After the first
two days passed since the initial attack on Baghdad, many Americans were
wondering, "Where is the 'shock and awe' that we were told to expect?" Sources
at the Pentagon told the media, "If you have to ask, it's not 'shock and
awe.'" On the third day, massive bombings were targeted on Baghdad locations,
and Americans were told that "shock and awe" had begun. In reality, "shock
and awe" began when the very first cruise missile hit its target.
"Shock and awe" is not simply a campaign of pummeling an enemy through relentless
bombardment of missiles and bombs. "Shock and awe" is equally (or even more
so) an attack on the mind -- a presentation of overwhelming force and an unwavering
sense of inevitability. The message being sent to Iraq is loud and clear:
Surrender or die, because we're coming.
Stepping back to the opening night of Operation Iraqi Freedom shows the
psychological operations in action. Many psychological messages were sent
to various factions in Iraq with the very first shot. In speech after speech,
President Bush, and other administration officials, told the Iraqi people
that this war was not about them, that it was not about destroying Iraq,
but rather that the war was about Saddam Hussein and his evil regime. Saddam
and his lieutenants were told that their time had come -- the end of the
Saddam Hussein regime was at hand. The first strikes of the campaign emphasized
those messages brilliantly.
In addressing the message to the Iraqi people, there is no better way to
send that message than by targeting Saddam Hussein personally. Large Iraq
military outposts were not hit first -- neither were other seemingly obvious
military targets. Through old-fashioned, human intelligence, the location
of Saddam Hussein, his sons, and other key leaders was learned, and the word
was given to attack. Thus, "shock and awe" began by shocking and awing Saddam
Hussein himself. The message was clearly sent that the regime itself was the
target. If Saddam survived this initial attack, the psychological pressure
on him must be overwhelming. If he is still alive, then there is one fact
that cannot escape his mind: one of his closest advisors -- one of his closest
confidants -- has sold him out.
With a single barrage of missiles, the "head" of Iraqi military control
was cut off in an instant. The psychological operations then moved from the
leaders to the Iraqi military. Message upon message has been delivered through
airdrops over Iraq. Leaflets with slogans such as "watch your children grow"
send the message to the Iraqi troops that it is in their best interest not
to fight. The message sent through media reports is one of inevitability:
the American Military is coming. With few bombs dropped, Iraqi forces have
started surrendering in droves. This was before Friday's so-called "shock
and awe" bombings. That heavy bombardment sends a strong message of the fire
power of American and coalition forces, but equally impressive is the ongoing
video coverage from the field of American tanks, Bradleys, and other vehicles
on an unobstructed march to Baghdad. This reassures the Iraqi people that
liberation is near, and it demonstrates to the Iraqi military around Baghdad
that confrontation is coming.
The use of the media to deliver the words and images from the field is another
important aspect of the psychological war. The embedding of journalists into
actual combat units is a brilliant way to control those words and images.
It may seem counterintuitive to most that the way to control the media is
to actually have more media involved. Inviting the media to be "embedded"
sends a good message to the media and to the American people. This also
allows the media to be dispersed and controlled.
As opposed to the first Gulf War, America is not looking at images from
a large CNN contingent hanging out in Baghdad saying and reporting whatever
they want. Now, the best footage is coming from the reporters in the field.
By being dispersed, they are much more likely to follow the rules when told
to do so by the direct military commanders. In addition, through the
embedded journalists, the images of the ongoing march to Baghdad will lead
to a much more accurate portrayal of what's going on. The less speculation
and distortion of actual combat events adds to the overall effectiveness of
the coverage being sent to the Iraqi regime and the American people as well.
The entire Iraqi military will not surrender. There will be more fighting,
some likely intense. Iraq's Republican Guard has yet to be engaged. However,
the surrenders already being witnessed and the more that are surely to come
show that this battle is being waged as much on the mind as it is on the battle
field: control the mind, and you control the heart and body; control the
heart and body, and you control the war.
this Article to a Friend
Bobby Eberle is President and
CEO of GOPUSA (http://www.gopusa.com/),
a news, information, and commentary company based in Houston, TX.
He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Rice University.