Book Review: Losing Hearts and Minds?

Losing Hearts and MindsBack in January I posted the Washington Times book review of reviews Losing Hearts and Minds?: Public Diplomacy and Strategic Influence in the Age of Terror. However, after reading the book myself, I found Josh Sinai’s review incomplete (although I do recommend reading his review as well as mine below).

Carnes Lord, a professor at the Navy War College, takes on the question of how to win the “hearts and minds” in, just as Foreign Affairs wrote in their review of the book, a controversial manner. A look at the table of contents, one finds he is taking a rather in-depth look, with chapter titles ranging from Strategic Influence and Soft Power, Public Diplomacy and Psychological-Political Warfare, Problems of Organization, and, Defense Department: Into the Act?. Lord sets out to look at bureaucratic obstacles, friction from domestic politics, and the impact of media.

From the start, I found myself in agreement with “controversial” label from Walter Russell Mead’s review in Foreign Affairs, but I don’t know if our independent assessment was for the same reason(s). I had trouble with Lord’s definition, arguments and positions.

Continue reading “Book Review: Losing Hearts and Minds?

Is the Privatization of Force Organic to Western Liberal Democracy?

Is the Privatization of Force Organic to Western Liberal Democracy? by Matt Armstrong, 13 April 2007, at 2007 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.

This paper reviews the reality of private military forces and suggests the marginalization and disfavor of mercenaries on land and sea was the result of a political economy and not liberal democratic theories. Reaching back four millennia before Westphalia gives witness to much the same. Sealing off the present from the past leads to false assumptions of the factors that led to the marginalization, but not disappearance, of private force in the nineteenth century. This bracketing of historic events and processes blinds us and prevents seeing and understanding engines of change. Investigating history and it is apparent the history of mercenaries on land and sea begins with the history of war and was subject to changing infrastructural power of the state. The evolution and introduction of liberal democratic principles had little impact on the wholesale removal of mercenaries from the battlefield.

Will people listen to a General?

The recent news an Army general is writing a biweekly column for a US newspaper caused a stir. The column by Major General Rick Lynch is shown as having to contributors, at least one of which is an Army public affairs officer, has raised questions about the division of news and propaganda, or self-promotion. But does it really matter that he’s writing at all? Will anybody read it buy it, truthful or not?

A recent Pew Research Poll has some interesting findings:

Four years into the Iraq war, most Americans say they have little or no confidence in the information they receive – from either the military or the media – about how things are going on the ground. Fewer than half (46%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence that the U.S. military is giving the public an accurate picture of the situation, and even fewer (38%) are confident in the press’s portrayal of the war…

On the negative side, 21% now say they have no confidence in military reports, while 27% have no confidence in press reports on the war. At the start of the war, virtually nobody expressed such views.

Perhaps has the Georgia paper was on to something: publish military authors to boost the paper’s cred.

I suggest you at least glance at the whole Pew Report for comparisons between news interest / coverage over Iraq, Anna Nicole Smith, Brit sailors enjoying some R&R, and the 2008 campaign.

Monday Mash-up

Switching gears…

On now for something completely different…

Readings on civil-military relations

Last month I posted a reading list on civil-military relations on the Smart Power Blog that is now cross posted here. 

Civil-Military Relations 

The importance of understanding and establishing “proper” civil-military relations can’t be understated both at home and in the troubled regions. The relationship between civilian and military leaderships dictates and is dictated by the freedom of the people. This relationship, in a democracy especially, is special and paramount and yet too many do not understand or get it.

Why post on this? It is important to understand civil-military relations in an age where people:

  • Question whether public diplomacy and the management and projection of America’s image should be owned by the military
  • Conflate military and civilian decision making
  • Do not understand why the military accepts “bad” orders

The list above could go on, but I’ll stop and hope you add your own reasons in the comment section.

