A Clumsy Propaganda

by Joshua Foust on 11/22/2011 · 31 comments

Eurasianet editor David Trilling has a probing look in Foreign Policy at a really clumsy propaganda outlet focused on Central Asia:

Take a March story praising Tashkent’s effort to register religious groups. The story does not mention reputable organizations’ allegations about arbitrary arrests of Christians and Muslims from unregistered groups, but cites state-affiliated clergy lauding the country’s religious freedom and praises the feared security services for acting within the law. The story ends by saying, “Uzbekistan is doing everything necessary to ensure its citizens have the proper conditions to exercise freedom of conscience.”

That is patently not so, says John Kinahan of Forum 18, an Oslo-based religious freedom watchdog: “The only thing harmonious in Uzbekistan is a constant picture of violations of just about every human right you can name, which is certainly not producing any meaningful exchange of views of what is going on or how people relate to each other.”

Trilling’s cataloguing of Central Asia Online’s misreporting is very well done, and he deserves praise for it. Unfortunately, Trilling also gets some substantial points in his criticism wrong.

First, there are some niggling language issues. The CAO website is administered by General Dynamics, a large DOD contractor. Trilling constantly invokes General Dynamics’ as a “for-profit contractor,” as if the website would be any less problematic if it were run by a non-profit contractor (like Battelle), or directly by the government. As an employee at a non-profit news and advocacy organization, I can understand Trilling’s discomfort with the profit motive, but the real problem with Central Asia Online is both its existence and its activities, not the use of a normal company to run it.

Similarly, Trilling describes this as a project of the Defense Department, as its run from the Pentagon and is a major program. Despite its hefty price tag — nearly $120 million — it is not. CAO is run by the Special Operations Command, the result of an attempt to operationalize many years of doctrinal studies out of the Joint Special Operations University, as a part of incorporating “Information Operations” into strategic planning. While Central Asia Online is an unclassified program, it is sequestered within SOCOM, part of the J-39 Global Operations group. It is buried within the bureaucracy and is therefore low visibility within the community. I’d be surprised if many people outside of the PSYOP universe even knew it existed.

That budget is also problematic. The TRWI project cost is $120 million, it’s true, but that is divided by 8 countries, so the cost per-country is more like $15 million. Still, spending $15 million a year on pro-Karimov propaganda is not a good thing for SOCOM to be involved in, so Trilling’s criticism still stands. I just wish he could have incorporated some recent budgetary caps (pdf, pg. 245) on the TRWI project and attempts to increase some oversight. These changes are germane to Trilling’s criticism.

Trilling also makes a curious omission in his discussion of CAO’s disclosures. He conceded that Central Asia Online states very plainly that it is an Information Operations project managed from SOCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Trilling complains that, despite this disclosure, some other news agencies mistakenly report CAO stories as journalism, rather than propaganda. And that’s fine. But look at who one of his big sources is for complaining about said propaganda:

“It’s disturbing, to say the least,” says Alexander Cooley, a political scientist at Barnard College who writes frequently about America’s military footprint in Central Asia. “I would not expect anyone who is otherwise involved as a contractor or a subcontractor for U.S. security agencies to provide objective news analysis of terrorism. Part of covering terrorism means covering both the emergence of legitimate threats, but also covering how the specter of terror is used as political cover for governments to clamp down on political opponents,” Cooley said. He called the “fluff” on Central Asia Online “just propaganda.”

I should make clear that I am not criticizing Cooley who is entitled to his opinion. But Trilling owes both his readers and Foreign Policy readers a full disclosure of his relationship with Cooley. Eurasianet, which Trilling manages, is funded by the Central Eurasia Program at the Open Society Institute. Cooley has not only been an Open Society Institute Fellow recently, he also sits on the Board of Advisers of the Central Eurasia Program at OSI. In essence, Trilling quoted his boss for a story without disclosing their relationship. In a story about how sneaky the DOD is in promoting its version of history, it is a curious omission to make.

But beyond that, Trilling seems to misunderstand the role of Information Operations in modern military doctrine. The DOD does not do a good job in this arena (in fact, criticizing the DOD’s propaganda is a major, recurring topic of this blog). But that doesn’t mean you can remove these efforts from context.

Digging into the kinds of doctrinal concepts (pdf) being pushed at the military post-graduate universities in the 2006-2007 time frame reveals a genuine struggle with the “information environment,” as they put it. Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, a key concept in the Military Decision Making Process, requires a fluency with things like the news environment and how ideas and reactions spread into host populations. One of the TMAs, or Traditional Military Activities, is in “shaping operations,” which are meant to prepare some abstractly defined “mental space” in the mind of a local population for a given policy.

