Recently on this blog and in the media at large, the most talked about topic has been Afghanistan and the recent Obama approval for a troop surge. Each pundit and expert has weighed in online and in print and every joey on the street has cemented their opinion, regardless of comprehension about the truths behind the realities. From the NYTimes to the office water cooler, and all the way to the dinner table, I can assure you the opinions and strategy suggestions are flying in every direction.
Each idea and strategy suggestion is different and unique, but many fall into one of two categories for the most part: 1) stay and surge, or 2) leave and cut our losses. Amongst all these ideas, a few analysis may be spot on, some suggestions as to why they think whatever will have elements of truth behind them, and even some strategies would be successful in acheiving the goals they intend to accomplish. But the one thing that all of these analysis have in common is that they are all relevent.
Each idea and analysis is a part of the entire picture, from the joey on the street to the expert ex-soldier with a master's from Havard, all will combine to create what I like to call the "Tertium Quid".
A Tertium Quid is an ancient latin term that translates as "third thing" or a conglomeration of a third something or other. This Tertium Quid is what, or who I think McChrystal is refering to in his August 30 report about "changing the underlying truths" among the American people. This is what he needs to have happen in order to do anything labeled a success in Afghanistan, including a withdrawl.
Nothing can be considered accomplished in Afghanistan without a change in the psychology of the American approach, and McChrystal understands this stating, "Many describe the conflict in Afghanistan as a war of ideas,.. However, this is a 'deeds-based' information environment where perceptions derive from actions, such as how we interact with the population and how quickly things move. The key to changing perceptions lies in changing the underlying truths."
McChrystal notes, "changing the underlying truths" requires a change in the operational culture to "interact more closely with the population, and focus on operations that bring stability, while shielding them from insurgent violence, corruption, and coercion."
What McChrystal is saying, if without knowing it, is that we need to define the American Afghanistan Tertium Quid and have fundamental changes in its key elements.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould had a great analysis and addition to this very idea of the repurcussions of the American Afghanistan Tertium Quid noting, "whether the very nature of America's military/industrial/media/academic complex can be moved off its primary directive in order to accommodate McChrystal's request, remains highly doubtful. The decentralized nature of the opposition in Afghanistan and Pakistan defies the very culture of the Pentagon's thinking. Like Vietnam, a decentralized enemy is anathema to the rigid, high technology and high-cost Command, Control and Communications approach developed throughout the cold war to decapitate the centralized Soviet bureaucracy. But the Pentagon continues to insist on applying its expensive tools, regardless of its persistent failure to eliminate, let alone define its enemy."
I would add to this analysis a failure to define its goals and measures for success. Then I would suggest we look at the Tertium Quid and address its elements and how to change them. Either way, McChrystal has about 18 or so months to make something happen, with or without a change in the underlying truths.