Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Palestinian Polarity: Implications for Afghanistan and Beyond

The December 14, 2009 Washington Post featured an article: “The Palestinians' opposite poles.” (

The article describes how two men grew up in the same refugee camp in Gaza. One ended up moving to the West Bank while the other remained in Gaza. The article goes on to describe how the man in the West Bank was able to begin a business and how his son will be going to college in Cyprus to study film making while the other’s son is studying in al-Quds University and has no idea as to his future.

It would seem that the purpose of the article was to show how these two men and their children were affected by the move and to highlight the growing dichotomy between the two Palestinian factions and areas.

To me there are some interesting lessons to be learned here. First of all, age old conflicts can take generations before there is even the slightest amount of movement towards resolution. Secondly, the soundest way to strengthen a society is from the bottom up starting with the family unit. The basis of the strength comes from insuring the basics of being able to live a life where there is security and stability, but more importantly, where there are bright possibilities in the future.

The ability for the children of the original Gaza refugees to seek out and obtain education beyond their own country where they are able to learn skills and nurture their talents to benefit their people is a key differentiator. Where squalor and hopelessness prevail, there is an incentive to lash out against real or perceived oppressors.

The parallel to Afghanistan is clear. The Taliban have succeeded in permeating the society and supplanting the government. They have done this on a village by village basis and they have done so over many years.

The ‘new’ US strategy is aimed at dislodging the Taliban because the Taliban provide safe haven to Al Qaeda and our other enemies. Given the number of villages and the time and treasure needed to establish their security and stability – I’m not optimistic.

In the meanwhile it will be up to the tactical PSYOP soldier, buttressed by efforts of local, regional and high level PAOs to constantly paint the positive picture envisioned under a non-Taliban (but not necessarily purely democratic) government. PSYOP and its allied disciplines must constantly strive to publicize ‘good examples’.

PSYOP will also have to be ever watchful for inevitable screw up where injuries or deaths to the civilian population are attributed to the International Security Assistance Force, (ISAF) so as to minimize the negative impact of these incidents and enemy propaganda. Neither of these are easy tasks nor will they be made easier by the surge. President Obama and his key leaders need to be ready to re-evaluate their ‘new’ approach early in the game and often to properly respond as the situation evolves.

No comments: