A journal of political, social, and other important, possibly even somewhat related affairs, including but not limited to: Central European Society, The European Union, HC Kometa Brno, American Politics, Film, and Beer.

25 April 2007

PR and War

According to our friends at the BBC World Service, the wall being built in Baghdad is not being built anymore – Nouri al-Maliki has stopped it.

The peculiar part of the War on Terror is its multimedia aspect. Every war represents the moral neutrality of technology; I remember the 1991 Gulf War being broadcast live on CNN, and no one needs to be reminded of the horrors of technology employed in World War I, and for that matter, World War II.

This is the YouTube war. America will have to adjust to this reality. Our generals and our soldiers will be scrutinized like never before, and every aspect of it, from Abu Ghraib, to Saddam’s execution, to military maneuvers, will be public almost immediately. We got a taste of this in Bosnia. The bombing began as soon as the media got out of there, after they showed the world what was happening at places like Šrebenica. How much more this will happen when everyone is a journalist, (such as your correspondent)!

In a way, the transparency of war will be a welcome victory for humanitarianism, if for no reason than chopping people’s heads off will be rather off-putting to many moderate Muslims. When you demonstrate your viciousness as a virtue, you alienate people. Even the Nazis worked to demonstrate to the International Red Cross that Theresienstadt was a “humane” concentration camp. I truly believe that there is something shocking and appalling in those videos which is the greatest argument for a natural right to life (in that Lockean sense), irrespective of one’s faith. The marketplace of ideas is more accessible than ever before, and that helps our cause.

Nevertheless, it also exposes our cause to more criticism. Expect to see more American soldiers tried (in American courts, for now) for war crimes, as we saw last week with the Marines in Fallujah. This is a political necessity. To win the war, we will need to convince more sceptical Iraqis that we “practice what we preach.” Building a wall would save Iraqi lives, no doubt. But the moral calculus of this is that the short-term gain will be offset by an entrenchment of Sunni-Shiite animosity, and more Iraqis would define themselves as “Shiite” or “Sunni,” rather than “Iraqi.” We want Iraqis, and that’s something the wall won’t help.


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