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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

Counterinsurgency Today: A Review of Eric T. Olson’s “Some of the Best Weapons for Counterinsurgents Do Not Shoot”

By Efe Sevin

The long-lasting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to increased inquiry into the concepts and practices of counterinsurgency (COIN). Eric T. Olson, in his work, focuses on the importance of reconstruction attempts in COIN operations and discusses the role of military. The author served in the U.S. Army for over three decades and retired as a Major General. Currently, Mr. Olson is an independent defense contractor and works with Army brigades and provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) who are preparing for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. As the title suggests, his monograph considers such reconstruction attempts to have uttermost importance in successful military operations.

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Find the Right Balance Between Civilian and Military: Don’t Just Strip the Department of Defense of Capabilities to Inform, Influence, and Persuade

By Christopher Paul, Ph.D.

As Matt has repeatedly noted in this space and elsewhere, "American public diplomacy wears combat boots."1 That is, the Department of Defense (DoD) employs the majority of the resources (funding, manpower, tools, and programs) used for U.S. government efforts to inform, influence, and persuade foreign audiences and publics. Most of us agree that this is not the ideal state of affairs. The Department of State (DOS) or other civilian agency should have the preponderance of the United States’ capabilities in this area. Both the White House and DoD concur.2

Congress would also like to see DOS doing more in this area–and DoD doing less. To date, most of the congressional attention has focused on DoD. Section 1055 of the 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act called for reports to Congress from both the White House and DoD on "strategic communication and public diplomacy activities of the Federal Government." DoD information operations (IO) were attacked by the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which slashed the proposed FY 2010 appropriation for IO by $500 million. (See the mountainrunner discussion "Preparing to Lose the Information War?")

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Event: Influence and Propaganda Conference

imageThe Information Operations Institute, in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, invites you to attend the Influence and Fighting Propaganda Conference.

Identifying and countering propaganda and misinformation through dissemination that avoids the label of propaganda will be the key themes of the event. Discussions will explore who, how and why can people or groups be influenced, and difference between engagement from the lowest to the highest levels of leadership.

Russ Rochte, retired US Army Colonel and now faculty member at the National Defense Intelligence College, and I will co-moderate a panel on the media exploring the tension between "Media as an instrument of War" and the journalist’s traditional obligations to the truth, objectivity, informing the public, and verification. What is the impact on the media’s relationship with itself, its readers, and its sources as the media struggles for mind-share and relevance in a highly competitive environment of diminished resources, intensified news cycles, and direct audience engagement by news makers, and pressure to de-emphasize journalistic ethics. What constitutes the media and how does an organization like Wikileaks change the environment? How does this show in the natural conflict between the government and the media and how is it exploited by America’s adversaries?

This will be a two-hour panel, October 14, 10a-12p, with:

  • Wally Dean, Director of Training, Committee of Concerned Journalists (confirmed)
  • Jamie McIntyre, Host: "Line of Departure", Military.com (confirmed)
  • Dana Priest, Washington Post investigative reporter (invited)
  • Bill Gertz, reporter for The Washington Times (confirmed)

The agenda for the conference is below.

Event website is here
Date: October 13-15 (2.5 days)
Location: Turning Stone Resort, Verona, New York (map)
Registration Fee: Students/Faculty: free; Government: $50; Military: $25; Corporate/Industry: $200
Registration: online or PDF

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Guest Book Review: Drugs and Contemporary Warfare

By Chris Albon

drugsandcontemporarywarfare In his latest book, Drugs and Contemporary Warfare, Paul Rexton Kan attempts to understand the relationship between drugs and armed conflict. Kan is not the first to connect the two topics, such as Gretchen Peters’ book on poppies in Afghanistan. However, Kan’s book is exceptional for developing an overarching theory on drugs and armed conflict in modern history. Kan knows what he is talking about. An associate professor at the U.S. Army War College, Kan’s previous monograph explores the implications of drug intoxicated irregular soldiers on the battlefield (available for download free).

Drugs and Contemporary Warfare is organized into six chapters: Hazy Shades of War, Drugging the Battlefield, High at War, Narcotics and Nation-Building, Sober Lessons for the Future, and Shaky Paths Forward. Kan’s first chapter summarizes the history of the drug trade’s influence on warfare, with emphasis on conflicts after the Cold War. With insightful anecdotes, Kan both introduces readers to the topic and lays the groundwork for concepts presented later.

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Guest Post: Explaining Why Afghanistan Matters – Whose Job Is It?

