Guest Post: The Rosetta Stone for Strategic Communication? More like Speak ‘N Spell

By Matt Morgan

In the most recent issue of Joint Forces Quarterly, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has put his name on a short commentary that states, "It is time for us to take a harder look at "strategic communication."

The apparent point of the piece is that the admiral believes the military has walked away from the original intent of Strategic Communication, allowing it to "become a thing instead of a process, an abstract thought instead of a way of thinking."

The article presents a number of reasonably good points, most notably the conclusive statement that we need to pay much more attention to what our actions communicate. Unfortunately, the overall effect of the essay makes the Chairman appear late to the game in the eyes of those most engaged in SC concept development. For the most part there is little here to disagree with. But the central argument offers very few substantive observations not already addressed in the USJFCOM Strategic Communication Joint Integrating Concept. Furthermore, it doesn’t so much as bother to acknowledge the DoD’s own SC principles [PDF 1.5Mb], which include — among others — Dialogue, Understanding, Credibility, and Unity of Effort; all key themes presented more or less effectively by the Chairman.

But what is most noteworthy about this editorial is the fact that the writing itself is painfully acerbic — a tone that is wildly off the mark. For this, there is but one reason: The principal authors of this piece were on the attack. In the process of counting coup on their enemies, however, the writers have exposed a gap in their own understanding of U.S. military leaders’ capacity to observe, understand, and adapt.

Unfortunately, the reason for this gap can be laid at the feet of a few members of the Chairman’s own personal staff. Over the past few years, Adm. Mullen’s Public Affairs Office has systematically refused to take part in DoD’s various attempts to develop its integration processes or other Joint Staff and DoD efforts to coordinate organizational communication. As such, select members of the office appear ignorant to the efforts of other professionals across the U.S. military. They have failed to be the good listeners they claim to hold in such high esteem, and have consequently produced what reads like a condescending lecture from the Chairman.

Let us all be clear as to what this is really about. This is a turf war, and the authors have committed the ultimate sin of a staff officer: They have used their boss’ visage to advance their agenda, and in the process drawn an unfair portrait of a senior leader blind to the most progressive thinkers in his organization.

The authors are quick to undermine the term Strategic Communication, writing that the Chairman doesn’t care for it because, "We get too hung up on that word, strategic." I don’t know who the "we" is in this case, but I can assure the Chairman that this is only true among those afflicted by what I call the "Type A" misunderstanding; that is, those who cannot get beyond the most literal comprehension of the word strategic. Oh, yes, a few of these types are out there. But when it comes to military leadership, anyone who has ever used the now-cliché term strategic corporal has at least a basic understanding of the notion that tactical actions can affect communication — for better or worse — at the strategic level.

The stated thesis of the essay, however, is belied by its conclusion:

Strategic communication should be an enabling function that guides and informs our decisions and not an organization unto itself. Rather than trying to capture all communication activity underneath it, we should use it to describe the process by which we integrate and coordinate.

Ah, there it is. The fear of subordination revealed.

Contrast this closing paragraph with the SC JIC, which describes SC as an "integrating function that occurs across the full range of military operations" which serves to "inform operational decision-making." What’s more, it states that "This involves listening as much as transmitting. It applies not only to information, but also to physical communication — that is, action that conveys meaning."

The old PA-paranoia is really at the heart of this editorial, exhibited by the implication that some are trying to place "all communication activity" underneath SC–the same paranoia which can be seen as far back as this 2004 memo [PDF, 87KB]. The article is really far less about clarifying the Chairman’s view of SC.

There’s nothing new here. Yes, it’s damn important, but it’s not new. Really, the biggest weakness of the article is not in what it fails to represent, but what it misrepresents. The argument that we can’t or shouldn’t organize to a process is hollow and exposes the fact that good old bureaucratic in-fighting is what really keeps us from getting better at this. Sure, I recognize that some of the COCOMs may be moving in the wrong direction — but the process of listening, understanding, and informing decision-making requires organizational support. Isn’t the Joint Staff itself a great example? There are 1,200 personnel in that organization — but then there are lots of PowerPoint slides to be built.

Here’s the long and short of it: DoD needs to be in the SC business–etymology of the term be damned. The generation of leaders that has come of age in this war–those who have real experience on the ground–they know what SC is, they know how to do it, and they are getting better at it. If the Chairman can shatter the rice bowls and inspire the force, we can succeed. Unfortunately, essays like this muddy the water and inhibit adoption of a valid approach to integration.

