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[infowar.de] NYT: Pentagon plant "propaganda push"
New York Times
December 16, 2002
Pentagon Debates Propaganda Push in Allied Nations
By THOM SHANKER and ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 =97 The Defense Department is considering
issuing a secret directive to the American military to conduct covert
operations aimed at influencing public opinion and policy makers in
friendly and neutral countries, senior Pentagon and administration
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has not yet decided on the
proposal, which has ignited a fierce battle throughout the Bush
administration over whether the military should carry out secret
propaganda missions in friendly nations like Germany, where many
of the Sept. 11 hijackers congregated, or Pakistan, still considered a
haven for Al Qaeda's militants.
Such a program, for example, could include efforts to discredit and
undermine the influence of mosques and religious schools that have
become breeding grounds for Islamic militancy and anti-
Americanism across the Middle East, Asia and Europe. It might
even include setting up schools with secret American financing to
teach a moderate Islamic position laced with sympathetic depictions
of how the religion is practiced in America, officials said.
Many administration officials agree that the government's broad
strategy to counter terrorism must include vigorous and creative
propaganda to change the negative view of America held in many
The fight, one Pentagon official said, is over "the strategic
communications for our nation, the message we want to send for
long-term influence, and how we do it."
As a military officer put it: "We have the assets and the capabilities
and the training to go into friendly and neutral nations to influence
public opinion. We could do it and get away with it. That doesn't
mean we should."
It is not the first time that the debate over how the United States
should marshal its forces to win the hearts and minds of the world
has raised difficult and potentially embarrassing questions at the
Pentagon. A nonclandestine parallel effort at the State Department,
which refers to its role as public diplomacy, has not met with so
In February, Mr. Rumsfeld had to disband the Pentagon's Office of
Strategic Influence, ending a short-lived plan to provide news items,
and possibly false ones, to foreign journalists to influence public
sentiment abroad. Senior Pentagon officials say Mr. Rumsfeld is
deeply frustrated that the United States government has no coherent
plan for molding public opinion worldwide in favor of America in its
global campaign against terrorism and militancy.
Many administration officials agree that there is a role for the
military in carrying out what it calls information operations against
adversaries, especially before and during war, as well as routine
public relations work in friendly nations like Colombia, the
Philippines or Bosnia, whose governments have welcomed
In hostile countries like Iraq, such missions are permitted under
policy and typically would include broadcasting from airborne radio
stations or dropping leaflets like those the military has printed to
undermine morale among Iraqi soldiers. In future wars, they might
include technical attacks to disable computer networks, both military
But the idea of ordering the military to take psychological aim at
allies has divided the Pentagon =97 with civilians and uniformed
officers on both sides of the debate.
Some are troubled by suggestions that the military might pay
journalists to write stories favorable to American policies or hire
outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize
rallies in support of American policies.
The current battlefield for these issues involves amendments to a
classified Department of Defense directive, titled "3600.1:
Information Operations," which would enshrine an overarching
Pentagon policy for years to come.
Current policy holds that aggressive information tactics are "to affect
adversary decision makers" =97 not those of friendly or even neutral
nations. But proposed revisions to the directive, as quoted by senior
officials, would not make adversaries the only targets for carrying
out military information operations =97 abbreviated as "I.O." in the
document, which is written in the dense jargon typical of military
"In peacetime, I.O. supports national objectives primarily by
influencing foreign perceptions and decision-making," the proposal
states. "In crises short of hostilities, I.O. can be used as a flexible
deterrent option to communicate national interest and demonstrate
resolve. In conflict, I.O. can be applied to achieve physical and
psychological results in support of military objectives."
Although the defense secretary is among those pushing to come up
with a bolder strategy for getting out the American message, he has
not yet decided whether the military should take on those
responsibilities, the officials said.
There is little dispute over such battlefield tactics as destroying an
enemy's radio and television stations. All is considered fair in that
kind of war.
But several senior military officers, some of whom have recently left
service, expressed dismay at the concept of assigning the military to
wage covert propaganda campaigns in friendly or neutral countries.
"Running ops against your allies doesn't work very well," Adm.
Dennis C. Blair, a retired commander of American forces in the
Pacific, advised Pentagon officials as they began re-examining the
classified directive over the summer. "I've seen it tried a few times,
and it generally is not very effective."
Those in favor of assigning the military an expanded role argue that
no other department is stepping up to the task of countering
propaganda from terrorists, who hold no taboo against deception.
They also contend that the Pentagon has the best technological
tools for the job, especially in the areas of satellite communications
and computer warfare, and that the American military has important
interests to protect in some countries, including those where ties with
the government are stronger than the affections of the population.
For example, as anti-American sentiment has risen this year in
South Korea, intensified recently by the deaths of two schoolgirls
who were crushed by an American armored vehicle, some Pentagon
officials were prompted to consider ways of influencing Korean
public opinion outside of traditional public affairs or community
outreach programs, one military official said. No detailed plan has
Those who oppose the military's taking on the job of managing
perceptions of America in allied states say it more naturally falls to
diplomats and civilians, or even uniformed public affairs specialists.
They say that secret operations, if deemed warranted by the
president, should be carried out by American intelligence agencies.
In addition, they say, the Pentagon's job of explaining itself through
public affairs officers could be tainted by any link to covert
information missions. "These allied nations would absolutely object
to having the American military attempt to secretly affect
communications to their populations," said one State Department
official with a long career in overseas public affairs.
Even so, this official conceded: "The State Department can't do it.
We're not arranged to do it, and we don't have the money. And
U.S.I.A. is broken." He was referring to the United States Information
Agency, which was absorbed into the State Department.
One effort to reshape the nation's ability to get its message out was
a proposal by Representative Henry J. Hyde, an Illinois Republican
who is chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
Mr. Hyde is pushing for $255 million to bolster the State
Department's public diplomacy effort and reorganize international
"If we are to be successful in our broader foreign policy goals," Mr.
Hyde said in a statement, "America's effort to engage the peoples of
the world must assume a more prominent place in the planning and
execution of our foreign policy."
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