This is not a war where set piece battles were waged by kings and mercenaries. And it not the industrial warfare of the Civil War, World War One, World War Two where the entire organizing power of industrial nation states were focused on battle. It is not even the limited one-arm-tied-behind-my-back type wars in Korea and Vietnam, where US was obliged by its morality, civil codes, law, world opinions not to destroy the enemy, just make him stop what he was doing. Today, the new enemy we face is the jihadist who owes no formal allegiance to a state and his goal is your death so he can allow a religious dictatorship to emerge. His viciousness, his secretive nature, his cultural affinities have enabled him to hide. His tactics have made him deadly, and his ability to use our freedom as a weapon would facilitate the creation of a religious dictatorship unheard of in centuries.
Our Problem: The new 24-7 global media world is one of the central fronts in the “New Battlefield.” Yet, our forces of freedom are not organized properly to adequately defend freedom in this new 24-7 global media world. Our formerly trusted communications channels – our free press and aggressive media housed in the corporate sector – have been manipulated by the enemy for psy-ops purposes. Our traditional protectors of freedom – our military – have been caught flat footed as negative and questionable images have dominated world media, perversely manipulated so that our defenders are made to look as the villains in media-ville’s bizarro world. Civilian populations become caught up in political side show battles over the impact of these misleading and distorted images, not over the content of the battle itself nor its causes and consequences.
The government – both legislative and executive branches – are organized around the industrial model. There hierarchies of departments with budgets and supervised by committees and staff all of whom behave normally to enhance, protect or adjust their operations to suit conditions. They were not organized with the thought that they needed to respond to internet images that at virtually no cost can be acquired and distributed world wide. They were not organized when a well-compensated core of society’s cultural elites, who were among the country’s most articulate, well-educated and highly-celebrated individuals believed it was their professional duty to question, criticize, analyze and otherwise second-guess every act or decision made by civil government for its basest or hidden motive. They were organized around news and information cycles that were months, weeks and days and not when information had to be recycled and produced for 24-7 cable outlets and internet access.
So, Rumsfeld, the “pacesetter” boss of the Defense Department asks: what are we to do? With Charlie Rose on PBS Feb 17, Rumsfeld was careful not to be judgmental of the media today, merely to be asking the question.
Rumsfeld: I thought it would be useful for people to think about that. For example, after World War II, there were new institutions established. We know about the World Bank and the IMF and NATO and the United Nations. For governmental activity. There are some new institutions established during period there where, for example, the U.S. Information Agency. U.S.I.A. [Radio Free Europe.] … Some of these other things and they obviously had an impact during that period. They wouldn't be appropriate today, but the question is, since there is no road map, there's no guide book that when you get up in the morning it says here's what you should do about this, world. And this is not a problem for the Pentagon alone. It is a problem for the society. The question is what are those institutions that might be of value today in the 21st century, given these new realities that exist? And how might we be best arranged so that we can if it be effective? I mean, Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda have media committees. They meet, they figure out how to manipulate the news in New York City and the United States of America and London and Paris.
Rose: Are you saying that the United States' government should create as part of its responsibility broadcast and use all the technology to get its message across rather than simply thinking more clearly about the structure of technology today, and using it? In other words, should the U.S. government have more responsibility?
Rumsfeld: We clearly have a responsibility for carrying the message of what it is we're doing 24 hours a day --
Rose: Are you saying it ought to be something more than this?
Rumsfeld: It has to be. Just like it had to be after World War II… I don't know the answers to (which agency should do it). I just know the questions and I’m concerned about it because it's pretty clear that when our society is not doing the job that needs to be done. I mean, here's this country, this wonderful country, the United States of America, that does so much in the world. Through government. Assistance to various people. The tsunami assistance. The Pakistan assistance. The private charities that people do. And, a country that doesn't seek anyone else's real estate, isn't trying to grab anyone else's oil. Isn't trying to do anything like that and yet the message out there is filled with in the air waves are filled with lies. The al Qaeda are constantly, systematically putting out lies about the United States of America and one was Mark Twain said a lie travels two and a half times around the world before truth get it is boots on.
Rose: Are you saying American media is not doing its job in your judgment to report what you think is the truth? We have talked about this before, a criticism of the consequences of what is reported.
Rumsfeld: I am in a mode of being inquiring, not judgmental. I think the media ought to ask itself how it's doing, and they can do that, on their own time. My problem is, I’m in government. And my task is to try to help figure out what government might do to do a better job for our country in this new -- this era of the new realities of the 21st century, and it is a fundamentally different environment than when I was secretary of defense 30 years ago.
Quillnews question: So just how should we organize and change ourselves to meet this front in today’s “new battlefield”? Like I said, give Rumsfeld credit for asking. Stay tuned...