New words, and new tacticsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread
"Speed the kill", "the media cycle", "hostile cameras". Every war births new military terms, but this is unique. Our military is starting to realize that the media is actually entering the fray as a hostile combatant. As usual we adapt with new tactics as explained here.
BTW how many on this board participate as hostile combatants against the US military?
New York Post May 20, 2004
By Ralph Peters
In Iraq last month, I learned a great deal about the future of combat. By watching TV.
During the initial fighting in Fallujah, I tuned in al-Jazeera and the BBC. At the same time, I was getting insider reports from the battlefield, from a U.S. military source on the scene and through Kurdish intelligence. I saw two different battles.
The media weren't reporting. They were taking sides. With our enemies. And our enemies won. Because, under media assault, we lost our will to fight on.
During the combat operations, al-Jazeera constantly aired trumped-up footage and insisted that U.S. Marines were destroying Fallujah and purposely targeting women and children, causing hundreds of innocent casualties as part of an American crusade against Arabs.
It was entirely untrue. But the truth didn't matter. Al-Jazeera told a receptive audience what it wanted to believe. Oh, and the "Arab CNN" immediately followed the Fallujah clips with video of Israeli "atrocities." Connecting the dots was easy for those nurtured on hatred.
The Marines in Fallujah weren't beaten by the terrorists and insurgents, who were being eliminated effectively and accurately. They were beaten by al-Jazeera. By lies.
Get used to it.
This is the new reality of combat. Not only in Iraq. But in every broken country, plague pit and terrorist refuge to which our troops will have to go in the future. And we can't change it. So we had better roll up our camouflage sleeves and deal with it.
The media is often referred to off-handedly as a strategic factor. But we still don't fully appreciate its fatal power. Conditioned by the relative objectivity and ultimate respect for facts of the U.S. media, we fail to understand that, even in Europe, the media has become little more than a tool of propaganda.
That propaganda is increasingly, viciously, mindlessly anti-American. When our forces engage in tactical combat, dishonest media reporting immediately creates drag on the chain of command all the way up to the president.
Real atrocities aren't required. Everything American soldiers do is portrayed as an atrocity. World opinion is outraged, no matter how judiciously we fight.
With each passing day - sometimes with each hour - the pressure builds on our government to halt combat operations, to offer the enemy a pause, to negotiate . . . in essence, to give up.
We saw it in Fallujah, where slow-paced tactical success led only to cease-fires that comforted the enemy and gave the global media time to pound us even harder. Those cease-fires were worrisomely reminiscent of the bombing halts during the Vietnam War - except that everything happens faster now.
Even in Operation Desert Storm, the effect of images trumped reality and purpose. The exaggerated carnage of the "highway of death" north from Kuwait City led us to stop the war before we had sufficiently punished the truly guilty - Saddam's Republican Guard and the regime's leadership. We're still paying for that mistake.
In Fallujah, we allowed a bonanza of hundreds of terrorists and insurgents to escape us - despite promising that we would bring them to justice. We stopped because we were worried about what already hostile populations might think of us.
The global media disrupted the U.S. and Coalition chains of command. Foreign media reporting even sparked bureaucratic infighting within our own government.
The result was a disintegraton of our will - first from decisive commitment to worsening hestitation, then to a "compromise" that returned Sunni-Arab Ba'athist officers to power. That deal not only horrifed Iraq's Kurds and Shi'a Arabs, it inspired expanded attacks by Muqtada al-Sadr's Shi'a thugs hoping to rival the success of the Sunni-Arab murderers in Fallujah.
We could have won militarily. Instead, we surrendered politically and called it a success. Our enemies won the information war. We literally didn't know what hit us.
The implication for tactical combat - war at the bayonet level - is clear: We must direct our doctrine, training, equipment, organization and plans toward winning low-level fights much faster. Before the global media can do what enemy forces cannot do and stop us short. We can still win the big campaigns. But we're apt to lose thereafter, in the dirty end-game fights.
We have to speed the kill.
For two decades, our military has concentrated on deploying forces swiftly around the world, as well as on fighting fast-paced conventional wars - with the positive results we saw during Operation Iraqi Freedom. But at the infantry level, we've lagged behind - despite the unrivaled quality of our troops.
We've concentrated on critical soldier skills, but ignored the emerging requirements of battle. We've worked on almost everything except accelerating urban combat - because increasing the pace is dangerous and very hard to do.
Now we have no choice. We must learn to strike much faster at the ground-truth level, to accomplish the tough tactical missions at speeds an order of magnitude faster than in past conflicts. If we can't win the Fallujahs of the future swiftly, we will lose them.
Our military must rise to its responsibility to reduce the pressure on the National Command Authority - in essence, the president - by rapidly and effectively executing orders to root out enemy resistance or nests of terrorists.
To do so, we must develop the capabilities to fight within the "media cycle," before journalists sympathetic to terrorists and murderers can twist the facts and portray us as the villains. Before the combat encounter is politicized globally. Before allied leaders panic. And before such reporting exacerbates bureaucratic rivalries within our own system.
Time is the new enemy.
Fighting faster at the dirty-boots level is going to be tough. As we develop new techniques, we'll initially see higher casualties in the short term, perhaps on both sides.
But as we should have learned long ago, if we are not willing to face up to casualties sooner, the cumulative tally will be much, much higher later. We're bleeding in Iraq now because a year ago we were unwilling even to shed the blood of our enemies.
The Global War on Terror is going to be a decades-long struggle. The military will not always be the appropriate tool to apply. But when a situation demands a military response, our forces must bring to bear such focused, hyper-fast power that our enemies are overwhelmed and destroyed before hostile cameras can defeat us.
If we do not learn to kill very, very swiftly, we will continue to lose slowly.
Retired Army officer Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Baghdad."
-- Anonymous, May 20, 2004