Need for a better communication strategy

Jack Kelly:

What really happened in Fallujah was a great deal different from what was portrayed in the news media, said Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic Monthly, the only reporter embedded with the Marine company (Bravo, 1st Battalion of the 5th Regiment) that led the advance into the heart of the city in the pre-dawn darkness of April 6.

The Marines won the battle in the streets, only to lose it in the news accounts, Kaplan said in an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal May 27.


Kaplan blamed the Bush administration for this failure.

"The administration should have been holding dramatic slide shows for the public ... explaining how this or that mosque was being militarily utilized," he said. "And had the administration adequately explained to the public what the Marines were doing after Fallujah, there might have been less disappointment and mystification about quitting the fight there."

"Without a communications strategy that gives the public the same sense of mission that a company captain imparts to his noncommissioned officers, victory in warfare nowadays is impossible," Kaplan concluded.

I agree with Kaplan's criticisms and his recommendations for reform, particularly for flattening the military's public affairs bureaucracy. Prying information out of the Army -- even if it is information favorable to the Army -- often is agonizing. (The Marines are much more forthcoming.)

But if the news reports coming out of Iraq are misleading, surely some of the blame for that must rest with the news media. And if some in the media are determined to ignore facts which do not fit their preferred story line, how much can "dramatic slide shows" at military briefings change this?

"I have never been anywhere else in the world where the people were so happy to see an American," said Todd (last name withheld), an airman stationed in Nasiriyah, in an e-mail. "The media never tells that side of the story."


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