The conclusions of this study, which was commissioned (for $400,000) by the Pentagon, are both frighteningly obvious and just plain frightening. Their most profound observation appears to be that the U.S. presence in Iraq would have been better received if we had delivered cookies and milk instead of a torrent of bombs. We would have a more harmonious relationship with the locals if we weren’t kicking in their doors or shooting them at checkpoints.
What I’d like to know is where I can receive a commission from the Pentagon, because I could have told them this and I’d have done it for $200,000 (half-off offer for a limited time only).
The frightening part is that Rand analysts seem to think that the only shortcoming of U.S. planners in Iraq is that they failed to properly “brand” their “product.” Perhaps with the right logo and a catchy jingle we would now be perceived as liberators as we were promised by our leaders in Washington. The report also refers to Iraqi civilians as “consumers.” However, I’m not sure that the Iraqi people ever actually chose to shop with us.
The whole thing smacks of an advocacy of the sort propaganda pioneered by Edward Bernays and peddled by Joseph Goebbels (among others). This report manages to both trivialize the real human tragedy that our aggression in Iraq represents, as well as promote a solution that seeks to manipulate the victims rather than to redress and repair the damage done.
For its part, the Washington Post is playing along with the Madison Avenue crowd. Post staff writer, Karen DeYoung, obligingly helps to craft the White House’s message by authoring this bit of editorializing in the body of her supposedly news composition:
“While not abandoning the more aggressive elements of warfare, the report suggested, a more attractive brand for the Iraqi people might have been ‘We will help you.’ That is what President Bush’s new Iraq strategy is striving for as it focuses on establishing a protective U.S. troop presence in Baghdad neighborhoods, training Iraq’s security forces, and encouraging the central and local governments to take the lead in making things better.”
Where did DeYoung get the idea that it was her job to characterize so pleasantly what Bush’s new strategy is striving for? Not only is she overreaching her journalistic boundaries, she is also flat out wrong. Bush’s new Iraq strategy is a surge of military force which is not really new at all – just an escalation of what has failed so miserably in the past.
In addition, DeYoung uncritically quotes Rand’s Todd C. Helmus, and Duane Schattle of the Joint Forces Command, saying things like “This isn’t just about going in and blowing things up;” or warning against operational hubris because, “Procter & Gamble doesn’t even do that.”
Not that I want to help Rand to shape their disinformation campaigns, but I can tell them one thing for sure. If they don’t do at least as good a job on the Iraqis as the American media has done in the U.S., they are never going to achieve their nefarious goals.