Kenneth Payne's recent article in Parameters, "Waging Communication War," raises one of the critical questions around counterinsurgency: How does the political action part work, exactly?
Payne can't possibly answer the question fully in a short article. However, it's important to recognize how little guidance most statements of counterinsurgency doctrine provide. For example:
- Everyone can agree that it's important to understand the population of people whom you're trying to win away from the insurgents. But what constitutes a convincing argument for supporting the government over the guerrillas?
- Where do you begin, with the local elites or average people?
- Are you trying to win the population's support or acquiescence?
- How do you know you've succeeded? And how lasting is that success?
And so on. For the lieutenant or captain stepping into the job of counterinsurgency, even the best books on the subject have surprisingly little to say that provides specific guidance. Just saying that, "Every country is different," is even worse. Surely there's some practical guidance that someone can provide.
Some of the more recent training developed in the US Army and Marines is helpful on this score. I'd also like to offer another source of advice, something that Payne alludes to but only begins to explore, contemporary theories about marketing.
Now, before you roll your eyes, let me just say that the kind of advice I'm talking about goes beyond what people often think of, when they hear marketing. Slick advertising executives of the sort you see on Mad Men need not apply. Instead, there are some very down-to-earth ideas about how businesses and consumers make economic decisions that have some relevance in the counterinsurgency biz. I'll sketch out a few of them in some upcoming posts.