Alongside its huge military effort, the nation that invented public relations is now investing much thought in the media shaping of "Operation Iraqi Freedom." It also invented the smart bomb, the spin and the logo and it has reason to believe victory will come not only on the battlefield. Victory will be determined, to a large extent, on America's ability to sell the war to the world.
This week, a large U.S. consultancy firm sent a letter to its clients, including the administration, stressing the need to create an emotional link between the "product" of the war and the "consumer public" in the United States and around the world. And indeed, while the New World strives for victory in the cradle of the ancient one, a global power struggle between truth and image is being waged.
In keeping with the well-known theory, perhaps the wars of the 21st century have truly begun with a clash of cultures; but in the meantime, we are witnessing a significant paradox in the American culture: Image has always been one of deciding factors.
On one hand, no other war has ever been so exposed to the media; on the other hand, for example, the U.S. administration has asked the media not to air pictures of American POWs and fatalities in Iraq. The request was heeded in a country in which the Vietnam conflict saw the horrors of war start to filter through the television sets.
There is something disturbing in the administration's ability to create such concealment. It wouldn't be possible in Israel. America wants to shape history while writing it. Despite the hundreds of journalists in Iraq, the White House and the Pentagon have conjured up a war fog. But the question is not whether in battle, it is also permissible to bombard with lies; the real question is whether a broader American lie is in the making - a lie that America is telling itself about a peace-for-Iraq war, and one that will leave its mark on the efforts to manage the region in its aftermath.
Since World War II, the United States has recorded a number of impressive and unexpected achievements in establishing a new world order - in devastated Europe and Japan - and in such a manner, it helped bring about the fall of the communist empire and to shepherd its offshoots into line for a place in the European Union and NATO.
It failed, however, in its attempts to shape South East Asia. Neither was its splendor evident in the dictates it tried, sometimes successfully, to impose on regimes in Latin America. With the help of the CIA, the United States played a key role some 30 years ago in the toppling and murder of Salvador Allende, Chile's elected socialist leader, and it is still linked to indecent regimes.
Saddam's regime is no less corrupt and cruel. But America has yet to furnish proof for a single one of the pretexts that added to its determination to be rid of it. Neither has this past week - with American forces bombarding and sweeping through Iraq - provided evidence of those weapons that were presented from the outset as the reason for a just war of salvation.
These doubts about the righteousness of America's action do not stem only from the realm of international morality; they touch on the U.S's political behavior following the war. To what extent will the United States then choose image over a fair and daring handling of the ills of the region? And can a creative public relations approach cope with a cruel reality in a region in which hatred for America is likely only to increase?
The doubts gnaw away even before it is known how America will emerge from the last battle over fortified Baghdad. It is unclear to what degree American integrity will reign when the inferno dies down, to be able to turn a war of choice into an efficient tool for amending the face of the region.
But this we know for certain: Over the past two years, and under conditions convenient for Washington, President Bush has not exhibited even an inkling of the enthusiasm for peace-making as he has mustered for declaring war. What held the president back? All said, despicable but distant Iraq wasn't an obstacle for the U.S. administration had it truly wanted to work toward settling the conflict between ourselves and the neighboring nation.