The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
The coming PR offensive
I like to think that if something makes sense, it will happen.
It is clear that the public attitude toward the war in Iraq is changing. Despite the fact that we are fighting Al Qaeda and killing them in large numbers, despite the fact that our military position is dominant and has not changed, despite our knowledge that an Iraq resembling democratic Turkey is the biggest fear of our deadliest enemies, it appears that our backbone is turning to jelly.
Many are actually arguing for retreat to our safe refuge across the sea. We will let Iraqis be Iraqis, and wait to be attacked again.
They are aided by our news media, which declares that the Iraq project has failed - every day.
They have a distinct advantage in that our Iraq mission is a long term endeavor: it can fail at any time, but it will be decades before we know whether we have succeeded at anything.
Bush's polls are going down, but surprisingly, not by as much as one would expect after the constant pummeling of bad news.
I think that a PR counter-offensive is coming.
It is widely known (on the internet, at least) that our soldiers are disgusted by the way the media is covering this war.
I've heard this message from soldiers in Iraq again and again.
And again, from this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer:
I am a command sergeant major in the U.S. Army and have been serving my country for 22 years. For the past eight months, I have been in Iraq.
I am wondering why the only news that is broadcast on all the networks here and probably in the states pertaining to Iraq is all negative. The death and destruction of innocent people as shown is far from the whole truth of what is happening. The majority of those Iraqis who have died from our weapons are the enemy. They are the ones trying to stop this country from moving forward and establishing an infrastructure and functional society that has freedom of choice.
I have heard the message of soldiers like Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Carroll in Ramadi. So have many others. I am sure that some of those are involved in the Bush campaign.
Once again, I don't care much for Bush. If it wasn't for the war, I can't say with certainty that I would vote for the man. (I can say with certainty that I would not vote for Kerry).
But this war is important.
Wars usually hit rough patches, and they usually have unintended consequences. But it is vital that the US not be seen to bail out. Such reluctance to fight will be the best recruiting tool Al Qaeda could ever hope for.
Bush's people will hear people like Kevin Carroll. I predict we will see him, and others like him, on the TV this summer.
Not on the news (don't be silly).
They will be on Bush's campaign commercials. Large numbers of soldiers, telling us their impressions of Iraq, the war, and the job they are doing.
As shocking as it is to liberals, among soldiers, support for Bush and the war remain strong. It will get out an important message, and it will do an end run around the media - which has a dangerous tendency to believe that only its words can be considered truth.
Sure, Iraq is unstable. Soldiers and civilians are being killed, and at times the war seems impossibly difficult with an uncertain conclusion. This is true, and it is the only side our enemies (Syria, Iran, Al Qaeda) want us to see.
But there is another side: Iraqis begging us not to leave them to the Baathist wolves, thanking us for removing a monster, playing soccer with and working alongside our soldiers.
It's nation building, and as pragmatist, I recoil at that term.
But I fear World War III is looming in our future, and I see our nation blissfully ignorant of the peril that lies waiting in Arabia.
It is tyranny - in its larval form, yes - but empowered by more destructive weapons and its suicidal tendencies.
Hitler would have been overthrown and World War II prevented if the French had countered his early advances with a single platoon of soldiers.
But the French were sick of war, and they made it known to the tyrant. Hitler took his message, and he advanced.
Let us not follow the French example.
We need to defuse Arab hostility. We can only do this by forcefully opening their most closed society so that the weak have a voice. It sounds like a long shot, but there are no better ideas. The staus quo is untenable, and it was the status quo that gave us 9/11.
Most Iraqis are sick of war, and they want stability. In an evolving democracy, they will have a voice.
Those who think we can give up on Iraq and get our on peace and stability, I remind them that it is Al Qaeda's most firm goal to kill millions of Americans.
And I know my country: one million dead Americans will mean 100 million dead Arabs.
There is no peace through retreat.
There is only one bloody, sweaty, terribly sad way out: Forward.
A note: I will be gone until Tuesday. No blogging or e-mail.