Sunday, November 23, 2008

How Can the U.S. Military Maintain a Positive Image with Americans?

This morning, I received a link to a video someone made for promotional use by the United States Air Force.  The slogan is "America's Air Force: Then, Now, Always," and uses audio from a John F. Kennedy speech to underscore its theme.

Although I like the overall effect of the video, I would also like the USAF (and other armed services) to take a more active approach to public relations.  The public affairs officers do a great deal of hard work - a very close relative of mine is a top tier public affairs officer in the Navy and she stands head and shoulders above her peers in the private sector - but, in my humble opinion, the brass a) allows the politicians to do the job of convincing Americans of the utility and necessity of their mission and b) takes for granted that as their mission is national defense that Americans will always default to an attitude of approval of the military.  A more proactive approach to fostering a conversation and relationship with citizens would reap significant benefits.

In that vein, I would like to see the U.S. military begin putting a greater emphasis on telling us of their victories in ways that do not depend on the mainstream media.  Dropping bombs and inflicting damage are not the mission of our military, they are tactics to achieve goals.  Americans should know what the goals are, in plain English, and how the military is instrumental in achieving them.   

It's worth taking a look at the video.  Clicking in the image below will link to the host site.




  1. But that video is just about the toys. :)

    I think that there's nothing wrong with assuming that there is support for the military amongst a majority of the public. But the question remains: what exactly does "national defense" mean? And what really are the goals of the military?

  2. demo kid:

    The fact that you are asking those questions makes my point. The military and our elected officials are not doing a very good job of making the case. The question of what constitutes "national defense" is going to change a lot depending on your worldview. We will never all agree on things like that, except in the event of a direct attack on our sovereignty, but no one within the defense establishment even tries to make an argument anymore for why such and such an action is in our national interest. Or maybe they do, but they can't get their voice out there over the din of the media.

  3. First of all, I think that a commercial that's all about the toys is likely to get folks that are in it for the toys. The commercial is well-produced, of course, but they're not really talking about the mission there.

    I don't necessarily disagree with what you're saying, but the question remains: what IS national defense? The military is a means to an end with this, and not an end unto itself. Should overseas humanitarian aid and policing be considered part of national defense, or should it solely consist of killing "bad guys" and developing the infrastructure to make the killing of "bad guys" easier? Should the military be given virtually unlimited resources, or should we have a more sober evaluation of our military capacity and needs? Should the military be alone in defining what is in the interest of national defense?


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