Art of Declaring Victory and Going Home

By Tony Corn over at Small Wars Journal: The Art of Declaring Victory and Going Home, Strategic Communication and the Management of Expectations (PDF, 140kb)

Contrary to a naïve belief, actions rarely speak for themselves. The choice of a communication strategy determines whether a military build-up is perceived as a temporary “surge,” or an open-ended “escalation,” and this initial perception, in turn, determines whether a future withdrawal will be perceived as “mission accomplished,” or “lack of resolve.” …

If good deeds spoke for themselves, we could send the Peace Corps and disband the Marine Corps. Good deeds so rarely speak for themselves that even NGOs devote up to one-fourth of their budget to self-promotion, and that the greatest weakness of U.S. AID for years (compared to its EU counterpart) has been found to be its failure to advertise its own activities. …

The idea that strategic communication is at best a supporting activity constitutes a formidable intellectual regression. If the West all loses so many “media engagements,” it is precisely because - as Kilcullen pointed out - al-Qaeda plans its media operations first and gives a supporting role to military operations, while the West too often continues to plan military operations first, and give information operations a supporting role.

Read the whole thing here.