Good Company

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Military Minds, End States and Exit Strategies

I started this post a couple of days ago, because the more I read his essay, the more I appreciated the points laid out by LTC Ryan in his now well-known piece from the frontlines as provided through Black Five.

Why, I ask, is there such a gap between the "military truth"and the "media truth?"

Much of the problem I see is that a military mindset is very much mission/goal oriented. "How are we progressing toward achieving the end state we desire?" might be on the mind of the commander in the field. Then, today, Black Five provided me with the perfect example of what I mean in another post from Iraq, in which Lt Col Mark Smith, USMCR writes about a visit from a Marine General named Dunford who visited Col. Smith's camp and offered up this:
He said, and again I paraphrase, "you hear talk in the media and other places of an exit strategy.  Usually communicated in the form of a question, such as, what is our exit strategy?
Well, professional Warriors DO NOT ESTABLISH EXIT STRATEGIES, WE ACHIEVE AN END STATE!  And our end state in Iraq is a freely and democratically elected government in Iraq, sustained and protected by a viable, competent and professional security force.
Have we won?...NO, are we winning?...YES!"
Exactly, was my thought.  No doubt it will take time.  But if we remain WILLFUL as a Nation, if we deliberately and with cold calculation understand the cause, then the effort is required, the hardship endured, the VICTORY ASSURED.

The contrast with the media representative couldn't be greater. Each media person has the goal of getting his or her story printed or shown on the news. It's very short term and requires short term thinking. Which explains why "if it bleeds, it leads" is the prevailing media approach to almost any story. As many of us know, the fact that so many people are honest and good does not make for a "good" news story --even if it is good news. And in the media world what counts is getting your stories published or shown, so you go with the obvious - the bad and the ugly news and leave the good news alone.

Obviously, these cultures have very little in common. And that explains why there such a gap between the view of the troops as to how things are going and the view of the press.

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