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Rob Thornton
02-06-2008, 02:10 PM
It may have been said before, but the guy who said it so it clicked with me was Dave Kilcullen at the Quantico pitch he said (paraphrased because it was a few months back) -"We must match our actions to our narrative, not go back and change the narrative to match our actions". This came up again recently at the SWC non-virtual get together with Jack Holt, and later in a conversation with a senior leader.

This goes to the idea that there is an "Information Component" to every operation - lethal or non-lethal. It may be a message we want to send, or it may be a message we did not intend to send - but never the less, there it is. Further the messages that go forward may influence different audiences in different ways, and may even send very different messages beyond the intended audiences. Even something that like how we use media can be considered - ex. when LTG Caldwell put up a blog here - what were the responses around the "Blogosphere"? What messages does that send? What are the messages we receive when we don't see other senior leaders doing likewise? In some cases, even no message at all still sends a message.

At the strategic level it would seem there is more thought of how the use of the elements of national power send messages - the questions would at least seem to be asked. If the Israelis hit a target in Syria that would "appear" to be the beginning of a nuclear effort - then the action would seem to match at least one narrative - "we will take action against any threat to our survival". I say "appear" because I think part of the challenge we have is not only understanding our own narrative, but the narratives of others we inter act with. It may only be that at the strategic level it is sometimes easier to link the narrative and the action when the actions are "in bold" and stand out for a number of reasons.

However, what about the numerous actions that take place at the tactical level? Its harder - its like being at a large party where everyone is discussing things in terms that often sound very similar, however - the use of those terms and the context of those terms my be very different. Occasionally there is a different tone that stands out - and for one reason or another, that is the voice that is heard above others. The understanding by others of what that voice is saying is effected by not only the conversation the individual was having, but by the proximate conversations around between the listener and the voice that stood out.

Often when we discuss a "narrative" at the tactical level, we think of "talking points", things to say to the media, things not to talk about, things not to put on a hand-bill, or on some other media, or things like that - it seems reactive. I don't think we think in terms of all of our actions in terms of matching our narrative -of synchronizing our lethal and non-lethal actions at the tactical level to support a tactical narrative that is nested with an operational and strategic one. We do pursue Objectives & Endstates, Task and Purpose, and CDR's Intent - but I'm not sure these lead to matching our actions to the narrative we'd like to be heard and understood. Instead, I think our actions are often abandoned to interpretation - sort of hanging outside the narrative to be picked up and placed within the context either the listener chooses, or a third party who wishes to use our actions to reinforce their narrative.

I'm not sure its possible to match all our actions with a narrative - war is full of fog, friction and chance - #### happens - targets are going to misidentified, confusion about what a particular event means, or just the very nature of warfare at the tactical level where sooner or later combatants are going to try and kill each other at a time and place that is advantageous to them -and anyone else who gets caught in the middle is often seen as unfortunate, but necessary, or as someone that chose the wrong side - can mean that the narrative gets subsumed for the moment.

However, can we do better at those actions that are planned? At certain levels where we at least appear to control the tempo, can we better match our actions to our narrative? How do we train that at the tactical level (2 stars HQs and below)? How do we train the Commanders and Staffs who generate orders and synchronize resources to consider and integrate the information component of all of our operations - so that where possible our actions, at least more closely match our narrative? How do we identify the narrative - no matter what we decide (or have decided) to call it - and then communicate vertically and horizontally - not only to our forces, but to our enemies, our friends, and the many, many others caught in the middle, but who may have more weight in determining the outcome then any of the former? Iím not trying to repackage something we all know by another name - I am trying to consider something I think we do know as one thing, but maybe have not thought about in ways we may not have considered.

We often say this is a war of ideas, and I think we often have an appreciation for the information component after something happens - which leads us to either explaining our action(s) - could be to take advantage of that action, or it could be to mitigate the damage done by that action(s), but I don't think we give too much thought to considering the effects on the narrative when we plan the action, or before committing the action. Part of this gets back to LTG Caldwell's comment about providing the soldier (used to represent all of those whose actions effect the narrative) the tools and training (and I think we could also include education here) to not only avoid actions which detract from the narrative, but enhance it!

SWC Member Jack Holt said a couple of things Monday night I think we need to acknowledge. First is that the enemy is using his narrative in ways we dn't fully understand and to greater effect then we are, and that if we are going to beat him in this area - which ultimately may prove more important then any other area of the battlefield since it gets to the heart of our Will, and the Will of those we wish to attract and retain, and because in our system our Will effects our Means - which even for us, are not infinite. The second is that the generation of Americans coming into service has an expectation of freedom of speech and the means they pursue it that has been influenced by the technology and cultures we've seen evolve with the improvements in Information technologies. You can't stick you head in the sand and believe its a problem with a solution - its a condition - there is a big difference.

The sad part about the latter is we grow some of the best natural communicators here in the United States - we also grow many of the world's best ideas from our values and culture that are attractive - and attainable - but we don't get them out. We have the means to do so, but lack the understanding of the significance of inaction, and as such allow the unattractive and unattainable messages that come from the darker side of capitalism - Baywatch blondes, rampant materialism on reality T.V. and other shows, etc. While we know that this is only one aspect of who we are, we leave the rest of the world to place what comes over their satellite T.V., through the Internet and across their cell phones to form the context of our narrative.

Often, the first real American that someone in a remote place will encounter will be wearing uniform - how will they interpret their actions within the narrative they have formed about us? Can we provide them a better narrative - our version? To do so means the actions must reinforce it. This is not restricted to non-lethal actions! Sometimes showing up and challenging someone like AQ by killing them or compelling them to move elsewhere is part of the narrative. There is a lethal component to information operations, and there is an information component to lethal operations. The same is true for non-lethal. I think "Full Spectrum" operations must include the Information domain - and being proficient and better then our enemies in this domain will not occur by ignoring it, or by making policies which restrict us from operating in it - all that does is create vacuum and opportunity for the enemy to operate unopposed - much like ceding the areas of population and concentrating of securing the MSRs for our own use - we've seen what happens when we do that.

Best Regards, Rob

marct
02-06-2008, 04:19 PM
Hi Rob,

That's the question, isn't it? Okay, let's take a swipe at it. First of all, let's split up the term "narrative" since it covers too much ground to be immediately useful.

Grand Narrative: a grand narrative (GN) is a general symbol system that defines and outlines basic components of life and has come to have the power to interpret all aspects of life for a group. Think religion, philosophy, scientific theories / paradigms, etc. In general you can effectively ignore grand narratives if your opponents use the same ones with the exception of providing alternate interpretations from the GN.

Core Narratives: generally applicable only to a culture or a society, these tend to be historical stories that answer the question "how did we get here?". The FM 3-24 example of the Boston Tea Party is an example of a part of a core narrative. In a few cases, e.g. civil wars inside a monocultural state (e.g. the US, England, etc.) or wars in a culture area (e.g. China), the core narratives will be the same or similar - again it's a case of providing interpretation rather than a new narrative.

Cultural Narratives: aka Folklore, Atrocity Tales, Wonder Tales, myths, etc. often deal with day to day ways of living in "reality", and this is where you have the hardest time in communicating different ones since the lived environment is radically different.

