NATO must ‘plug in’ to the global conversation

March 24, 2009

A military officer assigned to NATO says the organisation needs to engage with the new media landscape.

In a guest post for Mountain Runner, Tom Brouns argues that NATO’s relevance on the Internet will play an increasingly important role in the extent of success or failure in Afghanistan. He notes that according to some observers the war of ideas on the Internet is being lost.

Brouns advocates creating a community around the people who have an interest in Afghanistan, so that NATO can play a part in shaping and responding to the debate. He emphasises sharing NATO’s information in an open and transparent manner and actively engaging with members of the community. 

NATO’s record on communications in Afghanistan is widely regarded as less than impressive. Only a couple of weeks ago, I attended a talk where a senior British military officer confirmed that viewpoint.

A conference in Lisbon last year suggests things might be changing, but Brouns nevertheless identifies two major obstacles that need to be overcome. First, a lack of coherent policy and second, a fear of "relinquishing control":

"The decentralized, interactive, dialogue-rich and sometimes chaotic aspects of the New Media Landscape defy control, and are completely anathema to traditional, hierarchical systems of control favored by the military…We need to acknowledge, however, that the world has moved on. We have already lost control as the conversation continues – to a great extent without our involvement."

Brouns undoubtedly has a struggle on his hands both within NATO and in the "information market".