President Obama appears to be carrying through on his promise of ‘ending the war’. He recently announced that the combat mission in Iraq will be over by 2010 (see http://www.military.com/news/article/February-2009/obama-sets-august-2010-for-iraq-withdrawl.html among others). Commanders have announced that a drawdown of forces will start this year, assuming that the level of security in Iraq allows it.
(Photo: Courtesy the Whitehouse: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/02/27/Responsibly-Ending-the-War-in-Iraq/)
The President made a number of key points in his 27 February speech at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina:
“This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.”
“Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.”
“After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country.”
There is no specific mention of support of an Iraqi journalistic infrastructure, nor are there comments on the future of military information engagement as this transformation unfolds over the next few years. Clearly there is no indication of how State Department Public Diplomacy would ramp up as military capabilities ramp down.
I believe this is likely to be a critical fault of the overall exit strategy and perhaps a negative indication of President Obama’s ability to synergize all of his tools of statecraft simultaneously.
Unfortunately a ramp down in Iraq has been accompanied by a ramp up in Afghanistan, the demand for PSYOP has gone up, the supply however, has not. This is very likely to mean a temptation to draw down the information engagement resources in Iraq and transfer them to Afghanistan or the theater dejure.
The Administration and DOD must recognize that the information engagement does not end because the combat forces leave, nor does it necessarily change direction because the mission has moved from combat to ‘supporting’.
Information engagement, like sales and marketing is a continuous process. This process must be focused and resourced until the desired behavioral objectives have been achieved.
It is possible that DOD has or is developing a strategy to replace military information engagement with contractor resources, however, this hasn’t been made clear nor has there been a major increase in recruiting of PSYOP personnel leaving the military by contractors. While a contractor resource may be able to do the job, one wonders if private industry is the right party to do so. The President has pushed an agenda of engagement and transparency – transitioning from those who serve because they want to, to those who serve because, while they may be no less dedicated than those in uniform, are not graded by an OER, but at the end of the day – by profits may not be the best course of action at this point in time.