Monday, August 2, 2010

You Can Only Win If You Know What Game You Are Playing

A quote about Viet Nam attributed to President Lyndon Johnson caught my eye this morning “"I can't win, and I can't get out." (see the August 1, 2010 issue of the Beast @ Photo source is the same.

The author, Leslie H. Gelb, director of the Pentagon Papers project, argues that President Obama should take heed of the quote and learn from it because he is in the same boat with regard to Afghanistan.

If you don’t know where you are going you surely do not know how to get there. The Obama policy in Afghanistan is still not clear. The ‘doves’ epitomized by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, are pushing for a fast pace of withdrawal in line with the President’s previously announced deadline. Others in the Administration, such as Secretary Gates, have different views.

This leaves influence operations (PSYOP, MISO take your pick) in a very precarious position because a lack of an accepted and cohesive strategy clouds the nature of tactical missions. Troops on the ground need clear mission statements and goals. As the banter between @Salil and myself has shown over the past few weeks, there is a very significant gap between the lofty goals, strategies and policies at the top and the job of the solider on the ground.

The President and the Chain of Command owe us clear Commander’s Guidance. What is the goal in Afghanistan? At best we can only alter the conditions there a small bit. We cannot build a primordial state into a 21st Century democracy. We must respect the culture and the religious structure because it is their country after all.

If the goal is rooting out insurgency, we must be mindful that most of the fighters are Afghans and will be there after we leave. In the meanwhile the dedicated men and women of the PSYOP Community will have the day to day job of working with the Afghani people and facilitating the secure environment needed to help them build worthwhile and satisfying lives within their own cultural sphere and without violence to others.

If Admiral Olson’s pledge to re-cast influence operations on all levels is to be fulfilled it must be resourced and start now!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should check out a recent Time magazine article:,8599,1895496,00.html