These shaping operations often take the form of various types of propaganda — Information Operations like Central Asia Online, more direct PSYOP programs like distributing leaflets, and so on. Recall Major General Michael Flynn’s 2010 call to enlist journalists as intelligence collectors — the need for good information is there, but the top-thinkers of the military have no idea how to get it and often grasp at straws.

To repeat, this does not make the sketchy and unreliable reporting Trilling identifies okay (and in fact, I’ve also been a consistent critic online and in person of CAO’s terrible presence on the web). But it does mean that to blow the lid off this story requires more understanding of the years of conceptual planning and bureaucratic inertia that result in such a bizarre web presence. And unfortunately, Trilling just doesn’t know enough to present that.

Still, Trilling is definitely on the right path. Central Asia Online is the worst sort of clumsy trainwreck that has, sadly, come to define the military’s IO efforts the last few years. It is no less blatant or disappointing that Max Boot’s monthly helicopter tours of Afghanistan, but might be more insidious because these stories aren’t confined to the opinion pages of a newspaper. This program, and a plethora of crazier programs (like Duane Clarridge’s ridiculous program), need to be evaluated from the outside, whatever their compartmentalization, and either unified, constrained, or shut down entirely. And there are some initial steps to do that, and they should be encouraged. But to impose accountability you have to understand what they are and where they come from. We’re a step closer now, but only a step. There’s a lot more to be done.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 31 comments }

AJK November 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I find it interesting to compare CAO with the other two, South East Europe Times and Magharebia. SET gets some mockery, but its generally respected as a soft news organization; you won’t find breaking stories or anything out of them, but they have lots of interesting stuff, particularly from the business side. I’ve never heard of Magharebia, which kind of says enough. And it’s just an odd transliteration from Arabic, too.

I wonder how much of the worry is in the strategy and how much is in the execution, I suppose.

foustfan November 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm

“And unfortunately, [insert name here] just doesn’t know enough to present that.”

“Foust-ing” rule #1: A target of criticism must be reminded at some point that they are a willful and unrepentant ignoramus who will never be as knowledgeable on a given subject as Josh Foust so why even bother to report anything when you can just read registan instead.

Gulliver November 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm

This is a worthwhile corrective. I share Trilling’s dismay at the very existence of something so ill-directed and ineffectual, but the tone of the piece (and the implicit suggestion that the military is running around breaking rules willy-nilly, without civilian oversight) torpedoes the whole thing.

There are serious questions about the practice of internet-based IO, especially in a non-operational shaping context; the potential (or in fact inevitable) exposure of Americans to this kind of material bumps up uncomfortably against the legal prohibitions — created in a simpler time — against propagandizing domestically. There’s also the fact that what the military calls “phase 0” or steady-state is what the rest of the world calls PEACETIME; military information efforts ought to be integrated with broader foreign policy and more specifically with the State Department’s public diplomacy campaigns.

But PD and IO do have different objectives (not to mention different methods), and I don’t disagree with the concept of a combatant commander using the resources available to him (including IO/MISO assets from SOF/SOCOM) to help him satisfy his campaign plan objectives. I do, however, also think there’s a very good argument that this is an ineffective way to do that.

As far as contractors v. government: meh. Support/services contracting components of giant defense companies are walled off from the materiel-producing/-marketing arms of those companies, and a number of close-to-inherently-governmental functions are nowadays performed by support contractors. That’s not an optimal condition, if you ask me, but it’s not at all unique to this story. The work is farmed out because presumably there are special private-sector skills needed to perform it, but anybody who’s worked in the defense bureaucracy for any period of time knows that this is just how things go. It’s not a terribly good visual to have one business unit of the same parent company formulating pro-regime propaganda that concerns a state to which another business unit of that company might like to sell defense articles, but the legally-mandated separate structure of these types of companies ought to ensure there’s no conflict of interest.

David November 22, 2011 at 5:43 pm

I don’t why you’re giving Trilling such faint praise on this – you’re just adding irrelevant detail to his excellent piece. The website should be closed down. That’s all. I don’t think you need more information about what budget line the project comes under or what idiot’s thesis on information warfare inspired it.

Joshua Foust November 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm

David,

Very simple. Trilling is correct to point out that this website is problematic. But he gets a lot of important details wrong, including the role CAO plays in broader military Public Diplomacy/Information Operation efforts, and doesn’t seem to know the context in in which it was created.

