Friday, September 26, 2014

Where is PSYOP in the ISIS Strategy?



While it is disheartening to see that Defense doesn’t make the cut for  “Top Issues” at the Whitehouse (see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues), if you do some searching, you can find President Obama’s Counter-ISIS strategy at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/10/fact-sheet-strategy-counter-islamic-state-iraq-and-levant-isil

There are two areas where PSYOP could be employed:

1. Exposing ISIL’s True Nature: Clerics around the world have spoken up in recent weeks to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy, condemning the group’s barbarity and criticizing its self- proclaimed “caliphate.” We will work with our partners throughout the Muslim world to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy and counter its false claim to be acting in the name of religion.  

2. Disrupting the Flow of Foreign Fighters:  Foreign terrorist fighters are ISIL’s lifeblood, and a global security threat—with citizens of nearly 80 countries filling its ranks.  Over 100 foreign fighters from the United States have traveled or attempted to travel to the conflict.  On September 24, the United States will convene an historic Summit-level meeting of the UN Security Council, focused on this issue.

Interestingly enough there would be no clear delineation as to what echelon will fight the influence battle. One could argue effectively that the influence battle has to be fought at the tactical (local), operational (regional) and strategic (global) levels. 

To be effective the efforts would have to be international in nature and fine tuned with the language and cultural nuances necessary to give them credibility. It would also follow, as I’ve posted before, that credible spokes people need to be employed at all levels.

Both of these influence battlegrounds will require synergistic efforts in traditional and on-line media. Local efforts will have to be tailored to the literacy and technology environments on the ground. Urban areas may gravitate to cell phones and TV while rural areas will lean towards face to face and locally fine tuned other products.

Both of these efforts are long term and both will have to adapt to the changing environment in order to be effective. It is also implied that Department of State and DoD are working in tandem to avoid information fratricide.

If it were me, I’d have a small, independent cell working at CENTCOM with a DC LNO empowered to develop and release a full range of influence weapons without going through the normal excruciating approval process. 

It might also be useful to have a complementary NATO cell which might be better able to work with European and Middle East influence challenges and media.

In any event – autonomy and responsiveness are the keys to success in dealing with the type of asymmetric enemy ISIS represents.



Friday, September 19, 2014

ISIL Softer Touch Video Approach



About a month ago, on August 21, 2014 I made a posting about the brutal murder video (see: http://www.psyopregiment.blogspot.com/2014/08/shock-imagery-good-or-bad-for-psyop.html). In that post I talked about audience impact.

There is no doubt in my mind that ISIL is an adaptable enemy and, like any creature trying to insure its own survival, has made adapted to deceive its enemies and elude destruction.

Perhaps recognizing that there will always be a slice of the population that will believe what it wants to believe and who can be easily swayed, the group has turned its video strategy around by using a journalist prisoner spokes person, John Cantlie. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/19/world/middleeast/british-hostage-warns-the-west-in-new-isis-video.html?_r=0; which is also the photo source).

Cantlie is a prisoner and while clearly under stress, he comes across in a matter of fact like manner. According to the NY Times article Cantlie promises that there will be further videos coming along that will help explain the ‘truth’ from ‘the other side of the story’.

The video is anything but homemade. The quality is good and there is a news-like professionalism to it. The implications of the video are important.
1.     The Internet is a global medium, one whose images are credible to at least a slice of the audience.
2.     If you are hoping to influence people that you are merely being an objective speaker, professional caliber production is a must.
3.     Personifying your cause with a likeable spokesperson is a solid and proven technique.
4.     If you promise more, you will need to deliver.
5.     This propaganda offensive will likely result in attitudinal gains by the enemy.
6.     Direct countering may be not be productive because the affected audience will believe only what it wants to.
7.     The technique is a good one and may be adapted for friendly usage. This might be appropriate in looming urban battlegrounds where credible spokes people may be able to directly influence the population on behalf of the coalition.
8.     PSYOP Task forces must have preplanned how to produce their own videos and must have skilled personnel working with spokespeople to insure they are at their best.
9.     Contracting with professional studios and production resources close to the battlefield may make more sense than reach-back if the appropriate resources are available.

