Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rebranding the Iraq War: "Operation New Dawn"

Just in case you haven't heard, the "Operation Iraqi Freedom" will have a new name from September 1, 2010: "Operation New Dawn." The change in the name will coincide with the scheduled drop in the number of US troops to 50,000. In a memo to Gen. Petraeus on February 17, Secretary Gates wrote:

Aligning the name change with the change of mission sends a strong signal that Operation Iraqi Freedom has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission. It also presents opportunities to synchronize strategic communication initiatives, reinforce our commitment to honor the Security Agreement, and recognize our evolving relationship with the Government of Iraq."

So, really a "new dawn," or just a new brand? It is also noteworthy that terminology such as "synchronize strategic communication initiatives" is used, a clear indication of the intent behind the new brand: image management. It is supposed to signify the transition, and supposedly promise a new beginning. It is just really interesting to see: a beginning for what?

"Freedom" was simple, straightforward, and set a clear objective. Too clear-cut. "Dawn," on the other hand, is obscure, and not without a good reason: the elections are coming up in less than two weeks and the circumstances are more than just shady, while the US is set to withdraw by the end of 2011 and still make sure it saves face. Ambiguity is a safer bet, since the hope is (apparently) that the new name will have a greater impact on perceptions in the future, and the justification arguments - for whatever outcome - will be much easier to make.

(Image from The Onion)

Two side-notes here:

1. Marin (my greatest soul-mate!) suggested a new branding motto, which is not too unrealistic, unfortunately: "Operation New Dawn in Iraq: Sunset in Iran." Yes, indeed, Iran's role in the upcoming elections cannot be stressed enough, not only because of its economic and ideological influence in the country, but also thanks to the radical "de-Baathification" that America itself promoted so rigorously. Now, with the Shi'a power on the rise and a clear indication of Ahmed Chalabi's connections with Iran, the US seems not to be too optimistic about the outcome of the elections. While the recent war of words against Iran (still very much underway, by the way), is just another sign of increasing concern and hysteria about Iran's power in general. Certainly hope the US knows better than committing another blunder...

2. As I was reading about this, I couldn't stop thinking of my recently discovered admiration for Jacques Ellul, who wrote the following on the "promotion" of democracy in other countries:

...we do not prepare [the other people] to become a democratic nation, for on the one hand we reinforce or continue the methods of its own authoritarian government; and on the other, we cannot give the people, by such means, the desire to adhere to something else in another way. [...] [We are] asking for the same kind of acceptance of something else, of another form of government. [...] [And therefore] the 'democratic idea', when promulgated by means that lead to non-democratic behavior, only hardens the totalitarian man in his mold."

Happy New Dawn, Iraq. Apparently there's more to come.



  1. Now, now. I like "New Dawn." It's like the old Iraq War, but repackaged for the Twilight-reading tweener set. Just imagine what a field of broody, pale, diamond-hard soldiers could do to the insurgent forces. Why, they'd dazzle them into submission in no time!

    As for Gates, I don't know why he bothered to waste all those words on re-aligning the name change to match the mission and signal the end of the war and recognize our evolving relationship, etc. Wouldn't it have been easier to simply say "Mission Accomplished"?

  2. hehe, it's interesting that you mention the Twilight-reading-tweener set: apparently that's their new "to-be-influenced" target! that's exactly the point i find worrisome... :)))

    as for Gates: the problem is, whether the mission was actually accomplished or not is VERY questionable, and in a sense the new wording reflects that. all we can do is wait and see... and read about it in history books in a couple of decades. :-/