Below is a brief list of suggested resources to help understand the nature of US civil-military relations:

  • Warriors and Politicians is an excellent book that looks at the unique c-m relationship in the United States. Charlie examines how the military, under dual / dueling masters of the Executive and Legislative branches, developed over the two plus centuries after the Revolution and within parameters established by Founding Fathers, many of whom were military veterans, were wary of a standing army. (Also worthwhile is his more detailed discussion about US Secretaries of Defense in SecDef.)
  • Issues of Democracy: a 1997 US Information Agency (USIA) publication on the importance of civil-military relations in democracy.
  • Center for Civil-Military Relations: it is noteworthy that it is the military itself that dedicates substantial resources to understanding the importance of civil-military relations while the civilian educational system fails to teach the same. (Note the forthcoming book on the CCMR site, Reforming Intelligence, is about Intel and not the military per se.)
  • The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012: published in 1992 and revised over the years, Charles Dunlap’s original portrayal of what happens when the US military decides to protect American society is scary. Turkey’s military is known for intervening over the years to protect Kamalism and I’ve heard some in the US question why the US military doesn’t do the same. Read this to understand the importance of a subordinate military.
  • H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty : Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (a valuable read. McMaster is one of the new whiz kids working with Petraeus in Iraq)

If you really want to go academic, then the following will round out the essential reading list:

When a general writes a column, is opinion or “local news”?

A Georgia newspaper published the first of what is to be a biweekly column by the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, Major General Rick Lynch, on the first page of the second section. What’s interesting is not the message, but that online the column is categorized as “Local News” instead of an opinion piece. (Editor & Publisher wrote that it’s labeled as “story”, but so are Op-Eds. It’s the categorization between the byline and title that counts here.)

What’s the big deal? Well, is it really news? Did contributors Lt. Col Randy Martin, Fort Stewart public affairs officer, and 1st Lieutenant Allie Chase ghost-write the piece?

This is how General Lynch opens his piece:

I’ve asked the Savannah Morning News to allow me to write about Iraq, my personal observations here and your 3rd Infantry Division. So, about every two weeks, I plan to write a column so that you have a better understanding of what is really going on.

From Editor & Publisher:

“I’m on the fence about this, my first reaction is that we need to get this man’s view in the paper,” Catron admitted. “This is a viewpoint from someone who was there and that is how we looked at it. We will start off and see where it goes. I knew it would be controversial.”

There’s a difference between getting his view on paper and making it “news”. In the print edition it’s labeled “commentary” (print circulation: 50,000), but online it’s “local news”, but perhaps that will change soon.

Catron said Monday that Lynch is not paid for the column, adding that at least three newsroom staffers have complained. “They were objecting to it and there is a valued argument there,” she said, noting that one of those who objected was the paper’s military reporter, who could not immediately be reached for comment. “Our military reporter is quite concerned, and we are not finished talking about it.”

There are many parallels with news stations broadcasting stories passed of as news but made by government agencies and private firms highlighting the benefits of some program or product.

I think it’s a good public affairs move for the general to reach out, but does the way the newspaper is positioning harm the intent? What if the general wrote only a small bit or none of the story at all and just signed off on what the PAO(s) wrote?

If the general’s article is local news, then shouldn’t Frank Rich’s column, especially yesterday’s damning “Sunday in the Market With McCain” (subscription required), be listed as news as well?

What do you think?

Who should manage US public diplomacy, State or Defense?

I asked the question a while back about whether Defense should be given control over the creation and execution of US public diplomacy efforts. Here were the results of the poll:

  • 5.9% :: Defense should be the primary and lead in formulating and carrying out America’s PD
  • 11.8%  :: Defense and State should be co-equal in creation and execution
  • 23.5% :: Defense should only be given specific tasks
  • 29.4% :: Defense should but only within a limited scope and in deference to State/Other Civilian ownership
  • 29.4% :: Defense has no business participating in America’s Public Diplomacy efforts

The poll indicates that readers believe Defense should have at most a limited role in America’s public diplomacy and an equal number believe Defense should be out of the PD business entirely.