Those are very important to criticizing a program, beyond “this is inaccurate.” I agree with Trilling that the inaccuracies are really bad, and we’re in agreement that it’s clumsy and probably counterproductive in its current form.

But, in order to cancel something — a goal I think we all share? — you have to understand that thing, including who protects it, what rice bowl its in, how connected its supporters are, and where it fits into the plans and preferences of its leaders. While a few commenters here condescend to the idea of actually understanding something you’re describing or advocating — ironically while complaining I know nothing about Central Asia yet insist on writing about it! — in reality the only way to unravel a program within the Defense Department, and especially within the cloistered back alleys of SOCOM, is to understand where it is positioned and how it got there.

Writing off a now-Colonel who runs a major PSYOP shop as an “idiot” doesn’t really help with that. If this sort of thing is his sort of baby, just petulantly crossing your arms and bitching that it exists doesn’t really influence him to either operate smarter nor does it create any sort of bureaucratic impulse to modify or cancel the program.

So, if you want to be REALLY outraged with no hope of ever understanding or changing this system or , go ahead and agree with some of the trolls below who are more interested in whining and pretending this is a simple thing that just exists on its own and can be canceled on a whim. And prepare to be bitterly disappointed when it turns out to be none of those things.

Uzbek November 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Karimov will use the supply route as a bargaining chip. That’s for sure. He will use it as a leverage especially with human rights issues. The route will be used as a leverage against Moscow too: Uzbekistan is the only country in Central Asia that feels more or less independent from Moscow, the rest of Central Asia is still pretty much in Moscow’s shadow. Russia is trying to get an effective control of Uzbekistan by encircling it by the Customs Union and forcing it to join the union. When Tajikistan joins the Customs Union Russia will have effectively encircled Uzbekistan. This is where Karimov’s desperation stems from – he needs some leverage against Moscow and closer cooperation with the US can give him some of that leverage. Karimov is also trying, with the help of the US, to link Uzbekistan to modern Silk Road, a trade and commerce route originating in China and terminating in Western Europe. These are all options that Karimov can utilize to counter the country’s dependency on Moscow.

Regarding the country’s appalling human rights records. It is a police state – the city of Tashkent with its 2.2M population has more cops than all of France combined and France’s population is over 65M. It is not like crime is ubiquitous in Uzbekistan or Tashkent. It is much saver than France but Karimov needs that much policemen to defend the regime and beat down those people who might rebel against the regime. The police act with impunity, they can stop anybody on the street and shake him down for money, if you don’t give your money to them, they will threaten you with framing, plant narcotics, etc. It is terribly humiliating experience to go through. Needless to say, the system is corrupted to the core but Karimov doesn’t reform. Because he hopes the beneficiaries of such a police state – the police and the ruling elite – will defend his regime since they are the direct beneficiaries of the status quo.

Metin November 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm

where did you get the information about the number of policemen in Uzbekistan? did you work as policemen 🙂 or is that just another speculation of yours?

I live in Tashkent and I was never stopped by police (except in airport for pass control). Maybe you’ve got the suspicious look (like Ben-Laden) that you’re stopped all the time?

Uzbek November 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Metin,
Now you are making personal attacks which is not a civil way to debate your point at all.

Since I grew up in Uzbekistan and I know the mentality and can say what is triggering you to make such personal comments. You are jealous at your fellow countryman who achieved something that you dream of every day. If you are below 30-35 years of age, I am 99% sure you want to come to the US to study at a university. That’s what all Uzbek youth wants these days. Studying abroad is a ticket to make it out of that country and anybody who can doing it these days are doing it. Maybe you don’t have the academic and professional prowess to get a scholarship to study abroad compared to some people like me which makes you seethe with jealousy when you see that. This is the real reason why you are making personal attacks and trying to discredit my post here and other posts on this blog. Good luck because this doesn’t change anything.

I do not understand your comment about looking suspicious. What does suspicious mean anyway? If you mean profiling this practice is considered utterly racist and illegal thing to do in civilized countries. There were calls to profile Muslims after 9/11 in the US but it didn’t take root in the country because at the end of the day the US is a civilized country with a rule of law which Uzbekistan lacks. From your comment, I can see you do support profiling which shows there is huge gap between your mentality and the mentality of the majority here in the US. Change your mindset, learn how things are done in countries you are dreaming to come to study or work. That will help you to assimilate into local culture faster too, by the way. And do not make personal attacks. I am happy to debate a point with you but without being attacked on a personal level.

