took power.

That and the UK bombings only works if you accept Sageman's thesis of open-source jihad. It runs up on the shoals of certain facts about the bombers, for instance that many of them were hardcore jihadis from before 9/11 with dedicated al-Qaeda links - i.e. they were not principally inspired by IO efforts.


Troop decreases in Iraq came about as a result of the change in government and efforts by the current PM to ameliorate the image of the UK as Bush's "lapdog".

Ignoring the fact that troop decreases were on the agenda before and would have occurred if Blair had continued in office, and was a function more of the rabid unpopularity of the war in Iraq than of any terrorist attack. The change in government was again due to intra-Labour Party politics and Iraq, not any AQ propaganda effort or some sort of bizarre attempt to curry Islamist sympathies.


Basically, take a look at how their IO campaign has raised fears globally as well as their destabilization efforts in a number of countries.

This is so generalized an argument as to be useless. How has their IO campaign "raised fears" in a way that led to a sustained price rise in oil? In what way has their IO campaign destabilized a major oil producing country? How much "risk premium" is built in specifically due to AQ's IO campaign, and how much has this affected world oil prices vs. things like a world-historical mass industrialization event such as has taken place in China over the past 15 years?

marct
04-28-2008, 06:08 PM
That and the UK bombings only works if you accept Sageman's thesis of open-source jihad. It runs up on the shoals of certain facts about the bombers, for instance that many of them were hardcore jihadis from before 9/11 with dedicated al-Qaeda links - i.e. they were not principally inspired by IO efforts.

True, although he Edinburgh bombings don't appear, at least from what I have heard, to have had a pre-existing AQ link. Even granting pre-existing links, how were they mobilized? What is the rhetoric/IO used to activate them?


Ignoring the fact that troop decreases were on the agenda before and would have occurred if Blair had continued in office, and was a function more of the rabid unpopularity of the war in Iraq than of any terrorist attack. The change in government was again due to intra-Labour Party politics and Iraq, not any AQ propaganda effort or some sort of bizarre attempt to curry Islamist sympathies.

Hmmm, you might want to check out some of the Labour party Lords on that one. Still and all, the IO is helping to condition the general populace.


This is so generalized an argument as to be useless. How has their IO campaign "raised fears" in a way that led to a sustained price rise in oil? In what way has their IO campaign destabilized a major oil producing country? How much "risk premium" is built in specifically due to AQ's IO campaign, and how much has this affected world oil prices vs. things like a world-historical mass industrialization event such as has taken place in China over the past 15 years?

Mainly because I just don't have time right now to draw out all the linkages (it's tax time here and I have a bunch of contracts that have to be finished ASAP). You asked about a risk premium built in specifically due to AQ IO activities, and my guess would be none that is s specified. What their IO campaign is doing, however, is claiming credit for causing the US (and the West in general) to expend vast sums of money that is notbeing put back into the western economies.

Furthermore, by reducing the international perception of US efficacy, it has encouraged anti-US and anti-globalization movements, including Chavez, and exacerbated tensions in a number of other producing areas (e.g. Nigeria). Direct effect? Very little, but as one component of the overall political "atmosphere" it's been fairly large.

Anyway, back to my taxes :mad:

tequila
04-28-2008, 06:25 PM
Let's just say that I disagree with almost 100% of your assumptions, most especially the idea that the British public is being "conditioned" by AQ IO or that AQ IO somehow "emboldens" anti-globalization forces, Hugo Chavez, or conflict in the Niger Delta, which is not a Muslim area. AQ claiming credit for higher oil prices does not mean they are correct at all, and tying AQ's IO campaign in with the 2006 Congressional elections strikes me as frankly comical.

Ken White
04-28-2008, 07:03 PM
...tying AQ's IO campaign in with the 2006 Congressional elections strikes me as frankly comical.tying Bush's 2004 win to that IO campaign.

I suspect the truth is that they've had some effects along the line Marc mentioned and 'emboldens' is perhaps a question of degree or might be replaced by 'mildly encouraged.'

SteveMetz
04-28-2008, 07:53 PM
Withdrawl of Spain from the MNF
Decrease in UK troops in Iraq
Increase in global price of oil
Election of a Democrat congress (2006)
......

