Perception and Strategy Part I.

  • With respect to ourselves, live up to our ideals: eliminate those flaws in our system that create mistrust and discord while emphasizing those cultural traditions, experiences, and unfolding events that build-up harmony and trust.  [That is, war is a time to fix these problems, not to delay or ignore them. As an open, democratic society, the United States should have enormous advantages in this area.]
  • With respect to adversaries, we should publicize their harsh statements and threats to highlight that our survival is always at risk; reveal mismatches between the adversary’s professed ideals and how their government actually acts; and acquaint the adversary’s population with our philosophy and way of life to show that the mismatches of their government do not accord with any social value based on either the value and dignity of the individual or on the security and well being of society as a whole.  [This is not just propaganda, but must be based on evidence that our population as well as those of the uncommitted and real/potential adversaries will find credible.]
  • With respect to the uncommitted and potential adversaries, show that we respect their culture, bear them no harm, and will reward harmony with our cause, yet, demonstrate that we will not tolerate nor support those ideas and interactions that work against our culture and fitness to cope. [A “carrot and stick” approach.  The “uncommitted” have the option to remain that way—so long as they do not aid our adversaries or break their isolation—and we hope that we can entice them to join our side. Note that we “demonstrate” the penalties for aiding the enemy, not just threaten them.]

I would observe that in public diplomacy, IO  and demonstrations of force, the United States more often than not in the past decade, pursued actions in Afghanistan and Iraq that are exactly the opposite of what Boyd recommended. We alienated potential allies, regularly ignored enemy depredations of the most hideous character, debased our core values, crippled our analysis and decision-making with political correctness and lavishly rewarded treachery against us while abandoning those who sacrificed at great risk on our behalf . We are still doing these things.

Most of our efforts and expenditures at shaping perception seem to be designed by our officials to fool only themselves.

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5 comments on this post.
  1. Madhu:

    We alienated potential allies, regularly ignored enemy depredations of the most hideous character, debased our core values, crippled our analysis and decision-making with political correctness and lavishly rewarded treachery against us while abandoning those who sacrificed at great risk on our behalf .
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    Bingo. You have a knack for distilling complicated things into a few sentences.
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    Jason’s piece is very good.

  2. Madhu:

    Ideas, not things. I overuse that word.

  3. Nathaniel T. Lauterbach:

    I believe that the OODA model is most applicable at the tactical level, but occasionally can be used metaphorically at the strategic and operational levels as well.  My biggest issue with dealing with other’s perceptions as an influence is that it’s ultimately a question of who’s perception we’re dealing with, and whether I should trust them.
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    When I hear of European misgivings about America’s conduct with respect to X, I always wonder if “European misgivings” is actually “Davos set misgivings”.  Should I care?  Maybe.  But probably not.
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    Rather, I think it’s more useful to adhere to our own values, and make our own judgments with respect to whether we are upholding our birthright.  I prefer not to delve into the unreliable realm of what country X thinks of us, and this is especially so with regard to distinctly American norms (since we have a Bill of Rights and a constitution that theoretically limits our government in unique ways).  Of particular note nowadays is SSG Bale is probably very happy he is going to be tried by a jury of military peers, which probably offends many sensabilities around the world.
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    S/F,
    NTL

  4. Nathaniel T. Lauterbach:

    Part 2?

  5. zen:

    Hi Nate,
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    Part II is in draft form. Last week was an enormous headache at work and I had very little time to blog. Part II. should be up tonight or Monday morning.
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    How are things on your end?