PDA

View Full Version : U.S. Military Needs a PR Counteroffensive



SWJED
07-07-2006, 12:47 PM
7 July Wall Street Journal commentary - U.S. Soldiers Aren't Guilty Before a Verdict (http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/dhenninger/?id=110008622) by Daniel Henninger.


... Military specialists will output case studies for years on how Iraq has altered the way war is waged by Americans -- on the battlefield and on the home front. Most interesting to know would be whether the war as perceived at home and the war as fought daily by our soldiers in Iraq became two separate realms of consciousness, the former barely related to the reality of the latter.

One benchmark in this process will be deciding which elements of the nation's military past are deemed relevant to taking the measure of this war. Outside the military colleges, the experience of World War II appears to have become largely irrelevant. The controlling benchmark today is whether any American military commitment can evade the vague moral abyss of the Vietnam War. Thus when the Haditha story broke open over Memorial Day it was analogized as "another My Lai," the storied 1968 killing, and cover-up, of hundreds of civilians in a Vietnamese village.

The reason for viewing Haditha through the moral sextant of My Lai is that My Lai significantly altered the political status of Vietnam in the U.S. It became a totem for U.S. behavior in Vietnam. So it is only natural that the My Lai template, however ill-fitting, would be pressed against Haditha to see if this one lurid story would break the back of the entire Iraq enterprise. And so the chairman of the Joint Chiefs shows up on TV the Fourth of July -- going on PR offense like any corporate product manager to ensure this isn't the one event that burns down the whole company. Fair or not, these are the new rules of political engagement in wartime America, and the government learns to play by them or risk being rolled off the field.

But what about the soldiers themselves? Nearly anyone who gets sucked into the media vortex -- celebrity, CEO, sports hero -- becomes mere cannon fodder, so assume the same for GIs involved in abuse or murder allegations. The Marines implicated in the Haditha incident are largely anonymous now, but each is being auditioned to play this war's Lt. William Calley. But first they have to be convicted of something.

The innocence or guilt of the individual soldiers implicated in Haditha or the other alleged abuse incidents is a lower-order concern to those fighting a PR war for the hearts and minds of the American people on Iraq. In the first effusion of media coverage of these events, the impression is weighted toward assuming guilt, and so when the pollsters call to ask about support for the war, the numbers fall. Mission accomplished -- unless a Gen. Pace can jump quickly enough on the other side of the public-impression teeter-totter...

slapout9
07-08-2006, 12:49 PM
You are so right. Having seen this all through my career in LE the military is in bad shape in this respect. Example: This mornings paper in Montgomery,Alabama has a front page article on how extremist(read racisit are joining the military) It was sponored by the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) this is the lawyer Morris Dees who sued the KKK some years back. I don't know how to do the link thing but this article should be read by all. This group is very powefull in shaping public opinion. The paper is The Montgomery Advertiser.

SWJED
07-08-2006, 12:54 PM
You are so right. Having seen this all through my career in LE the military is in bad shape in this respect. Example: This mornings paper in Montgomery,Alabama has a front page article on how extremist(read racisit are joining the military) It was sponored by the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) this is the lawyer Morris Dees who sued the KKK some years back. I don't know how to do the link thing but this article should be read by all. This group is very powefull in shaping public opinion. The paper is The Montgomery Advertiser.

Extremists infiltrating military, watchdog group says (http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060708/NEWS/607080347/1001) by David Irvin.


America's military is being infiltrated by possibly thousands of right-wing extremists who want weapons and training to wage a future race war, according to a Montgomery-based group that monitors hate activity.

In a report released Friday, the Southern Poverty Law Center blamed the growing number of racists in the armed services on the tremendous manpower needs in Iraq. To fill those needs, the center said, defense officials have eased their standards designed to identify neo-Nazis and other white supremacists...

Merv Benson
07-08-2006, 04:03 PM
There appears to be a new media storyline. No longer are troops portrayed as the best this country has to offer. Everyday there is a new story about "cold blooded killers," "mad rapist" and now skinheads. We are also getting stories suggesting that Marine officers were negligent in discovering what may or may not have happened at Hadditha. What is happening is that those who want to lose the war are trying to drive down the approval numbers of the US military. It is not so much a matter of whether these alleged events are news, but the lack of perspective that goes witht he stories and the prominence withwhich they are displayed. For example, when was the last time that the NY Times put a local rape story on the front page above the fold? Some in the media are starting now to do the same thing Kerry did to the troops in Vietnam by making them look like psychopaths. If you read the transcript of this week's Baghdad news briefing almost every question was on this issue rather than the important stuff about how we are doing in the war.

Someone needs to speak up for perspective.

Stu-6
07-09-2006, 03:23 PM
I think the title to this thread is dead on. For about the last 15 years or so the US military was able to continuously put out the message that the military was; disciplined, tough educated, and professional over the last year or two this message has been lost. Part of this is due to Iraq, the military will always be associated with the decisions of their political masters if these decisions are unpopular in hurts the military too, sort of a case of a falling tide sinking all ships. To counter this, the Defense Department and subordinate services need to invest in their reputation

Steve Blair
07-10-2006, 03:09 PM
It's hard to invest in that reputation when the bulk of major mainstream media is more concerned with tearing that reputation down. Too many journalists (IMO, anyhow) look on the 1960s as their "golden age", and they all want the clout and leverage that people like Bob Woodward gained during that era. Speaking up only really helps when you have someone who wants to listen. Otherwise you're accused of "obstructionist tactics" and "hiding something" by "not answering their serious journalistic questions." When you're angling for a Pulitzer, truth and balance sometimes get in the way.

That said, there are of course many exceptions out there. Sean Naylor springs to mind for one, and there are many others. The problem is that their own organizations don't necessarily want to hear what they're saying. It's much better from a ratings standpoint to go for shock value.

Stu-6
07-10-2006, 11:18 PM
I disagree about the media making things impossibly difficult. The media has always been about tearing thinks down, and pointing out the short comings of powerful institutions and people, that is what sells, if it bleeds it leads. Some organizations and individuals have been able to maintain a positive reputation in this environment and there is no reason the military canít be one of them. It will not always be easy the nature of the job invites criticism but it can be done it just takes more effort.