Spencer Ackerman takes a look at Admiral Mike Mullen's latest article on strategic communications in Afghanistan, and flags this quote:
I would argue that most strategic communications problems are not communications problems at all. They are policy and execution problems. Each time we fail to live up to our values or we don’t deliver on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are …
To put it simply, we need to worry less about how to communicate our actions than about what our actions communicate.
It's not just our actions--Mullen points out that the Taliban's ability to make good on its threats is a key part of their strategic communications, or as he put it, "Each beheading, each bombing, and each beating sends a powerful message or, rather, is a powerful message." I suppose it's axiomatic that terrorists are good at this kind of messaging, but worth thinking about in terms of what the U.S. is up against.
For what it's worth, Richard Holbrooke's strategic communications team seems to understand this dynamic pretty well--at the briefing a few weeks ago, Holbrooke noted that the most effective message the U.S. could send would be to reduce civilian casualties caused by coalition forces.
-- A. Serwer