According to a Pentagon report released earlier this month, "Victory in the long war ultimately depends on strategic communication." The "long war," of course, is the global war on terror, which began in 2001.
For his part, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld doesn't offer a whole lot of hope. "Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age," he declared in a speech last week, "but for the most part, we - our country, our government - has not adapted." Those words are worth pausing over. Can it really be true that al-Qaida is beating Uncle Sam at the communications/propaganda game? Are Arabs really better at getting their message out?
But the "long war" is more complicated than a struggle between spin doctors, for two reasons. First, the world's media are fixated on America's faults, and this makes the enemy's task easier. As Rumsfeld observed, the "vast quantity of column inches and hours of television devoted to the allegations of unauthorized detainee mistreatment at Abu Ghraib" outweighs the coverage devoted to, say, Saddam Hussein's atrocities.