The top story at the New York Times is a lengthy piece on the Pentagon’s information strategy. Although I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing yet, it seems pretty interesting. The NYT’s slant, of course, is that there’s something sinister about the Pentagon even to have an information strategy. (If they’re bothered by Al Qaeda having an information strategy, I’ve never heard of it.) Most of the Pentagon strategies they allude to (and cast aspersions on) seem like just good sense to me: court the media’s military experts, and give them access to the facts. They also write that the Pentagon recognizes the importance of not letting enemy propaganda drive the media cycle. (You’re doing a bang-up job, then. Thanks guys!)
I’m most interested, though, in the New York Times’s own information strategy. (Let’s not pretend they’re not a combatant in the information war.) They’re not targeting their article at any particular military expert. It doesn’t gain them much to discredit a single person, and they don’t have the material to do it anyway. More interestingly, they aren’t really targeting the Pentagon or the White House, which is surprising since there are few things they enjoy more. Instead, they are targeting media military experts as a group.
Why? Here’s my theory. The good news out of Iraq is becoming increasingly unavoidable. Even the bad news isn’t staying bad for long enough. The usual anti-war sources can only get them so far. In order to maintain their narrative, they need a way to discount all the positive news out of Iraq. If they can convince people that all the experts are colluding with the Pentagon to deceive us, the good news simply goes away.
Of course, they won’t succeed to that extent — the experts aren’t going away — but they can instill a grain of suspicion into every positive analysis. Look for a new meme on the left: any expert that speaks of progress is a tool of the Pentagon. (Not just former generals, incidentally, but also embedded journalists.) What we need, they will say, are “independent” experts, ones with no active ties to the military. The “independent” experts will not know anything — they’ll have no sources, after all — but they will be reliably anti-war (not knowing anything will help), and they’ll serve as a counterbalance to any good news out of Iraq.
UPDATE: Commentary has two columns on the piece. (Via Instapundit.) Max Boot’s analysis agrees substantially with mine, except without the prediction. (Internet Scofflaw: tomorrow’s expert analysis from a non-expert today!) John Podhoretz thinks that the piece was an investigative report that failed to uncover any wrongdoing, but they couldn’t bear to kill. (Note to the NYT: sunk cost.)