I revisit this poll from many months ago because of an article Eddie forwarded from the Armed Forces Journal, Why the military can’d do it all. You should read the whole article, but here is some of the red meat pertinent to the above survey results (highlights are mine):

We cannot as a nation or military give way to mission creep because the interagency was shortsighted or underfunded in fulfilling its charter. This is not a question of being inflexible in the face of modern challenges; it’s about knowing your own capabilities and core competencies, as well as those of your potential enemies or perceived threats. I am not taking aim directly at State or any other department or agency within the federal government. Instead, I am looking at the individual charters of each organization and correlating their current project resources and budget levels.

For example, the current budget request for the Defense Department is more than $387 billion, while State’s is about $9.2 billion and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) requests $8.3 billion. It should be clear that the only organization poised to make an impact with this accounting is the Defense Department. I would argue that providing State and the USAID increases in personnel and resources is necessary to balance the instruments of power and to put the right face on U.S. foreign policy.

Remember, the primary mission of our forces is to provide physical security for the nation by defending national and vital interests, while defeating all enemies, foreign and domestic. This shouldn’t change in any context or medium. Relevancy at this basic level is timeless. This fits perfectly within the construct of the instruments of power and the DIMEFIL. It provides the hard power we rely on when absolutely necessary. Unlike the tools used by a mechanic or a surgeon, these so-called “instruments” do not come with owner’s manuals or certification processes, although all are embedded with rules and restrictions set forth in the pages of the U.S. Constitution.

As I watched our commander in chief give the latest State of the Union address, I was impressed to see and hear each of our nation’s instruments of power was embedded throughout his speech, but I also find it difficult to understand why our civilian and military leadership continues to overemphasize the capabilities of the armed forces as we continue well beyond our core competencies. If we are to create a generalized military force, there are serious debates to be had. This isn’t a case of our military forces being incapable or unable to protect our nation and win its wars. It is about our nation’s leadership realizing that it must demand all components of the DIMEFIL be used in concert and ensuring the interagency does its fair share to reach national-level objectives that affect our national and vital interests. It is up to the leadership of the Defense Department to realize that we are not always the best tool for every situation and to ensure our leadership is fully aware of the consequences when the military instrument of power is brought to bear against all enemies, foreign or domestic….

In the past year, I have heard much debate on the necessity of legislating a follow-on to the Goldwater-Nichols Act for the interagency and for increasing jointness among the services. I propose a different tack. I recommend using the stand-up of U.S. Africa Command as a platform for integrating the interagency and instruments of power.

This effort should be resourced and led by State. The current situation elevates the combatant commanders to the historical level of viceroy by virtue of structure, budget and resources. I recommend the creation of a civilian counterpart to which the combatant commander is subordinate. Create a leader for each continent of the globe and make no exceptions. Within the continents there would be the equivalent of an interagency joint task force for each country, with the military component subordinate to the civilian ambassador or equivalent. This would assume that the civilian departments of the federal government have trained experts in their professions, and that the USAID is able to fulfill its charter with organic personnel and resources. The Defense Department would provide support and physical security for mission accomplishment as directed by its civilian leaders….

The final structural iteration would provide for all federal departments and agencies to restructure their organizations into this newly formed integrated global entity. So, when federal departments coordinate, the lines of authority and responsibility would be clearly delineated, and each organization would be able to reach its counterparts at the same level and breadth. This is why the stand-up of Africa Command is important to the future of our foreign policy.


Returning to the issue of renaming the Global War on Terror to the Long War or something else, I thought I’d pull out my suggestion for a replacement name buried at the end of an earlier post.

How about “War Against Child Killers And Militants Organized as Loose Entities“? It pulls on the emotions and includes the idea of a networked enemy of various types. Seems like a good fit to me. In addition to being descriptive of the enemy, it makes for a nice acronym that also jives with our tactics: WACK-A-MOLE.