And how are those attributable to AQ INFORMATION operations (unless you define IO so broadly as to include everything one says and does)?

Plus, the last three of your four don't have squat to do with AQ.

bluegreencody
04-29-2008, 06:53 AM
However everyone understands each others' precise points, the common theme I understand from these posts is that everyone is talking about the varying degrees of intersection between different communities and their interests. This is best seen in the discussion of the '04 and '06 political campaigns converging with A.Q's interests. More subtly, an example is mentioned of intra-Labor party conflict and anti-war efforts being compatible with A.Q's interests. Soon, depending what happens, we will be talking about how a Republican presidential victory works in A.Q's interests or how a Democratic presidential victory does. I betcha A.Q. will be, and then they will adjust and adapt to the changing situation, in both strategy and tactics.
It seems important right now to say that Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth" is best understood after a thorough saturation with the work of Du Bois and MLK Jr, and with Waylon Jennings playing in the background. I have found that this combination of variables produces a strange sense of sympathy/empathy within myself. This uncomfortable feeling directly leads me to ask whether A.Q. is anti-Indian... if OBL hates America, how does he feel about Native Americans? Blacks? High school drop-outs in Idaho and lobstermen in Maine? How about Hamas? Hizbollah? But, we are not allowed to ask these questions because it is "us versus them".

With regards to the West, there is a meme complex that can best be described as self-righteous, self-(i.e. West)hating and, most importantly, self-blaming which offers "salvation" through (cultural)self-immolation. While this is often referred to as "left wing", that's actually incorrect; it actually comes out of a rather psychotic other-worldly orientation (the same one that gave us Savonarola, the Stylites and the fraticelli). All AQ has to do is aim at this particular meme complex and its messages will be picked up and transmuted by the current carriers of that complex.
While I am not a group psychologist, this particular meme complex seems to apply to an equal amount of groups on the "right wing" as on the "left wing", if not more. It also implies, as other previous postings have, that the "West" is something tangible, something an individual can disavow. OBL feels the same way. Personally, I don't buy it.

"Insurgents have put together hundreds of propaganda videos ranting about how oh-so-terrible the American troops in Iraq are. But this is the first flick I've seen that directly and exclusively targets the private military contractors like Blackwater that have become a hallmark of the Iraq occupation...."
Danger Room (http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/04/insurgents-have.html)
Among other motives, I think this video is an attempt by A.Q. to co-opt/converge their interests to the interests of different communities. I don't think they care who picks it up, because what they need is action. This topic (violence perpetrated on Blackwater) allows for a larger potential receptive audience the world-over, including in the U.S. (watch out when the internet truly hits Africa, or will it be when Africa hits the internet?).
I would like to see a group continually dedicated to determining a retrospective U.S. policy of 2001. A perpetual hypothetical restart, with history as a key weapon. Sorta like playing chess backwards, or reverse-engineering. They would address the problem of stopping A.Q's co-option of the world and increasing U.S. co-operation. They would address the politically problematic questions of the intersectionality of interests between A.Q. and the U.S. Something has to be done about recruitment motivations to A.Q.

marct
04-29-2008, 02:55 PM
Hi Folks,

Not quite as insane today as it was yesterday....


However everyone understands each others' precise points, the common theme I understand from these posts is that everyone is talking about the varying degrees of intersection between different communities and their interests.

In general, yes. I think that one of the key things we have to consider is how "communities" are being formed, what their boundaries are and how they are (or may be) both distributed and contingent. I've written some stuff on this in a different context (here's (http://marctyrrell.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/10/ehh.pdf) one example) and on some of the requirements and conditions relating to alliances between groups, again in a different context (here (http://www.dmsp.dauphine.fr/Management/PapersMgmt/73Tyrrell.pdf)).

One of the crucial things, to my mind, is the role played by communities in establishing both contexts of meaning, i.e. how to interpret perceptions, and in establishing broad discursive practices between communities (meta-narratives if you will). Which, in a way, gets me to responding to a comment made by Steve:


And how are those attributable to AQ INFORMATION operations (unless you define IO so broadly as to include everything one says and does)?

I'm going to spell out the logic I'm using - feel free to trash it guys :D. I'm spelling it out, however, because I think it may be useful to start a debate on assumptions when we talk about IO.

