A Failure to Communicate

London’s Financial Times reported, “U.S. Sees Quick Victory In Afghanistan”.

That same day, the Arizona Daily Star headlined, “Downbeat Gates: Afghan War Won’t Be Won Anytime Soon”.

As far as we can tell, they were reporting on the same Aug. 14 event.

Though it is unclear where the defense secretary (and Occasional Superhero) was speaking, both journalists reported Gates’ insistence that the Taliban and al Qaeda could be defeated in a few years. Both wrote other efforts would continue in Afghanistan in later years. Despite the similarities they could not have been more different, one taking an optimistic stance, the other harboring a much darker view.

Such disparities go beyond “media bias,” “agendas,” and pandering to audience thirst (for blood). It seems more likely that U.S. leaders (defense and otherwise) continue to fall short in explaining U.S. goals in Afghanistan. While reporters love to do the American Idol thing and make a story their own, the disparity here was off the page.

These two reports suggest the futility in further discussing time estimates to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and al Qaeda (so they can vacation in Pakistan). There is no reason to discuss plans in the out years to stabilize the nation with a strong(ish) government and reasonable infrastructure so NATO (hah) can leave for good.

It would be equally pointless to discuss the commander in chief’s August 17, 2009 Afghanistan comments before the 110th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Phoenix.

Pointless because few are hearing the intended information. But this is not a messaging problem. These teams have chiseled their messages late into the night. The words seem hollow; they lack strength and conviction. It is as if these top-level messengers have no belief in what they’re saying, and worse- there is no solid plan to back up those words. They say you can smell fear. We sense doubt and indecision. (We say National Security Advisor Jim Jones is one of the few who seems to believe what he’s saying. Don’t know. Jim, we love you, but …)

Whatever the disconnect, it may adversely impact the force.

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