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Information War Around Libya. Who Prevails: The West or Gaddafi?


On Monday, 21 March, a respectable British media outlet, The Independent, posted an editorial in its first column titled 'The West must be careful not to lose the propaganda war'. Its headline includes probably one of the most relevant problems facing now modern European and American policy-makers. Of course, it's all about members of an armed operation against Libya and their policies in North Africa.


What aspects do British journalists point out?


According to experts of the Land Association of Arab Countries within the Masterforex-V Academy, a number of aspects should be emphasized, including:
An asymmetric military campaign. The Independent quite fairly claims that the Libyan campaign, like any other war the west has recently been involved in, will be asymmetric. It means the English don't doubt that in in military respects the coalition is unquestionably stronger than Gaddafi's armed forces. Battlefield victory is guaranteed to the west given the knowing inequality of parties. The experience in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan provide reasons for such optimism. The Libyan Army is significantly inferior to the armed forced of Saddam's Iraq that Americans and Brits had practically no problems with in due time. The danger is of different nature, though: how can you win the information war? NATO staff has serious failures here.


For example, journalists remember that during the bombing of Yugoslavia back in 1999 Serbs told the entire world of numerous civilian casualties. This undermined the confidence of European citizens as to whether the decision made by NATO strategists was right because the west justified bombing by the idea of saving human lives. However, The Independent's reviewers believe that the main omission is that Belgrade was allowed to overstate peaceful casualties in its reports multifold. At that time the west only found clumsy excuses. This mistake cannot be repeated in Libya - that's one of the article's main conclusions.


Public controversies. Public controversies within different influential international organizations can become another important 'goof' in information warfare. For example, the discussion of bombing by UN Security Council member countries (Russia and China) as well as strongly-worded statements against them from representatives of the League of Arab States deprive the military campaign of a significant share of legitimacy.
Misunderstandings of the military coalition. The Independent's journalists regard possible misunderstandings within the coalition itself as another danger. No particular assumptions are made but anything can happen. It will suffice to remember how hastily many US allies were withdrawing from Iraq or how passively they act in Afghanistan. This does not apply to British soldiers, by the way.
Lack of any elementary military tactics. And, finally, there is a danger of an elementary lack of strategy in the west. In other words, starting the war, active coalition members hardly imagine how they will be finishing it. According to The Independent's reviewers, 'The West is making policy in an ad hoc manner'. This is an absolutely fair thing to say about the most important problem 'peacekeepers' face. This dilemma might eventually lead NATO to defeat.


How important is the information element of an armed conflict nowadays?

Whose side the global public opinion will be on means much more now than control over the territory or defeat of the enemy's armed forces. Resentment within or outside their own country might force the actual winner to leave the battlefield ignominiously. Now wars are waged from election to election time, a little group of terrorists can bring work and sacrifice of numerous armies to naught, while politicians put one signature to give away land that their ancestors shed a lot of blood for. And information offered under the right sauce can be more terrible than a bomb. Examples are at hand:
1. In 1950-1960s European countries (such as Great Britain, France, and Portugal) had to leave almost all their colonies because they were absolutely powerless in the face of public opinion.
2. For the same reason, the US lost the Vietnam War.
3. The USSR had to withdraw troops from Afghanistan because the policy of glasnost let people learn the whole truth about this war.
4. Israel was never defeated in the battlefield but during peaceful times was forced to give up almost all territories it had occupied because of tremendous pressure from the inside and the outside. The Second Lebanese War of 2006 became a classical example of how a winner could be easily turned into a victim once information is provided under the right sauce.
5. Russia lost the First Chechen War only because of separatists' victory in information warfare. An overhaul of information support of military operations allowed V. Putin to win the Second Chechen campaign.
6. Finally, the Georgian and Russian conflict of 2008 in Southern Ossetia. This is classics of propaganda. Information space battles were much bitterer than in the battlefield. Each party was quite successful in proving to the world that it fell victim to a treacherous attack.
7. If Gaddafi wants a chance to prevail over the awkward military machine of NATO, it should make hearts and minds of people around the world, rather than the Libyan Desert, the theater of operations.


