At the end of last month, I had the honor of visiting the US Army's Command and General Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies at Ft. Leavenworth to give a series of lectures and seminars to the officers there. Among other things I discussed were Israeli and American military use of strategic and tactical communications in armed conflicts.
Below is a write-up of the talk I delivered on the subject from the Ft. Leavenworth Lamp.
Journalist discusses communications
By Will King | Staff Writer
Lt. Col. Shawn Stroud takes notes during a presentation about tactical and strategic communications by Caroline Glick, columnist and deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, March 30 in Grant Auditorium. Lamp photo by Will King.
Caroline Glick, a columnist and deputy managing editor for The Jerusalem Post, spoke about tactical and strategic communications March 30 at the Combined Arms Center's Grant Auditorium.
"We (communicators) have to understand the atmosphere in which we operate and we fight, and we also have to think about what our specific goals are, what (message) are we trying to get across," she said.
Glick gave examples of tactical communications methods the Israel Defense Forces used against Hamas in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 and January 2009. She said mass leaflet drops and direct phone calls to specific homes warned Gazans about impending IDF operations.
"What tactical communications allows you to do is minimize, to the extent possible, the amount of collateral damage that is going to be incurred in your area of operations," Glick said.
She said another effective means of tactical communications was the interaction of IDF troops with Palestinian civilians in homes they took over during the fighting, and the manner in which the troops treated the civilians. Glick said these interactions, while generally positive, were ultimately limited in scope and not enough to overcome lies told by the enemy on a persistent basis.
"The long term impact of an immediate experience with an Israeli is limited by the strategic communications of the enemy," she said.
Glick said Al Jazeera, Hamas TV and other media may spread false accusations and outright lies, but it is a losing strategy to respond to the enemy. She said the best way to project a strategic communications narrative is to make the story about the nature of the enemy.
"In Israel, and to an increasing degree in the United States, we have forgotten how to tell our story. In order to explain why we do things, we have to stop talking about ourselves, we have to talk about our enemy," Glick said.
The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is not an American story, she said, but a Saudi, Afghan, Egyptian, Pakistani and Arab story. Glick said the Holocaust is not a Jewish story, but a German story and a European story.
"When we are victims, we are not actors," she said. "We're not the story, they are."
Glick provided some best practices for projecting strategic communications messages based on her personal experiences and lessons learned from recent IDF operations.
Glick was an embedded reporter with the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She said the IDF was criticized for not embedding reporters during Operation Cast Lead, but did this for good reason.
Glick explained embedding a reporter is very expensive for a media organization, and there always exists a potential for conflict between the story the host unit wants to tell versus what the reporter wants to tell, versus what the editor wants to tell. Additionally, she said embedding gives first-person credibility to potentially hostile news outlets to tell inaccurate or unbalanced stories.
"We (Israel) are dealing with an issue of massive hostility toward our fight, not only in the Arab media and in Arab society, but also particularly in the European media and increasingly in the U.S. media, toward what we're doing," Glick said.
As an alternative to embedding, Glick said the IDF filmed operations and distributed them through their own YouTube channel, making the IDF a competitor in news.
For example, Glick said, Israel has claimed for years that terrorists use human shields, which Hamas and others have denied. She said during Operation Cast Lead the IDF filmed a Hamas gunman in Gaza using a child as a human shield in order to safely cross a street. Glick said the images were uploaded to the IDF's YouTube channel and viewed by several million people.
Glick said another way to put strategic communications on the offensive is to use existing national and international laws to go after terrorists, and those who finance and support them, by trying them "Nuremburg style" in war crimes tribunals.
"If you simply follow the law and enforce it, then the discussion becomes about them. That's the kind of thing that strategic communications should be doing," she said.