Communication Costs of Iraq Withdrawal

by Clint Martinez

What happens if we leave Iraq? From what I gather, and believe in, Iraq will eventually serve as place that comes of out darkness and stands as a light of democracy to the world. A free will Iraq will show the Middle East and the world that the masses can install a government that represents its people and move away from hardliners and radicals that want to enslave the masses in the name of religion.

Meanwhile the U.S. election process is in full swing. It serves as an example of the democratic process. This election may finally move U.S. politics out of political racism and sexism by having both a woman and an African-American man with real chances to win the highest political seat in the United States. But what happens if the winning candidate has the view that we do not belong in a civil war and need to get out of Iraq? Does all this strategic communication construction fall by the wayside, or is the message reduced to a whisper in comparative terms?

I served in the U.S. Marine Corps for nearly 9 years. When I got orders to Japan, I met the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Charles Krulak. General Krulak was on a Far East tour and stopped in at the air station. He gave a presentation on the new wars the Marine Corps would face. These wars might be an invasion of a country, a humanitarian relief, police action, or other conflicts. The commonality in all of these future battles, he believed, was that the enemy would be more mobile and stealthier than in the past. He said that our Marine Corps would have to be ready to fight block by block. He called in the “3 Block War”. Soldiers in this 3 Block War could face full military action, humanitarian relief, or peacekeeping.

The troops that we have in the battlefield are our best grass roots communication medium to win the hearts and minds of those Islamists that have not turned to the extremist view. In a recent article entitled Strategic Communication: In Integral Component of Counterinsurgency Operations, Krachuk gives advice that strategic communication planners should use to create a strategic communication. Some of the aims directly involve troops on the ground. Building rapport with the local populace is more powerful than watching a U.S. sponsored television station. Reducing tensions and negative attitudes towards the United States and its allies can be done by simply training the individual troop to be sensitive to the local populace’s wants and views.

Not only would the troops (in the 3 block war) be taught of the belief structure of the people, they would be experts in the strategic communication that countering ideological support for terrorism requires. Counter-narratives could be given to the troops as a pocket book that presented points of view that were contrary to the story told by the terrorists. Such communication says that history does not privilege one idealist view. Rather, a look at history in the area of the Middle East has shown the conquered has also been the conqueror. Another such message that could be carried to the front lines is that we are not on a crusade of Christianity, but rather one of freedom and the ability to decide for oneself the benefits following a given belief. Another is that Islam is an accepted and supported way of life in the United States.

However, what if there are no troops? As a former Marine, my family and I are very familiar with the sacrifices of being part of the U.S. military. In this time, as in monumental campaigns of the past, it is extremely dangerous to be part of the U.S. military. Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Vigilance in this quote means is the process of watching for danger. Of course eternal means always or forever. In this country there are millions who will go to the polls to decide what course of action our country takes in this “War on Terrorism”. All the candidates agree that al Qaeda is a threat, but not all agree on the course of action.

The two front runners for the Democratic Party ticket are Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barrack Obama. The Republic Party nominee will be John McCain. Senator Clinton has defended her vote to authorize the war, but like many Americans has changed from post 9-11 rhetoric that called for whatever means to end the threat. Now she says:

Our message to the president is clear. It is time to begin ending this war – not next year, not next month – but today.

Contradicting President Bush, she says that the Iraqi government is more fractured and ineffective than ever, and that we do not belong in a another country’s civil war. Senator Obama spoke out against the war in 2002 and calls for a redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq to other parts of the Middle East. He states that combat troops should be out of Iraq by March 31, 2008. John McCain supports President Bush’s troop surge and will not set a date for troop withdrawal. Instead he calls for committing more troops to counter the insurgency and stabilize the country.

Americans have the right to vote for whatever candidate they choose. In casting that vote, they should realize the cost of withdrawing from Iraq has more ramifications than just reducing the cost of war or lives lost. It also influences how America will position itself in the War on Terrorism and the win the hearts and minds of those people that in the future could either become our enemies or our friends. The 3 block war is not about front lines as was in the past. It is more about deploying strategic communication that will promote individual freedoms in the region.