Tough Sell

Tough Sell

Fighting the Media War in Iraq

Tom Basile
Foreword by John R. Bolton

320 pages


May 2017


$32.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Like the War on Terror, the Media War rages on. More than ever, America’s ability to fight and win against ISIS requires that we understand how best to communicate about war in the digital age. Tom Basile takes readers behind the scenes during his time as a civilian advisor in Iraq during the Iraq War, describing his mission and the struggle to communicate about the war as it became more deadly and less popular at home.

The U.S.-led coalition wasn’t merely engaged in a fight to build a more tolerant, participatory society against incredible odds. It was also in a constant clash with forces that influenced public perception about the mission. During those difficult years, it became clear that warfare was now, more than ever, a blend of policy, politics, and the business of journalism.

Basile critiques the media’s reporting and assesses the Bush administration’s home-front communications strategy to argue that if policymakers fail to effectively articulate their strategy, manage their message, and counter misinformation, they will find themselves unable to execute that policy. That, Basile argues, places the United States at great risk. Tough Sell blends Basile’s personal story with lessons from the media war in Iraq that can improve our ability to communicate about and prosecute the War on Terror.

Author Bio

Tom Basile is a Forbes opinion contributor, national political commentator, radio host, a faculty member of Fordham University, and principal of the New York–based strategic communications firm Empire Solutions. He has served in government at the local, state, and federal levels. Basile is a former Bush administration appointee and served as senior press advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004, for which he received the Joint Civilian Service Commendation Medal. John R. Bolton is a diplomat, lawyer, and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. He also served as assistant U.S. attorney general under Ronald Reagan.


"Basile's conceptual discussion about everything from strategic communication to ground realities make the book worth reading. . . . Tough Sell is highly recommended."—Parameters

"An engrossing account."—Kirkus

"This book masterfully blends military history with politics and media studies, thus representing the truly multifaceted nature of warfare in the twenty-first century."—Foreword

"A fitting contribution to a field needing balance."—Kevin Swift, American Journalism: A Media History Journal

“This fair, honest, and intensely personal story should inform journalists, policymakers, and the public as we make tough decisions in the fight against ISIS.”—Dr. Bob Arnot, New York Times bestselling author and former NBC News foreign correspondent

Tough Sell is a must-read for students of conflict, practitioners of war, and a public eager to understand what is really at stake as we continue forward in a multidecade struggle against radical Islamic terror.”—Gary Berntsen, former senior CIA operations officer and station chief and the New York Times bestselling author of Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda

“This candid and engrossing first-person account of communications and media relations in the early days of the occupation in Iraq is full of lessons for ongoing conflicts today.”—Max Angerholzer III, president and CEO, Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress

“It’s the war in Iraq like you’ve never seen it before. A must-read for truth seekers about the courage, progress, and challenges we faced, and still do, to prevent media bias from dictating our foreign policy.”—Jerry Doyle, nationally syndicated radio host and author of Have You Seen My Country Lately? America’s Wake-Up Call

Tough Sell gives readers his unique insight into forging the delicate balance between winning wars and informing the public about realities on the ground in foreign conflicts. . . . Basile’s perspective will become a classic and help readers understand the dangerous politicizing of foreign policy coverage by today’s media. It is an easy and necessary read that uses media coverage of the Iraq war to help Americans select better sources of information and make their own judgments about critical policy issues.”—Walid Phares, author of The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid and Fox News national security and foreign policy contributor

Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations



In the Shadow of the Tyrant

Learning Curve

The Face of Evil

The Civilian and the Soldier

Social Mecca

Driving the Message

New Voices

What Bleeds Leads


Reality Check

Burnt Orange




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