Will November 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Uzbek, can you back up your claim on the number of policemen? While I agree there are more police in Uzbekistan, I think you are grossly overestimating the police harassment. They are more likely to stop and ask for ID if you look suspicious or if you are from the province. Yes, this is profiling. However, if you have lived in Uzbekistan this shouldn’t surprise you.

Seriously, why are you selling yourself here with some nonsense arguments (credit score, MBA degree, earnings, etc.). If you are successful, good for you. But remember you are comparing Uzbekistan with the system Americans have built over more than two centuries through hard work and sacrifice and you had no role in it to be proud of.

Uzbek November 23, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I see you changed your name from Metin to Will. So you do acknowledge that there is police harassment in Uzbekistan but you are angry at those who express their opinion about it? I think you are an SNB person who sits in one of those office above torture chambers and monitors the web for people who can get the word out about terrible things ruling elite is doing in Uzbekistan. Am I in the ballpark?

The building of America is by no means finished, it is being built everyday by those who work hard, pay taxes and are law-abiding and honest people. And I am proud to be a part of this country and being able to contribute to the process.

You have been commenting to my every post trying to discredit what I say. But again, that’s the nature of people like you – vanquishing you own kind.

Also, you think in a very simplistic terms and don’t know how to debate properly. I bet you don’t even remember when was the last time you picked up a book. As I said there is a couple of Grand Canyons between your mentality and the mentality of the majority in a civilized world. My exchange with you is over, sir.

Will November 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Uzbek, I am not Metin. You are right about the high number of militia and how they are used to protect the regime. Do you think someone from SNB would acknowledge this?

You have some good posts here, but lately I am noticing you being overly emotional and make a lot of assumptions. My issue with your post here is you judge Uzbekistan as if you have/had no association with Uzbekistan. Do you have family back home?

My brotherly advice to you, don’t assume you are smart and your opponent dumb. You don’t know me, I don’t know you. I am from a small town in Uzbekistan, doing my PhD in the U.S., if this clears the picture a little bit.

Uzbek November 23, 2011 at 11:56 pm

I still think you are the same Metin who changed his name to Will after being outed.

Do I think someone from SNB would acknowledge this? Do I have a family back home? Oh, I am scared….

For the readers who don’t know what SNB is, it is the current equivalent of the infamous KGB in Uzbekistan. One of the filthy tactics they use is to threaten your family and that’s what Metin/Will is doing here.

Anyway, how should I be speaking about Uzbekistan? I am trying to describe the problems the country has had for decades and there is no end in sight. The ruling class, the police are beneficiaries of teh regime and they will never give away they “kormushka” – sucking ordinary people like ticks. I regularly read the reports coming out of human rights groups, the IMF, the World Bank and other international bodies that address Uzbekistan. In all of those reports Uzbekistan is in the bottom, together with North Korea. Uzbekistan has also on “enemies of the Internet” list, perennially. Believe me, I do root for Uzbekistan and wish there was more bright spots to live in Uzbekistan. Alas, so far the only bright spot in Uzbekistan seems to be soccer at which the country is fortunately doing great and has a good chance to go to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. If that happens, it is going to be great for people’s moral back home but also, the World Cup puts the country on that map and a lot more people will get to know Uzbekistan’s dismal human rights records. Because when you google Uzbekistan the focus on country’s profile is always on human rights issues, the police brutality and corruption. Also, if Uzbekistan makes the WC 2014 Joshua Foust’s job becomes easier, it will be easier for people to pinpoint the country.

Anyway, I got off the point here. The reality is that the country is one of the most oppressive countries and it is grouped together with North Korea when it comes to human rights and internet and media freedom. This is a fact and you can’t deny it.

Metin November 24, 2011 at 2:07 am

@Uzbek,

I am not Will. I live in Tashkent and not a PhD student yet.

Stop making childish assumptions, please.
If you want to make impression, do so with arguments. Not with your MBA, Credit score, earnings, and maybe your fancy white socks. Not agreeing with you does not necessarily mean your opponent is jealous about ‘success’.

Metin November 24, 2011 at 2:09 am

@Uzbek,

I am not Will. I live in Tashkent and not a PhD student yet.

Stop making childish assumptions, please.
If you want to make impression, do so with arguments. Not with your MBA, Credit score, earnings, and maybe your fancy white socks. Not agreeing with you does not necessarily mean your opponent is jealous about your ‘success’.

Uzbek November 24, 2011 at 8:32 am

But in your case it does – I know that.

