Thursday, December 29, 2005




VIA Huffington Post - where else -comes a story by Oliver Poole, a reporter in Baghdad:

"US military finds soldiers' blogs too close for comfort"

I was under the impression soldier bloggers provided some of the best "pro war" news out there. I have read a couple that went the other way, but I assumed they were the exception.

What are your impressions?

An interesting article, but to me it's self-serving media hype. Military bloggers come in every stripe (pun intended). They will be positive or negative depending on the soldier's experience, fear, morale, training, unit cohesion, leadership, location and time length away from home. Whether s/he blogs, phones home, writes letters or BS's in the mess tent or the latrine, military folks WILL talk and have for the past 5,000 years in exactly the same way over exactly the same subjects and with exactly the same tone of voice. The only difference today is the communications technology.

Given that revelation, what should be the appropriate military (and political) leadership response? Actually the same as it always has been, even for the media: provide guidelines and prosecuture or otherwise sanction those who violate the guidelines. Ok, so what are those guidelines?

A. Don't reveal where a unit is going or its mission when it gets there. ('s usually classified so that our guys don't get killed and the job we're being sent to do can get done without the bad guys knowing in advance.) This means that you should only refer or write about your experience in an "historic" sense, but not with the specificity that could allow for bad guys to start guessing where you are going or what you are doing. This is a difficult thing to avoid by the way. We invented a thing called content analysis in WWII to glean huge amounts of data from the German newspapers on Nazi intent, capability, direction and morale. It was a brilliant success.

B. Don't reveal the identities of those KIA, WIA or MIA until the next of kin have been notified. (I grant that this is a US affectation, other nations, except the UK, Canada, Austrailia, don't always seem to care if names are released since many other societies don't have the same expectations as ours do.)

C. Don't talk smack about the unit or its leadership. Strangely enough, (except for those who have loved, lived, worked and played in the military), talking smack - though common - is a measure of morale and harkens back to rule "A" (above). Every soldier in every army (or Air Force or Navy) in every epoch in human history talks about the rotten chow, the rotten place they are forced to fight in, the lack of communication and the absolute arrogance of the commander who did not see fit to personally consult with me about the mission or the training necessary for the mission. Putting it out in public with too great a specificity, reveals capability, morale, willingness to fight, and intent (upcoming mission.)

After putting out rules A, B and C as guidelines, I have NO problem letting our troops in the field blog or call home to their heart's content. I would much rather those on the front lines talk about their war experiences than the PR folks in the Headquarters or, worse, the perfumed princes of the media who seem far too "busy" to leave the safety of US troop protected, hot-watered, well-lardered, air-conditioned Baghdad hotels.
Whenever you get a large number of people together, you will have different perceptions of situations. Even in an all-volunteer force, there are people who are not in favor of actions in the middle east, and don't think we should be there.
I agree with Deryl. Let them blog, as long as they follow basic rules of military operational security, and respecting the chain of command.
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