So, to start (as I usually do) with definitions:

Information - "a difference that makes a difference" from Gregory Bateson.
Operation - a consciously planned series of actions designed to produce an intended effect which may also produce unintended effects.Expanding on Bateson's definition of information as a difference that makes a difference, there are certain assumptions inherent in that formulation that he has drawn out elsewhere (cf Angels Fear (http://www.amazon.com/Angels-Fear-Towards-Epistemology-Sacred/dp/0553345818/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1209478978&sr=8-2)). First off, the "a difference" at the start refers to perception - one must be able to perceive something in the environment as being different from the "background". But human perception is not a constant, it is a variable that can be trained and conditioned. In fact, the very differences in training of what is "background" and what is "foreground" is one of the basic differences between cultures and occupations.

But in order for a sensory input, "a difference", to be counted as "information", it must "make a difference". This speaks to the processes of categorization, symbolization and interpretation (aka "hermeneutics" and the establishment of symbol systems). The first process, "categorization", talks about how perceptions are ordered or put into silos; for example, think about the word "cup" and everything that can be covered by that word. "Symbolization" assigns "meaning" (actually, emotional connotations and linkages to other symbols) to a category "object", turning the perception of something from a "sign" (thing, pattern of action, etc.) into a "symbol" (i.e. contained within one or more networks of inter-subjective meaning). The final process, "interpretation", is the other pole of symbolization - together they form a subjective feedback loop that is partially open. The act of interpretation extrapolates from the perceived symbol to treat that symbol as a clue in a broader plan of "meaning".

Okay, let me drop he theory for a bit and give an example. You're walking down the street in Boston past Parker House and you see a rather large person walk out of the pub at the corner carrying an AK 47. Now, the "rather large person" won't necessarily make much of a difference, but the AK will. What is "happening" and what will you do? How you answer these questions depends on a whole slew of factors but, primarily on a) what an AK symbolizes to you and b) how your interpretive system has trained you to react.

Okay, back to the main point: I would define an information operation as a consciously planned series of actions designed to modify either or both the symbolization and interpretation of particular signs and/or the categorization of signs in an effort to change their place in a more general system of meaning. Thus, for example, when I was noting the effect on the 2006 election, I was pointing towards AQ (and others I freely admit ;)) attempts to firmly establish in the minds of Democratic politicians a) AQ's continued existence despite all activity to the contrary, and b) the inability of the US to sustain ongoing operations.

Why in the minds of Democrats? That's pretty simple: given the two-party system of the US AQ could pretty much count on whichever party was out of power attacking the party in power. This has nothing to do with what any Democrat may actually believe (or perceive), but it has everything to do with AQ knowing that the Democrats will attack the Republicans because that is the way the US political system works. As a result, all they have to do is continue to taunt the President and continue to deploy videos showing US troops getting hit, civilians getting killed, etc. They know that these videos will be picked up by the US media and by the Democratic party and used to attack the Republicans. I really don't know if they predicted a political message of "We support the troops but not the war", but that is immaterial - they could count on the Democrats to come up with a culturally appropriate message.


While I am not a group psychologist, this particular meme complex seems to apply to an equal amount of groups on the "right wing" as on the "left wing", if not more. It also implies, as other previous postings have, that the "West" is something tangible, something an individual can disavow. OBL feels the same way. Personally, I don't buy it.

A couple of comments. First, the meme complex I mentioned shows up in many cultures and in all brands of politics. Second, "the West" is a perception that, like other perceptions, may be reified (turned into a "thing"). As such, "it" may then be disavowed. If you want other examples of the reifictation of perceptions, look at all sorts of social organizations including corporations, political parties, governments, etc. None of them exist in and of themselves - they are shared "delusions"if you will that people accepts as if they were "real" and, as a result of that acceptance, they become a "social fact" (if not a physical one. BTW, on this, take a look at Durkheim's Rules of the Sociological Method (http://www.amazon.com/Rules-Sociological-Method-Emile-Durkheim/dp/0029079403/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1209480888&sr=1-4) and The Division of Labour in Society (http://www.amazon.com/Division-Labour-Society-Contemporary-Social/dp/0333339819/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1209480860&sr=1-1)).

Now back to taxes :(....