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Posts Tagged ‘perception management’

From a friend of mine who publishes a popular political blog in D.C. comes proof positive of a badly kept secret: the operations in Iraq are being rebranded. Operation Iraqi Freedom will, as of September 2010, be known as “New Dawn.” 

This is not the first time the activities in Iraq have undergone a name change. The original title for the war (or, if you prefer, “incursion” or “invasion”) was Operation Iraqi Liberation. No sooner did the White House issue a press release  in 2003 than an astute observer noted the acronym spelled “OIL.”  Everyone quickly moved on to “OIF”.

Rebranding a war effort, particularly when the mission changes, is certainly one way to recalibrate public perception. Incidentally, the term “perception management” originated with the Department of Defense; the original meaning was to be a synonym for persuasion. However, as noted military author and military affairs specialist Emily Goldman has written, “falsehood and deception [are] important ingredients of perception management; the purpose is to get the other side to believe what one wishes it to believe, whatever the truth may be.”

The truth is that military operations in Iraq are entering a new phase, one in which the American military presence is fading (or rather is moving over to Afghanistan). Perhaps a new title for this group of actions is needed.  But if I were asked, I might suggest a less poetic-sounding name, at least until we are truly certain a new dawn is coming to that part of the world.

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Many members of what they used to call the “chattering classes” (pundits, bloggers, political junkies, talking heads and the like) are yakking about Scott McClellan’s new book “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.” Talk about trying to turn an old story into an exciting new headline; then again, with the primaries stretching out into what feels like a far-off future (although they’re actually over soon..right?), it might seem like fun to stir the pot. Frankly, I can’t get excited about a book with the clumsiest title I’ve run across in a long time. I mean, read the title and watch one of Mr. McClellan’s talk show appearances and you’ve got the gist of it: Washington bad, Administration bad, me, innocent and betrayed. Yeah, well, welcome to the club, Scott.

I’ve gone ahead and plunged into my summer reading, which, I admit, is usually part of my winter, fall and spring reading too, which is to say novels of intrigue, either local or international. Girly-girl though I often am, when it comes to escapism, I’m more “Iron Man” than “Sex and the City”, less Candace Bushnell than Frederick Forsyth. I like to learn while I’m having fun and I prefer the complications of conducting a spy operations in a foreign desert to the confusions of juggling men and careers in an urban jungle.

My latest read is “The Whole Truth” by David Baldacci, a DC lawyer turned novelist whose books have been what I guess you’d call political thrillers, mostly centered inside the Beltway. This new one takes him across Europe and into cyberspace. It’s a first-rate, fast-paced thriller with a scary new twist on an age-old premise: you can fool an awful lot of the people an awful lot of the time, often with very dangerous consequences. In this book, an event nearly results in World War III but the event is fake – made up and sold by a firm specializing in something called “perception management.” Things escalate very quickly; governments are threatened, lives are lost, superpowers act and react. This being a novel, one man, along with one smart and capable woman manage to bring things under some semblance of control.

Note that the term “perception management” originated with the Department of Defense and has entered the public lexicon as a synonym for persuasion. However, as noted military author and military affairs specialist Emily Goldman has written, “falsehood and deception [are] important ingredients of perception management; the purpose is to get the other side to believe what one wishes it to believe, whatever the truth may be.”

Scott McClellan’s book appears to be about truth, lies, betrayal, perception and manipulation. Go ahead and read it if you think it will surprise you. But for jaw-dropping “what ifs” or “could it be happening?” check out “The Whole Truth.” I imagine it’s a faster read and I suspect it’s going to make a far better movie.

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