One final point: There was a "strat comm" plan to rebuild Europe — that’s precisely what the Marshall Plan was. Sure, the term strat comm wasn’t around then. But then neither was the Joint Staff.

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Morgan is the Director of Public Affairs at US Marine Corps Forces Command. His comments above are his own.

Guests posts are the opinions of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of They are published here to further the discourse on global engagement.

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19 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Rosetta Stone for Strategic Communication? More like Speak ‘N Spell

  1. What is interesting — and troubling — about this “strategic communications” controversy is that it appears to have (as the elucidating article above suggests) more to do with inside-the-beltway turf wars than with “communicating” with the outside world. See my piece (granted, about the previous administration), “Too Parochial for Empire: The Bush Administration Conquers Washington,” TomDispatch

  2. Hello, Everyone:As a military outsider who is only a communication expert with academic and civilian Fed credentials, let me take a chance on becoming a spear catcher by shifting perspective a bit.
    Applied communication in every field I’ve ever seen suffers from weak definition and avoidance of hard counting. Weak definitions permit many players and all can avoid consequences by claiming communication is complex or unquantifiable. That’s when you get a beatdown like Admiral Mullen delivered.
    The way you stop it is with obvious, irrefutable, repeatable success. Just do it, one might say.
    SC and any related communication function should produce obvious, desirable, and predicted changes in targeted populations and their behavior. If it does, then quote it chapter and verse and the Admiral’s argument disappears.
    To do otherwise is to offer a weak argument. He says it’s not working. You say he’s turf fighting. But, is it working? Just refute the claim with the evidence.
    I know where I can cite chapter and verse in some other fields, but I’m an idiot (can’t you tell?) with the military. Just cite the proof of SC in action (and please not with Mr. Eisenhower – the Admiral is talking about the Long War, not the Cold one, and besides, don’t you think you could stuff a barracks with officers who disagreed with Ike’s approach back then?)
    As a former Fed scientific administrator (1998-2002), I know the outrage of bureaucracy, turfwars, and leadership contradictions. I feel your pain. But, just do it.
    You can spear me here or at

  3. As a DOD practitioner of Strategic Communication, I can understand the various reactions to the Chairman’s article outlined by my fellow respondents above. Also, I’ve seen many emails and received many phone calls about the article since it was published last week. Where you stand on the topic depends, as the old saw states, on where you sit. For example, if you’re a Washingtonian (as I have been), you tend to view his comments as attempting to put down the need for a strong DOD staff organization to participate in a bureaucratic, multi-Department USG megalith to manage and do SC. If you’re a guy in the field (as I am now), the tendency is to interpret the article’s meaning as “actions speak louder than words, so let’s let our actions communicate what we intend so that our credibility can be established.”The SC JIC, to paraphrase, emphasizes that we use words, actions and images to send signals regarding U.S. intent on any given national security issue. In my view, this is a good thing to do–and we need to do it. As we do it, we need to remember the following.
    When we say something or do something, it matters.
    When we don’t say or do something, it matters.
    What we say or do will be misconstrued by some.
    When we say nothing or do nothing, our silence will be misconstrued by some.
    If actions are taken, these must be consistent with what
    has been said.
    At bottom, When we say or do something, it should be because someone has decided that more advantage accrues from making the statement or taking the action than from keeping quiet or doing nothing.
    Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to the discussion!

  4. I can’t disagree with Lt. Col. Morgan more on this point than is possible. From his very first points where he assumes some staff officer with an agenda wrote the piece and that ADM Mullen was some kind of patsy to his hip reference to “counting coup”. To add the misguided belief that JFCOM guidance is some kind of bible to the field shows a stunning lack of understanding of the joint environment.I have lived and breathed the ongoing SC debacle in the field and no one has a clue what “Stratcom” really means. Just last summer I arrived at a 3-star joint headquarters to be told that as the PAO I naturally don’t understand STRATCOM. So it was decided before I arrived I would work for the Foreign Area Officer who did a paper on it in the War College. One of my first tasks was to make sure we got stories in the ‘Early Bird’, the DoD daily news roundup, cause that was how we influenced Washington. I tried to explain that only people with DoD login credentials could read it to no avail.
    It is a running joke how many interpretations and ideas there are on SC and ADM Mullen is making some very good points saying that we can’t just throw some SC downrange. I have had more than a few public affairs colleagues tell me that they have been told they need to “Do a STRATCOMM on that”.
    We have become more and more focused on SAYING things instead of DOING things. Ceremonies and staged events are being mischaracterized as “actions”.
    Finally, to say that the Marshall Plan was a SC effort is a gross misinterpretation of history. Over $13B in US funds were used over 4 years to rebuild western Europe and speed the recovery on the continent dramatically.
    Today if we did the Marshall Plan as an SC effort we would hire a contractor to analyze the information domain. Hire another contractor to place articles in European newspapers. Set up a website and pay some bloggers to say nice things. We would build a Facebook fan page and Twitter feed to talk to the “youth”.
    We would have lots of ceremonies with big cardboard checks and smiling VIP’s who flew in for the ceremony and then rushed back home. In the end, we would only spend half the money on actually doing anything and the rest on “STRATCOMM” support to the effort.
    STRATCOM is a supporting effort of actually doing something not the primary means of interaction abroad. That is the Admiral’s point and that is the fundamental disconnect between those who quote joint guidance and reality in the field.

