Friday, May 25, 2007

The Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man

Austin Bay interviews Dr. David Kilcullen, senior counter-insurgency advisor to Gen. David Petraeus and Multi-National Force -Iraq. Austin Bay says "If [the counterinsurgency strategy] sounds something like a political campaign, that’s because it is –politics, including politics by other means."


Since counterinsurgency is a competition to mobilize popular support, it pays to know how people are mobilized. In most societies there are opinionmakers: local leaders, pillars of the community, religious figures, media personalities, and others who set trends and influence public perceptions. This influence—including the pernicious influence of the insurgents—often takes the form of a “single narrative.” This is a simple, unifying, easily-expressed story or explanation that organizes people’s experience and provides a framework for understanding events. Nationalist and ethnic historical myths, or sectarian creeds, provide such a narrative. The Iraqi insurgents have one, as do al- Qaida and the Taliban. To undercut their influence you must exploit an alternative narrative: or better yet, tap into an existing narrative that excludes the insurgents. This narrative is often worked out for you by higher headquarters—but only you have the detailed knowledge to tailor the narrative to local conditions and generate leverage from it.


One way to restate Dr. Kilcullen is to say 'the enemy has been telling his story. We have not been telling ours.' And that I am afraid, is not the enemy's fault. The wound is entirely self-inflicted. Somewhere in the last forty years the West's favorite cultural activity changed from telling it's story to disparaging it: to mocking its faith, describing its economic system as inhuman, ridiculing the continuation of its family life as bovine. This trend came under many colors: anti-establishmentarianism, sexual liberation, cultural rebellion. It occasionally described itself as avante garde, though whither this advanced contingent was heading no one could say, except that it led away.

And now by some irony, Dr. Kilcullen says that in order to defeat a vicious, backward and ruthless enemy whose primary tool is the narrative that he preaches, we set against it an goal of equal worth. We must rival the enemy vision with one of our own, or perhaps more accurately, one that the Iraqi people can come up with. Our survival must be purchased at the cost of renewed self-belief. Alas, some will find the price too high.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

Update

Blackfive has much more on the Kilcullen roundtable. And here's a less literary allusion to the idea of a Hollow Man.

10 Comments:

Blogger R said...

Ok, this sounds just right. Now for the Frankenstein moment:

What kind of "reluctant leader" does the United States need to create a unified people internally, and to communicate externally; to those peoples outside our borders?

I suggest: Colin Powell. When he says the United States will fight to win, he means it!

I suggest: Fred Thompson. He has a television presence that is very believable, the trusted Uncle who suggests wisdom in many ways.

I suggest: Newt Gingrich. He just may be the smartest politician in American politics. Fast on his feet, creative thinker, and he loves to come up with solutions, a whole bundle at a time.

If we could create the best from all three, I think we would have the right leader(s) for our Country's pressing needs...say, survival!

5/25/2007 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger lugh lampfhota said...

Sure, we don't have an American mythology anymore.

I grew up with cowboy heros and now we have cowboys buggering each other in the movies. I had a Marine father who killed evil japanese as a hero and now our soldiers are seen as Darth Cheney dupes. The list goes on and on. Our mythology has been utterly destroyed.

Our cultural heros today are sociopathic gangstas or empty-headed yet wealthy whores like Paris Hilton. What's there to admire and emulate? No Chu Cullainn nor Ulster mythical cycle material there.

Hollow man indeed.

5/25/2007 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

In related news, but not of the obvious type, the paid membership of CAIR appears to be collapsing. Though the Hamas offshoot continues to punch above its weight in the salons of the infidel politicians, it has lost its appeal to actual Muslims, who no longer wish to belong to such a lying, deceitful organization.

It is possible to oppose a false narrative with the truth. This shows it.

5/25/2007 07:50:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"Somewhere in the last forty years the West's favorite cultural activity changed from telling it's story to disparaging it: to mocking its faith, describing its economic system as inhuman, ridiculing the continuation of its family life as bovine."

I would suggest the last ninety years...the start date making obvious the source of the rot.

5/25/2007 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

this is why you'll hear me talk about killing the cost of water desalination so as to turn the deserts green and double the size of the habitable planet. it is not just doable. it serves as a very good counter narrative both to the primitives and to the globalist elites.

5/26/2007 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

speaking of which here's a link to my latest post

Australians Rejects Bulk Water Transfer in Favor of Desalination Research

what I don't mention in the post is that the bush administration favors bulk water transfers from canada because it fits into the NAU model--not because it is a good solution to the water problem

5/26/2007 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger R said...

Charles: I think you are onto a smart and wise track in your thinking about water sources and the impact such attitudes would have all over this planet.

Something tells me the late R. Buckminster Fuller would be in total agreement.

There are many alternatives to war. Politics are always behind invention and the application of technological discoveries.

Good idea that needs more, much more promotion.

5/26/2007 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

How can America, how can we, not be able to articulate the preferability of liberty, the rights of man, and a philosophical premise we have built on for more than two hundred years? All of America is full of words - television, radio, the Internet. If we can't express the important parts of what we are, all of that is blab.

5/26/2007 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

How can America, how can we, not be able to articulate the preferability of liberty, the rights of man, and a philosophical premise we have built on for more than two hundred years? All of America is full of words - television, radio, the Internet. If we can't express the important parts of what we are, all of that is blab.

5/26/2007 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger weswinger said...

The fragmentation of the left with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the wholesale proof of socialism's failure, has made the left harder to contend with than ever. They have now sprouted up like weeds with environmentalism, multi-culti and the like. The means has stayed the same: defeat capitalism and liberal democracy with it's own compassion and concern for the future.

Their chief bastions are the liberal arts departments at universities and in government service. One problem with conservatives is that they are driven to finding useful occupations. One bit of good news is that they breed at a low rate, and must prey on our young people's minds.

It is tough to speak these truths to friends and families that are part of the problem. It is useful to find a place like this to both vent and hear it put into civil discourse. Maybe this time I'll be well armed enough.

Once more into the breach!

5/27/2007 07:02:00 PM  

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