Al-Qaeda won the Information War in the US. As something of a consolation prize, the US and Iraq won the military and regional political war. In short, Al-Qaeda lost very badly but created a perception that they won anyway.

J.D. Johannes, one of the embed reporters, has this to say

But al Qaeda’s largest harvest from “random slaughter” strategy was realized in America. Through acts of indiscriminate violence transmitted by the media, insurgents brought their war to America’s living rooms. The atrocity-of-the-day is the principal informational input most Americans receive. This forms their knowledge base. The public does not live in the villages and mahalas of Iraq. Patterns of recovery, of normalcy, are not evident.

This is the essence of 4th Generation Warfare. And al Qaeda is clearly winning it.

Al Qaeda is running its war on smoke and mirrors – or, more accurately, on bytes of sound and sight.

Al-Qaeda took advantage of the American Media and Politicians naive willingness to construct “narratives” out of anecdotes.

Anecdotes are not scientific, yet this is a real situation that we should study through

Say there are 10,000 towns in Iraq. All but one have 6% economic growth, thousands joined the local police, local elections are held, electrical power and water sources are restored.

But in that one town, al-Qaeda attacks a crowded market place filled with civilians and killed 80. The Town accepts aid from the central government and evacuates their casualties. There is no AQI followup. AQI does not capture the town with infantry forces, nor do they establish their local government.

When we ignore anecdotal evidence of single events, we begin to see a clearer picture of what is going on. Yet, others create a narrative of nothing but anecdotes. This gives the impression that all towns are under attack and are falling to Al-Qaeda.

But in the flush of battlefield success, public perception of American military progress continued its calamitous decline. According to Pew Research, the percentage of Americans who opine that America’s military operations are “going well” slid from 38% in May ’07 to 34% in June; those who believe our military operations are “not going well” increased from 57% of respondents to 61%.

The same Pew poll found that only 30% of the public could identify General David Patraeus and only 27% could identify Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. 59% of respondents were unaware that Shi’ites constitute the majority religious group in Iraq. Precise knowledge of the war’s progress is obviously scarce. Yet 95% of respondents have defined opinions on the success of our arms.

The Shia make up over 60% of the Iraq population. The Kurds made up another 20%. The Sunnis never had traction in 80% of Iraq and the insurgency was confined to one corner. Nearly all the violence has been confined to the “Sunni Triangle.” Even there, the violence is dropping, especially in Anbar Province, because nationalist and tribal Sunnis turned against Al-Qaeda and domestic radical Islamists.

But isn’t it strange that 60% of the American public does not even know the basic demographic topology? How can they engage in useful pattern analysis and educated commentary if they are so profoundly ignorant?

I don’t expect most to be experts. If they are ignorant, they should admit ignorance. But if 95% of them have such strongly held opinions with no knowledge of critical issues at all, then these minds do not want to understand reality.

JD Johannes mentions a way to measure the Information War: Gross Ratings Points.
“where “F” equals frequency of the message in a given market, and “R%” equals the percentage of reach within that market.”

Over the measured period, a net 56,556 pessimistic Gross Ratings Points caused a 34 point swing in the polls. But the pessimistic GRPs are earning fewer converts over time — the largest swing coming in 2003-2004. This indicates that the American ‘center’ is fluid and easily swayed. Al Qaeda’s media war has reached the zenith of its marginal effectiveness at the same time that its ground war is in rapid decline.

The pessimistic reports are not indicators of bias. It’s a flaw of anecdotalism. In the above example of towns, there are 9,999 flourishing townsand a single town is hit by a car bomb. We all know the terror attack will be reported and everything else will be ignored.

If someone is immersed in “news” coverage that includes only abnormal events, they will not understand what normal reality looks like. They imagine that the abnormal is normal.

4th Generation Warfare takes advantage of this media weakness. Progapanda is a mass delusion. Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other non-state actors managed to “capture” and manipulate the world media to spread their propaganda. Perhaps Americans are simply not aware that this is propaganda in the first place.