||Massacre in Fallujah:
. . . . . .
This is neither new nor unusual. I remember as an adolescent in the late 1960s and early 1970s being astounded by the skill with which the Communists shaped Americans’ frames of reference with regard to the Vietnam War. I could see all this in my family, among my friends, and throughout the popular media (to include print and television news). I was even more astounded by the fact that this shaping went almost totally unnoticed, even by the government and the military. This shaping was both profound and effective. It literally defined the terms of debate on the war, within our country and around the world. By 1968, It had delegitimized the very idea of Allied victory. It ultimately won the war for the Communists in Washington, D.C. when America’s national leaders could no longer conceive of or even desire any other outcome. After the war, when American Colonel Harry Summers commented to North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap that U.S. forces had won every battle of the Vietnam War, Giap famously replied “That’s true. It’s also irrelevant.” The Vietnam War was won and lost in the cognitive domain, irrespective of objective factors. The successful and brilliant
Communist campaign was virtually uncontested, and went largely unnoticed.
• • • • •
absence of a successful campaign
in the cognitive domain, we can not hope to
achieve the long-term outcomes that we desire”
In the late 1970s, Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and held its staff hostage. I was appalled to witness the American media, population, and government immediately dismiss the radicals and the government of Iran as insane, and therefore impossible to influence. They were clearly neither; but this dismissal, rooted in our own provincialism rather than in objective reality, constituted a great victory for our enemy. It excused inaction on our part (beyond Jimmy Carter’s audacious dimming of the national Christmas tree lights), and thereby shielded our enemies from any retaliation, yielding uncontested control of the battlefield to them. Our own self-imposed impotence and Iranian intransigence in refusing to return our hostages continued until the minute that a new, more worldly, administration took power in the United States. The ebb and flow of that war was conducted almost entirely in the cognitive domain. The substitution of Jimmy Carter’s cognition for that of Ronald Reagan, and the enemy’s appreciation thereof, was sufficient to reverse its outcome and bring it to an end.
We are seeing the same dynamics at play in Fallujah, throughout the world, and in our own country. Conflict in the cognitive domain lies at the center or war. It also lies at the center of terrorism, which is a type of war. It determines perception and will. We can win any number of battles or campaigns in the physical domain; but in the absence of a successful campaign in the cognitive domain (or a willingness to exterminate entire
populations, rendering the issue of their cognition moot), we cannot hope to achieve long-term strategic victory.
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