Let’s see what the next installment will bring.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mega City MISO: One of the Next Frontiers




The Army feels that Mega Cities will be among the next major battlefields. Mega Cities are defined as cities with 20 million or more people. (see: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140830/DEFREG02/308300027/US-Army-Sees-Megacities-Future-Battlefield)

In addition to dense populations, these cities would likely house significant masses of vulnerable populations. They would be served by all manner of major media to include TV and would likely overflow with mobile phones.

Notwithstanding their size, these population centers would like have informal or formal ethnic areas some of which evolved from internal migration, probably from rural areas and others may have developed due to international immigration both legal and not.

If the city is a battlefield, then it would be reasonable to assume a lack of government control, problems with infrastructure, and warlord or criminal organizations pretty much prowling around at will.

Implications for PSYOP here are huge.

Technology will be paramount with mesh networks and other ad hoc means of communications sprouting in ways not even considered today. Traditional media, especially ethnic and language appropriate TV will be important as well because of the loyalty that some TV programs and personalities engender and because of the power of imagery.

Individuals will more likely be connected to each other with mobile phones. Even the poorest of areas will have mobile phones even if they are shared much in the same way that party lines (old analog lines shared by several subscribers) used to be in the olden days.

From a content perspective “reachback” may be critical to develop and deliver the quality and quantity of products needed for operations in such an AO.

Given that no existing military has fought battles in this AO it would be appropriate to develop Command Post Exercises (CPX) based on a few cities. This would give a concrete basis for influence preparation of the battlefield. My nominees would be:
·      Jakarta
·      Karachi
·      Manila
·      Sao Palo
·      Mumbai
·      Bangkok
·      Lagos
·      Tehran

Be advised that the Regimental Blog will be in Italy for the next two weeks, so don’t be too surprised if we’re ‘dark’ for a bit.

Photo is of Lagos, Nigeria from Wikipedia.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Clever PSYOP or Admission of Weakness?




I’m sitting down the road from the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA. The ocean is pounding and the sun is shining. I’m taking a holiday for the next few weeks and thought I could take a break from the Blog as well.

Just not meant to be, at least this week.

President Obama is taking some well-deserved political hits for admitting that ‘we’ (meaning he of course) doesn’t have a strategy to deal with ISIS. (See for example: http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/29/politics/obama-isis-strategy/index.html).

The comment has served as lightning rod to the President’s critics but one has to wonder why would the head of one of the world’s most powerful nations actually get caught admitting that he hadn’t a clue as to how to deal with one of the most potent enemies to pop on to the landscape.

Could it be a great PSYOP ploy designed to lull the enemy into thinking that they have a respite period until the Commander-in-Chief gets his act together or is it an honest admission that probably shouldn’t have gone on the air?

Obviously I don’t really know, but there is a point here for senior personnel and that is remember you can never go ‘off the record’ and you can never let your guard down. Today’s 7x24 information hogging world is always ready to explode bits that could titillate.

For my American colleagues, enjoy your last holiday weekend of the summer of 2014.

Don’t be surprised if there are no Blog entries for the next couple of weeks as I am taking a holiday in Italy to concentrate on my watercolor painting.

Photo Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/august-2014-photo-day

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shock Imagery: Good Or Bad For PSYOP?


We were all appalled by the beheading of James Foley and the images posted by his murderers. Journalists are defending the publication of the images (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/21/media-defense-james-foley-images_n_5697384.html) and academics are pondering whether the shocking images are an effective means of drawing the American Public’s attention to the event (see: http://inpublicsafety.com/2014/08/is-the-use-of-shock-imagery-effective-for-drawing-public-attention-to-an-issue).

For a moment, let’s consider the use of shocking images in PSYOP.

Certainly we could point to the image as tangible proof of the brutality of the enemy.

On the one hand, this would show that the enemy could impose the same brutality on the audience and doesn’t this lead to the conclusion that the audience should support the good guys and not the enemy?

Is reposting the brutality something we really want to do? If the enemy’s goal is to terrorize and emotionally bully the target audience, wouldn’t we be promoting their cause for them?

What if the society in which the actions have taken place has a culture of violence and respects direct, brutal action as a fundamental of their culture?

