Clarity in the War on Terror

Strategy demands unity of the organization. As I have said before, one of Sun Tzu's main points in The Art of War is that unity rather than size or wealth is the source of strategic strength. The United States is only as powerful as it united. Unity determined by three of the five key factors: philosophy, command, and systems. Philosophy appeals to shared goals. Command is required to articulate those goals. Systems are required to get people working together toward those goals. In Iraq, the danger has always been the division of the American people over the conduct of the war. This division has been amplified by political divisions within the country, a large contingent of anti-American media, and a president who is fairly weak at articulating the country's philosophy and his personal vision. After watching Bush today at his press conference with Al-Jafaari, I am beginning to think that the most serious of these three problems is really the last. The American people readily discount politicians and the media. However, they cannot and should not forgive a president who is incapable of providing clarity during times of war. As a leader, it is not enough to say that the job is hard. You have to say what the job is, what progress means, how everyone can help, and what sacrifices are expected. This is true of any leader and, most certainly, a president. The president should say that: - Progress is NOT the cessation of terrorist attacks. We expect the attacks to continue as long as they get free, positive coverage by the press. Their only purpose is free advertising and the hope to divide America. - Progress IS the political and economic advance of Iraq (and surrounding nations) despite terrorist opposition. We do expect this progress to continued because the terrorists are helpless to prevent it. These attacks are designed to get news coverage because the terrorists know that they cannot stop progress itself. The president should then offer a list of specific, tangible items of that measure progress: new constitutions, new elections, jobs created, increased standard of living, increase oil production, houses build, schools open, number of trained Iraqi police, Iraq military, etc. He should then focus on that list and report on its monthly. He should set target dates for the political items (such as new constitution) but most measures should be simply month to month (or quarter to quarter) improvement or increase in the other areas. This continuous improvement is what the Iraqis care about and what American's need to see. Next, he should condemn the "false goalposts of failure" that the media and political opponents set up. An attack is not a failure of progress. Death, as sad as it is, is not a failure of progress. Progress has always come at a price. As we make progress, a price will be paid. The media and his political opponents will always focus on the price. It is his job, his solemn duty, to make the progress clear. If he does a good enough job of that, the price will seem trivial. However, at this point, he has failed in that part of his responsibility.