Branding Baghdad

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

If you want to win a war, presumably you need to have the best military strategy and resources. But if you want to convince people you're winning a war, or convince those whose lands you're bombing that the war is a good idea, the Rand Corporation recommends getting in touch with Madison Avenue. Rand says to win the war you've got to sell the war, which made me wonder... how would you market the war to Iraqis?



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One can't help but smile listening to this concept. Why wouldn't the US believe the Madison Ave. approach. After all the same approach was used on our nation to get us into the Iraq War in the very first place. We were lied to, shamefully I might add, and it worked. Surely the Iraqie people are as gulable as we are.

Sent by Jane Babcock | 4:01 PM | 7-25-2007

Forty years ago I was an Officer in the US Information Agency, fighting the Cold War and actively involved in PsyOps in Vietnam in the late 1960's. Later I spent 30 years in international business, primarily in marketing. I think this is a bad idea and demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the history of persuasion and propaganda in fighting insurgencies in the 20th century. It has all been tried before - without great results. It is the message and the integrity behind that message that counts in persuasion of this vital nature, as opposed to using a brand to sell deoferants or beer. The US already is a brand of sorts in the eyes of most of the world's streets, but this apparently has escaped the authors of this study. I see another wasteful government outsource coming.

Sent by Bob Fulton | 4:02 PM | 7-25-2007

There ought to be a law against anyone who uses the sick, sorry and overly abused cliche "hearts and minds". Not in Iraq, not in Vietnam, were any "hearts and minds" won by invading and occupying and bombing a country into shambles. A lot of hearts were stopped and a lot of minds were lost in both of these misguided endeavors.

Sent by George from Oregon | 4:05 PM | 7-25-2007

This was a ridiculous piece. Marketing a war, how embarrassing...I'm mad $400,000 of taxpayer's money got thrown away with this report.

Sent by Brandon Young | 4:07 PM | 7-25-2007

Interesting question, "How would you market the war to Iraqis?" I'd first stop calling what we're doing in Iraq "war". It's an occupation. I've grown hoarse hollering back at the radio and TV every time I hear "war in Iraq", "Dammit, it's not a war!" We won the war when we knocked Saddam's power structure down. As Ali Allawi noted in the subtitle of his book, we won the war, but are losing the peace.

Our delusional leadership continues to fight it as a war, believing that the people we fight there are the same people that attacked us on 9/11. Some of them are, but they went into Iraq under our watch. Of the 19,000 people in US custody in Iraq, fewer than 200 are foreign fighters. Nearly half of those came from the same nation that produced the majority of 9/11 terrorists, our ally Saudi Arabia.

By far, most of the people we are fighting are Iraqis - former regime loyalists, nationalists, domestic Islamic extremists, and even organized criminals. The militias are mostly fighting each other, rarely engaging us. The Iraqi government would be smart to incorporate some of the militias into their new security forces - army and police. But to do so, there needs to be political stability, and that only comes when the citizens feel they own their government. There is a democracy in Iraq, but it was built from the top down, not the bottom up. The single best thing we could do is to turn that around is help with new elections, starting with local elections, then provincial, then national. It may be too late for that, but we have to do something besides kill, kill, kill.

We have to decide whether we are going to continue to fight insurgents, or let them find a way to participate in their government aside from shooting at it. The good news is that some Sunni tribal militias have stopped fighting us long enough to join our fight against al Qaeda in Iraq foreigners. But when that fight is over, they will turn on us again if we do not leave.

Further, we have to figure out if there is a military solution to terror groups like al Qaeda. Certainly, the military has its uses in that fight, but we pay way too little attention to the political and diplomatic methods which are necessary to knock them down, if not out.

How would I market the war to Iraqis? By telling them, we won the war, now let's build the peace.

Sent by Steve Jones | 4:46 PM | 7-25-2007

A classic example of the sheer folly of the Bush Administration on every level, not to mention the elevation of spin over substance. The Pentagon spent $400,000 of our money for an utterly worthless and offensive study, which apparently concluded that a disasterous war should be sold to gullible Iraquis like toothpaste.

Kudos to Lynn Neary (spelling?) and the other guests and callers for their skepticism and polite astonishment. But it would have been good if Neary had pointed out that the selling of the war itself has been a gigantic, cynical exercise in spin from start to, well, finish wouldn't exactly be the word. How about from start to quagmire? (See Frank Rich's book for a blow-by-blow account.) And that the Administration continues to deliberately mislead and lie to the American people to try to convince us to stay the course, most notably with the elevation of Al-Queda of Iraq,a relatively minor player in the insurgency that didn't even exist until we created an opening for the terrorists by reducing Iraq to chaos. And that spin is all the Administration knows--it's straight out of the Karl Rove playbook, the latest in a long tradition of fear and smear politics by the Bush-Cheney-Rove axis of evil that is utilized to cover up a level of corruption, greed, and incompetence that is almost impossible to fathom.

Sent by Jim Burnett | 5:29 PM | 7-25-2007

Hmmm, what a novel idea. Most of you who doubt the legitmacy of such ideas demostrates to me that most of you have not been in the military or not in the military for a couple of decades. One can argue til the cows come home about the US military being in Iraq; dumb move at the wrong time. But do you all think that the years that led up to our invasion of Iraq the US military was sitting around polishing rifles or brass or something? The use of the term branding is just a word to describe who and what you are or what you are selling, all of us, every individual has a brand...think resume. But I digress, the US military is not soley about shooting people and breaking things, it also performs humanitarian mission around the globe. Both War (shooting people and breaking things) and humanitarian missions are a political act which should be looked upon as demostrating the values and ethics of the nation...we the people. I like the idea, so I am going to download the report read it, read and review some military training publications and talk to some field commanders I know to glime the best way we can apply some of the ideas that have not been introduce to the boots on the ground level.It's not about selling a war it's about winning peace.

Sent by John Miller | 6:13 PM | 7-25-2007

The Rand people came up with a similar halfwit idea during Vietnam and I think most of us remember how that war turned out.
I found it especially interesting to note that the gentleman on the show who was trying to sell the concept admitted that no Iraqis had been consulted about any of the ideas put forth in the study.
Albert Einstein was correct. "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

Sent by Jim Carpenter | 6:16 AM | 7-26-2007

its non sense to use techniques to cover the 'incidental' deaths of innocent non military people of the country

Sent by rob bricker | 6:24 AM | 7-26-2007

There might be something here. Marketing has been a successful tool for terrorists in winning support. Maybe there should be a message out their to counteract their marketing efforts. Not to gain support for the war, but to build support and enthusiasm for a new united Iraq. It's not the absolute solution, but may be worth a try.

Sent by Denise Hawk | 10:17 AM | 7-26-2007

I'm amazed that anyone would be surprised by this piece. War, since the begining of time has been, and continues to be a significant instrument for big business, allowing for the acquisition of resources, profit, technology advancement, etc. And big business is a very necessary component of the overall supply chain for humanity. Part of every business plan is marketshare and mindshare components and consequently a marketing & advertising campaign is essential to any venture. One of the differences in mans' current permutation of warfare is that one opponent "currently" doesn't want the others "stuff" it just wants the other opponent dead. Consequently, the real advertising campaign shouldn't focus on making "Teddy Ruckspins" out of "Teddy's Roughriders" but should focus on creating consumers and a sense of entitlement within the rank and file terrorist community. There is no faster way to get back to good old fashion madness and mayhem than the old supply and demand mantra. So get busy Madison Avenue, theres a whole new untapped demographic out there waiting to be exploited by more than the local madras on the corner, whose current curriculm and end game is the coroner instead of a Chrysler.

Sent by Jack Czary | 12:06 PM | 7-26-2007