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Winning Hearts and Minds

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posted on Jan, 3 2010 @ 12:07 AM
You have heard the slogan time and time again over the past years during the war on terror. We have to Win the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi and Afghanistan people.

As a slogan it sounds catchy and effective, but how has it worked as a war strategy?

The Diplomatic War

The Diplomatic war is a war where the diplomats are calling the shots. This leaves the military with very little options where they can improvise, adapt, and overcome the situations that arise when facing the enemy. The rules of engagement are very strict. Deals are constantly being made with shady figures. Goals are vague. Ultimately, the military's ability to get the job done is compromised.

The main objective seems to be to win the hearts and minds of the people instead of winning the war on terrorism.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, the War in Iraq and Afghanistan was never a quagmire. Both wars were concluded with comparatively lightning speed and relatively few casualties. It is not the wars that became a quagmire, but the reconstructions and the occupations, the various euphemisms for the long process in which US troops and civilian contractors spend years trying to rebuild and stabilize the country they just invaded.

And this has unfortunately become the American way of war. While to many people the bomber or the fighter jet may embody American fighting power, the practical reality is that America at war is more aptly reflected by the diplomat trying to keep a shaky and corrupt government in power, or the infantrymen killing long days waiting for an insurgent attack. But it was not always this way, because what we now think of as the American way of war, would more accurately be considered the diplomatic way of war.

Must Read

Karzai 12 Rules

The Times compiled an informal list of the new rules from interviews with U.S. forces. Among them:

• No night or surprise searches.

• Villagers have to be warned prior to searches.

• ANA or ANP must accompany U.S. units on searches.

• U.S. soldiers may not fire at the enemy unless the enemy is preparing to fire first.

• U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present.
• Only women can search women.

• Troops can fire at an insurgent if they catch him placing an IED but not if insurgents are walking away from an area where explosives have been laid

Military Stories Over Roles of Engagement

How can the military win the war on terrorism with these kind of rules of engagement?


Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid, the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and graft. From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban government seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it.

How can the US win the war on terrorism when they are dealing with a corrupt government that is capable of making deals with anybody in the name of power, greed, and money?

Money Can't Buy Love

Signs of just how important a weapon aid money is for the military are cropping up left and right, most prominently in the last tenet of the counterinsurgency mantra -- "shape, clear, hold, and build." An April 2009 U.S. Army handbook, Commander's Guide to Money as a Weapons System, provides operational guidance to military officers in war zones like Afghanistan to use money "to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous population to facilitate defeating the insurgents." The idea is to undermine insurgent support by providing a better life for local populations than militants ever could.

Afghans can tell the difference between being assisted and being bribed. "Foreigners think money is the only issue," one tribal elder said. "Money can't win hearts and minds. If you give an Afghan a great meal but insult him he will never come again. But if you treat him with respect but only give him a piece of bread he will be your friend forever.",2

Is money an effective tool in the hearts and minds campaign or is it just a bribe?

Civilian Casualties

Civilian deaths in Afghanistan rose more than 10 percent in the first 10 months of 2009, UN figures showed Tuesday, amid anger over the alleged killing of children in a Western military operation.

Figures released to AFP by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) put civilian deaths in the Afghan war at 2,038 for the first 10 months of 2009, up from 1,838 for the same period of 2008 -- an increase of 10.8 percent.

The figures were released a day after President Hamid Karzai launched an investigation into reports that 10 people, most of them school children, were killed in a raid by foreign troops near the Pakistan border.

Civilians casualties are to be expected in all wars. Afghanistan population is about 28 million. In 10 months, about 2100 civilians died as a result of the war. Is 2100 a huge loss for a population of 28 million? Depends.

We have to look at a bigger picture than just civilian casualties. The victory for hearts and minds is also dependent upon the terrorist we kill, the civilians we injure, the checkpoints we set up, the searches we conduct, the raids that we make, in addition to many other scenarios.

In some ways, it boils down to how much of an interruption we are in the every day life of an Afghan.

How do diplomats expect us to win hearts and minds when we are going on nine years of bombing their homes, shooting at their relatives, or interrupting their way of life?

Propaganda War

The same Taliban that once banned television now boasts a sophisticated public relations machine that is shaping perceptions in Afghanistan and abroad. Although polls show the movement remains unpopular, the insurgents have readily exploited a sense of growing alienation fostered by years of broken government promises, official corruption, and the rising death toll among civilians from airstrikes and other military actions.

Hard to win hearts and minds if the US can't win the propaganda war.

Nation Building

Then there's the question of priorities. Should energy and money be spent on supporting a media commission to monitor bias, or on recovering territory under Taliban control? Jason Campbell, an Afghanistan expert at the Brookings Institution, lauds the lofty goals of nation-building, but says, "when you drill down, our resources are finite, and we have to start making priorities." Rather than be "overly concerned with quality-of-life issues," the Administration should right now focus on "reducing the violence and helping establish legitimacy of the [Afghan] government."

What role should a military play in war? Should it be focused on fighting, nation building, or a combination of the two?

Additional Reading

The Myth of Hearts and Minds

Why do we have to wait for a war in order to win hearts and minds? How many of our troops have lost their lives because politicians want to win hearts and minds instead of fighting a war?