Okay, let's get back to your question. So, my first question is what is the mission? That decides, in part, what narratives you are trying to communicate. The "We are here to make you free" rapidly becomes "We are here to conquer you" when the lived reality of the situation is indistinguishable from cultural narratives of conquest. Let's take the "cordon and search" example from Iraq. You can keep your narrative going IFF you can keep your actions in line with expectations. So you can point out that in order to be "free" you have to isolate and destroy certain elements that are attempting to "enslave" the populace. This "pointing out" has to be done publicly and, also, has to be set up so that members of the local population can adjust it. The original form of C&S acted just like the SWOT teams shown on TV (at least in some areas); the latter form respected the sensibilities of the locals to some degree and got more buy in and better results.

If your message is "We are here to set you free", what does "free" mean in the local culture? It is quite different from "we are here to help you rebuild your country and make it stable".

Basically, at least at the tactical level, you have to know exactly what the mission is, know roughly how that is understood by the local populace, and then select actions that condition expectations.

Sorry to be so vague, but without a specific scenario, it is hard to be specific :wry:.

Marc

Rob Thornton
02-06-2008, 08:36 PM
select actions that condition expectations.

Marc - let me chew on that one awhile. How would you train it? Best, Rob

Rank amateur
02-06-2008, 11:01 PM
Marc - let me chew on that one awhile. How would you train it? Best, Rob

If you want people to trust you, promise something you know you can deliver: even if it's a volleyball net. Never promise anything you can't.

If you want people to fear you, (you can probably fill in the next part.)

If you want to establish order, don't leap up and down the chain of command (your chain, or their chain.) Address every issue orderly, by talking to the proper person, in the proper time frame, in an appropriate manner.

Don't intervene in local disputes - like who gets to keep the cow - unless you're prepared to adjudicate every dispute about cow ownership.

Don't hand out money, unless you know you'll be able to keep handing out money.

etc.

Rank amateur
02-06-2008, 11:58 PM
When the narrative is simple and emotionally powerful, it's easy. The classic example is World War II "Hitler is evil and needs to be killed." Everything the military did, from invading Normandy to ordering winter boots, was moving towards the goal of killing Hitler. Eventually, even the Germans came to accept our narrative. (Partially because our generals were smart enough to open up the concentration camps and make sure that the population saw the truth.)

I think Mark's paper had an excellent suggestion. If you find yourself without a strong narrative, or with a narrative that is not being accepted by the population, make up your own narrative in conjunction with the local population.

Understand that you can make up your own narrative without trying to or being aware of it. (When we occupied Saddam's palaces we sent out the message "the new boss is the same as the old boss," even if we didn't mean to. If you promise peace and quiet, and the Air Force practices strafing runs over the village, you are creating the narrative that the Americans are lairs, even if you have no control over the Air Force's decisions.)

Also, as an ad guy, I would strongly suggest that you are asking the wrong question. Marketers don't ask, "How can we sell more soap" even though their objective is obviously to sell more soap. They ask "How can we make soap that makes consumers better cleaner, healthier, etc." (Or "How can we convince them that our soap does that, even if it's just the same as the other brand of soap.") It's never about us. It's always about what our soap can do for our customers. (Even if we spread BS, it's BS that the customer wants to hear.)

If I add any value to the council, and it is certainly possible that I don't, it's these nine words "Our military sucks at understanding our enemies narrative." As an example, I would suggest that in Vietnam, given their history of being invaded by foreigners, that no matter what we did we would never be able to change their narrative. We'd always be perceived as the next in a long history of foreign invaders. But we kept insisting that by changing tactics we could win.

I think that in Iraq if we had left after getting rid of Saddam, a lot of people still would've been upset with us, but they would've needed to admit that we did what we said we were going to do.

On your next deployment you will probably find that there is no strong narrative for why you're there: at least not one that is accepted by the population. Understand the local narrative, and weave yourself into it. (If you don't understand what Saddam's palaces mean to the local population, you may weave yourself into it in a way that makes your life difficult.) I would suggest that your life will be much easier, and you'll be much more successful, if you avoid cultural narratives and try to create more of a business transaction narrative. For example, "Together we kicked AQI's butt." "Together we brought peace." "Only the Americans could cure the cancer of the tribal chief's son. The chief expressed his gratitude in the traditional way. We humbly accepted his gift. It was the start of a partnership."

So to answer your question succinctly. Make a simple narrative that most of the population supports. (Or even better,learn the narrative that your predecessor wove.) Make it simple. "I promised this village peace and quiet. They promised me they'd get rid of AQI." Make it clear to your troops that they can bomb a school if AQI is hiding in it, but that if they ever drive noisy tanks through the middle of town, they're going to make you look like a liar, and you'll make sure that they regret making you look like a liar.

Your troops may never be able to explain to their families why bombing a school was OK and driving tanks thorough the middle of town wasn't, but they'll do the right thing.

Even more succinctly: if you can train your troops to rush into the teeth of a near ambush, you can train them to do anything. You just need to be very clear about how to recognize a near ambush and how to respond.

Ken White
02-07-2008, 12:12 AM
You make some things more simple than they can ever be, as I suspect you know -- but your points are all right on. Clear, concise and germane. Good job.

Rank amateur
02-07-2008, 01:34 AM
Thanks. I appreciate it. (I've always felt that the more people that are involved, the simpler you need to make things.)

Jim Rodgers
02-07-2008, 02:09 AM
I want to chew this one over for a while, but think a few things are worth talking about right now.

I don't know that anything gets you to where you need to be other than accepting that Information Operations is a core war fighting function - then training, and perhaps organizing, accordingly. This goes for every level of command, down to the company level (and would probably require at least a full understanding at the platoon leader\commander level). If IO is a core function - then you're going to plan for it, synch it with your other functions, and perhaps even build around and take initiative with it.

We talk a lot about how important IO is, but I'm not sure how much it's really sunk in yet. At this point most everyone gets the importance of talking to the locals, but that instinct, though a prerequisite, isn't the end all. We're starting to staff for it at higher levels - but if something is an operating system\function for a division commander, than it probably should be for the company commander as well, at least in this kind of a fight.

I've been fairly surprised by how many very experienced officers had relatively little experience with PSYOPS, narratives\themes\talking points, etc. I just did a quick review of the drafts of the new 3-0 and 5-0. A doctrinal move in the right direction is the emphasis on "information engagement" (PSYOPs, roughly speaking) as something that belongs under scheme of maneuver, instead of buried down in Annex P, which is either deemphasized or eliminated all together. A small thing, perhaps, but train enough of the Captains who are going to be your junior commanders and assistant 3s on it, and it may start to spread through the force. Or maybe not. We'll see. I would have liked to have seen it explicitly included as one of the new Warfighting Functions (replaces the old Battlefield Operating Systems), but I suppose I'm splitting doctrinal hairs at this point.

Other things to think through are staffing. LTC\Dr. Kilcullen addressed in the 28 Articles the identification of a cultural advisor to, key point, shape the environment rather than analyze it. Maybe that could be formalized at the company level - we have ASI producing IO courses right now, and not just at Sill. Formalizing it too much could be counterproductive in terms of identifying the right personality, but it's something to consider.

A little bit of a rambling reply. I'll try and sort it out a little better and post back later.

William F. Owen
02-07-2008, 08:04 AM
Most peoples idea of a narrative is going to be based on what they observe, not what you tell them. Action is always louder than words.

The object has got to be, to do no more harm than is necessary. That means try not to do thinks than cause Unnecessary offence and when you do Have to cause offence, cause the minimum.

Things that cause offence are a great deal more cross-cultural than many like to believe. They make out that it is frightfully complicated to compensate for their own ignorance. My personal experience is that people only really get offended if you clearly don't care that you are causing offence. Dumb ignorant behaviour in Mississippi is dumb and ignorant in Mogadishu, or even Karachi. Obviously there are some exceptions, but generally I believe this holds true. What I learnt about polite behaviour at school in England has stood me in good stead all over the world.

As my wife points out, only hookers wear high heels with swim suits. If it looks good on stage in a bar, then it will probably bomb at a wedding or Bar-mitzvah. You don't need a 6 week PSYOPS course to learn this.

We all know that in most cultures it is considered it polite to remove foot wear when entering peoples houses, and to take off dark glasses when speaking to them. Pointing guns at women and kids, or people unlikely to be armed is also generally bad. Maybe we have to teach folks that? Maybe we have to consider normal behaviour subject to ROE?

Rob Thornton
02-07-2008, 01:00 PM
Some great posts - and I pretty much agree with all that has been said - but there is one thing that Marc T said that I think deserves some more thinking:


select actions that condition expectations.

What if we substituted "select" for "plan"? What if found a way to insert "reinforce" after "select"?

Part of this gets to understanding the potential effects your actions (and the various reactions and inter-actions of the other participants) have, and then detrmining if those were actually the effects you achieved. Not easy by any stretch in the conditions we're operating in. Each element - platoons, companies, BNs, BCTs, & higher echelons are going to have their own understanding of what reality is, and what effects their actions are generating. Overcoming bias at each level is key, but not easy.

More to chew on I guess.

Best to all, Rob

Rob Thornton
02-07-2008, 02:02 PM
are two terms we use to achieve things. I guess what I'm thinking about is how actions (and inactions) are often incongruent and achieve desparate effects on (the narrative). There is both a synchronization and communication piece to this. I think the tools are largely there - be they terms or staffs - the thing is how we use them - its not just what we look at, but how we look at it, and how we articulate it to the different pieces that are at work in this environment. Even in the best of circumstances - the ones where nobody is shooting at you - things that seem like they should be easy are often some of the most difficult - training reduces the friction.

We do planning an execution pretty good in one sense - we've incorporated planning and training into our training pretty well (at the BCT level and below), but our planning and training is primarily geared toward finite type events - a rotation of one flavor or another, and within that sharp, tactical operations - that is what MDMP is geared for. What may be needed is to adapt that thinking to something broader. I don't want to use the term "campaign" - but that word probably comes closer in terms of a limited linear description. I think this is as much a military organizational culture issue as it is anything else. Like I said, still lots to chew on.

Best, Rob

marct
02-07-2008, 02:47 PM
Hi Rob,


What if we substituted "select" for "plan"? What if found a way to insert "reinforce" after "select"?

You know, Wilf is absolutely right in saying that a lot of the basic actions are cross-cultural and not that hard; they just require a little thinking through. Also, another point that I should have made clear is that narratives are all about risk reduction and predictability, which was a point made by RA.

Maybe one way to get the training down would be to mix some "market research" with some "combat ops". Let's take an SOP for, say, a cordon and search; run a bunch of volunteers (both Americans as your control group and US supporters from the host nation) through it and get their reactions to it. Where it would diverge from the normal market research is that you would then start pulling apart their emotional response and their explanations / interpretations of what they were feeling and how they were understanding it.

It's really hard to select actions unless you know what the effects are and, all too often it seems to me, training (and research) concentrates solely on the physical effects of an action and leaves out the mental and emotional effects.

Marc

Eden
02-07-2008, 02:51 PM
Some honest questions from a guy who thinks you are on to something, but still doesn't quite get it.

1. I often hear it said that the enemy's narrative is 'better' than ours, that he is whipping us in the information war. Is that true, or is that just one of those truisms that people have come to accept? How is that measured? Who establishes and monitors the metrics? Or are we just using that as an excuse for our failures? My experience in Afghanistan is that Al-Qaida's and the Taliban's narratives were largely rejected by the natives. Suicide bombers and random violence were counter-productive within Afghanistan, though they may have played well elsewhere.

2. Is it possible to approach a place like Afghanistan with a single narrative? Can we develop a common narrative that is acceptable both to the Afghans, to our international partners, and the Great American Public? And our soldiers, by the way? Can we even develop a single narrative that is acceptable to the layered, nuanced, complex culture of Afghanistan? Again, my experience is that the indigenous peoples are not stupid. They understand our agenda; it's just that many segments reject while others are suspicious of our ability to sustain it.

3. If the answers to the above are no, do we strive to create alternate narratives tailored to different audiences? How do we wall these narratives off from each other so they don't leak to other audiences? Or do we just ignore certain audiences and accept the fact that they will reject our messages? Someone used an example about how WWII's narrative was simpler. True. Does that imply that diametrically opposed narratives can only be resolved through brute force, and that the 'softer' tools of information war are sometimes useless?

marct
02-07-2008, 02:54 PM
I just realized that I didn't finish where I started to go with Wilf's observation. Basically, the emotional reactions are close to universal, but he mental / interpretive reactions may, and probably will, be different. Again o the C&S example, North Americans are pretty much conditioned by SWOT narratives to recognize the "kick the doors down, secure the building / people" type of action, always "knowing" that they will be able to fight back latter in court. What would Iraqi's predict from the same action? Well, they have pretty much been taught that it means you are dead (under SH), that you will be shipped of to be tortured and humiliated (an AQ narrative, but definitionally in keeping with US actions [i.e. AQ defines those actions as "torture"]), and that you are being treated as "worthless" and with no "power" hence "dishonoured". The emotional reactions are similar, but the interpretations are different.

Marc

marct
02-07-2008, 03:07 PM
Hi Eden,


Some honest questions from a guy who thinks you are on to something, but still doesn't quite get it.

1. I often hear it said that the enemy's narrative is 'better' than ours, that he is whipping us in the information war. Is that true, or is that just one of those truisms that people have come to accept? How is that measured? Who establishes and monitors the metrics? Or are we just using that as an excuse for our failures? My experience in Afghanistan is that Al-Qaida's and the Taliban's narratives were largely rejected by the natives. Suicide bombers and random violence were counter-productive within Afghanistan, though they may have played well elsewhere.

Metrics are a tough one - we do have the techniques for getting them, but I have grave doubts about their validity in a war zone.


2. Is it possible to approach a place like Afghanistan with a single narrative? Can we develop a common narrative that is acceptable both to the Afghans, to our international partners, and the Great American Public? And our soldiers, by the way? Can we even develop a single narrative that is acceptable to the layered, nuanced, complex culture of Afghanistan? Again, my experience is that the indigenous peoples are not stupid. They understand our agenda; it's just that many segments reject while others are suspicious of our ability to sustain it.

In short, that would be a limited "yes" to all. Basically, you need to develop and deploy a grand narrative (see above). This was done in Afghanistan originally, but was pretty much displaced by the time of the 2003 Loya Jirga to a social narrative from the US. A really bad mistake that is slowly being fixed by co-creating a social narrative for Afghanistan.

The best option, in my opinion, is to assume that you will have to co-create a specific social narrative within a larger grand narrative. It's not really possible to go into an area with a pre-cut, one-size fits all narrative and assume it will work (well, you could but you would then have to be labelled as a Darwin Award winner due to shear stupidity).


3. If the answers to the above are no, do we strive to create alternate narratives tailored to different audiences? How do we wall these narratives off from each other so they don't leak to other audiences? Or do we just ignore certain audiences and accept the fact that they will reject our messages? Someone used an example about how WWII's narrative was simpler. True. Does that imply that diametrically opposed narratives can only be resolved through brute force, and that the 'softer' tools of information war are sometimes useless?

The short answer is that you can't wall off one audience from another and any attempts to do so will fail miserably. This isn't to say that your narrative won't change over time; of course it will. As to whether or not diametrically opposed narratives can only be resolved by force, I would have to say that force is one option for their resolution, but not the only one. In some cases, it is possible to create a shared narrative that will contain the resolution of the two - not simple mind you, but possible.

Marc

Rob Thornton
02-07-2008, 03:34 PM
Eden - I'm wrestling with some of the same questions - I'm also looking for answers - but realizing that the best we might do is to get some discussion going with some combined grey matter.

One of the best pieces of advice I got was from a guy named "Robbie Robertson" - he said "if you can't do anything else, try and follow the Golden Rule". It seems awfully simple, but he did say "try" I think because he realized that in some case it may not be possible. Is the "Golden Rule" with a "try" a broad enough narrative to encompass our actions, but still focused enough to provide direction? I don't know. I think you nail the challenges on the head by identifying the various interests that must be addressed - and managed. So while there is a developmental piece - it seems there are also implementation and management pieces.

I think RA has made mention of this many times (he is in marketing) - where people try and sell products, if they have the resources, or are smart - they first see if there is a market for that product. In some cases if your product is dependent on a supporting infrastructure, or supporting product - you may have to develop those things first - or you might be wasting your time. Somebody else may come along with a product (or message) that fits better, it may not need to have the infrastructure, or it may just be more appealing because the idea sells better the way its packaged, or because the salesman is better (or could just be better at making us and our product look worse). This is one area I think the enemy - broader then Afghanistan or Iraq - has an advantage and is able to leverage. This does not prevent him from being stupid occasionally and missing the mark - consider that it was not just our action in Iraq that created the opportunity - but the actions of others to include the enemy. The enemy promised one product, but once the wrapping was off there was no proof in advertising. We have also on occasion made this jump, although we may have done so unwittingly - we think the receiver of the message understands our actions the way we perceive them, but because of culture and disparate interests - the receive a different message. To make matters worse, we sometimes confuse ourselves.

Like you said, I don't think indigenous peoples - in fact they often are able to understand things better then we can, based on their perspective. However, everybody can suffer from bias - our perceptions are colored by who we are - many of these are subliminal. Some of the most telling indicators I've seen were when folks I know to be among the most rational of people - made statements that were only part in jest. Even people who have long exposure are colored by their experiences, their environment and their culture. So even if in a rational discussion about our agenda (or someone else's) they may not believe it. This requires physical demonstrations, often over a sustained period - shorter for some, longer for others. The interactions that take place among the audiences also matter - as well as their exposure to events outside the physical, but ones that are left open to interpretation.

This is where I think the enemy succeeds - he does not at first need to prove all that much - he just has to discredit us in our efforts. He has the advantage of the cultural home turf - complete with a kind of interior lines. He does not have to build much, sustain much, etc. We see this in our own political tactics - if you can't or don't want to write, introduce, pass or cooperate with the other party (or those within your own party) - just throw stones at the other guy's plan or campaign - further don't just attack the message, find ways to attack the messenger. It is politics. It is an economy of force operation - now when you must govern its a different story - but if your intent is to govern by force, to impose, then once you are in power - all you have to do is keep the other guy from removing you. This is where I think the enemy has the advantage - until he has to transition to governing - look at the Hell that was Fallujah when the enemy took over.

There is an element of human nature here - Marc could probably speak to it better - but it is timeless.

It still needs some thinking.

Best, Rob

Germ
03-22-2008, 05:55 PM
Hi Rob,

That's the question, isn't it? Okay, let's take a swipe at it. First of all, let's split up the term "narrative" since it covers too much ground to be immediately useful.

Grand Narrative: a grand narrative (GN) is a general symbol system that defines and outlines basic components of life and has come to have the power to interpret all aspects of life for a group. Think religion, philosophy, scientific theories / paradigms, etc. In general you can effectively ignore grand narratives if your opponents use the same ones with the exception of providing alternate interpretations from the GN.

Core Narratives: generally applicable only to a culture or a society, these tend to be historical stories that answer the question "how did we get here?". The FM 3-24 example of the Boston Tea Party is an example of a part of a core narrative. In a few cases, e.g. civil wars inside a monocultural state (e.g. the US, England, etc.) or wars in a culture area (e.g. China), the core narratives will be the same or similar - again it's a case of providing interpretation rather than a new narrative.

Cultural Narratives: aka Folklore, Atrocity Tales, Wonder Tales, myths, etc. often deal with day to day ways of living in "reality", and this is where you have the hardest time in communicating different ones since the lived environment is radically different.

Marc

If the Boston Tea Party excerpt of FM 3-24 is a part of a core narrative, how would you characterize FM 6-22 or MCWP 6-11 -- grand, core or cultural narrative?

marct
03-22-2008, 06:08 PM
Hi Germ,


If the Boston Tea Party excerpt of FM 3-24 is a part of a core narrative, how would you characterize FM 6-22 or MCWP 6-11 -- grand, core or cultural narrative?

First off, I'd have to know if you had a particular story in mind. Second, I'd have to read them with that type of analysis in mind :D (no time for that right now, I'm afraid).

Marc

Ken White
03-22-2008, 07:06 PM
If the Boston Tea Party excerpt of FM 3-24 is a part of a core narrative, how would you characterize FM 6-22 or MCWP 6-11 -- grand, core or cultural narrative?

Mythology? Cultural narrative? :D

Germ
03-22-2008, 11:12 PM
The two differ somewhat -- "Army Leadership" mixes narrative and theory, where "Leading Marines" is almost pure narrative. I didn't want to rush to a classification of my own, as I prefer an outside point of view. Is the narrative in either of these manuals clear and consistent? Would they be better documents if they strove to conform to one of the narrative models you described earlier?

Ken White
03-23-2008, 12:25 AM
both places, I'll simply say that in my view there's virtually no difference in practice with, if any difference, that of the Corps being slightly less tolerant of minor transgressions.

I'll leave the narrative construct definition to the scientific types...:wry:

Germ
03-23-2008, 12:41 AM
Since you were a professional in both services, this is a unique opportunity. Army leadership doctrine and Marine Corps leadership doctrine are night and day. You would have referred to FM 6-22's predecessor, FM 22-100. And you would probably have known MCWP 6-11 as FMFM 1-0. What do you think about the differences between the two? What did you do to employ either of them during your period of service?

Ken White
03-23-2008, 03:50 AM
FM 22-100 and FMFM 1-0. I retired in 1977 with 27 years -- did I mention that I was old? :D

Basically, I thought both were over done as in excessively lengthy and loaded with redundancy; the Army FM being the worst offender of the two on that score. The 1973 edition of 22-100 was one of the better editions, still 300 plus pages is, IMO, vast overkill. It ain't that hard...

My FMFM 1-0 days were back in the early 50s, so my recollection of it is beyond hazy but I do recall it as far more succinct and less redundant...:wry:

Sorry, guess I'm not much help. My perception is not that the leadership doctrine was vastly different in my day but that the leadership attitudes were slightly to vastly different and that was very much Command influenced and varied from time to time and place to place. The Corps took a slightly more distant / harsh / lofty / uncompromising view. I left the Corps in '53 but did work with them time and time again here and there from LeJeune to Dom Rep to Viet Nam and my belief is that there had been little change change from my time in until I retired from the Army in '77. Can't speak to the last 30 years about the Corps. There are advantages and disadvantages to the approaches of both organizations IMO. All in all, seems to me they pretty much balanced out.

Leadership is simply three things; know your job; do your job; and, very importantly, be fair.

Take care of the troops and they'll take care of the mission -- and taking care doesn't mean babying, it means making sure they have the tools, know how and do their jobs. :cool:

marct
03-23-2008, 01:57 PM
Hi Germ,


The two differ somewhat -- "Army Leadership" mixes narrative and theory, where "Leading Marines" is almost pure narrative. I didn't want to rush to a classification of my own, as I prefer an outside point of view. Is the narrative in either of these manuals clear and consistent? Would they be better documents if they strove to conform to one of the narrative models you described earlier?

Well, understand that I haven't read through them with that type of analysis in mind (that would take a week or so :wry:). There seems to be a bit of confusion about what "narrative" means. Unfortunately, how it is dealt with in FM 3-24 doesn't help at all. First off, "theory" is a special type or genre of "narrative". It uses what Dilthey called erkennen, i.e. it provides an "explanation" that is comprehensible to a particular audience via a particular logic.

The concept of "narrative", as it is used in FM 3-24, is much more limited and is used only to refer to what Dilthey called verstehen or "empathic understanding". Anthropologists, at least symbolic Anthropologists like me, tend to use the term "narrative" to include both of those types of understanding and then sub-categorize based on audience, logics, genre, etc.

Looking at the genre of Field Manuals in general, the first thing to do would be to analyze exactly what they are covering, which is pretty simple: they tend to codify idealized visions of some part of the occupational culture; they are "doctrine" in both the military and religious sense. As such, they may certainly be viewed as formalized Grand narratives of the occupation. But their formal status is often at odds with the informal narratives that have an often much more influential position in shaping how a group perceives reality.

For example, Clausewitz isn't part of the formal doctrine, but Vom Krieg is definitely a Grand Narrative at least in the US Army. The clues to look for in identifying it as such are in the generalized use of terminology associated with it - e.g. friction, centre of gravity, fog of war, etc. - and in the joking references made to "Saint Carl". If Field manuals are "doctrine" in the religious sense, then Vom Krieg is Holy Writ (along with Sun Tsu, Jomini and, maybe, a few others); doctrine changes, writ tends not to change.

Marc

Ron Humphrey
03-23-2008, 05:26 PM
but I'd like to throw something out there and see what comes of it. As Ken noted too often much of military writing is really overdone. By this I mean the same thing stated sixteen different ways with a few differences in vocabulary but in general presenting the same things. This may be effective in that it allows the reader several different ways of looking at the same thing and thus they are more likely to find something which reflects that which the themselves already believe to be the case. I think it may als be one of our greatest issues to overcome in trying to really address change in our perspective organizations. If you look at it on the outside it seems like what it really does is say what it wants to say without really requiring one to change their overall direction. Many of those here could probably bring out examples of how often revolutionary or even simply evolutionary ideas about how things should work have been sidetracked if not completely averted though a simple pick what you like approach at how to address doctrine.

(Here's where I really go out on a limb )

Narrative to me has always been about a general direction not really about any specific actions or guidelines. A common understanding if you would of Command Intent. Some of the other discussions have dealt with strategic policy or guidance and where it comes from and it is here where I think we really begin to work our way back to narrative and guidance through doctrine and /or manuals. What do you (the entities in question) believe your overall mission is. Then there must be a mutually accepted version of that what throughout all levels of the organization. Then such things as the hows and how much are determined and shared through release of materials such as manuals, directives, doctrine in general. Finally there is the perception and reception or rejection of said materials by those charged with it's implementation. How and if they receive it will determine what the end actions are in any given operation.

As long as a general direction that all parties can accept is found then it would seem that materials created along that vein will be more effective in sharing the overall vision and thus be more effective in the long run.

Of any organization out there one should probably accept the fact that defense is one area where the most undeniable need for being able to serve a purpose greater than oneself is not only recommended but in the end necessary to truly achieve the purpose for its existance.

I'll stop for now and give others a chance to straighten me out :wry:

Germ
03-23-2008, 08:46 PM
Can you give an example of overdone doctrine/narrative?
I think commander's intent is not the focus here. Commander's intent is about visualizing the execution and end state of a plan. It's explicit. The cultural narrative I'm referring to should form the basis for guiding principal when commander's intent doesn't fill the bill. It's about common beliefs, guiding values, what makes us tick. If we were computers, commander's intent would be a computer program. Cultural narrative would be a big chunk of the operating system that allows the computer program to run.

marct
03-23-2008, 08:56 PM
Hi Guys,

Well, Ron, I'm not going to jump on you - the term has been overused in my opinion :wry:.

Germ, let me toss out another distinction that may help with this oh so fuzzy term: formal and informal narratives. Formal narratives are projected by a culture into material/perceptual reality; think books, doctrine, public rituals, commercials, rules and regulations, etc. This is the type of "guidance" Ron is talking about. Informal narratives, which are often much "darker" and more powerful, are the stories and interpretations that are spread about, usually via oral culture.

Marc

Ron Humphrey
03-23-2008, 11:31 PM
Can you give an example of overdone doctrine/narrative?
I think commander's intent is not the focus here. Commander's intent is about visualizing the execution and end state of a plan. It's explicit. The cultural narrative I'm referring to should form the basis for guiding principal when commander's intent doesn't fill the bill. It's about common beliefs, guiding values, what makes us tick. If we were computers, commander's intent would be a computer program. Cultural narrative would be a big chunk of the operating system that allows the computer program to run.


This is one thing which I think constantly eludes the process of developing written guidance for operations. First yes as a soldier if I describe commanders intent it is as you say, however I would propose that when seeking to define the how too's and thus the basis for manuals, etc we need to go much deeper and actually think much more broadly about the who's and whats we are working with. Lets take religion for an example. Would you say that the narratives drive a given body of believers or the texts, or would it be easier to say that the texts more explicitly define the narratives.
We can go into example's if you would like but I would guess you know what I mean. Or in politics is there a greater following to an outcome or to a given set of talking points which are there to maintain a common (narrative) and what if anything defines what that narrative is.

I say all this to lead into where Marc speaks about informal narratives


Hi Guys,
Germ, let me toss out another distinction that may help with this oh so fuzzy term: formal and informal narratives. Formal narratives are projected by a culture into material/perceptual reality; think books, doctrine, public rituals, commercials, rules and regulations, etc. This is the type of "guidance" Ron is talking about. Informal narratives, which are often much "darker" and more powerful, are the stories and interpretations that are spread about, usually via oral culture.

Marc

Informal narratives such as those which reflect a direction for one's life or how to approach relationship's, what not to do in finance, literally stories which describe without detailing the ways forward carry much more weight in the real world than many would like to abmit. Tis may in large par be due to human nature in seeking the "easier" way to do things but personally I think it relates largely to our history and culture's. What if anything is language but a tool which offers more long lasting and definitive ways to express opinions, requirements, lessons, lifes mysteries to future generations. This doesn't change the necessity of having a guiding premise or standard (a narrative if you will).

If we try to separate the hows too's from the why's then it will constantly be a re-learning process. And when directions or instructions are provided without the context of why they are and what they represent (books withut pictures:D) then we have done exactly that.

This is a very round about way of saying you can't train to good narratives because you must live them. Orders and directives can be taught because they are developed. IMHO real narratives with the power to change simply exist naturally and the only thing we can do is teach ourselves how to see them and thus work with them.

I know that probably made less sense than before but at least I try :o

Germ
03-24-2008, 12:47 AM
Thanks gents. I saw the references at small wars journal don't include "Leading Marines." I'll leave off of the discussion for now, with the hope that while I'm furiously searching for a text that discusses narratives in the terms marc used earlier, the two of you will have a chance to browse "Leading Marines." I think you'll like it. (Ron, it's a mid 90's pub so you may not have encountered it before.)
Marc, if you have a single text in mind that discusses grand, core and cultural narratives, help me out!

Ron Humphrey
03-24-2008, 01:27 AM
Thanks gents. I saw the references at small wars journal don't include "Leading Marines." I'll leave off of the discussion for now, with the hope that while I'm furiously searching for a text that discusses narratives in the terms marc used earlier, the two of you will have a chance to browse "Leading Marines." I think you'll like it. (Ron, it's a mid 90's pub so you may not have encountered it before.)
Marc, if you have a single text in mind that discusses grand, core and cultural narratives, help me out!

http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/doctrine/genesis_and_evolution/source_materials/MCW-6-11_leading_marines.pdf

I'll be reading it this week , but right off hand the Forward seems to identify it as a core narrative, meat to express expectations and consideration but without implicit directives.

I'll check back when I'm done with it.

Spud
03-24-2008, 08:40 AM
2. Is it possible to approach a place like Afghanistan with a single narrative? Can we develop a common narrative that is acceptable both to the Afghans, to our international partners, and the Great American Public? And our soldiers, by the way? Can we even develop a single narrative that is acceptable to the layered, nuanced, complex culture of Afghanistan? Again, my experience is that the indigenous peoples are not stupid. They understand our agenda; it's just that many segments reject while others are suspicious of our ability to sustain it.



NATO/ISAF has one (and itís not bad either if excessively wordy). The real issue in a place like Afghanistan is getting a fractured (in the nicest possible sense) coalition to use that narrative from the political-strategic through to the tactical.

The current strat-political game of one upmanship over who's pulling more weight and which countries are truly fighting is completely drowning out the narrative and significantly impacting on the information battlespace. There is no single report in AFG media or the worldwide media that doesn't highlight the differences (perceived or otherwise) in national approaches to the op.

Call me a simple former section commander but if we all signed up to ISAF and ISAF wants to promote a certain narrative shouldn't every contributing nation align to it? We're in no way different to anyone else ... in fact our new Government has been leading the drive down this route just to highlight its differences with the previous administration (and score a few points along the way).

Of course if we can't get that strat narrative sorted, all of the real information issues then fall out. Case in point what do we call our adversary in AFG? "OMF" (mum and dad have no idea what that means), "ACM", "Taliban" (several countries including the AFG Government want to open political negotiations with the people representing the Taliban movement so by putting everyone in the same boat we're potentially impacting on this LOO) "Taliban extremists", "Insurgents" "Nutbugs in a Pakhul with an RPG"... it goes on ... if you check the media releases for the current 32-odd nations in ISAF there's about 15 different descriptors for who we're actually fighting. In reality that should be simple to fix but then what to do with the counter-narc problem?

marct
03-24-2008, 09:08 AM
Hi Germ,


Thanks gents. I saw the references at small wars journal don't include "Leading Marines." I'll leave off of the discussion for now, with the hope that while I'm furiously searching for a text that discusses narratives in the terms marc used earlier, the two of you will have a chance to browse "Leading Marines." I think you'll like it. (Ron, it's a mid 90's pub so you may not have encountered it before.)
Marc, if you have a single text in mind that discusses grand, core and cultural narratives, help me out!

I'm afraid there isn't a single text that really gets at it, at least the way I view and use the concept. Then again, I like complex theoretical models ;). One book that does have some good examples of analysis is The Myths We Live By (http://www.amazon.com/Myths-We-Live-History-Workshop/dp/0415036097)edited by Raphael Samuel and Paul Thompson (Routledge, 1990). It's an edited volume with a air range of topics.

As I mentioned, part of the problem with the term "narrative" is that it is very broad.Most symbolic Anthropologists would probably use the term "myth" instead of "narrative", although that would depend on the situation. A lot of the early work in the area that established most of the concepts I use came out of a debate between Vladimir Propp (http://www.amazon.com/Theory-History-Folklore-Literature/dp/0816611823/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1206349133&sr=1-1) and Claude Levi-Strauss (http://www.amazon.com/Theory-History-Folklore-Literature/dp/0816611823/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1206349133&sr=1-1) on how to analyze myths. They were (sort of) obsessed with breaking myths down into elementary particles (mythemes, etc.) and using those to build up laws on how the mind constructed and used myths. Pierre Miranda put that together into a Markov Chain analysis in the early 1970's (unpublished ms of a conference paper) and found that you could predict group reactions fairly accurately based on their myths.

Things sort of languished for a while as most of us concentrated on rituals (i.e. cultural technologies for inculcating myths in groups) and, in the mid to late 1970's you started to see the development of a debate grounding all of this in neural structures. This proved rather unpopular on the whole for a variety of reasons, but a few people kept at it - mainly Charlie Laughlin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Laughlin) and his students in Anthropology. I've been lucky enough to have had Charlie as both a teacher and colleague for a number of years now, and some of his ideas have definitely rubbed off on me :wry:.

Marc

Sledge142
05-07-2008, 09:17 PM
1. we can control a narrative...
2. that it is received in the manner we intend it (even if our actions match)
3. that the narrative is somehow important to achieving success
4. some of the same principles used when selling soap apply here

I hear military officers say quite often that "..if we could only get the press to stop writing about the bad things..." My response to that is - if they stop, will that change what is happening?

The root of the problem is that a narrative is developed over time by actions, and the form it takes may not be the form we intend (sometimes it may even be better)...in our culture of instant gratification (or "I only have 15 months to make myself look like an innovative, adaptable, and successful commander"), we are not giving it time to develop... matching actions to a narrative will most likely accelerate acceptance (perhaps), but (and it is a big BUT)...we have no control (no matter how much we perceive we do) over how an individual will interpret our narrative...