  5. LtCol Morgan – BZ!I agree with 95% of what you’ve stated. My only disagreement is that the definition does matter – “strategic” means something. If we have everyone at every level trying to “do” strategic communication (SC), it leads to confusing it with what the PAOs already do – Command Information. That’s why, in my opinion, we have tripped and stumbled down the path that we have – focused on words (talking points) rather than actions.
    Jason – Interesting that you included a sentence that SC is “… not information operations, it’s not propaganda”. IO is not propaganda, the fact that you think it is reveals a troubling concept. Take some time to read JP 3-13. IO is a staff synchronization effort not too unlike SC. That is also why commands below the Combatant Command (COCOM) level don’t really “do” SC. Everything they do obviously impacts it, but they have a staff entity (IO) that already performs the synchronization process … to include coordinating with PA. IO has always been one of the traditional core elements of SC, but it is not SC … and SC is not IO.
    FPWellman – Brother, you are a PAO through and through! I know your frustrations, but your experiences about SC have likely been what they were because you are a PAO. PA has a critical function, both doctrinally and within the evolving concept of SC. But PAOs generally lack the ability to operationalize anything – it is not their function. That’s part of the reason why so many FO/GOs talk about sprinkling a little SC on every problem … they tend to see it as a PAO function, so they respond to it within the normal expectations of what they expect from their PAOs. The comments about the Marshall Plan – I couldn’t disagree with you more. The Marshall Plan is a great example of a strategic plan that was based on action (substance) that was then used for influence. The $13B in funds used over a 4 year period to rebuild Europe were done for a purpose – prevent the Soviet expansion into Western Europe, but also provide an counter to Soviet influence in the rest of the post-colonial world. We still reap the benefits of this action today. The orchestration of that plan (actions, words, images) is the best example of what SC should be – not a “thing” that is done, but an inter-agency campaign originating at the Tier 0 (National Command Authorities), lead by DoS and supported by DoD … and all the other elements of national power.

  6. I don’t understand Morgan’s rant. Looking at ADM Mullen’s article, and in particular, this sentence, I have to agree with the Chairman:”In fact, I would argue that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all. They are policy and execution problems. Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are.”
    From what I’ve seen at a certain defense agency – and I have no reason to believe this is unique – I see the civilian leadership saying “yeah, this strategic communication thing is great – here, throw some money at a contractor and tell him to make us one.” And you do get a nice, flowery document that sings the praises of the agency, and it gets sent to all your customers and Congress, and then… you find out that no one believes what you say, because your actions speak louder than your literature.
    Inevitably, the PAO gets the strat-comm job and fails to get the real issue – that if a govt office/COCOM/federal agency says “we do X, Y, Z,” then you damn better well do that better than anyone else. It’s hard for people to believe DOD when it solemnly states concern for the Afghani people and Pakistani people when you’re bombing them during the day and the Taliban are dragging them off at night.
    Strat Comm isn’t just PAO work – talking to the press. It’s not Information Operations, it’s not propaganda. It’s telling a select audience who you want to influence that you’re doing great things, and then FOLLOWING THROUGH and doing exactly what you told them you were going to do. It’s not hard, but then again, it’s not what DOD and its many parts are claiming to do either. And that’s the point of Mullen’s article.

