Saturday, January 9, 2010

All You Need Is Love

I came across this chart in an article on SWJ discussing hybrid warfare and the differences between material and cognitive approaches to warfare.

I don't really have any issues with this personally. But I say: good luck trying to get Soldiers and Marines to focus on "emotions" and "feelings". I'd argue they can buy the rest of the list on the bottom right, but those two I singled out may exceed the flexibility of military culture.

One of my favorite bosses in the Army, who had a particularly unique relationship with the English language, once asked a group of us LTs for the definition of defeat (apologies to the Ink Spots crew who have already heard this). One of the other guys piped up with the usual (and doctrinally correct) definition of reducing the enemy's capabilities to the point that he isn't able to fight. "Bullshit," said this particular major of cavalry. "Defeat is kicking your enemy's ass, pivot steering on his battle position, rummaging through his rucksack, eating his food, and rubbing your [male anatomy] all over his girlfriend's picture. That's defeat." I can attest that this guy gets COIN (or least the understanding that civilian perceptions are important), but I don't think emotions or feelings will ever enter his lexicon.

I'm not too sure why things like this are included in COIN writing (or the softer side of hybrid in this case). It's like that stupid "Love Bank" that made it's way into divisional warfighting handbooks (I really wish I were kidding). I got it. So does most of the operational force. We care about civilians and what they think. But do we really care how they feel? Shaping perceptions and mental processes to obtain desired behaviors among the population is a no-brainer. Do I care if they love me? While my former boss falls on the left side of that chart, and I understand and buy most of the right, do emotions and feelings matter if the population is doing what I want them to? How do you positively effect those attributes if you think they're important? I'd be interested in your thoughts, before DoD hires this guy as a consultant.


  1. "But I say: good luck trying to get Soldiers and Marines to focus on "emotions" and "feelings"."

    Well, that explains the online demeanor of some of you. Unlike the military types you describe, emotions and feelings are practically all I've got.

    Seriously though, I loved this post *so* much I read it, like, three times over and smiled each time. Isaac! Remember Isaac! How is it that Love Boat was considered family fare "back in the day" and you watched as a child on a Saturday nite followed by Fantasy Island? I mean, a kid watching that stuff? Because everyone I know did. What was wrong with us back then America? Maybe Tipper Gore testifying before Congress happened for a reason... .

    It seems to me from the anecdote above that feelings and emotions enter plenty into the lexicon of the boss man you describe: it's just that the feelings and emotions are blunt, rough, and er, kind of testosterone-ish (not bashing the testosterone. Just being honest. Which, I admit, that stuff freaked me out on Abu Muqawama, so I would scroll past those types of comments, madly, and pretend none of it existed. Ignorance is bliss.

    The population doesn't have to love you,, I guess, but don't you want the population to not actively hate your guts at the very least? That's focusing on feelings and emotions and even the most Spock-like mentality understands hatred directed toward the self.

  2. Wait, shorter Madhu. Why can't you do both when it's feasible and meaningful, and triage when it's not?

  3. Mahdu - I think you're spot on about feelings being part of the military culture and that they're more "masculine" in nature. And not just "How's that feel???" as you're pivot steering on your enemy's battle position... It's just that culture doesn't really like to talk about it.

    But with regard to the population's feelings, I'm with you that you don't want them to feel hatred towards the counterinsurgent - that would suggest that their behavior and decisions would not likely align with the counterinsurgent's goals. I think it would be great for the peoples of the world to love the U.S. and American soldiers, but I don't know how you accomplish that.

    My experience in Iraq was interesting in this regard because of the fine line trying to get the locals to like you. You could do really nice things for them, but their response would be indignation because they couldn't provide for themselves. I'm at a loss on how to create that "love", even if the USG had a clue on how to conduct IO and public diplomacy.

    This also gets to a broader point. How many tax dollars should the U.S. spend to get people to love them when indifference can produce a nearly identical result? Why shoot for adoption when acquiescence gets you what you need?

    Maybe DoD should hire Isaac...

  4. Don't think that you (this includes ISAF, ANA and ANP) need them to "love" you.
    But they

    - should not hate you for bloying up their mom / sister etc (in some cases, it will be inevitable that some kids hate you for killing their Talib dad, but that can't be helped, only mitigated)

    - should respect you. I.e. they should be able to trust your word and they should know that if they are targetted by Talibs and call you on their cell phones, you will show up and beat them Talibs up, without taking their money for the effort.

  5. I was wondering if you were Rick Rolling us with the youtube link.

    Regarding feelings versus conclusions, I think that requires a level of sophistication that we are not likely to achieve in a given AO unless we spend a few decades operating there. And even if that were to occur, it would probably only happen if we allowed our forces to marry into the population (think South Korea, Germany, or Okinawa).

  6. If you figure out how to make people love you, Gunslinger, let me know -- I apparently hurt Gian Gentile's feelings so badly that he's quitting the internet.

  7. Gulliver,
    Read the comment directly below it. I talked him off the ledge. Apparently, I've traded in my M4 for Cupid's arrow.

  8. Schmedlap -- We're like the goddamn Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul of the COIN blogosphere, dude.

  9. Mr. Washington would be so proud of you, Schmedlap. So proud.

  10. Uh, because I am procrastinating, I actually tried to read part of that Love Bank link. WTF?

  11. Well, it was a condensed version of the concept, but yeah. The love bank....

    It seems to be a metaphor to explain to stupid people why they should be, well, people.

  12. It is a good feeling to still not know anything about this "love bank" concept. I feel as though I managed to avoid at least one bit of command-directed stupidity in my career.