In reading through your discussion of the failures of the NATSEC/DoD to comprehend influence let alone craft a rational and workable strategy for strategic influence operations I was reminded of a story told by Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf when he was a young commander in Vietnam. He was briefing Gen. Creighton Abrams on his village pacification plans to win the hearts and minds of the local Vietnamese to which Gen Abrams replied, “I've found that if you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” While perhaps lacking in subtlety it captures the need for clearly defined goals and objectives as well as the tactics and strategies needed to achieve those goals and objectives.


Doc B

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Aug 24, 2023Liked by Paul Cobaugh


Korea vs Vietnam.

Afghanistan vs Ukraine.

War isn’t a gentleman’s game treating it as such is what gets soldiers killed as the book “On the psychology of military incompetence” highlights.

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My friend, I was hoping that you'd weigh in on this. Apologies for the late reply. Days now require more than 24 hours around here.

As we've discussed many times and are in full agreement of, the part of the natsec community that deals in influence continues to have their head, "where the sun doesn't shine." To make matters worse, they mouth the words about heart and minds but continue to throw, now billions behind defense contractors full of BS, faking expertise and doing more sales than contributing anything of value to the NSS.

For all the required study of Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, they never act on what they taught. Here are my comments to a new Atlantic article about the Afghan withdrawal that all sides seem to want to immorally, "play politics with." The original post is from Brian Steed, a friend and Narrative Strategies colleague who now teaches in retirement at CGSC/ Command and General Staff College.


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The arrogance didn’t end with Westmorland.

Having people by the balls, in particular adults, creates rebellion, in particular in a populous determined to achieve self-determination.

Unless you are willing to go full zipperhead kill them all brutal subjugation you’ll get insurgencies that eventually repel the invading force ie. Afghanistan.

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People/ human beings are always the COG/ Center of Gravity. Too bad big defense contractors prefer bombers, ships and fighter jets. There is a role for these tools but they are damn near obsolete in insurgency operations.

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"Having people by the balls, in particular adults, creates rebellion, in particular in a populous determined to achieve self-determination."

Help me understand this please.

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My understanding of the post WWII world is one of American global dominance, despite the over exaggerated fear that the USSR posed globally. It was this fear that caused so many blunders in our foreign policy as we tried to fill the vacuum left by the retreat of the "oppressive" colonial system.

I air quote "oppressive" because a discussion on the good vs bad of colonialism distracts from the importance of the desire for self-determination in ex-colonial people/countries.

Much like an oppressive father whose children either rebel for their independence or never achieve the correct level of independence/individuality. What matters is letting the adolescent have room to make choices/mistakes, learn from them, but most importantly to establish a solid understanding of themselves and what kind of person they want to be.

We can't micromanage a democracy in a society who doesn't want it, and especially if it is under a dictator/government that cares more about keeping their foreign benefactors happy than taking care of its people.

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Aug 23, 2023Liked by Paul Cobaugh

I am currently reading Emile Durkheim's On Morality and Society. If more people read philosophy from WWI to WWII and rejected the cynicism of the Existentialists (particular Nietzsche/Heidegger) and Post-Modernists plus read some Viktor Frankel we would all be better off.

I think Emile Durkheim's writings are great at showing that the individual is not the finis naturae of humanity, instead it is society. Society which is greater than the sum of its individuals. Combined with Viktor Frankel's two races of man - the decent and the indecent.

The hyper-individualism of today is unAmerican in my opinion, and largely driven by the Austrian School of thinking and the adoption of individualistic Libertarianism by the GOP under the guise of anti-communism and salvation from godlessness.

The whole concept of sovereign citizenship on the Right is hilariously oxymoronic and counter to conservatism. At the same time hyper-individualism isolates people from society and lone humans are scared humans, which then look for a savior who is greater than the society they are scared of, but an individual who thinks themselves above societal accountability is really a tyrant.

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You raise excellent points. You’re very bright and well-read. Every thinker, like other fields hits a plateau. The key to breaking through into the next higher level, is going deeper. I struggled mightily in analysis within my field until I went far deeper. Every generation of thinker that studies what came before, benefits from their predecessors. Understanding how WW I to WW II philosophers arrived at their beliefs is often as important as what they publish.

Just my two cents.

Thanks for the insightful and thought-provoking ideas.

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This is where diversity of thought/background really shines, but the key for success is that everyone ends up rowing in the same direction regardless of the narcissism of small differences at the end of the day.

You highlight the how, which I link to narrative identity, and it is important to know how classical philosophy influences Catholic vs Protestant philosophy which then influence the French/Italian/German/English schools during the late 1800s to 1950s and how American philosophy developed in its own odd parallel.

The analyze how the average Americans relationship with their fellow citizens and their government evolved during the 1960-1980s leading to ever increasing distrust in government and hyper individualism.

Then add how Gen X and later generations learn to treat the middle class as a “natural” given when in fact it was purposefully formed through government investing in all of its people not just the elite.

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