Tuesday’s China posting

Ok, perhaps I’ll get the 7 thematic days or perhaps my title is simply lazy, either way, a collection of interesting and useful links on China:

REQUEST: This is not on China but on Indonesia, Barnett commented on a WSJ article about FDI in Aceh. I am doing a project on FDI in Aceh, if anyone has sources they’d recommend on this, I’d appreciate any information you could offer or direct me to. Email or post as comment please.

What’s in a name? Plenty.

What’s in a name? Plenty, especially if you’re rallying the democracy around your cause. Declaring a war on something is an American political tradition in that vein. I won’t even get into how many Wars we have inside the US (on Drugs, on Poverty, on Homelessness, on High Prices…), can we have a war on “terror”? No, not really but that hasn’t stopped the its mainstream use.

Finally, there seems to be traction to correct the misleading notion that we can have a Global War on Terror. Zbigniew Brzezinksi says why far better than I, he emphasizes the exercise of fear on the population.   

While truth may actually require protection through a blanket of lies (the classic example being the deception around Operation Overlord), employing “war” when it’s not appropriate isn’t the same and will only lead to bad things, as Brzezinkski notes.

As CSIS’s PCR blog notes, WaPo’s Peter Beinart continues the discussion on “terror” and “war”. However, Beinart falls short when he considers alternatives to “terror”:

Other alternatives have their own problems. Replacing “terror” with “jihadism” would offend many Muslims, since jihad has positive, nonviolent connotations. “Jihadi-salafi,” a term used by some scholars, is less offensive and more accurate but unlikely to play in Peoria. “Al-Qaeda” is logical, but experts now consider it more an inspiration than a mass organization. And al-Qaeda-ism doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Al-Qaeda isn’t the only enemy and Salafism isn’t the only ideology in opposition to the US. How about “War Against Child Killers And Militants Organized as Loose Entities”? It gives a nice acronym: WACK-A-MOLE.

More on the Civilian Response Corps

CSIS’s PCR blog has an update on the Civilian Response Corps (see my previous on CRC here). More notable is a comment posted to their post today:

Among other factors, the creation of a bona fide US civilian response corps requires addressing two institutional impediments within the State Department. One of these is the lack of promotional incentives provided to foreign service officers (FSOs) who venture into harm’s way to engage in stabilization and reconstruction activities. Career FSOs usually move through the ranks by fostering key foreign contacts at embassies–not by taking the risks involved in embedding in remote areas of war torn countries to administer US reconstruction programs. As such, exactly the sort of FSOs and other civilians the US needs to create a viable civilian response corps are not being offered the proper incentives for their actions.

The newly introduced legislation (S. 613) seems to address this institutional problem in Section 9 on “Service Related to Stabilization and Reconstruction.” Part (a) states that “Service in stabilization and reconstruction operations overseas, membership in the Response Readiness Corps…and education and training in the stabilization and reconstruction curriculum…should be considered among the favorable factors for the promotion of employees of Executive agencies.” Parts (b) and (c) provide further incentives for FSOs and USAID personnel to participate in a civilian response corps.

However, the new legislation does not address a more fundamental problem that directly impacts the first. Members of a civilian response corps cannot take the requisite risks to do their jobs if US security officers, with the support of ambassadors, severely restrict their movements. Security officers and ambassadors stand to lose their positions and professional standing when, on their watches, US personnel are injured or killed while doing their jobs. As such, security concerns tend to trump all else, and US political objectives suffer as a result. It is for this reason that US embassies and consulates around the world have become veritable fortresses that are disconnected from the popular mood of their respective countries. In Iraq, for example, US officials have gone out of their way to cordon off US personnel from all that is Iraqi.