Metin November 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

oh, yeas. You got it – I am jealous.
I hope that now you are a happy idiot 🙂

Metin November 24, 2011 at 2:00 am

Uzbek,

where did I make a personal attack to you? your statement about Tashkent alone having more police than entire France sounded unrealistic to me. So I asked if you could provide a source to back up your information.

Your depiction of police in Uzbekistan as thugs is not serious. Police will not check a person without reason, they do so if find someone suspicious. I just suggested a likely reason for your ‘terribly humiliating experience’.

If you got this as a personal attack, I am sorry. I do not with such an experience for anyone.

Will November 24, 2011 at 4:18 am

Uzbek ukam, chill out. You and I are also to blame for the system we have because we are too scared to stand up for ourselves against the regime.

And what is wrong with people these days, if you demand proof they will accuse you being from SNB. Is this a new method to avoid direct answer?

Uzbek November 24, 2011 at 8:32 am

Metin/Will aka, chill out – people did stood up for themselves in Andijan in 2005 but where massacred summarily. And the ruling class thinks that they have taught a good lesson to people and people won’t be back on the streets and work for the benefit of ruling class for decades to come. The Uzbek society, once the leader in Central Asia is the most brutal and corrupt, economically backward. This is a real tragedy and if you don’t acknowledge this, there is something wrong with you.

Turgai November 24, 2011 at 9:25 am

“the ruling class thinks that they have taught a good lesson to people and people won’t be back on the streets and work for the benefit of ruling class for decades to come”

Well, the latter is already refuted by reality, with the tens of thousands who leave Uzbekistan to work. Otherwise, lay rest assured: the regime is toast. When, who and how, nobody knows. But it will go down.

Metin November 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm

‘lay rest assured: the regime is toast. When, who and how, nobody knows. But it will go down.’

…might be, but very unlikely. What you said might have sounded more credible in 2000-2005, but not now. Personally, I’d prefer the regime did not fall (people getting killed like in arabic countries or Kyrgyzstan is not something nice), but reformed itself. After all it is not ‘regime change’ matters, but it is change in quality of life that matters.

Uzbek November 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Of course the regime in Uzbekistan is doomed. Much bigger and better organized regimes fell and have been falling and it is a matter of time when everything comes tumbling down. But between then and now, gross injustice on all levels against people will continue. That’s something that I find hard to stomach.

Uzbek November 24, 2011 at 8:20 am

Metin/Will,
Preventing crime is indeed the police’s job but in my experience Uzbek policemen don’t think thinks along those lines. They think that their job is graft. You know this very well, especially, if you live in Uzbekistan.

Yes, the police will not check a person without a reason but that reason is not crime-related usually, it is something different, something sinister. Their reason to stop a person is to shake down a defenseless ones for money. If you drive around in your BMW 7, wear suits and project an image of a person with connections, I doubt they will stop you even if you look “suspicious” and cart around narcotics. They won’t stop you because they know you have a “roof”, a protection. So they go after labor migrants, a defenseless average person who came to Tashkent to work and feed their family but are considered as preys by police. This is what I am trying to get at.

Metin November 24, 2011 at 11:53 am

Uzbek/Idiot aka,
you still did not answer the question, where did you come up with the number of police in Tashkent. So how can you back up what you said – Tashkent alone has more police than entire France?
Maybe you are SNB agent and know things we do not know here?

Uzbek November 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Metin/Will, by directly insulting me and calling an idiot you are showing how low you areand you can’t converse with civilized people in a civilized manner. You couldn’t argue your points intelligently and you lost, have been outed and now you can’t take the defeat like a man. So like a lowly coward you are, you resorted to direct insults. This direct insult doesn’t make me an idiot, it makes you an idiot. Whoever reads the exchange knows this, unless of course you change your name again and post something for your favor and something against me. Did I just predict your next move? Learn how to argue a point without insulting people, read books, talk to intelligent people.

Also, you are lying about having a PhD degree as well. Your vocabulary is extremely limited and you use direct insult words quite frequently. A person of a PhD caliber doesn’t do that, they know how to debate, that’s their bread and butter. You don’t have a PhD, you are a part of the ruling class, jealous of those who managed to “run away” as people of your type call it.

Will November 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Are you referring to Metin or me because I didn’t insult anybody. Instead of wasting your time here BSing, devote your time to your “successful” job you like to brag about.
P.S. Forget about PhD, it is not relevant here. Besides, I don’t have it yet.

