Sunday, September 27, 2009

Strategic Communication & Smarter Interrogation

I recently came across two interesting bits of national security information on the internet. The first was this interesting website on strategic communication. “Now what,” you rightly ask, “is that?” Well, one of the many useful things the website provides is definitions. In the case of this particular term, it refers to:

“The synchronized coordination of statecraft, public affairs, public diplomacy, military information operations, and other activities... to advance US foreign policy objectives.”

In other words, strategic communication involves making sure that your messages to foreign governments and populations are clear and consistent. All too often, American administrations from either party will forget about key components of strategic communication, or the whole thing. Messages from different governmental entities are frequently contradictory. Often they focus on traditional state-to-state diplomacy, to the neglect of public diplomacy. And they usually ignore the propaganda value of our deeds.

The Strategic Communication website is still a work in progress, and looks raggedy in sections, but there are a lot of good resources already, and I expect more to come.

The second thing I came across was this book, How to Break a Terrorist: The US Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq by Matthew Alexander. I have not read it yet, but I am intrigued by the title and the reviews I have seen. Cruel and inhuman practices have caused many people to turn up their noses at the term "interrogation" - and rightfully so. But Alexander reminds us that torture is not the only means of obtaining information from captives. Indeed, smarter techniques not only avoid brutalizing the subject, but are also more likely to produce quality information. That is a lesson often lost in the polemics about interrogation.