Friday, May 25, 2007

Iraq: Exploiting a single narrative

Austin Bay participated in a Q&A with Dr. David Kilcullen, senior counter-insurgency advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq. Austin Bay points us to an article the good Dr. wrote in 2006 explaining that a good counter-insurgency involves "exploiting a single narrative" to counter the enemy's "narrative". Austin asks the pertinent question:

I asked Kilcullen: “What is the single narrative (or alternative narrative) in Iraq? And this is a two-part question. Could you gives us an example of a narrative in a Baghdad neighborhood?”

Kilcullen responded:

That’s been one of the weaknesses in this business over time. I think it is something that is improving now. We have to make certain the story, the message people are getting from Iraqi government institutions is same as message from the US (sources). One of our problems we found is how difficult it is for Americans to generate a message Iraqis find convincing. (That’s why) we need to work with Iraqis, and we are in the supporting role.

(At the moment) the Iraqi government is putting out this message to the people: that you don’t need militias to protect you against terrorists. The government can do that. Gain trust in the government to protect you and move from a dependency on militias.


The single narrative the US has pursued is that as they (Iraqis) stand up, we stand down. That message is not particularly comforting to Iraqis. The single big message (the Iraqi government and coalition are sending) now is that we are protecting the population and trying to achieve sustainable stability. We are improving security and doing it to create a sustainable space so Iraqis can do it themselves.

Emphasis mine.

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