Who’s in charge?
Back when I was teaching, this scenario played out many times.
Me: Do you have your homework.
Child (Billy): Andre is messing with me! (Shoves Andre).
Me: Stop it. Andre sit down. Billy, turn around.
Now, you may note that my agenda, “Let’s go over the homework,” was shifted to Billy’s agenda — which might be termed, “Let’s not look for Billy’s homework.”
The lesson I had to learn as a teacher was not only to stop an altercation between Andre & Billy, but to swing the subject back to Billy’s homework. I’d put forth my agenda, Going over the homework, and Billy tried to impose his own agenda over it.
This is the inherent difficulty in reacting. It takes you out of your game. In Thomas Rick’s The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, (http://smile.amazon.com/Gamble-Petraeus-American-Military-Adventure/dp/0143116916 ) he talks about the lesson Petraeus had to teach his commanders — Don’t let the enemy dictate your actions. If you’re clearing a section at your own pace, don’t allow the enemy dictate where the fighting will be.
Now think back on 9–11. We had to react to it, but the reaction should be on our agenda, not Al Qaeda’s.
Reinforce the door to the pilot’s area. Check.
Overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan. Check.
Now think of all the things we’ve done to radicalize the Arab World. We’ve used drones to kill Al Qaeda’s leaders, but at the same time have killed many bystanders. If we’d done this half a dozen times and killed high value targets, all well and good, but we’ve done this hundreds of times. When the numbers go that high, it is a foregone conclusion that the relatives of those thousands of collateral damage victims will want to strike back.
We wanted more intel. We boosted the NSA’s authority until we were reading Angela Merkel blackberry.
We wanted intel, and tried to turn random National Guard soldiers into torturers . This might work out, but then those Abu Ghraib photos (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisoner_abuse ) got out.
How many recruits did those photos get for Al Qaeda?
We stopped being smart and tried to rely on tough. We forgot that winning asymmetrical warfare is about being smart. Patraeus won in Iraq when he told his commanders that when they visited a shiek, to take off their helmets and sunglasses. Forgetting that this is something their mothers would have mentioned if they’d come to visit a neighbor when they were 9 years old. Patraeus told them to have the soldiers that came with the commander to turn their backs on the meeting. Making it clear they were there to protect both of them, not intimidate the shiek. Patraeus told them to accept any drink the sheik offered them.
Patraeus and his commanders were rewarded by spray painted arrows pointing out IEDs left by Al Qaeda’s foreign fighters. They’d won the war over a cup of tea.
Al Qaeda was a small group of radical nut jobs in 2000. By 2003 they were mainstream because we allowed them to set the agenda. Invading Iraq was a piece of stupidity on our own, but I’m sure many prayers were said thanking Allah for getting us to give them such a battlefield.
It’s good to go into any important endeavor with an agenda and to only deviate from it when it suits your goals. Or we’re all like Marty McFly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marty_McFly ) flying off the handle any time we hear the word, “Chicken.”