Mr BQ raised an interesting issue BTL last time:
... a question for Mr Drew. We recall how Norman used the media. Smart bombs and footage we’d never seen before. 'Luckiest guy in Iraq’ crossing the bridge before it was destroyed seconds later. Did Mr D have any involvement with the media? Contrasted with the Vietnam catastrophe of open media. The very closed Falklands war coverage, gulf war press coverage at the time, was seen as a triumph for all sides. Did the coalition deliberately feed the MSM leaks? Or was it just a lucky happenstance?
The lucky aspect was the leadership that was in place at the top.
- George Bush Snr, whom I've lauded before. Genuine military experience; an intelligence insider; hands-on (and wise) as regards policy; hands-off when it came to execution; reasonably media-savvy and, like the whole of the US side, determined to remember the lessons from Vietnam.
- Schwarzkopf, Powell: perfect for their jobs. (They'd been given the freedom to choose their subordinates - and they did that well, too.)
- John Major: no military experience, but had been Foreign Secretary. Struck a most un-Thatcher-like tone but it worked brilliantly.
As I've noted before, there was a real danger: our comms were so good, and so much info was available real-time, that meddlers at the top (as many politicians are) could have wreaked havoc. Bush and Major weren't having any of that. (I might add that certain politicians amongst our allies were agitating for access to the real-time stuff. They were not indulged. I have a strong feeling that Thatcher herself, by 1991, would have been a nightmare. But we shall never know, because she too was not indulged over her request to "let me stay on until Kuwait is re-taken".)
Concomitantly, the meejah had a lot of excellent resources of their own: commercial satellite comms had reached a fairly advanced stage by 1991 (even if the US could shut them down in the blink of an eye); and after all, this story was a media-magnet nonpareil. So there was no point in doing anything other than co-opting them wholesale via "embedding" of correspondents at selected points at the sharp end, and giving them a fair amount of access and reporting freedom. And an embedded correspondent is not entirely a free agent ...
They revelled in it - almost everyone is much taken by the military when they meet it in person - and of course were soon in love with their minders. (I might add that some of the minders were soon in love with Kate Adie, who is a very game lass; and can take a joke, too - quite important with the soldiery.) We'd learned this with the Falklands - you might add WW2, for that matter - and instincts in the USA were the same. So we were all officially up for providing and facilitating prime-time visuals.
The media angle was, in fact, central to what we did, not just a bolt-on extra. To illustrate. In the twice-daily live-streamed tele-briefings for the War Cabinet, there were four parts: Operations (including meteorology, always critical for the military); Intelligence; Diplomatic; and Media - what was being covered and commented in the press etc.
I'll end with a funny, and deeply revealing story. Items 1, 2 and 4 on that running order were prepared and presented by the military; item 3 by the Foreign Office. We knew we had to get these briefings just right - to obtain what was needed from the War Cabinet, and to give them enough (but not more) for what they needed in turn. Being simple soldiers, we reckoned it was best to leave nothing to chance; so we rehearsed the material meticulously, and asked non-specialists in beforehand, to tell us if we were using too much jargon or skipping points that needed more explanation. It worked really well (and again I give credit also to Major, who chaired things brilliantly).
But not the w*****s from the FO, who fancied themselves as being able to wing it. On the very first briefing, their man just had a few notes instead of a proper script. He made an arse of himself. The difference between the stumbling *smart* FO man and the crisp simple soldiers was rather stark.
They had a different frontman next time. And the new chap had a script.