Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Will Over Weapons, Again

The final price tag for the 20-year war in Afghanistan seems to be around $2 trillion.  The $2 trillion did not buy a victory, freedom, human rights or a democracy, rather it bought a lesson.  A lesson that we have unfortunately already purchased several times in the past, but failed to learn.  What is this multi-trillion dollar lesson?  Will wins over weapons.

The renowned military strategist John Boyd taught that the ultimate objective of a warrior is not to kill more enemy on the battlefield, but rather to create mental chaos, disorder, ambiguity, confusion, distrust and morale collapse in the mind of an enemy.  If an organization suffers from these it cannot stand or resist.

Boyd emphasized that warfare is won or lost in the mind.  The victor will be the one with a stronger will and moral position.  The weight of mental will and moral fortitude shifted to the Taliban when the US supported Afghan government failed its people and purpose by engaging in corruption and collusion.  Several decades ago Boyd prophetically wrote, "Failing to achieve moral victory may result in strategic defeat even if an army is victorious in all of their tactical, physical battles."

Many believe there are commonalities between why we failed in Vietnam, and why the nation-building mission failed in Afghanistan.  Kevin Boylan, in an article in the New York Times wrote,  "The corrupt, undemocratic and faction-riven South Vietnamese government...proved incapable of providing its people and armed forces a cause worth fighting for."  Resistance from Afghan military forces melted away just weeks after the US forces began their final draw down.  It is obvious now that despite sophisticated equipment and training the Afghan forces had little will, and found little cause (either mental or moral), worth fighting for.

Each of us are also experiencing attacks on our minds daily in our own communities.  Daily, political opponents and pundits produce outrageous conspiracies, claims, falsehoods and headlines for the purpose of creating pandemonium, chaos and disorder, while social media sites amplify confusion, distrust and mental turmoil.  We must understand what these attacks do to our collective minds, and then try to learn the multi-trillion dollar lesson this time.

I have a soft spot in my heart for those struggling mentally in these painful, lonely and challenging times.  Life is hard enough without our own communities purposely attacking our minds.

Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.