NATO finally ready to use YouTube...
Finally, we're about to use modern techniques to fight this war....
The classified video that is about to change the way NATO reveals itself to the world was aired secretly to a select group of military brass one month ago.
The clandestine clip, shot from a top-secret military platform, shows a Taliban fighter with an AK-47 over his shoulder.
Just before he rounds a corner and prepares to open fire against NATO soldiers, the man reaches into his backpack, pulls out a burqa and disappears under the head-to-foot robe, instantly transforming himself into another faceless woman in the Afghan crowd.
Senior NATO spokesperson James Appathurai was in the room when the footage was shown to headquarters staff in Brussels.
The Toronto-born public affairs specialist, envisioning a YouTube coup, asked for permission to release the video immediately.
Permission denied. It is classified, after all.
Fast forward less than a month, and the frustration of working within the confines of Cold War-era caution no longer shows on Appathurai's face. Weeks of intense internal debate sparked by the video in question has led to a sea-change in NATO's entire approach to public diplomacy, with the order for wholesale change coming now from the very top – Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
Scheffer crystallized the change in a major speech last week that itself passed below the public radar.
Addressing a Copenhagen gathering of insider delegates, including a sizeable contingent from Canada, he said NATO is "frankly in the Stone Age" when it comes to many aspects of public diplomacy.
"When there is an incident in Afghanistan, the Taliban are quick to say there have been high numbers of civilian casualties. The wires pick it up, then the TV stations, then the Web," Scheffer said. But by the time NATO has investigated, checked the results and passed the information through its approval system, "our response comes days later – if we are lucky. By that time, we have totally lost the media battle."
Scheffer also faulted commanders for tending to deal only with reporters from their own countries.
"The result? The population of Canada thinks Canadian soldiers are fighting alone. So do the British and the Dutch. That undermines solidarity, diminishes the multilateral nature of the operation and makes it harder to sustain," he said.
"Canadians need to see Danish soldiers in the south, and Romanians and Poles as well as Dutch and British and Estonians and Americans."