Austin Bay posted a list of “measurements of effectiveness” he thinks Petraeus will consider in the too-highly hyped September progress report. Even though Austin acknowledges the importance of perception, he focuses his list on Industrial Age (no, not “3GW”) qualifiers that are essentially the same that led to the “surprise” collapse of the Soviet Union.
Here’s Austin’s nod to perception management:
Recognize this problem: if you tell the enemy what you are measuring and it become very easy for him to frustrate it — at least frustrate it perceptually. The best example (or perhaps “worst example” is more appropriate) is the conclusion that Babil is secure. The leader of an Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia cadre sees that conclusion in a newspaper headline so he sends several suicide bombers to Babil. One gets through and kills twenty Iraqis. What’s the media tout? Petraeus was wrong?
Yes, the enemy sees an opportunity. He’s smart, even when he’s sitting in a cave he’s more adept at us at manipulating public opinion. And what do we do? Nothing. We create his opportunities, do nothing to defend proactively or retroactively. It isn’t a big challenge to be a propaganda officer for an insurgent group, but it should be.
Not only do we need to move away from numbers of officers and soldiers in defining success and toward more qualitative measurements, but we need to have active countermeasures that anticipate and respond to enemy IO.
There’s too much complaining that the media jumps on the bandwagon after a terrorist strike. Who else will they hear? There ain’t nobody else talking to counter the IED or suicide bomber pinpricks. Not only can we not counter enemy IO, we can’t anticipate it, and this inability to manage perceptions continually strikes at our credibility, legitimacy, and lowers confidence. (How’s the urban tourniquet going for those inside the walls? Last I heard, not so great. No mini-PRT to make the walled communities something to be demanded.)
Too many fret about the media jumping the bandwagon driven by insurgents and terrorists, but with such a passive and suicidal stance on IO must include getting the truth out and exposing the lies, deceptions, perversions, and self-serving criminal behavior in the name of Islam or tribe, it’s not surprising. You can go ahead and be upset when the media questions Petraeus, but what else are they supposed to think? What other news do they have to cover? How else are they to frame the messages?