The U.S. military should harness the influencing power of indigenous government employees and security forces by having them blog about their views regarding coalition forces and the indigenous government. The military might further consider the benefits of enhancing the Internet access of indigenous populations via distribution of cheap and durable Wi-Fi–capable laptops and by sponsoring Wi-Fi clouds around U.S. operating bases.That from a RAND study, "Enlisting Madison Avenue: The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operation," prepared for Joint Forces Command and paid for under government contract. The report describes the business use of blogs and how the military can use an analogous approach to shape the conflict to its advantage: "The United States should use this tool not to create fake and deceitful voices of support, but rather to tap broader segments of an otherwise quiet society."
The authors base their recommendation on the fact that "blogs provide an alternative space in which thought and opinion can be freely, openly, and safely expressed," allowing Iraqis to write under the veil of Internet anonymity, which Devin mentioned in a previous post. Even if the Iraqi blogs are critical of the American operation it provides authenticity: "Brutal honesty and independence are key requirements for blog credibility."
This Madison Avenue approach to shaping raises some interesting questions, not the least of which is Who is the intended audience of these blogs? The military would have to hand out laptops to indigenous security and government employees to jumpstart blogging because their communities don't have access or technology or wealth. Fortunately some of these laptops have hand cranks because electricity is intermittent in places like Baghdad. Are we, the outside wired world, the target audience? Is this mostly an intelligence-gathering operation?
Also cited are IBM's employee-generated blogging principles:
--Know and follow IBM’s internal conduct guidelines.
--Be mindful of what you write. You are personally responsible for your posts.
--Use your real name and state your role at IBM when writing about IBM-related matters.
--Use a disclaimer stating that your postings do not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.
--Respect copyright, fair use, and financial disclosure laws.
--Do not leak confidential or other proprietary information.
--Do not talk about clients, partners or suppliers without their approval.
--Respect your audience. Do not use profanity or ethnic slurs.
--Find out who else is blogging about your topic and cite them.
--Do not pick fights, and correct your own mistakes.
--Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective.
[CORRECTION: The One Laptop Per Child project has abandoned the crank, though they are pursuing other human power options.]