How to Lose the Information War for Good: The Death of Combat Blogging

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: May 02, 2007 4:25 PM

The death of combat blogging happened this month. During a war in which soldiers and the administration itself constantly complains that alternative stories and good news are not getting past the exploding-terrorist-of-the-day narrative of the mainstream press, the Army has cracked down on combat bloggers:

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handletroops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartimediscretion against the opportunities for the public to personallyconnect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations inAfghanistan and Iraq -- the troops themselves. The secret-keepers havegenerally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere hasslowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have droppedoffline as a result.

The new rules (.pdf) obtained by Wired News require a commander be consulted before every blog update.

Anyone who's ever written a blog post knows that this reg essentially kills the practice.

Blackfive lays it out for you:

The soldiers who will attempt to fly under the radar and post negativeitems about the military, mission, and commanders will continue to doso under the new regs.  The soldiers who've been playing ball the lastfew years, the vast, VAST, majority will be reduced.  In my mind, thisreg will accomplish the exact opposite of its intent.  The good guysare restricted and the bad continue on...

Operational Security is of paramount importance.  But we are losingthe Information War on all fronts.  Fanatic-like adherence to OPSECwill do us little good if we lose the few honest voices that tell thetruth about The Long War.

Instead, the US Army should adopt Major Robbins recommendations,allow for unit bloggers, and restrict bloggers with the same rules asthe military gives embed reporters (with UCMJ exceptions).  Maybe,then, we can start winning some battles on the information front.

So, now, even from the guys on the ground, a surfeit of bad news and suppression of good. And, more importantly, the silencing of a bunch of voices-- both supportive and critical-- that have intelligence and authority on a sometimes mind-boggling complex ground situation. Brilliant.

Op-For John says it's beyond stupid: "There is no word in any of the world's languages that can effectivelycapture the pure stupidity of this decision. Political fights needpolitical warriors. And make no mistake, this war is a political fight."

Update: Get your fill of Acute Politics and others before it's too late.