10 September 2009

Good articles, save for one detail

In the past day or two, we've seen two articles ("Leashing the Blogs of War" and "Pentagon Keeps Wary Watch as Troops Blog" H/T Small Wars Journal and Jenna L.) regarding the military's attitudes towards blogging.

Although some are misconstruing some of the inherent contradictions in the viewpoints of military leaders versus official policy towards blogging as one of "do as I say, not as I do", I would argue that this is not the case. I believe that there are two camps in regards to attitudes regarding blogging--one camp including leaders such as Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, Maj. Gen. Michael Oates and others who support Soldier blogging in one camp, and several who oppose blogging due to security concerns in the other camp.

I'd analyze this in detail, but I'm low on time, so I'll have to make do with the following quote from the New York Times:

Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of American forces in Iraq, is on Facebook. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has a YouTube channel and posts Twitter updates almost daily.

The Army is encouraging personnel of all ranks to go online and collaboratively rewrite seven of its field manuals. And on Aug. 17, the Department of Defense unveiled a Web site promoting links to its blogs and its Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites.

The Web, however, is a big place. And the many thousands of troops who use blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to communicate with the outside world are not always in tune with the Pentagon’s official voice. Policing their daily flood of posts, videos and photographs is virtually impossible — but that has not stopped some in the military from trying.

The Department of Defense, citing growing concerns about cybersecurity, plans to issue a new policy in the coming weeks that is widely expected to set departmentwide restrictions on access to social networking sites from military computers. People involved with the department’s review say the new policy may limit access to social media sites to those who can demonstrate a clear work need, like public information officers or family counselors.

If that is the case, many officials say, it will significantly set back efforts to expand and modernize the military’s use of the Web just as those efforts are gaining momentum. And while the new policy would not apply to troops who use private Internet providers, a large number of military personnel on bases and ships across the world depend on their work computers to gain access to the Internet.

To many analysts and officers, the debate reflects a broader clash of cultures: between the anarchic, unfiltered, bottom-up nature of the Web and the hierarchical, tightly controlled, top-down tradition of the military.

“We as an institution still haven’t come to grips with how we want to use blogging” and other social media, said Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the commander of the Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

One of the Army’s leading advocates for more open access to the Web, General Caldwell argues that social networking allows interaction among enlisted soldiers, junior officers and generals in a way that was unthinkable a decade ago.

He requires students at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth to blog, and the college now sponsors 40 publicly available blogs, including his own, where policies are freely debated.

But getting approval for those blogs, as well as for YouTube and Facebook access at the college, was a struggle. “At every corner, someone cited a regulation,” General Caldwell said. In recent months, however, “the Army has made quantum leaps” in embracing the Web, he added.

Noah Shachtman, editor of Wired.com’s national security blog, Danger Room, which has reported extensively on the new policy review, said he recently asked students at West Point whether they would allow soldiers to blog. Almost every cadet said no.

“Then I asked, ‘How many of you think you can stop the flow of information from your soldiers?’ ” Mr. Shachtman recalled. “Everybody agreed there is no way to stop this information from going out anyway. So there is this sort of dual-headedness.”
But the quote that got me was this one:

In Vietnam, letters home were often censored. But in the Civil War, they typically were not, and many of those letters were printed in hometown newspapers, providing front-line correspondence for papers that could not afford to send reporters into battle.

Military blogs and other social media serve much the same purpose today, said Terry L. Beckenbaugh, who teaches history at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Matthew Currier Burden, a former Army intelligence officer who started one of the earliest military blogs, BlackFive.net said that military blogs have expanded and diversified, with sites by and for almost every group: parents and spouses, veterans, analysts and troops with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Blogs by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to come and go, thriving and withering with each deployment. Examples can be found here, here and here.

“It’s been a long fight to convince” commanders of the usefulness of the Web, said Mr. Burden, who wrote a book on military blogs titled, “The Blog of War.” “My tenet is: If you restrict it to much, the only ones blogging will be the ones who don’t care about the rules.”
Wait, wait, no link to this blog? What the hell? The NYT is now on my hit list...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OT, but can't find any of your Snuggie posts to add this to: