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Thread: What is our Message

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    Default What is our Message

    We talk about I/O, PsyOps, cultural awareness, etc. but what is our message? In Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no specific guidance as to why we are in Iraq. What EXACTLY are our squad leaders supposed to tell locals?
    1. We are here to liberate you - what does the USG define as liberty? A situation in which everything is legal except for those actions that impinge upon another's life, liberty or property is the basis for English Common Law vis a vis the philosophy of John Stuart Mill but it assumes an individual based society. Iraq and Afghanistan are family based societies. How do we bridge this gap?

    2. We want rights!! Rights are limitations the nation places upon the state - not priviledges the states gives to the people. Iraqis want more priviledges. Until they internalize that it is the nation that is soverign, not the state, they can not have any rights.

    3. Equality. What kind? There is equality of outcome which is the basis of communism - small c. Equality of opportunity works in America and is a very protestant idea but is it acceptable to Muslims or Arabs?

    4. Capitalism. This incredible system is based on the self serving individual. As long as the aforementioned actor wants to maximize his utility, he will move himself to a position in which he has a sustainable, comparative advantage and be able to amass as much wealth as possible. Collectively, the actions of self serving people benefit all as long as wealth maximization is the collective goal. Again, how can this work in a family based society?

    5. Democracy. The buzz word. The magic cause. Government is the organization in society with a monopoly on force. Representative democracy is but a means for the nation to select those who decide on how force in wielded in a society. A person's sole act of power in a democracy is in voting. The only difference between a democracy and a monarchy is a vote. After that, one is still subject to the will of the government. Why is that so good? Why would this work in other places?

    6. The problem is Arabs and Pashtuns do not know how they can be Arabs, Muslims and embrace all of the above. WHAT IS OUR GUIDANCE ON HOW TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS?????

    Until higher puts out a pub that explains where in the Koran we on the ground can look to bridge these questions, it is not possible to do IO, PsyOps or control the population - the goal of COIN. Therefore, until we actually have an idea, something to sell, we are incapable of winning.

    Remember, if you are out looking for bad guys, you are losing. The goal is to control the population and the population needs a message. They need an idealology and Al Qadea has one and is pushing it hard.

    Last point - the way in which we answer these questions changes neighborhood by neighborhood because each Imam and Sheik see the world a little bit differently. Until we have an intelligence picture that frames our message, we are not going to be able to tailor or actions effectively.

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    The bottom line is that we're there to provide safety and security to 26 million people who deserve it as much as anyone on earth. Each day we spend working on the sewage, water, schools, electrical infrastructures, trash removal, medical coverage, and overall security is a day closer to a free and independent Iraq.

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    Remember, if you are out looking for bad guys, you are losing. The goal is to control the population and the population needs a message. They need an idealology and Al Qadea has one and is pushing it hard.
    That is incorrect.

    "The problem is to start organizing the participation of the population in the struggle. The way to do this is by placing local leaders in positions of responsibility and power."
    One cannot accomplish this without looking for Al Queda in Iraq as well as delivering a "message" to the population. Seeking out and destroying Al Queda in Iraq does not equal losing. Neither does the fact that Al Queda in Iraq has an ideology. Al Queda has always had a message but they have never been winning. And they are beyond the point of just not losing simply because Iraq has a governing body that controls the propaganda. Intercepted messages from al-Zarqawi himself clearly show that he was seriously considering taking Al Queda's struggle somewhere else other than Iraq. Why? Because "they" were losing.

    "The counterinsurgent cannot achieve much if the population is not, and does not feel, protected against the insurgent."
    Seeking out and destroying the insurgent is a prime ingredient of the counterinsurgent's recipe. Also, hasn't it occurred to you that Al Queda in Iraq is unable to work on projects in basic fields such as, "economic, social, cultural, and medical fields, where the results are not entirely dependent on the active cooperation from the population"? So, I don't see where Al Queda in Iraq's "message" is providing them with any comfort in their own struggle against the counterinsurgency. By-the-way, what is Al Queda's message in Iraq?

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    RTK - what does a free and independent Iraq mean? Why do they deserve anything? What does freedom mean? We use these words without a clear definition and thus we do not have a message.

    Culpeper - Trinquier, Gulula, and Krepenivich all disagree with you. The direct approach to destroying the insurgent does not work.

    Seeking out and destroying the insurgent is not a prime ingredient in the counter insurgent's methods. This did not work in Vietnam, Algeria or any where else.
    The mission is to secure the population. After they feel safe, the fish will have been separated from the water. It is when the bad guys seek us out because we are separating from the population that we can measure our success. Ambush patrols and the like in hopes of "generating and maintaing contact" is absurd and does not work.

    How do you know AMZ's traffic was not a deception? How do you know it was in response to us and not local Iraqis pressuring him to move to another place? We are not winning in Iraq. Attacks are through the roof.

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    Culpeper -
    You never mentioned how we answer the Iraqi's dilemma of how to balance his ethnic and religious dogma with our ideology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by horatius View Post
    Culpeper -
    You never mentioned how we answer the Iraqi's dilemma of how to balance his ethnic and religious dogma with our ideology.
    I didn't answer the question because it is moot to the point you want to make. Our ideology does not have to balance with the Iraqi population. Don't we want the Iraqis to choose their own destiny? Isn't that ideology universal and not limited to the United States of America?

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    Quote Originally Posted by horatius View Post

    Culpeper - Trinquier, Gulula, and Krepenivich all disagree with you. The direct approach to destroying the insurgent does not work.


    I was quoting Galula.

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    Great discussion. I'm with Horatius on this one. No one ever explained to me what I was trying to get the Iraqis to buy into. I tried to sell RTK's "free and independent Iraq", but exactly what does this mean? I'd argue it means very different things depending on where you're operating in the country. In Shia areas, "free and independent Iraq" was generally accepted; not the same when I was in Sunni areas. What about up north with the Kurds, who are perfectly content with "free and independent" Kurdistan? What's our message to the Sunni Arabs? Of late I think it has something to do with a message of inclusion: splitting oil revenues, allowing most former Ba'athist back into the government, etc. But for the past 3-4 years, most Sunnis felt that our "cause", if there was one, didn't benefit them in the least bit. Thus we helped create/spread the Sunni insurgency.

    WRT Al Qaeda in Iraq having a message and the people buying it... I'd say this was definitely the case in Anbar for a long time. Most either bought Al Qaeda's message or were intimidated enough to let the fish hide amongst them UNTIL 2 things happened: 1) Al Qaeda in Iraq misjudged the family/tribal system and killed the wrong people; 2) we stopped playing "whack a mole" and instead began moving in with the people (starting w/ Al Qaim and now just about everywhere in Anbar) with a primary focus of controlling/securing the populace in a way that would make Galula, Trinquier, Krepinevich, Komer, Colby and others proud.

    Big picture for me on the subject though--I know your average squad leader or platoon commander patrolling the streets still doesn't know exactly what we're trying to "sell" as our cause or narrative, be it in Iraq, America or globally. Thus we're violating Kilcullen's article #21: Exploit a single narrative. This isn't a good thing when our junior Marines/Soldiers are the ones with the most face time with Iraqis.
    Last edited by Maximus; 04-02-2007 at 12:44 AM.

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    Big picture for me on the subject though--I know your average squad leader or platoon commander patrolling the streets still doesn't know exactly what we're trying to "sell" as our cause or narrative, be it in Iraq, America or globally. Thus we're violating Kilcullen's article #21: Exploit a single narrative. This isn't a good thing when our junior Marines/Soldiers are the ones with the most face time with Iraqis.
    Exactly one of my frustrations too, even though I'm a couple of years removed from my second rotation over there. I think that when you look at all the servicemember generated media out there (blogs, message board posts, etc.) you are still going to find a lot of folks who were at the tip of the spear yet still don't have a basic level of respect for the average Iraqi on the street. It is getting a bit more balanced, but when you stop and take a serious look at a few trends, it's ridiculous in some ways.

    Take for example the so-called "morale patches" that can be found and discussed at certain tactical forums. One of the recent ones is Arabic lettering stitched in a variety of colors to represent the phrase/word "Infidel". There are contractors and servicemembers who think it's chic to wear the patch in full view, and I saw a post from one Soldier who stated that he only moved the patch when some LNs became agitated. It is beyond me that it even came to that, so yes, we are failing at the single narrative and certainly failing to educate the troops that we are doing something not just because the general/special orders say so, but because it is elemental to success in the fight.

    I also think that there is a certain divide that arisen between the various ranks (although I can't point to the exact level of the schism) and echelons of troops. REMF and Fobbits are despised now in much the same way they were in Vietnam, and higher headquarters are equally villified when they generate new fragos. I think it began with the lack of armor for vehicles and Rumsfeld's "Go to war with what you have," comment.

    I concur totally that the bottom line may be security and stability, but to many at the tip it might hold the same degree of clarity that 4GW holds for me (absolutely none). Let's add a twist to the line of thought...how much does it matter?

    Does a single narrative ensure that the troops take their eyepro off when talking to an Iraqi, and that they hand out sweets rather than throw it to the ground for children to pounce on? Regardless of the single narrative that might try to exploit, is the average Iraqi buying what we are selling?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maximus View Post



    Big picture for me on the subject though--I know your average squad leader or platoon commander patrolling the streets still doesn't know exactly what we're trying to "sell" as our cause or narrative, be it in Iraq, America or globally. Thus we're violating Kilcullen's article #21: Exploit a single narrative. This isn't a good thing when our junior Marines/Soldiers are the ones with the most face time with Iraqis.
    Please don't tell me you are assuming that the most important elements of military leadership that you pointed your finger at above are inept of situation awareness both strategic and tactical? Oh, no. You didn't write that by mistake. A vast chunk of the Small Wars Council are currently holding these positions or have held them in the past.

    Also, we have always shown bravado. The balance is a two way street. They saw off heads. We paint crap on walls. Why shouldn't the average Iraqi understand this as well. Or are they too inept or sensitive to understand?
    Last edited by Culpeper; 04-02-2007 at 01:40 AM.

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    Culpeper,

    Not sure what you're trying to say.

    My simple point is this: My Marines and I conducted some 500 patrols in Iraq. No one ever explained to me exactly what message we were trying to transmit. In fact, my mission statements were normally something to the effect of: "you have to conduct 4 patrols tomorrow." Rarely was I given specifics on where, why, who I was trying to influence, what I was supposed to say ("beyond don't promise anything"), etc. The best I got was normally just to show a "presence."

    Reflecting on my experiences now, I think every time I went on patrol, I should have been trying to sell a "cause" whether this being strictly that of the coalition or that combined with the Iraqi government, depending on the timeframe. Unfortunately, all too often patrols consisted of me asking Iraqis what they needed, their response being clean water, electricity, and security, my writing it in a book, continuing on the patrol, and "higher" telling me to tell the Iraqis to be patient.

    I talk to Capts, Lts, Sgts, etc. frequently that are about to leave on deployment or just returning. It's rare that they can explain tribal breakdown, who their enemy really is, and any decent history of their specific AO. This isn't their fault. The info often isn't provided. As a result, most Marines/Soldiers conducting patrols don't know the "cause" they should be promoting nor do they know enough about the history of their AO so that they can say things that the people might rally behind. Simply saying I bring you freedom and democracy just doesn't cut it.

    You seem like you might have a good handle on the subject. If you were patrolling the streets in the Shia south in 2 hours and stopped to talk to an Iraqi, what "cause" would you try to promote? If in Sadr City, how would you try and explain that your patrol offers more security than the Mahdi Army? What about if you were in Anbar or in Tikrit? What if you were in Irbil? When you're interacting with the Iraqis how would you make the patrol more than simply a "presence" patrol? What "cause" would you push so that they eventually would tell you who the insurgents or terrorists are?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    I think that when you look at all the servicemember generated media out there (blogs, message board posts, etc.) you are still going to find a lot of folks who were at the tip of the spear yet still don't have a basic level of respect for the average Iraqi on the street.
    I was frustrated with this very same subject when I was a Lance Corporal during my first deployment... I felt then and still feel now there are three basic types of Iraqis, the ones who would love us no matter what, those who would hate us no matter what and all of the rest, the majority, who were undecided. We have moved some of the middle to our camp and that is great but we have also pushed a great number away because we can't get our most fundamental messages out.

    Every day the lower enlisted ranks are being asked some very hard questions about intentions and policy, by the Iraqis themselves, and it is assured that if we don't have a unified message at the top, the bottom will not all be singing the same tune. That can't be good for anyone when you are getting Message A in Baghdad but your brother-in-law is getting Plan B in Ramadi. In essence this is exactly what is happening.
    Last edited by Ender; 04-02-2007 at 02:45 AM.

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    Default Sorry for the mix up.

    There is this "Maximus Biguss Dickus" that I confused you with. I thought he just shortened his screen name and was carrying on as usual. I didn't bother to see you were new to SWC and in fact a part of the leadership you described. Welcome aboard.

    You seem like you might have a good handle on the subject. If you were patrolling the streets in the Shia south in 2 hours and stopped to talk to an Iraqi, what "cause" would you try to promote? If in Sadr City, how would you try and explain that your patrol offers more security than the Mahdi Army? What about if you were in Anbar or in Tikrit? What if you were in Irbil? When you're interacting with the Iraqis how would you make the patrol more than simply a "presence" patrol? What "cause" would you push so that they eventually would tell you who the insurgents or terrorists are?
    By improvising and barring any outright insubordination of orders:

    #1. Security

    #2 By example. It won't happen in one patrol.

    #3 Same thing in Anbar, Tikrit, or Irbil.

    #4 This would go, as you described beyond a presence patrol, and would have to employ improvised classic Combined Action Company techniques, which I won't go into detail since you are a Marine and already know this subject.

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    You hit the nail on the head, Ender. I couldn't agree more on your breakdown of the Iraqi people, regardless of AO. The same probably holds true in any COIN fight.

    This whole discussion brings to mind a video from the NY Times that I watched a few months back: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html...E/blocker.html (click on the "politics" icon 3rd from right). We talk about "strategic" Cpls, Sgts, Lts, etc., yet too often fail to provide these warriors with the training and information they need to truly be "strategic" Marines. In the video, the Sgt doesn't talk at all about a unifying message or "cause" to the Iraqi man. In fact, just the opposite: the Iraqi asks the Sgt about how he feels on most likely being sent home after the mid-term elections.

    What message is this sending to the Iraqi people? Back to the initial question in this thread: what's our message?

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    Culpeper,

    No problem at all.

    Concur on your basic theme during patrols. And also agree that a lot of this ultimately should involve some variation of combined action companies/platoons. I think we're moving rapidly in this direction now, although I know of a few units that are still operating without Iraqis.

    The bigger issue for me though comes back to the Sgt in the NY Times video and for my Marines on our patrols. Aside from saying we're here to provide security (which I agree is essential), what else are we saying? What are our jabs and knock-out punches in the war of ideas that our junior Marines, by this I mean everyone at the company level and below, should try and exploit? In Vietnam, the pacification program eventually had an IO campaign that consisted of security, and also land, rice, local leadership, local elections, etc. Seems like our IO campaign in Iraq only goes as far as security.

    I posted something on the Gazette forum (http://www.mca-marines.org/forum/showthread.php?t=34) that addresses this subject. From my perspective it seems like we're handing the IO component of the war to the enemy without putting up much of a fight. I know we can do better.
    Last edited by Maximus; 04-03-2007 at 01:49 AM.

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    I just don't understand how something so basic and well documented is left so much out of implementation when we find ourselves in this type of counterinsurgency warfare. The topic is so basic for SWC that it staggers my mind that it is taking so long for those in involved in high places to start implementing counterinsurgency tactics in planning. It has taken far too long to start working on the right path. "Catastrophic Success" was an understatement by Gen. Franks. Nevertheless, the types of infrastructure improvements we both cited can only be achieved by the counterinsurgency in Iraq without the total support of the population. In other words, the insurgent cannot provide it. Elements like Al Queda cannot provide this without total support from the population. And they are not getting this type of support. We should consider ourselves lucky. That some sort of invisible hand has gave us extra time to get organized. If there is a major failure of no common message for the Iraqi people than it should be left up to the junior leadership to decide what that message should be. This would require the higher brass and civilian leadership to shut up and listen.

    It would be nice to keep this important topic centered on Iraq on a micro level rather than a macro level of the entire region for the gains on the macro level are at the expense of the Iraqi people themselves and should be part of a different topic; i.e. what happened to Iraq is worrying the leadership of Syria and Iran on a more personal level.

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    Default Well put, to a point

    Until higher puts out a pub that explains where in the Koran we on the ground can look to bridge these questions, it is not possible to do IO, PsyOps or control the population - the goal of COIN. Therefore, until we actually have an idea, something to sell, we are incapable of winning.
    I think you are correct, and many of our citizens and soldiers still think everyone wants to be like us. Some of our folks just can't believe that some folks in the world find our system and our values replusive (not just Al Qaeda). If a democracy in Iraq is not achievable (and I'm not aware of democracy ever being forced on anyone before successfully, except perhaps Japan), then what is it we want to achieve? What are our national interests in Iraq? We have strategic oil interests, we want to deny safe haven to terrorists, we desire to avoid a humanitarian disaster, we want regional stability (suppports the previous three objectives), etc.

    During the cold war we took a much more Machivillian approach to achieving our strategic objectives, even if that included putting our bastard in office (our supporting the one already there, like Marcos in the Philippines). In contrast, in Iraq we pursued our interests by attempting to implement a political revolution (not evolution). Outsiders can best generate revolutions by spreading ideas, not trying to impose them with the bayonet. While there are elements in Iraqi society that obviously buy into this dream, we are now at the point where we have done what we can, and now a local leader (a Ghandi like figure capable of mobilizing all Iraqis under an Iraqi identity) must surface, and carry the idea to completion.

    Al Qaeda, like us, also wants to impose revolutionary change on Iraq, but their advantage is their political revolution is not totally alien to the Arab culture. Furthermore, when you are living in a terrible state of chaos, then any feasible option that gets you out of it will start looking appealing. Terrorism works for this very reason when it is executed within a band of excellence, but there is a limit, and if it is used in excess it backfires, and that is what we're seeing in parts of Iraq, especially in Al Anbar province now. The Sunni's in Anbar were Al Qaeda's closest allies in Iraq, but they are now turning against them because the AQ uses terrorism in excess and as predicted by AQ's original leadership, AQ would loose if this revolution practiced the excesses of the past. In the end we won't defeat AQ, they'll defeat themeselves.

    So we have two competing revolutionary ideas being imposed on the Iraqi people by two different outsiders, and neither are exceptionally attractive or successful at this point. This is the ideal point for an Iraqi leader to stand up with an Iraqi solution and offer the Iraqi people a way out.

    I don't think AQ will win if we pull out or stay. I actually think AQ could be defeated quicker if we pull out, because certain rules of warfare will be disregarded. However I think the potential blood bath from civil war like conflict if we pull out will be more than we want to risk. In the end we are still a decent people and ultimately we still want the best for the Iraqi people. Of course that is what makes this war so damn frustrating.

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    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by horatius View Post
    RTK - what does a free and independent Iraq mean? Why do they deserve anything? What does freedom mean? We use these words without a clear definition and thus we do not have a message.

    "What applies in one province isn't necessarily the case in another."

    Security is security, regardless of what context or where you're talking about. In many cases, establishing some sort of law and order is all that's missing from the 'free and independent' realm.

    Why do they deserve it? Because in a lot of different ways we robbed them of it 4 years ago. It's unethical to leave them the steaming s**t sandwich to take a huge bite from now.

    Freedom - In layman's terms, it to have the ability to do what you want to do without the risk of getting beheaded because you're of a specific ethnic set.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    "What applies in one province isn't necessarily the case in another."

    Security is security, regardless of what context or where you're talking about. In many cases, establishing some sort of law and order is all that's missing from the 'free and independent' realm.

    Why do they deserve it? Because in a lot of different ways we robbed them of it 4 years ago. It's unethical to leave them the steaming s**t sandwich to take a huge bite from now.

    Freedom - In layman's terms, it to have the ability to do what you want to do without the risk of getting beheaded because you're of a specific ethnic set.

    It makes sense to me to tell the Iraqi people just that - 'we are here to try prevent you from getting blown up because you are a Shi'ite or Sunni or because you neighbor is. The Quarn says innocent people are not supposed to be murdered' . I suppose it would help if that could be said in Arabic but then it's easy for me to sit here safe and sound, fat and sassy and offer advice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ender View Post
    Every day the lower enlisted ranks are being asked some very hard questions about intentions and policy, by the Iraqis themselves, and it is assured that if we don't have a unified message at the top, the bottom will not all be singing the same tune. That can't be good for anyone when you are getting Message A in Baghdad but your brother-in-law is getting Plan B in Ramadi. In essence this is exactly what is happening.
    And the situation is exacerbated by the global media as well, so it's not only what is said in Baghdad and Ramadi, but also New York, Washington and London. I do have to agree with Horatius' original point that there isn't a coherent message; at least one that isn't 99% rhetoric . I think we saw a slightly different situation in Afghanistan, although the behind the scenes maneuverings to stop the restoration of the monarchy in the 2003 Loya Jurga made that questionable. The "message" needs to be spelled out in a series of "We are here to do X" and "We will know that X is done when Y happens".

    On a related note, is anyone collating the questions that are asked about intentions and policies? There was a tactic worked out in the late 1970's for elections where these questions would be funneled to a local office and, if they matched prepared policy statements, copies of those statements would be hand delivered the next day. If there wasn't such a statement, the person who received the question would still go back the next day and say something like "We take your question seriously and it has been sent off to our policy committee to try and get an answer for you". Even when there was no policy and no one wanted to make one, within the week the person would be contacted again and told that no such policy can be developed until X, Y or Z happens. It strikes me that his type of tactic would work equally well in raq.

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