I had to pause between a set of non-stop meetings today after briefly seeing an email from the Council on Foreign Relations highlighting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s complaint about the “globally hostile media environment.”
He lamented that today’s terrorist arsenal includes “e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras and Web logs, or blogs.”
A CNN report captures his point:
Modernization is crucial to winning the hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide who are bombarded with negative images of the West, Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Pentagon chief said today’s weapons of war included e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras and Web logs, or blogs.
“Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today’s media age, but … our country has not adapted,” Rumsfeld said.
“For the most part, the U.S. government still functions as a ‘five and dime’ store in an eBay world,” Rumsfeld said, referring to old-fashioned U.S. retail stores and the online auction house respectively.
U.S. military public affairs officers must learn to anticipate news and respond faster, and good public affairs officers should be rewarded with promotions, he said.
The Pentagon’s propaganda machine still operates mostly eight hours a day, five or six days a week while the challenges it faces occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Rumsfeld called that a “dangerous deficiency.”
He lamented that vast media attention about U.S. abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq outweighed that given to the discovery of “Saddam Hussein’s mass graves.”
A couple of quick points.
First, perhaps Secretary Rumsfeld ought to go back and look at the images that were PRODUCED by Americans — not al Qaeda.
Secretary Rumsfeld, take a good look at these horrific, grizzly, and detestable depictions of what soldiers under your command did at Abu Ghraib.
Second, no one in senior levels of command has been held accountable for the Abu Ghraib outrage — no one in your immediate circle, Mr. Secretary — nor you, yourself.
I think it’s going to take more than spin, and more than a multi-billion dollar PR budget to turn our public diplomacy around — it’s going to require a GENUINE “hearts and minds” strategy, but thus far we’ve been more focused with torturing and disappearing those hearts and minds.
— Steve Clemons