The skillful manipulation of the essential story of the conflict between the U.S. with al-Qaeda has left the U.S. on the wrong side of the story. And make no mistake, in the information age, it is all about the story that plays online, on mobile phones, television, on video and film. Viral messaging moves images and information faster than governments can perceive, let alone respond or manage the message. Today’s message is repeated, expanded and changed as the reteller (retailer) sees fit.
The U.S. should use its considerable expertise in psychology and its thousands of highly skilled civilian psychologists (as well as military psychologists), regional cultural specialists, creative story tellers, film directors and others, to produce a sophisticated narrative to manage the information strategically to turn the story in a different direction. It is essential to understand how to deliver the message to a culture, region and social setting that is completely different than the U.S.
The development, training and success of the Iraqi Security Force (ISF) is another element to be managed in strategic information operations. The image of the ISF as weak and ineffectual must change in order for the narrative to support information dominance. Delivering that message correctly requires a strategy, perhaps more difficult than training the forces. Major General (Ret.) Najim Abed Al-Jabouri, an officer in the former Iraqi Air Defense and now a Senior Fellow in the Near East South Asia Center at the National Defense University points out that “the United States fails to realize is that the ISF itself is the battleground in the larger communal struggle for power and survival. Middle Eastern concepts of civil-military relations are fundamentally different than Western ones. Western militaries have developed a culture of political control over armed forces. …this is not the established culture in either Iraq or the greater Middle East. In Iraq, there is a culture of “he who owns the security forces, owns the politics.” (Al-Jabouri, 2009)
Al-Jabouri, Najim Abed (2009, August). Iraqui Security Forces after U.S. Withdrawal: An Iraqi Perspective. Institute for National Strategic Studies Strategic Forum No. 245.