  7. I appreciate these comments, but suspect they represent intra-beltway infighting vs. issues for warfighters in our two current theaters of war. I believe strongly that the folks downrange fully understand the importance of “information effects” to ultimately change behaviors in support of mission accomplishment. They often get confused over the nuanced differences between strategic communication and information operations and PSYOP and public affairs. But they all understand cognitive information effects and understand the old adage that “actions speak louder than words” and “a picture is worth a thousand words.” If you tell a warfighting commander that he is really conducting strategic communication, not information operations (as he may tend to say), he’d tell you he didn’t care what you call it. He just knows he has to acheive effects in support of mission accomplishment. Yes, we need to get the lexicon and doctrine correct and explain relational differences. But the main rub is in DC (thank goodness) not the tough terrain of Iraq and Afghanistan.

  8. Jason,I think that you, and many who responded positively, didn’t actually read the Morgan piece. He also agrees with much of what admiral Mullen said, in fact your quote, “In fact, I would argue that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all…” lines up directly with what Morgan highlighted as one of DoD’s principles of strategic communication.
    Your second point also misses the point, so to speak. You complain that the PAO “gets the strat-comm job and fails to get the real issue…” Once again, Morgan addressed this by identifying holes, gaping holes, in the admiral’s article. The first, and most obvious, is that organizing around a process does not obviate the process and make it “a thing”, as implied by the admiral’s article. You’re right. You can’t just “give SC to a PAO.” There must be trained personnel in place, able to get involved with planning early on, to ensure that the actions will line up with the “messages” that the nation needs to send, through actions or words. Both actions and words need a coordinated communication strategy. Secondly, PAO’s are generally the worst people to assign the problem, because as correctly identified by Morgan’s article, many PAO’s go beyond simple misunderstanding to actual obstruction.
    To top it off, the article was poorly written and would not have made it past my high school English teacher. That, combined with the inconsistencies identified in the, make it a poor reflection of our senior military leadership.

  9. I agree with Dennis regarding the understanding of these concepts at the tactical and operational levels. Indeed, I believe some organizations in the field are way ahead of the Pentagon on this. But within our system, institutionalizing these lessons–building training based on successes, educating leaders in new ways to approach challenges, and organizing the force in a fashion that better supports commander–does require certain painful machinations in Washington so that we can train, equip and resource the force properly.Also, I should offer a response to FPWellman’s assertion that I made an assumption “some staff officer with an agenda wrote the piece and that ADM Mullen was some kind of patsy.”
    Certainly, it would have been useless to base my thesis on an assumption–but this is a point of fact. I know what officers wrote the piece, but didn’t think it responsible to name names. This is, after all, about a mindset that I believe inhibits progress; not a personal attack.
    Futher, I certainly would not (and did not) use the word “pasty” in referencing Adm. Mullen. No doubt the view presented in the article is his own, and it appears that most of us generally agree with the major points presented. It was the execution I took issue with: The timing, the tone, and the lack of real insight didn’t rise to what we should expect from the Office of the Chairman.
    As for the expression “counting coup,” it was common where I grew up–an area where most waterways and many counties still have names given by the Plains Indians. Not sure what’s so “hip” about that?

  10. AllThanks very much for the discussion. The discussion more than the article has confirmed a couple of things in my mind. Firstly, the preponderance to clearly define terms and then assign clearly defined tasks to clearly defined groups does not work in the muddied waters of generating effects in the information domain… particularly where extant organisations, budgets and cap badges are at play.
    Admittedly as an Aussie where we have to do more with less we have developed a different approach but it appears that most of the discussion on here surrounds who should and shouldn’t be doing Stratcom rather than how to incorporate strategic guidance for information effects. From my perspective we focus too much on who does Stratcom (to the detriment or benefit of other organisations with a stake in it) rather than utilising it as an opportunity to craft a whole-of-government approved communication strategy (in the military sense of strategy). Stratcom should not seen as a thing (a Stratcom organisation) or an effect (I can’t Stratcom a target) but a way to bring together a whole-of Government/Coalition in their information effects by setting the left and right of arc for those that actually operationalise it. All of the focus over the past couple of years on creating a new definition to highlight the listening aspect of Stratcom is more about academic prowess than it is about creating effects … what information environment operator in their right mind would seek to do his/her work without assessment? Of course we know we need to listen to those we’re communicating with … the first year of my undergrad taught me that. This one step moved the workable Stratcom definition as it appeared in 2004 (that was designed to bring together key groups (IO, PA and State) and have them focus on the issue and work together) into an academic exercise in communication theory. It our (well yours actually) definition shouldn’t it be something that any practitioner can almost use as a mission statement? October-December 2004 proved that Stratcom as a process rather than a function can work and work very well in a highly contested information environment by using a definition that basically said work together for the common good …now, like EBO, CAS, SOS, etc we’ve so over-engineered our own definitions that no one even know how to apply them anymore let alone what they actually mean.
    As much as Matt and others on here repeatedly tell us that the State system is flawed I would have to say that from an outside PoV the U.S. military one isn’t much better. There’s currently too many people trying to operate in the same domain and carve out a piece of it for themselves by creating the one thing that good communication is supposed to avoid … isolated stovepipes. I understand you have all of these limitations that I don’t have to contend with but when I see statements like “PAOs generally lack the ability to operationalize anything – it is not their function,” I’m left wondering … Why is someone in uniform if they are not there to contribute to operations?