By Tom Brouns

As highlighted in this blog and others, the use of “new” and “social” media by military and government organizations as a part of their public communication strategy is undergoing a quiet evolution – or in some cases, revolution.  Where consensus between allies is not a concern, organizations like US Forces – Afghanistan are taking the bull by the horns: their Facebook page amassed 14,000 fans in six weeks, and their 4500+ followers on Twitter are nothing to sneeze at.  In an alliance like NATO, progress has to be a bit more tentative and exploratory.  Regardless of the pace, increasing dialogue and transparency between military organizations and their publics should be seen as a positive thing.

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Counterinsurgency: A Guide for Policy-Makers

It’s not surprising that books about the wars we are in are so popular, but who would have thought some of the most popular readings would be U.S. Army doctrine? The purpose of doctrine is to provide guidance on how – and often why – to conduct operations. They used to be dry reads but now they are written to be accessible by those both inside and outside the military.

The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, also known as FM 3-24, did remarkably well. The Army’s recently revised Operations Manual, or FM 3-0, is also popular. However, while FM 3-24 still does reasonably well on Amazon (over a year old and it’s in the top 5,000), the latest addition to the public library is the Stability Operations Manual, or FM 3-07. This is doing very well with apparently more then 250,000 downloads in the last three weeks. The growing popularity of official U.S. military instruction manuals is fascinating. It is likely a factor of both the militarization of our foreign policy and the transition of our Armed Forces to a learning organization that has the wherewithal and desire to understand and adapt to changing conditions.

The resources available to permit the time and manpower to develop these manuals and to reinforce the iterative learning processes is one the rest of Government lacks – save perhaps for the USIP. As a result, there has been a paucity of equivalent material aimed at policy-makers.

However, there is a new book that’s due to hit the market next month that addresses this void: Counterinsurgency: A Guide for Policy-Makers. At The Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman writes about the book:

There are lessons in the handbook that the U.S. government has clearly been reluctant to adopt. It explicitly instructs policy-makers to “co-opt” insurgents whenever possible — something that the Bush administration’s rhetoric about the “evils” of Iraqi and Afghan insurgents makes problematic.”The purpose of COIN,” the handbook says, “is to build popular support for a government while suppressing or co-opting an insurgent movement.”

Kilcullen added that negotiations are a two-way street in counterinsurgency. “A government that offers [insurgents] no concessions [will] usually lose,” he said, but “an insurgency that offers no concessions will usually lose.” Another piece of advice — one that resonates in the wake of the administration’s torture scandals — simply reads, “Respect People.”

Similarly, the handbook attempts to integrate civilian and military agencies into a concerted strategy — something the Bush administration has been unable to substantively accomplish in Iraq and Afghanistan. “COIN planning should integrate civilian and military capabilities across each of the four COIN strategy functions of security, politics, economics and information,” it reads.

More to come here at MountainRunner.

American Public Diplomacy Wears Combat Boots: the Pentagon’s $300 million to “engage and inspire”

American public diplomacy wears combat boots. Not only is the Pentagon in the critical last three feet of engagement virtually and in person with audiences around the globe, especially in contested areas, but it is the Defense Department that is putting up the money to expand public diplomacy. The Pentagon’s 3-year, $300 million contract for private companies to “engage and inspire” Iraqis to support U.S. objectives and the Iraqi government, described by Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus in the Washington Post, is more than an effort five years too late. It is one more shining example of the significant failure of the U.S. Government to come to grips with the present need and commit the resources necessary to engage in the Second Great War of Ideas that began in earnest nearly a decade ago.

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Not a Civil War? Civil Terrorising?

According to Gen Pace and SecDef Rumsfeld, the internal conflict in Iraq is not representative of a civil war:

Q:  Isn’t there a civil war already going on in Iraq?  And the United States presence, isn’t that exacerbating that civil war?

PACE:  There is in fact some factional fighting between Sunnis and Shia and Kurds, but that is not what you describe it to be.  What you do have is individuals in all three of those communities who want to terrorize the Iraqi people…

RUMSFELD:  I would only add one thing.  Clearly the General is correct,
there is not a civil war as such.  There is tension.  There always have
been….

Controlling the vocabulary is very important in any debate. The end of major military operations, as the benchmark carrier landing became known (instead of "Mission Accomplished"), and the refusal to term Rwanda a genocide or the contemporary issue in Iraq as a civil war is pure propaganda in the academic sense.