U.S. Military taking over the World Wide Web

The U.S. is updating its counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan on the ground and online. The Pentagon’s nominated a new commander of U.S. Forces there and launched special web pages on popular social networking sites.

Service members in Afghanistan are now posting images and reports from the battlefield to the front lines of the internet. Is this increased transparency or a propaganda tool?

“I rather doubt that this is a transparency issue. It’s more of a way to interest people in what the military is doing and maybe get some recruits, since its on the media that younger people use,” says Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty.

It looks like the US military has found a new weapon: utlitizing the web to show their side of the Afghan story. This marks the first time that internet users have been exposed to this kind of information and video straight from the conflict zone.

And what would a war be without a video contest? A video clip, posted on the Internet, promotes the collection of amateur footage from war zones with a female voice saying, “If you are in the military, currently serving or have past-service in Afghanistan, just make a video three minutes or less that explains why Afghanistan matters.”

And why Afghanistan matters is a question that the next U.S. Commander in the region, General Stanley McChrystal, had to answer during his confirmation hearing.

“The potential re-emergence of Al Qaeda or other extremist safe havens in Afghanistan, and existing safe havens in Pakistan, are critical threats to our national security and to our allies,” said General Stanley McCrystal. “I believe that providing the Afghan people an opportunity to shape their future requires our firm commitment and demonstrates America’s credibility worldwide.”

America’s lost its objective, says Ivan Eland.

“We’ve gone into nation building, drug interdiction, all sorts of different things,” says Eland.

But unlike the images Internet users see, cleaning up the mess in Afghanistan may take more than just the click of a mouse.