  11. Matt,Thanks for taking the time to start (or continue) this important debate.
    I just retired after 20 years in military Public Affairs. I was an early adapter and proponent of Strategic Communication within the Air Force PA community, but to this day I believe SC must be a process, not the function it has become in many organizations. It is this morphing of SC into a functional area — supported by contractors — that Adm. Mullens’ commentary addresses. I do not read into his piece that he is attacking SC as a process.
    I was part of the biggest SC failure in modern history as part of the CPA organization in Baghdad immediately following the invasion. The problem was not a PA clash with anyone. The problem was that the coalition organization writ large (including the military command) saw SC as a “spin machine” with the goal of propping up political support for the war in the US and Great Britian. Audiences in the Middle East came in a distant third.
    The answer to this failure was not a reassessment, but a wresting of organizational communication away from professional communicators (PA, IO) and into the hands of professional trigger pullers and contractors. The theory was that more of the same was needed, but with more “hoo-ah”. Multi-million dollar contracts were let, overseen by war college distinguished graduates with no mass communication experience. Lots of effort. Lots of manpower forward deployed. Lots of pretty Power Point graphs. But, little result. It looked to me like the futile Polish calvalry charges against German armor in WWII.
    I saw this mistake played out again and again in subsequent deployments throughout the Centcom and Africom AORs, fueled by commanders who think that if everyone just knew what they know, they would believe what these commanders believe. The advertising industry has been selling this lie for a century, and now military and political leaders have fallen into the same trap.
    Today, SC is a mess across our government. There is little coordination between those responsible for action and those responsible for communicating these actions. Contractors, government employees and military officers have built SC empires, with little to show for it. Is it any wonder our credibilty is soiled? Our actions do not follow our words.
    Adm. Mullens’ point is simply this: Actions speak louder than words; concentrate on actions that build trust.

  12. Matt,Fair points on your insider knowledge that I am not privileged to and the counting coup phrase. That’s what I get for shooting from the hip.
    However, I do feel strongly that you are missing some very signficant challenges that are occuring between Stratcom “theory” and actual practice. I have witnessed some utter debacles where units and headquarters are trying to influence audiences without any requisite knowledge of communications theories or venues and its resulted in utter failure. Its not an inside the beltway food fight at all. This battle is being waged in Brigades and Battalions up to their asses in alligators.
    @Spartacus. Yes, I am a PAO but the phrase that PAO’s don’t understand how to operationalize things is as cliche now as the strategic corporal Matt mentions. In the last 8 years of war the Army’s PA corps has been completely revamped. Now most of our officers are coming out of the field and practicing their trade in Brigades in combat. The days of powerpoint PA’s with walls bedecked with pictures of them and celebrities is quickly ending. I personally was an operator for 15 years including the Chief of Future Operations for a 3-star command and battalion S3 in combat. Believe me I get operations. Every time I am told that I don’t get operations cause I am a PAO I ask the person “really…what don’t I get?” and watch the blank stare appear…and some sort of “well…you know…like operational stuff” as if there is some magical understanding thing that occurs when you have a 3, 5 or 7 somewhere in your office symbol.
    Cheeseconey is dead on. There are empires being built around the globe around SC with little to show for the money and massive effort wasted. PAO’s not being operational are not the problem. Communicating with people is universal and if you are operating with nothing but talking points and images without clear actions and results to back them up they will quickly figure out that you are full of crap.
    I think this is what Matt says often on here. USAID is a major part of our overseas image. How can we say we are helping the world and then not fund our government agency charged with that duty? His post on the Marshall Plan is perfect. They didn’t talk about the real motives behind it. The plan was to let the actions influence the people it targeted. We built decades of goodwill by just letting our actions speak louder than our words.
    Having said all that I do not claim to be an expert in any of this. I am experienced and ridiculously over educated on the topic and there is clearly a disconnect between theory and practice that I for one and am glad ADM Mullen chooses to discuss at least. The fact that we are on here sharpshooting each other is every bit as valuable as the actual points he makes.

