WEEK 34: The information business reaches an imbalance of message quantity and delivery quality. Meanwhile, our preoccupation with “western” media makes us blind to the other opportunities
A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep
Nobody has requested a new information “campaign” for a while. I guess some have actually read and heeded my previous essays. So, the units and staff may be thinking about asking for a “campaign”, but don’t want to for fear of sending me off the deep end. Or, they tire of asking for something that they don’t get or don’t like. I hope it is not the latter.
Frankly, I am somewhat concerned what to do if we have to support another major function like the Joint Security Stations or Safe Neighborhoods.
We would be hard pressed to provide adequate top cover or information in depth. In addition to preaching message-to-action, I also recommend information in depth. We try to hit the topic through a variety of means: engagements, print, radio and television public service announcements. The Public Affairs integrates the media so we can get the story in the news.
I am impressed more every week with the great progress the Brigades are making. Each of them steadily improves at supporting a myriad of operations with information. From combat operations to civil military operations to foreign internal defense, the Brigade information teams keep up the tempo.
The tempo of the Brigades is astounding, but it does give me some concern. Their information plans are solid but they have several efforts to execute. As we see intermittent reports of the Baghdad citizens not understanding certain aspect of Fardh al Qanoon, I am not surprised. We do so much so fast. We only have so many opportunities to disseminate a multitude of messages.
This became obvious this week when we went looking for reports of the Coalition Forces replacing the Facility Protection Services at Medical City. We couldn’t get media embeds so we have seen little discourse in the media or public forum. Brigadier General Qassim didn’t mention it at his press conference. Iraqiya, the Government of Iraq mouthpiece, shunned it because the operation demonstrates government corruption and ineptness. Any Iraqi media outlet is likely to shy away from it due to the political sensitivity. Two more Iraqi reporters were killed recently. The reporters have to be concerned about who they expose: Al Qaeda and sectarian agents.
We can carry the story in our newspaper, Baghdad Now, and perhaps produce a Public Service Announcement (PSA). We’ll have to craft the words correctly for the announcement in order for a local radio station to broadcast the message lest they face the sectarian wrath. I am not certain this is the best answer for the long term.
The Division, in cooperation with higher and lower headquarters, is making great strides to coordinate the Public Service Announcements to support current and future operations. Also, we continue to improve synchronizing Psychological Operations products and efforts. Frankly, though, I think the markets may be saturated with PSAs.
Between the PSA market saturation and an embattled Iraqi media, it can be difficult to disseminate all of our messages into the public forum. The Press Releases related to replacing the Facility Protection Services haven’t been picked up by the Western media so there has been no bump in the Pan Arab media.
This begs many questions. Who, in the media, would be interested in exposing the corrupt Sadrist Minister of Health and still have a sense of security? Who would know the Sadrists are likely backed by the Iranians? Al Hurra? Who would be interested in assisting their Sunni brethren? To what media outlets do all of these questions concern? Al Arabiya? Al Jazeera?
Subordinate commanders have often asked to be trusted with information. Others have called to assume some risk in the information arena. A few weeks ago we took some risk by granting some PSYOP approval to the Brigade Commanders and I am likely happier than the Brigades for it. As I insinuated, though, the PSYOP capabilities are operating at maximum capacity. We don’t have much more room at the inn.
The non-stop news networks, however, always have room for a good story. The Iraq story is relevant to many of the Pan Arab outlets. Iranian hegemony is also very relevant to the surrounding Sunni states. If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then when will the Coalition assume more information risk and seek to embed the Pan Arab media?