How has information warfare been waged on Libya so far?


What does the west have to strike Gaddafi with?
• So far, all information support of the west's actions was spontaneous, not to say chaotic. Actions themselves were often unpredictable. Quite often they were not given an appropriate and, more importantly, timely explanation.
• At first, the west openly kept at a distance from the so-called Libyan revolution. All democratic media ranked it among similar events in Egypt and Libya. The only thing they made up was a hoax about Gaddafi's flight to Venezuela.
• When demonstrators were suddenly armed and started shaking submachine guns and standing on armored fighting vehicles to pose to western photo reporters it was announced that the army and the police were on the 'people's' side. In general, events followed a hackneyed scheme.
• When combat started in the country news agencies reported that Tripoli has almost been captured by the opposition and Gaddafi was about to be overthrown.
• However, after it took the 'written-off' Libyan dictator only a week to practically smash all rebels, the west had to respond urgently and what had happened had to be given an urgent explanation.
• This is what gave rise to few and quite awkward myths. For example, about:
- Gaddafi's air force that bombs peaceful cities (no shell holes were shown);
- Gaddafi's artillery which fires at peaceful demonstrations point-blank (nobody saw this but someone heard something that sounded like cannon shots);
- 50,000 African mercenaries who organized terror against Libyans (in fact, half the country's population is Negroidal);
- Israel which allegedly sent these mercenaries (this is clear - the desire to antagonize the Arab world against Gaddafi);
- blasts of oil reservoirs by the Colonel's people (Libyan oil industry operated almost without an interruption during the entire revolution);
- Gaddafi's son Saif who allegedly switched sides and joined the opposition (which the son himself denied right away);
- finally, the good old story about chemical weapons (but they were too shy to speak long about it).


The coalition is going to ensure its victory in information warfare by 'appropriately' working with the media, censorship introduced for reports from the theater of military operations, using electronic resources, primarily the internet.


The west's main mistake so far is that it failed to make Gaddafi look like 'a monster'. They didn't have enough time to develop the idea of thousands of freedom-loving citizens tortured to death, hostages taken, journalists kidnapped, terrorism supported, medieval customs and a lot of other stuff from Afghan or Iraqi practices. They weren't obviously prepared for this turn of events.


What does Gaddafi have to retort?


Unlike his opponents, the Libyan Colonel started accusing the west of organizing unrest in his country ever since it started. Subsequent events proved the old dictator right.
The Colonel's main success is that his forecasts came true. He said America was preparing an invasion, and this was the case later.
The Libyan leader quite reasonably expects sympathy from the larger part of humankind which doesn't like the US and their allies for some reason.
He is very good at choosing words and speaks of 'a crusade' to Muslims, 'injustice' and 'human rights' to Europeans, 'trampled sovereignty' to Russians and Chinese, 'al Qaeda' to Americans who support it in Libya, 'the holy war' on occupants to his compatriots.
Gaddafi is absolutely right in alternating belligerent speeches with tokens of goodwill, the prime example a truce after UN resolution or release of the Italian ship.
Some compromising materials, for example, about financial support of Nicolas Sarkozy's election campaign, will not be unnecessary for propaganda purposes.
Libyan reports on casualties among peaceful population also demoralize Europeans and Americans, making Arabs, on the other hand, resentful and mobilized.


Gaddafi's information victory depends now only on how staunch his followers are. The longer they keep it up, the more respect the world will have for their leader, while the coalition will forfeit even a hint at moral rights. If Gaddafi's advocates disperse like Hussein's soldiers this will mean that France, the US and others were right and the Colonel has no support among his people.


A survey at the traders’ forum: In your opinion, who is now prevailing in information warfare?
• The west.
• The Libyan leader.
• The Libyan opposition.


You are free to discuss this article here:   forum for traders and investors


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