- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

While psychology, politics and the gathering and dispersing of information have been elements of war since our caveman ancestors first ventured out against their fellow men, no war has ever seemed to have as high a percentage of mind to matter as this one. Experts have long predicted that in future wars, information would take on a vastly higher strategic value, and it would appear that this war may be proving the point. From the surprising opening shots to the almost balletic application of precision ordinance by Conductor Tommy Franks, it would seem that the hot steel and gunpowder are aimed more at the minds than the bodies of the enemy.
This emphasis on the mind can be seen in the very words used by our military. It talks about shock and awe, not blood and gore. The exquisite calibration of the fusillades seem designed to coax, not bludgeon, the enemy from his lair. There is unprecedented attention to and concern for the images of battle, to the point that the image sometimes seems more important than the reality. The 19th-century German military strategist Carl von Clausewitz famously observed that war was politics by other means. But current American war theory seems to be taking that concept to a higher plane. In the past, the results of a war forced a new political situation upon the nations affected by it. But today, the very manner in which we execute the war is aimed at both the mind of the enemy and the molding of world politics. As a result, those of us outside the war cabinet and senior chain of command must struggle to give accurate meaning to the various military engagements we observe.
Even as the public is receiving unprecedented real-time images and sounds of the conflict, the fog of war the public sees still lies heavily on the ground. The expected flood of surrendering Iraqi troops has so far been only a trickle. There have been suggestions from the U.S. military that it does not want to take possession of Iraqi troops who may have, within their midst, covert carriers of chemical or biological weapons. Whether this is a valid explanation or a cover for not yet being able to display the desired image of peacefully surrendering troops (as well as a clever reenforcement of the assumption that the enemy has chemical and biological weapons) remains to be seen.
Similarly, Gen. Tommy Franks' decision to bypass most of the Shiite cities of southern Iraq may well be explained by his desire to carry off a Patton-like dash to Baghdad for the strategic purpose of quickly joining battle against Saddam's strongest troops who are reportedly positioned on the outskirts of his capital. But it might also be explained by fear of insufficiently jubilant Shiite street cheering for our troops. Given our betrayal of the Shiites in 1991, such prudence on their part is fully justifiable and would not be an indication that they don't believe themselves liberated by the allies. But, it would be evidence of careful management, on our part, of politically strategic war images or lack of the same.
Of course, it is our technological capacity to gather and almost instantly use information that makes possible this military symphony currently being conducted by our high command. Information therefore makes possible a closer management of the battlefield, which in turn makes possible a more precise psychological manipulation of the enemy which in its turn permits a closer management of the politically important images of battle.
Of course, if all of these mental strategies fall short, we can always just kill the enemy, as in days of yore.

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