Improving Information Operations in Iraq and the Global War on Terror

Improving Information Operations in Iraq and the Global War on Terror

by Farook Ahmed and Oubai Shahbandar, Small Wars Journal

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The Surge of US military forces in Iraq has delivered a tremendous level of success in providing security to areas of Iraq that were previously under insurgent control. In order to build on these successes in the future, the United States would greatly benefit from force multipliers that can help promote security and foster political reconciliation as the extra troops provided by the Surge withdraw.

A cheap and effective way to augment the Soldiers on the ground is to defeat radical extremist groups' ideologies and continue to win over the Iraqi population. The first step in developing this capability will be for the United States to establish a strategic framework that provides a central role for information operations (IO). These operations are analogous to a political campaign; they revolve around putting together and conveying a coherent message that convinces people to be sympathetic to one group and oppose that group's adversary. In Iraq and in the broader war against violent Jihadism, the United States not only needs the power to act, but also the power to influence how its actions are interpreted.

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Excellent article. Another example of the effective use of information
operations were the insurgent interviews televised by the Iraqi
government a couple of years ago. The interviews took some of the
nationalist 'sheen' off the insurgency by revealing the interviewees, by
their admission, to be petty criminals, morally loose, and not
particularly motivated by nationalism.

One point that could be emphasized more is what type of information is
most effective. Pictures don't lie, and video is even more effective.
Rhetoric is less useful. Al-Qaeda's virulent rhetoric and propaganda
campaigns have had far less effect on public opinion than the Abu Ghraib
photos. Similarly, a few photos of Al Qaeda atrocities would be worth
reams of pro-American rhetoric from a new information agency. And, in
the end, actions speak louder than words. No information agency could
have saved us from the rise in anti-Americanism resulting from Abu
Ghraib, our torturing of detainees, and the (perceived) illegitimate
invasion of Iraq. Al Qaeda is losing face now because of what they are,
not because of what we say - however, a dedicated information agency
could certainly help amplify the effects of our enemies' missteps.