All it took was to expose raw battlefield intelligence and let the facts speak for themselves. The release of the contents of captured FARC computers has forced Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez on the defensive and deliver an astonishing propaganda blow to the narcoguerrillas whom he has been backing.
The sweet results came in yesterday, when Chavez unexpectedly caved under international pressure and publicly gave the FARC a propagandistic heave-ho. Here's the point: Hugo Chavez can be pressured to sell out his friends! His comments are an enormous psychological blow to the 44 year-old guerrilla movement, which through various means has lost several of its top leaders recently.
In an information operation that cost practically nothing, Colombia and its US ally has goaded Hugo Chavez has run a crippling PSYOP against the FARC that we could never do on our own. All we (or most probably, the Colombians who aren't as reticent as we are to release intelligence to fight a good international political warfare battle) had to do was quickly declassify the material and set it out for the world to see. The rest was up to international public opinion, including some great diplomatic work, to set up Chavez to deliver the message that we and the Colombians could not.
Chavez is not a brilliant strategist. To the contrary. It's easy to set him up. He's an egomaniac and a bigmouth. He's a tactician. He can be outmaneuvered. And so it was proven in this case. This is an important lesson for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
Here's the astonishing story, as reported from Medellin on June 10 by London's Daily Telegraph:
The Venezuelan president said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia [FARC] were "history", and called on them to release their hostages and end a decades-long war with the government.
"Enough of so much war, it is time to sit down and talk of peace," he said. "The guerrilla has passed into history.
"You in the FARC should know something: You have become an excuse for the empire to threaten all of us," he said, referring to the United States. "The day that peace arrives in Colombia, the empire will have no excuses."
He directly addressed the organisation's leader, Alfonso Cano, to tell him to release their hostages "in exchange for nothing".
The comments were a complete change of tack for Mr Chavez, who earlier this year asked the European Union to take the FARC off its list of terrorist organisations and recognise it as a legitimate guerrilla army. . . .
What might have prompted the change in heart are the contents of computers seized from guerrilla camp bombed in March by the Colombian air force in Ecuador.
Colombia troops violated Ecuadorean sovereignty to carry out the bombing raid, but killed the FARCs top commander, "Raul Reyes", and seized his corpse and three computers.
They allegedly contain proof that Mr Chavez gave the FARC $300 million and was exploring the possibilities of supplying them with weapons.
Hawks in Washington have already called for Venezuela to be added to the list of nations that sponsor terrorism, on which Mr Chavez's close allies Cuba and Iran lurk. . . . Officially accusing Mr Chavez of supporting the FARC could involve applying economic sanctions, including a ban on dealing with Venezuelan companies, as is the case with Cuba. . . .
Mr Chavez comments are just the latest in a series of setback that have the FARC reeling and put them in their most vulnerable position in 44 years of fighting.
Chavez further validates this blogger's long-held view that the US and its allies release as much raw battlefield intelligence as possible to the public, in order to expose their enemies, turn the propaganda tide, and put the bad guys on the defensive. As much for the Islamist enemy as for the FARC and others. I argued this last year in Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War.
Such an information warfare tactic helps the good guys win while saving lives and shortening the conflict.
Only a fool would think that Chavez will actually cut off the FARC completely. For now, that's almost beside the point; we must assume he will continue and we must continue to expose him. What our side must do now, though, is to pocket a pivotal political victory and drive that psychological stake through the hearts of the FARC and its ideological supporters around the world: Hugo Chavez has abandoned them, sold them out, and called them a threat to the progressive movement. The FARC is shaken. It's time to break the organization's will to fight, and then break its will to become a political force.