Mosul highlights ‘post-conflict bipolar disorder’


What the Mosul operation should be making obvious is that whoever gets to the gaps in governance and civil society first and best will win the epic struggles of identity now taking place in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, argues Col. (ret.) Christopher Holshek, Senior Civil-Military Adviser to Narrative Strategies, the International Peace and Security Institute, and the Alliance for Peacebuilding.

What happens after the dust settles in Mosul will tell us how much the United States has addressed its pathological problem of being better at fighting wars than ending them — call it “post-conflict bipolar disorder,” or PCBD, a leading expert writes for Foreign Policy:

Debates on the use of force remain mired in the false dichotomy of “war fighting” vs. “nation-building.” A binary, tactical mindset still “dominates national security decision-making, prioritizes military means over political ends and confuses activity with progress,” as former Defense Policy Board member Nadia Schadlow put it.

Thus, “the United States vacates the space between war and peace” — in an era when that’s where things happen. This netherworld is characterized by nuance and complexity, sometimes a struggle for tactical mindsets to grasp. With the proliferation of legal and illicit state proxies, non-state actors and organizations, amplified and accelerated by 24/7 media and social networks that further distribute power, “battle of the narrative” becomes predominant.

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former American ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, warned in a recent article in The National Interest that there was a “danger of a war [between Turkey and Iraq] within a war that could damage the prospects for retaking and stabilizing Mosul.”

A successful campaign in Mosul has the potential to be an important milestone in the process of reconciliation, but only if the post-campaign period is given due attention, including issues of local governance, argued Khalilzad, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance NGO.

In any age, Holshek adds, war of any kind is more “about people, not platforms,” as Narrative Strategies’ Paul Cobaugh puts it in its new book, Soft Power on Hard Problems: Strategic Influence in Irregular Warfare. RTWT

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