The Department of Defense Trys Blogging

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 9 months ago

Over at Blogs of War, John Little has discussed the new Department of Defense blog called “For the Record.”  John cites the assessment of “For the Record” by D-Ring:

For the Record has been criticized as a shoddy attempt to rebut negative conversation about the war in Iraq and the Department of Defense. All this Web site does is link to a given article from the mainstream media and blast it. And it comes across as quite petty.

On top of that, For the Record misses the whole point of a blog — community. There is no blogroll, no ability to comment, no conversation. It follows the traditional DoD model of communication that says “we will send our messages to the people from up on high.?

John went on to say that “I do a bit of blog related consulting, sometimes a lot, and blogs like For the Record are why people hire me. They know they need a blog but they’re smart enough to realize that they don’t understand the details that make a blog work. The folks at the DoD either didn’t think about taking that route or management dumbed down the blog and removed the features that make a blog relevant.”

I had previously known about this blog, but had failed to check it out properly.  So I studied one of the “posts” (To be clear, this “post” has no specific URL.  The only URL is an associated one, a so-called letter to the editor on which the post it based.  This is a serious, perhaps even fatal, weakness in the DoD blog.  How can another blogger link to a specific post unless there is a URL associated with it?).

The title of the letter is “New York Times Involved in Mythmaking.”  This post raises a whole host of troubling questions, and it is not clear whether the author thought of them prior to posting.  It might have been better had they never made this post.  Let’s assess it.

The author takes on the critics of Rumsfeld who ascribe to him the failure to listen properly to his generals.  Calling this assertion “demonstrably untrue,” the author goes on to cite specific examples where the generals have allegedly said otherwise:

  • General Tommy Franks, Commander, U.S. Central Command during the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom: “Don Rumsfeld was a hard task master — but he never tried to control the tactics of our war-fight [Franks, “American Soldier, “ pg 313]
  • General George Casey, Commander of Multi-National Force – Iraq: “I just want to assure you and the American people that if we need more troops we’ll ask for them. Right now, we don’t.? [CBS News, June 27, 2005]
  • General John Abizaid, Commander, U.S. Central Command: “… this notion that troop levels are static is not true, never has been true, and it won’t be true. We’ll ask for what we need when we need them.? [CNN, September 18, 2006]
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Pete Pace: “We have done more than honor the request of the commanders. . . . As Joint Chiefs, we have validated that; we have looked at that; we have analyzed it. We decided for ourselves, and I as an individual have agreed with the size force that’s there. So we should take on the responsibility that we own.? [Pace Confirmation Hearings, Transcript, July 10, 2005]
  • Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers: “But in the plan going in there, the best military judgment, the judgment we got from academia, from anybody that wanted to make inputs to include the National Security Council was that we had the right number of troops. And so you can always look back and say, should we had something different? I personally don’t believe – we didn’t want to turn Iraq into a police state.? [ABC News, April 16, 2006]

The DoD blog finishes by saying that “These statements are not new, nor difficult to find in public sources. So the implication is that either the New York Times believes these generals are not being truthful, or that they are too intimidated to tell the truth. If the Times feels this way, way not say so? For our part, we vigorously dispute either assertion about these distinguished military leaders.”

The DoD blog is just a tad caustic, and the problem here is that there is some truth to the content, which is different than saying that the entire post is spot-on.  The author has marshalled generals who agreed with Rumsfeld, or who have stated that Rumsfeld didn’t bother them.  But it is certainly possible to marshal contrary evidence.  Take General Eric Shinseki.  His testimony before the Senate, where he stated that war with Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops, earned him dismissal by Rumsfeld.  Specifically, Shinseki said:

I would say that what’s been mobilized to this point — something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We’re talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground- force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this.

In a move so extraordinary that Washington still remembers it, the Pentagon lashed General Shinseki for making those remarks.  While the General was still on post, then deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki’s remarks “wildly off the mark.”  Wolfowitz said that he was reasonably sure that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators.  As an editorial sidebar, does it seem somewhat stolid to suggest that the Sunnis, who were displaced as rulers upon the overthrow of the Saddam regime, would greet the U.S. as liberators?  It cannot be said that Shinseki’s remarks were unknown or unheard.  In recent testimony before the Senate, Abizaid admitted that Shinseki’s recommendations were sound.  Additionally, Brigadier General Mitchell Zais said of Shinseki’s testimony that “Because of his testimony before Congress, Rumsfeld moved Shinseki aside. In a nearly unprecedented move, to replace Shinseki, Rumsfeld recalled from active duty a retired general who was more likely to accept his theory that we could win a war in Iraq and establish a stable government with a small number of troops.”

Second and finally, take General Anthony Zinni.  He commissioned a group to war-game Iraq prior to the invasion, and this group concluded that 400,000 U.S. troops would be required.  No one listened to him.

This should be enough evidence to show that the DoD post contains truth, but doesn’t point the reader to the truth, even if unintentionally.  The tendency is to defend yourself, as every blogger knows.  But the virtue of blogs is that the blogger can ping, comment, allow others to comment, enjoy the commendations of supporters, and suffer the inspection and derision of detractors.

The blogosphere is an organic entity that constantly adapts to the environment.  With all due respect, and we mean that, the DoD blog has a long way to go to truly enter the world of blogging.


You are currently reading "The Department of Defense Trys Blogging", entry #400 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Department of Defense,Military Blogging and was published November 28th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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