  13. I seem to have struck a nerve with my comment about PAOs generally lacking the ability to operationalize! To be clear, that’s not a comment related to the operational level of war or the conduct of operations. I was using the definition of operationalize as meaning “to define a concept or variable so that it can be measured or expressed quantitatively”. PAOs tend to exist within the news cycle, and don’t spend much time analyzing target audiences, determining objectives, effects, tasks or the successful (or unsuccessful) accomplishment of same.

  14. Matt, good point in response to my comment regarding necessary DC machinations. Rereading my input I certainly understated the importance of those same brutally difficult “battles.” These misunderstandings likely led the HAC-D to slash the IO budget recently and certainly reflect a need for both a review and clarification of lexicon, and an internal strategic communication effort to insure beltway stakeholders understand these concepts and how they apply to our national security.

  15. Spartacus … I have to disagree wholeheartedly with the following ” PAOs tend to exist within the news cycle, and don’t spend much time analyzing target audiences, determining objectives, effects, tasks or the successful (or unsuccessful) accomplishment of same.” That is not the PAO’s shortfall you are identifying … it’s the commander’s. Commanders drive the reactive cycle that PAO’s and everyone else in the information domain exist in. It’s just more pronounced in the PAO’s work because everyone sees the daily cause and effect when the clippings come out or are briefed and the commander flares up and demands a reaction. I don’t know of a single decent PAO who actively seeks to engage is such an ad hoc, reactive manner. I know a hell of a lot of commanders who think that responding to something that is tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper helps them win the “IO battle.”

  16. Full disclosure up front: I’m a military contractor. I’m a relatively recent graduate looking at this discussion and at these issues from the very extreme bottom of the totem poll. So while there is much context I am missing, it sure is an interesting perspective.I think it’s interesting that LTC Morgan takes most issue with the tone of ADM Mullen’s piece. Perhaps if the authors had been practicing what they were preaching, they would have researched their audience and cleaned up the tone a bit? Perhaps the whole thing wouldn’t be italicized and in smooshed-together paragraphs on Those are tactics of good communication, and less “strategic” I suppose 😉
    As a relatively recent graduate of a corporate communications program, I’ve learned one very important lesson from the “real world:” the day-to-day gets very much in the way of all of our academic theories and strategies and ideals. So whether it’s staff officers bickering over turf, a commander who wants to be focus on the news cycle, or an IED going off in the middle of building something positive for Afghans, we’re going to have to make adjustments.
    From my (very low) perspective, what gets in the way the most is, indeed, turf wars. Who owns what information? Who presses “publish”? Who tells which audience? Who cares as long as the right stuff gets to the right people?
    So I agree with LTC Morgan that an article with ADM Mullen’s name on it was the inappropriate place for turf wars. I also agree with ADM Mullen and his authors that we need to be a little less uptight with communications.

  17. Facebook User – Touche` Your point is well made, and well taken (band aide please?)!The environment you painted is exactly why IO in general, and PSYOP in particular, often struggle to find tracction with the Commander. Influence takes time (other than kinetic action, which tends to produce very fast results – albeit often uncontrolled and negative) and we never have enough time to do things right, but always seem to find time to do them again.

  18. We are not winning in Afghanistan so whatever we say is screwed up. If we don’t have a good policy (much like Iraq Pre-Surge with GEN Casey, who refused to do “stratcomm” and is the father of much of this mess) it doesn’t matter what we say – it’s a mess. Get the policy fixed with communication/PAO pros helping and a lot of this conversation will disappear. Thanks Matt Morgan for helping this dialogue happen.

  19. I think that the Chairman’s article has some merit, yet one has to separate the good from the bad. SC, in my view, is still being hampered by the old guard style of thinking, which got us mired in Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place. Yes, we can look back and see where mistakes were made, but trying to win war based on popularity polls is a repeat of the same mistake. What we missed and what we continue to miss is the engagement portion of SC, which I feel is one of the Chairman’s central messages. We don’t “win hearts and minds” anymore, the world won’t allow that. Yet, if we take a step back and “engage hearts and minds” we may see different results. This is one of the major tenets of SC and I can only hope that senior leaders recognize this difference and can set the wheels in motion for constructive engagement rather than alienation.

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