Return of the Five O'Clock Follies?


Pretty useful L.A. Times article today detailing a debate within the Pentagon about the increased blending of military psychological operations and public relations. Excerpt:

The Pentagon in 2002 was forced to shutter its controversial Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which was opened shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, after reports that the office intended to plant false news stories in the international media. But officials say that much of OSI's mission—using information as a tool of war—has been assumed by other offices throughout the U.S. government. […]

"The movement of information has gone from the public affairs world to the psychological operations world," one senior defense official said. "What's at stake is the credibility of people in uniform." […]

One recent development critics point to is the decision by commanders in Iraq in mid-September to combine public affairs, psychological operations and information operations into a "strategic communications" office. […]

Partly out of concern about this new office, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, distributed a letter Sept. 27 to the Joint Chiefs and U.S. combat commanders in the field warning of the dangers of having military public affairs (PA) too closely aligned with information operations (IO). […]

"Pretty soon, we're going to have the 5 o'clock follies all over again, and it will take us another 30 years to restore our credibility," said a second senior Defense official, referring to the much-ridiculed daily media briefings in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

The article goes on to say that advocates for greater propaganda cite the September Defense Science Board report about America's image problem abroad. Of course, the DSB laid partial blame on the White House's foreign policy, and "perception of intimate U.S. support of tyrannies in the Muslim World," but there are only so many recommendations at a time one can heed.