Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jiminy Cricket in the Form of a Non Government Organization

As many of you may remember, Jiminy Cricket was Pinocchio’s conscience. He helped to coach the puppet to be truthful so that the puppet’s dream of turning into a ‘real boy’ could be realized.

Today’s Washington Post featured an article entitled: “Obama says U.S. is ‘on track’ to achieve goals in Afghanistan” (see The President claims that the US is making progress, but as he noted "the gains we've made are fragile and reversible.". The President added …..Taliban momentum has been "arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain fragile and reversible,"

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The impression of this rather strategic communication was to convey a positive view of where we are in Afghanistan. The target audience was of course beyond those fortunate enough to be at the White House. The target audience is world opinion.

When I see statements like this I become quite skeptical and while I have never been to Afghanistan, I have spoken to many who have been there, and my impression is that Afghanistan is a feudal state that has resisted centralized control of any type – whether driven by Afghanis or by outsiders for centuries. It didn’t seem quite right to me that we are succeeding were so many others have failed. So I dug a bit deeper.

Interestingly, another seemingly innocuous article popped up on my radar screen. The NY Times reported on 15 December 2010: “For Red Cross, Aid Conditions Hit New Low in Afghanistan” (see
The article quotes the Reto Stocker, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (a non-government organization with HQ in Switzerland): “By every measure that the Red Cross tracks, the situation has worsened throughout the country for civilian casualties, internal displacement and health care access and all of it is “against the background of a proliferation of armed actors,”.

Who is a reasonable person to believe? The President of the United States, a duly elected former Chicago politician or one of the world’s leading charities?

The point of this post is not to argue who to believe, but to point out that today’s information battlefield is a dynamic one where neutrals and friendlies can mute the impact of even the most carefully orchestrated campaign and where it is impossible to color bad news as good in the 21st century.

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