Wednesday, May 26, 2010

From the Department of Incredibly Misleading Headlines

Yesterday I saw the following headline show up in a number of places on Twitter:
Gates Orders Services To Adopt McChrystal's COIN Standards
Sounds like a big deal, right? So I click the link and head on over to Defense News, expecting to read something revolutionary about how GEN McChrystal's counterinsurgency guidance had inspired a Department-wide review of doctrine and TTPs, or something.

Well, turns out that's not what this is. I wasn't even going to comment on the whole thing until this morning, when I saw the same headline linked at SWJ and on a number of other blogs.

Here's the first couple of paragraphs of the article running under that headline:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has directed the U.S. military services to adopt a set of counterinsurgency tools modeled after ones instituted in Afghanistan by Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, said a senior Pentagon official.

Gates on May 24 signed a directive ordering the services to "take McChrystal's COIN training and proficiency standards ... and adapt those for the whole force," Garry Reid, deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combat
terrorism, told Defense News May 25.

The idea is to take the kinds of COIN training and "proficiency" standards that McChrystal, the top American general in Afghanistan, implemented there with his "AfPak Hands" program.

Then later, this:

Gates wants the new military-wide training and proficiency standards to be "in line" with those used in McChrystal's "Hands" program, Reid said.

"Every service member needs some understanding" of the local population, culture and language "when they're going to be on the ground," he said during prepared remarks at an industry conference in Arlington, Va.

The memo instructs the Pentagon's top policy shop in coming months to develop the framework for the standards. It will then be up to the services, Joint Staff and other military components "to fill those out - as they would with anything else," Reid said.

So really what we're talking about here is this: the SECDEF wants to take the metrics by which we measure the language and cultural skills of AfPak Hands personnel and extend them across the whole Department, meaning that the folks in that program won't be the only ones headed downrange who are trained to be sensitive to the "human terrain."

It's difficult to understand why you'd call these "McChrystal's COIN standards;" while the sorts of skills that AfPak Hands' training program is focused on are obviously relevant to personnel operating in the COIN environment in Afghanistan, that phrase clearly evokes the ROE/SOP direction published by McChrystal under the title "ISAF Commander's Counterinsurgency Guidance." It seems clear that the publication wasn't trying to be sensationalist or anything -- the writer was just relaying the poorly-articulated, second-hand message of DASD Reid and elected to stay consistent with Reid's confusing word choice.

This isn't exactly a non-story -- the fact that AfPak Hands' metrics are considered meaningful and useful enough to be extended across the services is worthy of mention -- but I think a lot of people are reading this headline and getting the wrong idea.

5 comments:

  1. 'the fact that AfPak Hands' metrics are considered meaningful and useful enough to be extended across the services is worthy of mention'

    Except that there's a great deal of debate on these metrics, not the least of which is a concern that they're measuring occupation and not pacification.

    But other than that, they're swell!

    SNLII

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  2. Posted by Schmedlap | May 26, 2010 9:34 AM

    Posted by Gulliver at 10:19 AM

    Damn, I'm good. And more concise.

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  3. Except that there's a great deal of debate on these metrics, not the least of which is a concern that they're measuring occupation and not pacification.

    Dude, I know. I'm not the one giving the order; Gates is. I'm reporting the fact that HE thinks they're worthwhile, not that I do.

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  4. Damn, I'm good. And more concise.

    Damnit.

    Schmedlap @0934 at SWJ:

    Wait a minute.

    The headline says, "Adopt McChrystal's COIN Standards."

    The body of the article says, "a language and cultural immersion effort."

    Which is it?


    Ah, but you just ASK the question, you don't answer it! I just told you which it is!

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  5. I'm not the one giving the order; Gates is.

    Gates' brain weighs more than all three of our bodies combined, so I'd be hesitant to attribute anything to him that is not absolutely correct or brilliant.

    The article presents a bunch of snippets of quotes without providing much context. The article actually makes is actually misleading in that it suggests a context that doesn't seem to be accurate.

    It seems, in spite of the headline, that what Gates has directed is pretty general, with lots of room for the services to adjust as they see fit. The headline frames the issue as though Gates is saying something that he didn't say.

    The (partial) quote from Gates is: "Every service member needs some understanding" of the local population, culture and language "when they're going to be on the ground,"...

    That seems pretty common sense, regardless of whether we're forging ahead with COIN tactics in Afghanistan or total war against the Nazis.

    ReplyDelete