Monday, December 6, 2010
Iraq: Post War Proves More Difficult Than The War
The US has already downsized its efforts and removed ‘combat’ forces from Iraq. Conceptually the departure of US combat forces was supposed to signal a new era of self-sufficiency, security and prosperity for Iraq and is people. The new era part may be true, but the rest of it is clearly in doubt.
Photo Source: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/
While the world watches new hot spots like Korea, continually festering ones like Afghanistan while trying to digest supposed revelations over Wikileaks , US forces are still preparing to deploy to Iraq where the number of troops hovers around 50,000 -- PSYOP (Military Information Support) personnel are among them.
I believe the MISO job in Iraq will be more difficult that it was support tactical combat operations and I believe it will be even more nuanced that the Afghanistan mission. MISO works best when it is based on truth and where there is some leverage in the mind of the intended audience. Information support of any kind cannot fix underlying problems. It can help to highlight achievements and can accentuate positive while reducing the negative, but it cannot alleviate underlying problems.
There are four critical problems that need to be addressed by the US and our allies so that the Iraqi people at least have a fair chance to establish a stable and prosperous environment. Here are the issues as I seem them (not necessarily in order).
1. Dreadful Economy
Unemployment in Iraq is reportedly high and there has been no influx of new opportunities to give Iraqi’s jobs. Unemployment is exacerbated by the fact that many Iraqi’s were dependent on US forces or contractors to US forces for their jobs and these sources have dried up as well.
2. Governmental Impotence
The Iraqi federal government is still in political tatters and appears unable to address the needs of the population (electrical power likely still being a big issue). Regional and local governments are likely to be no better off.
3. Increased Secular Conflict
Sunni, Shia and others seem to be in a state of turmoil fanned by insiders and outsiders.
4. Outside Influence
There appears to be undue influence by outsiders, especially Iran who delights in seeing a weak government. The security vacuum has also reopened the door for foreign ‘fighters’ to return and foster havoc as well.
In my view there are a couple of keys to success that must be explored even in the face of these four significant challenges. First of all, the US needs to insure dominance over the TV airwaves inside Iraq. This means developing on-going and mutually beneficial relationships with local and regional TV broadcasters. These relationships might include sharing of advanced journalistic techniques and technology (which ought to be spear headed by the Public Affairs Office) and spreading around of advertising dollars.
Secondly, credible spokes people need to be recruited and nurtured. There is no shortage of physical danger in Iraq, but there always seems to be a small core of people willing to stand-up for their beliefs. These are valuable resources and must be guarded and protected.
Third, if ever there was a time for the other Cabinet Departments to pitch in, it is now. State needs to insure that there is no shortage of coordinated public diplomacy, while Treasury, Commerce and Agriculture along with DHS need to provide their expertise to help Iraq regain its national strength.
NATO and other allies should be doing their fair share. Fair share here can mean economic support as well as military boots on the ground.
Finally the President and his advisers need to afford the Iraqi AO the priority it deserves to preserve the hard hardened gains and investment in blood and treasure we have already made.