Uzbek November 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Very original…

Stefan G November 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm

For some reason, these hatchet jobs always remind me of the kid who can’t win any games without making up the rules as he goes along. If you have nothing substantive to say about the issue, then just pretend you are discussing another issue and, hey presto, you win the argument.
The premise we have to depart from here, which this post refrains from doing, is that doing propaganda for vile regimes (Trilling does not dwell much on the other beneficiary nations of this trash in CA) is wrong.
So, is it dubious that a for-profit contractor is making money on running a dishonest and deeply morally bankrupt outfit? Anyone with a brain can see that it is, so let’s move on.
Is this a Defense Department scheme? Apparently not. Get this for a ream of bullshit: The CAO is run by the SOC (which falls within J-39 GO group) as part of effort to operationalize JSOU and incorporate IO into SP; only people within PSYOP know about all this, of course. Oh, and something about TRWI.
Since Foust only apparently understands things in capital letters, let’s put it in those terms: What a load of BULLSHIT. This is a DoD baby. End of. What part of “sponsored by USCENTCOM” is so hard to understand?
This post also attempts to claim Trilling is misleading about the cost of the TRWI (Trans Regional Web Initiative — look spell something out on first mention of it, so people know what you’re on about, yeah? Basic). He says $120 million for TRWI, not that it is all for Uzbekistan.
Leaving aside the petty dishonesty of that, lying and lying again about the terrorist bugaboo is a trans-regional effort, so kvetching on this issue seems like a trifling exercise.
Wah, wah, why didn’t Trilling mention the budgetary caps? What?! Seriously, who gives a fuck?
And what is this point about Cooley? This article is written for Foreign Policy magazine. Weird how Foust gets all pissy when anybody so much as hints at his place of work, because it has no bearing on what he writes (oh no!), but cannot afford others the same luxury. No, Trilling, you must telling us who you are vorking for, ja?! (I’m allowed to make that joke; half German).
But the criticism is based on a dishonest premise. A fat old lie. I quote from Trilling’s article:
“The TRWI websites do not hide their affiliation with the U.S. military, stating it clearly in their “About” sections.”
So it turns out this is not a “story about how sneaky the DOD is in promoting its version of history,” just about the scummy work that it does.
What would be the function of exposing the transparency of the relationship between Trilling as Eurasianet (although the article is not in that publication) writer to Cooley as an adviser to OSI? It would be weird and distracting and unnecessary to explain. Just because Foust writes with the dead hand of the contractor, complete with jargon and acronyms, it doesn’t mean everybody else has to as well.
As Foust descends into his tedious lecture on military doctrine (Jesus!), you know he really has run out of anything useful to say and, frankly, sounds a little bitter that nobody credible calls him up for sound-bites. I mean, this is the Foust that has regularly appeared on uber-propaganda project Russia Today, lest we forget. Oh the irony!
If Foust thinks Trilling’s article failed to dwell sufficiently on military doctrine, it is because he doesn’t understand (or want to understand) that this is beside the point. The hawkish wing of the U.S. government has no business perpetuating a foul lie that gives ballast to some of the most vicious and cruel dictatorships in the world. There is no fine-tuning of the concept needed here; this is wrong and immoral. That is what the article is about.
The article in Foust’s mind is not one that anybody who isn’t a sweaty, diet Coke-swilling Morlock wants to read. Get over it. It’s not interesting and/or relevant to the world of people that at least pretend they wish the world were a better place.
Failure by the U.S. military and their misguided consultants to understand so much of all this explains a lot about why Americans are so hated around the world. Yes, I said it.

Nathan Hamm November 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Can I borrow some of that lather? I could use a shave.

See Josh’s comment above. If you want to kill a government program, it helps to understand what exactly it is, who runs it, and how it’s funded. Otherwise you’re just pissing in the wind.

Stefan G November 23, 2011 at 12:25 am

Oooh, so Trilling’s mistake was to not write a memo detailing how to shut down a government program? Granted he explained the context of the site, offering concrete examples to the layman reader, and shed some light on Ubeki-beki-stan-stan (you get that this how well the general reader and presidential candidate knows the region, right?) , but no, he should have added on a few more thousand words of Alfabeto military guff to keep you guys happy.
Pft, whatever man, I get it. Foust has no reverse gear and nothing is worth writing if it isn’t to take a big ‘ole dump on somebody’s head. We all have to get our kicks somehow. Just to an outsider, it comes off all dickish, you know?

Zach November 23, 2011 at 3:35 am

There is also the Central Asia Newswire — which is even weirder.

http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/news_for_make_benefit_glorious.php?page=all

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