What we need to do is rethink information...its uses...its interpretation...etc...this thread has sparked my interest enough to start to conduct some research on the narrative theme...I wonder what hard research exists on the topic?

marct
05-07-2008, 09:26 PM
Hi Sledge,


1. we can control a narrative...
2. that it is received in the manner we intend it (even if our actions match)
3. that the narrative is somehow important to achieving success
4. some of the same principles used when selling soap apply here

I wouldn't say that they are held by everyone in the discussion :wry:. Also, and as a note, our list of assumptions contains assumptions - e.g. what do you mean by "control"? From the examples you list later on, I suspect hat we have very different understandings of what it means in this context.


I hear military officers say quite often that "..if we could only get the press to stop writing about the bad things..." My response to that is - if they stop, will that change what is happening?

Agreed, I've heard that as well, and it is a very naive assumption that just doesn't hold up - mainly for the reason you list as assumption #2.


The root of the problem is that a narrative is developed over time by actions, and the form it takes may not be the form we intend (sometimes it may even be better)...in our culture of instant gratification (or "I only have 15 months to make myself look like an innovative, adaptable, and successful commander"), we are not giving it time to develop... matching actions to a narrative will most likely accelerate acceptance (perhaps), but (and it is a big BUT)...we have no control (no matter how much we perceive we do) over how an individual will interpret our narrative...

I would agree with that somewhat, but only "somewhat".


What we need to do is rethink information...its uses...its interpretation...etc...this thread has sparked my interest enough to start to conduct some research on the narrative theme...I wonder what hard research exists on the topic?

A fair bit, although the terminology is somewhat different (I listed some of the sources in my last post).

Rank amateur
05-08-2008, 01:43 AM
.we have no control (no matter how much we perceive we do) over how an individual will interpret our narrative...


If that were true, I'd have to find something else to do for a living. The more important issue, however, is how we do fit into their narrative. Are we liberators or occupiers?

Ron Humphrey
05-08-2008, 03:07 AM
If that were true, I'd have to find something else to do for a living. The more important issue, however, is how we do fit into their narrative. Are we liberators or occupiers?

We rarely know where we're going unless we know where we've been, so in that sense it might require a bit of time and some fruition of end states before the narrative of the CI and that perceived by the populous begin to actually align. Till then they pretty much see it however they choose at any given moment based on current conditions/expectations. And that goes for both internal and external

Still doesn't take away the importance of at least attempting to get your team on the same page:wry:

Abu Buckwheat
05-08-2008, 09:23 AM
Rob, et al ... this thread is SO important. I have been writing a new book on defeating AQ's narrative and destroying its IW campaign. I was asked ysterday to write an Oped for the NY Daily news on it. I'll give you guys some love and a shout out in it! :D

marct
05-08-2008, 12:42 PM
One of the interesting things about "narratives" (broadly construed) is that they are highly flexible and polysemic (a nice academic bafflegab word that mean "carry or imply multiple meanings"). Not only that, but they can shift "levels" of meaning easily and, often, invert specific meanings at "higher" levels. This is certainly one of the things that AQ does quite well - change levels and adapt the story to meet current needs.


Cracking the AQ narrative, in the sense of blowing up the acceptability of its symbolic linkages, is an interesting "exercise", although most of the attempts I've seen so far are totally pathetic (sorry, but that's the only word for them). "Logic" is a useless way to go about it since most of the logic used is not the logic that structures the narrative (actually, acts as its "ground of being"). You have to crack it using that "ground of being" logic and then "gel" the new "understanding" based on a logic and interpretation that emerges from the narratives "ground of being". This is what the de-radicalization programs are doing in many places.

Abu, I really want to see your book :D! You, I expect to get it right ;)!

Marc

Eden
05-08-2008, 12:42 PM
Call me a simple former section commander but if we all signed up to ISAF and ISAF wants to promote a certain narrative shouldn't every contributing nation align to it? We're in no way different to anyone else ... in fact our new Government has been leading the drive down this route just to highlight its differences with the previous administration (and score a few points along the way).

Any narrative that all members signed up to would not be a useful document. Just as our enemies, our friends are motivated by different agendas, some of them hidden.

You have the serious players, the countries that believe the war in Afghanistan must be fought in order to eliminate the region as a useful sanctuary/training base/recruiting pool for international terrorists.

You have the team players, countries that believe NATO must be supported and be successful in order to achieve the larger goals of international order and security.

You have the aspirant players, those who participate because they believe this is the best way to earn NATO membership, US dollars, and/or domestic support for their militaries.

Then there are the wannabes, states that believe they have to provide support if they want to be taken seriously as international middle-weights.

Some countries fall into one or more categories. Overlay this welter of motivations with domestic political considerations, varying degrees of aversion to casualties, and legitimately different approaches to warfighting/stability operations, and you can see that constructing something like a coherent 'Why we Fight' narrative is doomed to failure.

marct
05-08-2008, 12:50 PM
Call me a simple former section commander but if we all signed up to ISAF and ISAF wants to promote a certain narrative shouldn't every contributing nation align to it? We're in no way different to anyone else ... in fact our new Government has been leading the drive down this route just to highlight its differences with the previous administration (and score a few points along the way).


Any narrative that all members signed up to would not be a useful document. Just as our enemies, our friends are motivated by different agendas, some of them hidden.

And, just to add another case in point, not accepting the proffered narrative (actually the grounds and warrants establishing the jus ad bellum) is the reason why Canada isn't in Iraq.

Just a comment, though... It is possible to establish core symbols - "principles" if you will - that are mutually acceptable and allow each nation (or group) to produce their own narratives around that core cluster.

Rank amateur
05-08-2008, 01:28 PM
If we don't start the war, then the narrative already exists. For example, Kosovo. Most of the world thought that the Albanians were being ethnically cleansed. When we intervened on their side, we had the support of everyone who agreed with the existing narrative. (The Serbs of course had a different perspective but that wasn't the military's problem: let the military kick their ass and let the State Department worry about patching things up with a defeated enemy seems like a good division of responsibilities to me.)

The North Vietnamese had a narrative before we intervened too: foreigners keep trying to occupy us, but through continuous guerrilla we''ll inevitably be liberated. No matter what we did militarily we couldn't change their narrative.

RE: Al Qaeda. I think the most effective counter narrative is a sound bite. Al Qaeda blows up more Muslims than they do "Zionists and Crusaders." It's true and effective with the target market: potential AQ recruits.

Rank amateur
05-08-2008, 01:48 PM
you can see that constructing something like a coherent 'Why we Fight' narrative is doomed to failure.

I have to disagree. "What happened on Sept 11 is wrong and we want all the help we can get fighting it," was working: international banking restrictions, police around the world making arrests etc. It took a core value that almost all people agree with - massacring innocent civilians is wrong - and allowed them to adopt it to the own identities. (Canada can help by... The UK can help by... Egypt may understand the frustration but ...)

Fewer people signed up to "Saddam is part of the problem." Leaving aside the issue of whether that change was right or wrong, it is possible to have a broad consensus. (Even the Germans agree now that we were on the right side in WWII.)

Most people believe in the right to self defense. It's very hard to convince the world that we need to start a war, much easier to convince them that they should help us finish it.

Steve Blair
05-08-2008, 01:58 PM
I have to disagree. "What happened on Sept 11 is wrong and we want all the help we can get fighting it," was working: international banking restrictions, police around the world making arrests etc. It took a core value that almost all people agree with - massacring innocent civilians is wrong - and allowed them to adopt it to the own identities. (Canada can help by... The UK can help by... Egypt may understand the frustration but ...)

