Our Communicator-in-Chief

The conventional wisdom holds that President Bush began his campaign to inform the American public about how he intends to wage the war on terror and win in Iraq with a November 30, 2005 address at the U.S. Naval Academy.  There, he launched a series of speeches, culminating with one from the Oval Office, that explained the security, economic and political aspects of his Victory In Iraq strategy. Commentators and pundits proclaimed this a welcome, though long overdue, presidential initiative.  They weren't paying attention.

Information warfare is defined as 'actions taken to achieve information superiority by affecting adversary information, information—based processes, etc., while defending one's own information...'  Within the context of this definition, mainstream, or legacy, media, led by the New York Times and Washington Post, can be properly defined here as purveyors of adversary information.

As commander—in—chief, President George W. Bush has led the administration's information warfare campaign in getting the word out about Iraq and the global war on terrorism, one that began well before November 30, 2005.  To achieve information superiority he began telling the American people about his intentions, his plans, his goals way back in 2001.  On October 7 of that year he addressed the nation, saying:

'This military action (in Afghanistan) is a part of our campaign against terrorism, another front in a war that has already been joined through diplomacy, intelligence, the freezing of financial assets and the arrests of known terrorists by law enforcement agents in 38 countries.  Given the nature and reach of our enemies, we will win this conflict by the patient accumulation of successes, by meeting a series of challenges with determination and purpose.' 

That was just the first salvo of a continuing barrage.  Ten days later, in a breakfast speech before the California Business Association, President Bush said

'This will be a broad campaign, fought on many fronts.  It's a campaign that will be waged by day and by night, in the light and in the shadow, in battles you will see and battles you won't see.  It's a campaign waged by soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines: and also by FBI agents and law enforcement officials and diplomats and intelligence officers...our campaign will be difficult, and it's going to take time.  But I can promise you this:  it will be waged with determination, and it will be waged until we win.' 

Here is part of the president's address to the nation on November 8, 2001:

'Our nation faces a threat to our freedoms, and the stakes could not be higher.  We are the target of enemies who boast they want to kill — kill all Americans, kill all Jews, and kill all Christians...this is a different war from any our nation has ever faced, a war on many fronts, against terrorists who operate in more than 60 countries...'  And the barrage continued.

In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush briefly outlined his strategy for the global war on terrorism and then said

'Our cause is just and it continues. Our discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears...we have seen the depth of our enemies' hatred in videos where they laugh about the loss of innocent life...and the depth of their hatred is equaled by the madness of the destruction they design.  We have found diagrams of American nuclear  power plants and public water facilities, detailed instructions for making chemical weapons, surveillance maps of American cities, and thorough descriptions of landmarks in America and throughout the world...our nation will be steadfast and patient in the pursuit of two great objectives.  First, we will shut down terrorist training camps, disrupt terrorist plans, and bring terrorists to justice.  And, second, we must prevent terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States.'     

On April 17, 2002 cadets at the Virginia Military Institute heard the words of their Commander—in—Chief: 

'Today we are called to defend freedom against ruthless enemies.  And, once again, we need steadfastness, courage and hope.  The war against terror will be long.  And as (VMI graduate) George Marshall so clearly understood, it will not be enough to make the world safer.  We must also work to make the world better.  In the days after September 11, I told the American people that this would be a different war, fought on many fronts...in some cases we use military force.  In others, we're fighting through diplomacy, financial pressure, or special operations... it is important for Americans to know this war will not be quick and this war will not be easy...(but) in the United States of America, the terrorists have chosen a foe unlike any they have ever faced before.  They've never faced a country like ours...we're tough, we're determined. We're relentless.  We will stay until the mission is done.'

The speeches continued. The nation observed the second anniversary of 9/11.  Then came Operation Iraq Freedom as the president noted in his January 20, 2004 State of the Union address

'...combat forces of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other countries enforced the demands of the United Nations (italics mine), ended the rule of Saddam Hussein, and the people of Iraq are free...the work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it is right....last January, Iraq's only law was the whim of one brutal man.  Today, our coalition is working with the Iraq Governing Council to draft a basic law, with a bill of rights.  We're working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June...month by month Iraqis are assuming more responsibility for their own security, and their own future.'

One of the president's first speeches outlining what would come to be known as the victory in Iraq strategy occurred June 28, 2005 at Ft. Bragg: 

'So our strategy going forward has both a military track and a political track.  The principal task of our military is to find and defeat the terrorists, and that is why we are on the offensive.  And as we pursue the terrorists, our military is helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their people and fight the enemy on their own.  Our strategy can be summed up this way: as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.' 

President Bush then discussed the three new tactics of this strategy: partnering coalition teams with Iraqi units, embedding coalition 'transition teams' with Iraqi units, and working with Iraqi Ministries of the Interior and Defense to improve their capabilities to coordinate anti—terrorist operations.  Putting this in a global context he explained in a July 4, 2005 speech:

'We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to win the war on terror.  We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.  We're denying our enemies sanctuary and making it clear that America will not tolerate regimes that harbor or support terrorists. And we're spreading freedom, because the terrorists know there is no room for them in a free and democratic Middle East.' 

The president reiterated this global strategy with succeeding speeches, detailing its five elements on October 28, 2005 and explaining the new 'clear, hold and build' plan for Iraq, the central front in the war on terrorism. 

'We are working to clear areas from terrorist control, to hold these areas securely, and to build lasting and democratic Iraqi institutions.' 

He spoke in glowing terms about the millions of Iraqis who voted for the new constitution; that many more Sunnis participated.  And he rebuffed 'observers' (read hostile media and implacable Bush haters) for their self—defeating pessimism, their cut & run preferences, and their terminal skepticism about the durability of Iraqi democracy.  The president concluded with these words;

'We don't know the course of our own struggle, where it will take us, or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. But we do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice.  We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history.  And we do know that the cause of freedom will once again prevail.'

All of these speeches, four years' worth of words, were delivered to the nation prior to the advent of the so—called 'long overdue presidential information initiative.'  Our Communicator—in—Chief has led the charge in this campaign in the face of adversary information, the counter—battery fire of the hostile media, immersed in self—defeating pessimism.  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said recently that

'The only place this war could be lost is if we lose our will here in the United States.'

With the New Year approaching, let it be our resolution as Americans to persevere in this war, our will steeled with the truth, up—armored with the facts; let us be as steadfast, brave and as loyal as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere who are fighting to keep us free.  

John B. Dwyer is a military historian.