Military planners are taught to “start with the end state” when you begin planning military operations. What that means is figuring out where you want to be when everything is all said and done first, then figuring out how to get there. It helps stop our tendency to start moving ships, aircraft and people around in ways that might end up being counterproductive.
One way this takes shape is an ending narrative. During one exercise, I wrote that our objective was to use kinetic (think bombs) and non-kinetic (think cyber and other electronic weapons) effects (just a fancy term for the result of using a weapon) to disuade country orange from continuing to move forces into an area. That narrative guided all of our future actions, including what sorts of weapons we used and what targets we used them on.
We don’t have a narrative yet for what a peaceful Iran-US cooperation looks like. We have lots of talk about a peaceful Iran not building nuclear weapons. This is like saying a successful marriage means a husband doesn’t beat his wife. While true, it’s not exactly a high bar, and leaves a lot of details out.
We need a narrative to guide us. A narrative helps us sell a picture to the Iranian people. Right now, the US is simply a bully that slaps sanctions on them. A narrative gives them a reason to oppose stupid government policies. Iranians do vote, and they have voted for less-nuclear people before. A narrative also serves as a guide for our allies, and gives them a positive message to broadcast.
President Trump did this best in North Korea. His video about a future with North Korea was spot on. Everything in the imagery and words was deliberately chosen. After watching it, you can see the future. You start filling in the blanks, and you can build conditions for that future.
We need this in Iran. We need a future, or we will be stuck repeating the actions of the past.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.