IMO, Winning hearts and minds is a peace time objective. This is the time when politicians should make agreement, reach across the table, and shake hands in an effort to make a better world. This is when roads should be built, bridges repaired, and relationships reinforced. If the US wants to win hearts and minds, then why not just leave. I'm sure that would win many hearts and minds.

However, it won't win the war on terrorism. A military should be used as a last resort. Their objective should be to secure the area and the win in a prompt timely manner.This isn't what our military is doing. Nine years later and Afghanistan is still pretty much unsecured and unstable.

Which is more important, security or hearts and minds? What good is hearts and minds if the enemy is constantly surrounding the environment and causing chaos and intimidation?

How can US win the hearts and minds and at the same time win the war on terrorism?

What other US wars have been successful in winning hearts and minds?

Respect and courtesy please.

posted on Jan, 3 2010 @ 12:42 AM
Not to mention our guys and gals have two strikes against them, as soon as their boots hit the ground, simply for having the Stars and Stripes on their sleeves.

It is quite a dilemma, also compounded by the mixed messages being sent by our elected "leaders" and media/celebrities. How can we expect others to look favorably upon our troops, while there appears to be a lack of support from back home?

How can we gain the trust of the Afghanis, when Gen. McChrystal offers them hope by consulting them for solutions, only to be spanked back home, by those who sent him there?

posted on Jan, 3 2010 @ 12:47 AM
reply to post by jam321

I would say these policies are more about looking good to the public rather than winning the war efficiently, hence were likely concieved far from the battlefield.

This is difficult to answer and I'm sorry that I don't have too much more to offer but you NEED a flag for this, and I don't want to flag without even a reply.

Content aside, this is a shining example of a great post, and deserves support unlike threads which go something like "Jesus saved me from an alien" and somehow gets top flags and replies.

posted on Jan, 3 2010 @ 12:59 AM
reply to post by OZtracized

Sincere Thank you for your post.

I would say these policies are more about looking good to the public rather than winning the war efficiently, hence were likely concieved far from the battlefield.

I agree 100%. I am also starting to believe that the wining of heart and minds is aimed at Americans as well. Once they lose American support, it will be hard to continue the war.

TO WTFover

It is quite a dilemma, also compounded by the mixed messages being sent by our elected "leaders" and media/celebrities. How can we expect others to look favorably upon our troops, while there appears to be a lack of support from back home?

Sad part is that our troops are the ones who get slammed for the mess over there, not the politicians.

posted on Jan, 3 2010 @ 01:15 AM
reply to post by jam321

One thing I can say with conviction is that the troops do not deserve to cop flak for this war or any war.

The blame lies squarely on politicians.

posted on Jan, 3 2010 @ 01:02 PM

Frustrated with the difficulties facing us in Iraq after being denied both adequate troop strength and the authority to impose the rule of law in the initial days of our occupation, U.S. military commanders responded with a variety of improvisations, from skillful “kinetic ops” to patient dialogue. Nothing achieved enduring results — because we never had the resources or the fortitude to follow any effort through to the end, and our enemies had no incentive to quit, surrender or cooperate. We pacified cities with force but lacked the forces to keep them pacified. We rebuilt schools, but our enemies taught us how easy it was to kill teachers. Accepting that it was politically impossible on the home front, we never conducted the essential first step in fighting terrorists and insurgents: We failed to forge a long-term plan based on a long-term commitment. Instead, we sought to dissuade fanatics and undo ancient rivalries with stopgap measures, intermittent drizzles of money and rules of engagement tailored to suit the media, not military necessity.

Below is an interesting story about civil affairs and their effort to win hearts and minds.

It’s not all school, houses and clinics though. You see, the Taliban sees what we are doing, understand the positive impact we have, and are unable to match it. So rather than also trying to win the hearts and minds of the people, they try to instill fear into them. Sometimes, after we build a school, they will burn it down. After we give food and clothes to the people, the Taliban will harass and abuse anyone who accepted our help, and confiscate what we gave them. The Taliban will often tell the Afghan people that we are the enemies of Islam, and that if they accept our help they are supporting us. They want the people to believe that supporting us means they are also anti-Islam. That’s not even a logical statement.

This article shows two things

1) Civil affairs is trying to do what is right.

2) The area is still unsecured. Therefore, no matter what good deeds the civil affair unit does, the Taliban are still present to dominate and influence the area.

posted on Jan, 4 2010 @ 12:32 AM
reply to post by jam321

The sad thing about this whole mess is that at first we had the majority of the populations hearts and minds when we first went in. We pretty much wasted all the good will by focusing most of our attention on the non issues in Iraq. Which was the wrong war in My opinion.
Talk about barking up the wrong tree.

Meanwhile the Taliban who were knocked on their rear and kicked to the street by the US and the Northern alliance have made a come back.

posted on Jan, 4 2010 @ 12:59 PM
reply to post by SLAYER69

Meanwhile the Taliban who were knocked on their rear and kicked to the street by the US and the Northern alliance have made a come back.

Very true and it was done with less troops than we currently have now.

Now we are being reactive instead of proactive.

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