Thus while S. 613 is moving in the right direction to provide for future US nation building efforts, it does not address a more fundamental policy problem in the State Department. The whole point of creating a civilian response corps is to recruit civilians who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to further US policy objectives. At some point, the potential for civilian casualties associated with engaging native populations must be factored into the cost of doing business.

Monday’s Mash-up

For Monday’s Mash-up, I offer the following for consumption.

From the British media we have:

  • ArmorGroup wins a $189 million contract to protect the US Embassy in Kabul. This, in the words of TimesOnline (and probably ArmorGroup itself), “confirms Armor as a leader in diplomat protection.”
  • An MP wants to know the Rules of Engagement (RoE) of security contractors in Iraq, as noted in a letter to the editor. Apparently 25% of UK Iraq aid goes to security (why so low? US figures are closer to 33% and up to 50%, are we getting charged too much?, if we give the UK a 5% commission, we’d still save money).

While we’re on the private military industry…

On the wiki front:

On US military readiness and breaking the force (see my posts on Readiness and Recruiting):

Eddie, we’re glad you’re back

Eddie returns from a slumber and comments on the Iranian hostage taking and civil-military relations, ending with:

A similar attitude may be hard to envision in America, but the lack of faith in public officials and the nation as a whole is alarming, to a degree that it could be reasonable to compare it only slightly favorably to the Vietnam debacle and the “malaise” diagnosis of Jimmy Carter. Adam Elkus notes that 1/3 of Americans suspect ulterior motives behind 9/11, prominently USG support and/or acquiescence.  Scandal after scandal in Washington from the compounding disgrace of Katrina to pressuring US attorneys to pursue partisan political charges against the opposition only make this “crisis of confidence” more acute.  Again, like the British, Americans are not innocent here; much of this has gone on with their rudimentary knowledge (from torture to flawed intelligence) and they can no longer reasonably claim to have been “misled.”  

Yet in spite of all this, the prospect of military personnel held hostage by a foreign power raises the reasonable specter of enraged Americans across the partisan divide demanding action (even some of those who don’t buy the official line on 9/11).  

Unless….  The military’s halo of truth, honor and courage is long due to be removed regardless.  Public worship of the military is incorrectly placed and certainly emboldens the political and institutional failure to punish disastrously poor leadership from the likes of General Tommy Franks, Ricardo Sanchez, Peter Pace, George Casey and others.  It prevents hard questions about tactics, direction and accountability to be asked in any meaningful fashion. 

The continuing use of abuse and torture by US forces or their private proxies, the fatalistic acceptance of ethnic cleansing in Iraq, the constant lying to the American people for the past 4 years (marching up to Capitol Hill and other public platforms on a routine basis and claiming â€ťwe’re winning”) and the propensity to “support the troops at any costs” are helping to rot the core of the US Army, just as much as extended, repeated deployments. 

In due time, it is likely that political operatives will begin to use military leaders and by extension, the military itself, as scapegoats for the failing wars in Iraq & Afghanistan.  That’s strike one.  Strike Two will be drastic public disillusionment after the likely failure of the “Surge”.  Strike Three is a nightmare in itself; the kidnap, torture and execution of American soldiers in Iraq.  Insurgents have been trying this for years now, but their chances for success have to be increasing with the vulnerability of lightly manned outposts emphasized by the military in Baghdad.  The propaganda effects of such a tragedy are almost too terrible to imagine, but its reasonable to expect that after years of failure the American people will turn even further against the war.  Even if Strike Three were not to unfold, the negative light fostered by Strike One & the disgrace of Strike Two are alone enough to scuttle the love affair with the military. If and when American troops are captured by Iranians or another nation, it is thus likely a casual indifference like in Britain could ensue or worse, a desperate public push to “bring them home” at whatever costs.

Fixing the frayed bonds between society, the military and the government will require a full, honest effort from all sides.  Nothing less than the continued ability to pursue national policies and goals on a sustainable level abroad and at home is at stake.