September 14, 2011

NATO-Taliban Twitter Fight! (Or, The Enduring Wisdom of Ecclesiastes 1:9)

The media is fascinated by the Twitter fight between the Taliban and the NATO forces in Afghanistan. Really, though, aside from the medium itself, this is nothing new in warfare. I was reminded of this passage from Orwell's Homage to Catalonia:

…the real weapon was not the rifle but the megaphone. Being unable to kill your enemy you shouted at him instead. … On the Government side, in the party militias, the shouting of propaganda to undermine the enemy morale had been developed into a regular technique. In every suitable position, usually machine-gunners, were told off for shouting duty and provided with megaphones. Generally they shouted a set piece, full of revolutionary sentiments which explained to the Fascist soldiers that they were merely the hirelings of international capitalism, that they were fighting against their own class, etc., etc., and urged them to come over to our side. This was repeated over and over by relays of men; sometimes it continued almost the whole night. There is very little doubt that it had its effect; everyone agreed that the trickle of Fascist deserters was partly caused by it. … Of course such a proceeding does not fit in with the English conception of war. I admit I was amazed and scandalized when I first saw it done. The idea of trying to convert your enemy instead of shooting him!

I have to congratulate the NATO-ISAF public affairs office, though. Normally, the U.S. and allied information response to enemy actions lags days behind that of the enemy. The public affairs officers in Kabul, by contrast, found the time yesterday to both release video of NATO forces responding to the attacks in real time, while the fight was still ongoing, and to trash talk with the Taliban itself over Twitter. Pretty impressive work, really.