Thursday, March 25, 2010

Influencing Your Troops’ Mindset – A PSYOP of Sorts

My military service includes stints in Viet Nam and Bosnia. While in Bosnia during 97-98 I had the good fortune of being stationed at the NATO HQ in Sarajevo. However, in the course of my duties I did travel to the other Multi-National Districts (MND). The American base at Tuzla was particularly intriguing to me in its contradictions.

While everyone had to carry their personal weapon everywhere they went to include clearing the weapon before entering every building, there were quite a few amenities to offer a view of the US in Bosnia. As I recall these may have included a Baskin Robins ice cream store and a Burger King.

On Wednesday, March 24, the Washington Post ran a story about General McChrystal ordering the closing of many of the American lifestyle businesses at the Kandahar, Afghanistan Airfield. These included TGI Fridays (which doesn’t serve alcohol – that also being banded by McCrystal), Burger King, Coldstone Ice Cream and Subway.
While ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) members will likely grumble, this strikes me as the right thing to do on several levels. First of all, while I have never been to Afghanistan, it seems to me that anyone who is there has to stay focused on their mission and have their street sense on all the time. Secondly we have repeatedly stated that it is not our intent to remain in the country as occupiers and the high visibility of uniquely American institutions is bound to raise eyebrows. Third, interaction with local shop keepers and restaurants (even if they are on military bases) is a very comfortable and easy way to learn about the culture of the country.

Clearly General McChrystal doesn’t need an old retired guy to tell him well done, but in this case I’m delighted to do so.

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