Tuesday, November 11, 2008

PSYOP and Obama’s New Approach to Afghanistan

First of all to my fellow veterans, thank you. Take a bit of time today, Veteran’s Day to reflect on how we all have helped make this country a bit more secure and a better place.

There can be no doubt that the man who beat Hillary Clinton (I think defeating McCain/Palin was a cakewalk in comparison) and who has decided to get a pound puppy instead of a pedigree for his children will bring a new perspective on information engagement across the board. President-elect Obama’s management of his own election and his exploitation of the Internet should leave no doubt that the potential to finally harness the power of information in pursuing USG goals is finally at hand.

While it is unreasonable to expect a wholesale change of personnel in DoD, the new administration will bring a new perspective and hopefully wrangle the USG internecine departmental battles over strategic communications, public affairs and information engagement in general into a cohesive and synergistic effort.

Having said that, it seems to me that the most likely place to start is Afghanistan. Today’s Washington Post featured an article: “Obama to Explore New Approach in Afghanistan War” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/11/10/AR2008111002897.html?wpisrc=newsletter&sid=ST2008111100889&s_pos=) buried in that article are two paragraphs I believe are worth a second look:

“At the White House, presidential adviser Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute is leading an interagency assessment of the Afghanistan war, scheduled to be finished this month, that administration officials said will focus on enhancing support for provincial and local governments and building the Afghan police. Lute plans to travel to Brussels to summarize the review for NATO.”

“At the Pentagon, Mullen is overseeing an Afghanistan and Pakistan transition strategy and force-structure review by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former Iraq commander sworn in last month as head of the U.S. Central Command, is drawing up plans for his wider new responsibilities, which include Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The first paragraph calls for “support for provincial and local governments and building the Afghan police”. These tasks will require increased PSYOP and CA efforts. Outside major cities in Afghanistan these efforts will be grass roots efforts building trust in these institutions, publicizing their successes and encouraging popular support. Likely this will require an increase in CA and PSYOP resources – given today’s optempo where will they come from? This type of effort should also harness resources from Department of Justice to strengthen not just the police force, but the judicial system behind it.

The second paragraph alludes to the fact the Gen Petraeus is no doubt considering how he will work with his new Commander-in-Chief. It’s my feeling that Gen Petraeus and President-elect Obama will likely have far more intellectually in common than President Bush does with the general. Consequently, this is an opportune time for Gen Petraeus to push for a more ambitious information engagement plan – one that is more inclusive of new resources to include support by cabinet offices beyond DoD and Department of State.

In any event, I believe that the new President will bring a level of intellectual rigor to the Whitehouse that it hasn’t seen in quite some time and that this will hopefully benefit the PSYOP Community.

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