The Sept 11 narrative worked to a degree, in certain areas....but it's certainly not a unified narrative with 100% buy-in. Even in our own country it didn't get 100% buy-in. It's easy to dismiss the conspiracy folks and assorted wing-nuts, but they are an audience. Also, I'm not sure that the narrative was necessarily adopted by other countries in the sense that I think you mean...

My take on narratives is somewhat different, since I come from a history and not anthropology or sociology background. I tend to see how the narratives shift over time, and how the perspective of a particular period gives them a different view on events than a current writer might have. I also tend to agree with Marc that the informal ("darker" to use his term) narrative is much more powerful as it's based on more primal considerations (and often passed on by someone the listener 'knows' or 'respects').

marct
05-09-2008, 02:09 PM
One of the things that bugs me is the actual term "Narrative". Academically, it comes out of discursive textual analysis and that is a different source point from where most of the original Anthropology work came from (which was oral cultures). The term, as it's used in a lot of academic circles, points towards the idea hat you can treat anything as a "text"; an assertion that contains a germ of truth, but so does he idea that you can use an axe to build anything (you can, but it's not the most efficient tool).


My take on narratives is somewhat different, since I come from a history and not anthropology or sociology background. I tend to see how the narratives shift over time, and how the perspective of a particular period gives them a different view on events than a current writer might have.

That's one of the main problems I have with treating anything and everything "as text" (although, it does allow for some great humour :D). What is missing is the sense of constant negotiation and construction-reconstruction which appears in oral cultures. And, lest someone point out that neither we nor AQ are oral cultures, think about the increasing dominance of rapid person-to-person communications technologies.


I also tend to agree with Marc that the informal ("darker" to use his term) narrative is much more powerful as it's based on more primal considerations (and often passed on by someone the listener 'knows' or 'respects').

Really this just stems from the communications bandwidth as we get closer and closer to simulating face to face communications. As the simulation of f2f increases, we can convey more and more emotional connotations; in effect partially conditioning the audience. In this sense, what we see in he press, what is passed over cell phone trees, what shows up in YouTube, Blogs, etc. is a more immediate (and emotional) part of an ongoing multilogue that produces a constantly shifting narrative that, with time, starts to get "hardened" around generally agreed upon "evens", "facts" and "logics" - a hardening of interpretation if you will.

Once the topic becomes less immediately important to people, the ongoing discussions recede from general discussions and held by a smaller and smaller number of people - we now have "historical narratives", or "myths", that a part of the background of the culture. These, in turn, are subject to renegotiation and reinterpretation by that small number of people (historians :eek::D).

Rank amateur
05-09-2008, 03:13 PM
informal ("darker" to use his term) narrative is much more powerful as it's based on more primal considerations (and often passed on by someone the listener 'knows' or 'respects').

I agree. I think it's very reasonable to assume that when you aim a kinetic weapon at someone you will get a primal "fight or flight" reaction. I think many of the problems in Iraq can be traced - at least in part - to the fact that our strategy depends on a different, more cooperative primal response.

Ron Humphrey
05-09-2008, 03:17 PM
I agree. I think it's very reasonable to assume that when you aim a kinetic weapon at someone you will get a primal "fight or flight" reaction. I think many of the problems in Iraq can be traced - at least in part - to the fact that our strategy depends on a different, more cooperative primal response.

Would you be able to expand on that? (Within the realm of open source, of course):confused:

Rank amateur
05-10-2008, 04:30 PM
Would you be able to expand on that?

I can. I'm making very slow progress on an essay "The limits of COIN doctrine in a multifactional environment with a weak central government." I will be looking for comment and feedback. (For example, I'm not sure that I've used the word doctrine correctly.) I'll send you a first draft - when ready - through p.m. if you'd like.

I hadn't considered primal emotion until this thread, but diplomats do everything possible to remove primary responses before negoitations. (Excessive politeness limits the possibility of anger. They even feed everyone to make sure that they aren't hungry. etc.) Battle is obviously very primal. Diplomacy works well with multiple parties. War tends to be binary. (Even in a world war all the countries split into sides: i.e. Allies vs. Axis.) Traditional COIN is also binary: government vs. anti government insurgents.

I'm thinking about the problems/implications/potential solutions of "clearing and holding" in multifactional environments. Hopefully, I'll be able to get everything down coherently. Any thoughts, comments or relevant experiences from the council are very welcome.

To bring the discussion back on topic. If our actions invoke primal responses - fear, fight or flight - is it realistic to expect people to accept our narrative that we want political reconciliation? Obviously, we're trying to create fewer/weaker primal responses through less kinetic ops etc., and we're being more diplomatic - sipping tea with chiefs - so we've recognized the problem/issues. I hope to add something to the dialog.

Ron Humphrey
05-10-2008, 06:55 PM
I can. I'm making very slow progress on an essay "The limits of COIN doctrine in a multi factional environment with a weak central government." I will be looking for comment and feedback. (For example, I'm not sure that I've used the word doctrine correctly.) I'll send you a first draft - when ready - through p.m. if you'd like.

I hadn't considered primal emotion until this thread, but diplomats do everything possible to remove primary responses before negotiations. (Excessive politeness limits the possibility of anger. They even feed everyone to make sure that they aren't hungry. etc.) Battle is obviously very primal. Diplomacy works well with multiple parties. War tends to be binary. (Even in a world war all the countries split into sides: i.e. Allies vs. Axis.) Traditional COIN is also binary: government vs. anti government insurgents.

I'm thinking about the problems/implications/potential solutions of "clearing and holding" in multi factional environments. Hopefully, I'll be able to get everything down coherently. Any thoughts, comments or relevant experiences from the council are very welcome.

To bring the discussion back on topic. If our actions invoke primal responses - fear, fight or flight - is it realistic to expect people to accept our narrative that we want political reconciliation? Obviously, we're trying to create fewer/weaker primal responses through less kinetic ops etc., and we're being more diplomatic - sipping tea with chiefs - so we've recognized the problem/issues. I hope to add something to the dialog.

Sounds very thought provoking , the one thing I would say is that regardless of how hard negotiators may try to keep primal considerations out of negotiations the best one's seem to realize at some point that in the end any lasting resolution will have to address those very things. If not you may have an "agreement" today but be almost guaranteed to have to return to the bargaining table quite often.

It is saddening to me how we as human beings want to try so hard to make our worlds fit into something comfortable and equally unrepresentative of the realities of who we are. Planning for businesses, architects, scientists, etc allow for some verifiable understanding of what the future for particular projects looks like. Life on the other hand (which is in my opinion) what we're really dealing with in wars is not only not predictable but literally interdependent on all the players involved and the primal instincts each has.

I think back to a quote I think was Abraham Lincoln.
The best thing about the future is that it happens one day at a time

By trying to keep what is natural and thereby unavoidable out of planning we really do tend to forget that tomorrow's another day and those things that weren't addressed today WILL still be there tomorrow.

Good luck with the paper and I'd love to see a copy, but considering the company we keep here I'm sure some of the other's will be able to help much more than I:wry:

Dr Jack
02-04-2009, 08:23 PM
Cross posting - the concept of the "mission narrative" is the subject of this post on the CAC Blog:

http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/BLOG/blogs/reflectionsfromfront/archive/2009/02/03/how-to-think-the-mission-narrative.aspx