Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chester's Adventure

I had wondered what happened to Josh Manchester the proprietor of the excellent (and unfortunately dormant) "Adventures of Chester" blog. From a couple of his last posts I was left with the impression that he had gotten a book deal or something and was looking forward to seeing what he came up with. It turns out Manchester is now in Iraq out in Anbar and Belmont Club has posted an excellent comment from him.

Friday, January 11, 2008

News Media Opposition To Strategic Communications During The Cold War

Troubles with running strategic communications operations are nothing new. Today the biggest obstacles seem to be apathy and failure to adapt to new technological and communications realities, but during the Cold War, the opposition actually came from America's own news media:

Assaults on the [Voice of America] came not only from outside the country but from within...The principle attacks were twofold: in Congress on the budget front and from the news agencies.

The attack by the news agencies, Associated Press (AP) and the United Press (UP), is important because it encapsulated the great American tradition of freedom of information but , paradoxically, hindered the attempts of government to impart the principles of that freedom to the totalitarian states of the world.

In January 1946 the AP and UP told [Ass't Sec. for Public Affairs William] Benton they were going to stop supplying their news services to the VOA. That move would leave the VOA with only the International News Service (INS), which had a thin U.S. domestic service...and Reuters, which at that time supplied only international news in the Untied States. AP and UP said that by selling their services to the U.S. government overseas information service they ran the risk of accusations that they were controlled by the U.S. government, which might damage overseas sales. Benton "let out a blast against AP and UP," as he claimed, pointing out that the Soviet government news agency, TASS, and the BBC received U.S. news from the AP and that had not affected AP's reputation for objectivity. So why would supplying the VOA do so? The AP and UP then tried to persuade editors to present a resolution at the convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in Washington, D.C., in April 1946 that would condemn the VOA and demand the end of the State Department's international information services.

An ASNE committee investigated and concluded that the State Department's information was in the national interest. So the attempt by the AP and UP to shut down the VOA failed, but the AP still refused to let the VOA use its service except as a check on other news services, and for that they did not charge.

The AP did not give up the battle against the VOA. "Legalisation of peacetime news propaganda and annual multimillion dollar appropriations were finally as a result of a hasty European visit of junketing congressmen, who in the fall of 1947, went to Europe for a look-see," wrote Kent Cooper, chief executive of the AP.

The bizarre attitude of many in the media toward the VOA is exemplified by the fact that for years TASS had a seat in the press gallery of the Senate, but the VOA did not. The same prohibition applied to Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberation, later Radio Liberty, (RL). The Senate arranged for a group of media representatives to set up a committee to decide who should be accredited to the Senate press gallery. They accredited TASS, Pravda, Izvestia, and Radio Moscow, among other communist government organizations, but refused to accredit U.S. government "propaganda" organizations. Only when in 1983 the VOA, the Board for International Broadcasting (BIB), and RFE/RL persuaded the chairmen of the Rules Committee to hold hearings on the ban were the VOA and RFE/RL accredited. Organizations speaking against the VOA and RFE/RL were CBS, U.S. News and World Report, and the AP.

From The War of the Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War by Michael Nelson.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Al Qaeda continues to improve its media operations

Al Qaeda takes the initiative again. Meanwhile our strategic communication "professionals" continue talking about maybe doing something, you know, maybe sometime in the future.

Al-Qaida video messages of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri can now be downloaded to cell phones, the terror network announced as part of its attempts to extend its influence.

The announcement was posted late Friday by al-Qaida's media wing, al-Sahab, on Web sites commonly used by Islamic militants. As of Saturday, eight previously recorded videos were made available including a recent tribute to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former al-Qaida in Iraq leader killed by U.S. forces in Iraq in June 2006.

In a written message introducing the new cell phone videos, al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's No. 2 figure, asked followers to spread the terror group's messages.

"I asked God for the men of jihadi media to spread the message of Islam and monotheism to the world and spread real awareness to the people of the nations," al-Zawahri said.

Videos playable on cell phones are increasingly popular in the Middle East. The files are transferred from phone to phone using Bluetooth or infrared wireless technology.
Video and audio tapes from various Islamist groups including al-Qaida are available on militant Web sites but require a computer and a fast Internet connection often rare in the region to download.

But the eight videos currently available to download to cell phones by al-Sahab range in size from 17 megabytes to 120 megabytes, requiring phones to have large amounts of free data capacity. Al-Sahab has promised to release more of its previous video messages in cell-phone quality formats.

The terror network has been growing more sophisticated in targeting international audiences. Videos are always subtitled in English, and messages this year from bin Laden and al-Zawahri focusing on Pakistan and Afghanistan have been dubbed in the local languages, Urdu and Pashtu.

Today's Quote: "We do not intend to be deceived again"

From Renaissance: The Rebirth of Liberty in the Heart of Europe by Vaclav Klaus:

We started our Velvet Revolution, our systemic change, our fundamental transformation of the entire political, social, and economic framework--not a reform, not perestroika--with a clear positive vision of the society we wanted to live in. We had a vision of a free, open society; we knew that after dismantling the communist institutions the resulting institutional vacuum had to be filled with an alternative mechanism that would create social cohesion and make possible the coordination of human activities. We learned from Hayek, Popper, and other liberal and conservative thinkers that the evolution of human institutions, and especially the evolution of such complex systems as society, proceeds more by means of "human action" than of "human design"; that we must find the optimum balance between intentions and spontaneity, between the constructivism of political leaders and the unforeseeable behavior of millions of free citizens pursuing their dreams, hopes, and preferences; and that no sophisticated masterminding of such a process is possible or necessary.
Politically, our approach was based on something very close to British conservatism. We were directly influenced by you; we were inspired by the Thatcherite revolution in British politics two decades ago, by a political style based on a strong vision, on clear, transparent, and widely understandable ideas, on courage and persuasiveness; we were impressed by your success in achieving a dramatic resolution of an eternal human issue: placing the individual first and the state second.
In the field of economics and economic policy we were influenced more by American than European authors, by Milton Friedman, by the Chicago school, by James Buchanan and his public-choice school, by the criticisms of Keynsianism and, of course, by our own understanding of the irrationality, inefficiency, and inhumanity of a command economy. Because of that, we had no dreams about mixed systems, about third ways or different vintages of perestroika. That was our main reason for arguing strongly against popular (on the Continent) concepts like "social market economy," which in our country, and I guess in yours as well, is a term used by the opposition.

Finally, our approach to society and social mechanisms was influenced mostly by Hayek, by his ideas about government interventionism, about constructivism and social engineering, about the dangerous "pretense of knowledge," about the logic of an "evolutionary order," about the "fatal conceit." We learned a lot, and we do not intend to be deceived again.

I am deeply convinced that with such an approach we have found the best way to create a free, individually responsible, and moral society. We are sometimes accused of forgetting to mention adjectives other than "free." However, I believe that it is sufficient to guarantee freedom--individual happiness is up to each of us.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Books I didn't buy

I saw National Treasure 2 yesterday, which I very much enjoyed, and afterward stopped in at Border's for a browse. I found three books that caught my eye, however, unfortunately money is kind of tight right now so I didn't have the pleasure of going home with some new books. But I have added them to my ever-growing list:

The Jungle War: Mavericks, Marauders and Madmen in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War 2 by Gerald Astor

Rangers at Dieppe: The First Combat Action of U.S. Army Rangers in World War 2 by Jim DeFelice

War Plan Orange: The US Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945 by Edward Miller