Is another approach to soften the brutality image with an aftermath image? Pictures of the bereaved family of the victim as a means of generating sympathy for them and outrage against the enemy?

Or should the approach be to talk about the incident without imagery? In today’s modern society is it reasonable to assume that anyone who wanted to see the image has seen it and that many of those who did not, were subjected to it anyway?

Photo Source: USA Today

Thursday, August 14, 2014

MISO Is Gone And Other News




Hooray!

Effective 5 Aug 14 PSYOP units are back to being themselves. The derided and apparently ineffective switch to Military Information Support Operations (MISO) has been reversed with the unit naming convention going back to PSYOP.
(See: http://soldiersystems.net/2014/08/10/two-big-organizational-renamings-in-socom-this-week/)

At the time of the re-naming, it was contended that MISO gave PSYOP a less sinister perspective. Others argued that calling an elephant a giraffe didn’t make him one, and that the unit’s reputation or mission would be unaffected.

It’s refreshing to see common sense in action, especially in light of the world situation.

In other news, our good friends at USA Today on August 12, 2014 reported that USSOCOM is engaging in ‘market research’ in Colombia. (See: http://www.usatoday.com/story/nation/2014/08/12/socom-tries-again-with-propaganda-research/13961225/)

The essence of the article is: “SOCOM has tried for years to come up with a better way to determine if its propaganda programs, also known as military information support operations, actually work.”

The implications, at least in my mind, of the tone and choice of words are: USSOCOM is engaged in evil propaganda which Congress has already tried to stop, and is a waste of taxpayer’s money.

“McPaper” as USA Today was once called comparing it to journalistic fast food (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/17/business/media/17gannett.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) has published several articles in the same genre denigrating DOD influence efforts.

First of all, it strikes me that trying to find out what messages work is a good thing. Commercial marketing folks do that all the time. Does that mean it’s a slow news day for USA Today?

My first thought was that their ‘target audience’ is Congress. After all, what other group is so over-worked and under appreciated that they don’t have time to read ‘real sources’, especially since the bulk of Congressional work is done by staffers.

My second thought was, how nice of Congress to give SOCOM a plug and I wondered who else might have run a similar story, so I Googled “SOCOM propaganda Colombia” and found that AOL picked up the story and produced a video at http://www.aol.com/video/socom-tries-again-with-propaganda-research/518369638/. Be forewarned you will have to endure a terrible ‘quit smoking’ commercial – or at least I did.

Couple of points here -

USA Today may actually be more of an early morning source than an influencer in its own right.

Video clips may be the next big thing in ‘news’ if they are not already. This means tactical PSYOP forces will need to be more digitally mobile and capable than ever before.

Enjoy what’s left of your summer.

Photo source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pink Slips in Afghanistan?



How do you get fired for doing a great job and one you love? Easy – be in the military at the end of a conflict. The rubber band personnel policies associated with gearing up and gearing down from conflict are in play.

There have been many recent articles about Captains and Majors receiving their ‘pink slip’ while on duty in Afghanistan. For my non-American readers, a ‘pink slip’ has two American colloquial meanings. The one used here means a termination notice from your human resources (personnel department). The other one, not used here means the title document to a motor vehicle, typically in California. (see: Black Majors dismissed at a great rate than whites at: http://www.armytimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014308050052).

All of us who have served in the military have felt privileged to do so. There was a higher dimension of satisfaction with your job and you felt a kinship with your co-workers (past, and present) that is not experienced in the commercial sector.

The work is often demanding and sometimes dangerous. There is generally no such thing as an 8-hour day and my CJICTF (Combined Joint Information Campaign Task Force), the PSYOP task force, in Bosnia had no understanding of the term ‘day off’ even though our Civil Affairs colleagues were off every Sunday.

You feel the work is important and so you give it your all, consequently, when you feel you got screwed, you’re hurt and disappointed.

To this day I can remember how down I was after not being selected for Group Command. “How could the Army be that stupid?” I wondered, after all, I had a pretty good track record and I only lived 6 miles from the unit while the winning candidate lived over 2,000 miles from it.

Some time after that I was at a military cocktail party and grumbling about it to LTG Tagney. He looked me in the eye and said “Dietz – it’s the Board System and you can’t do a thing about it.”

I bring this up because I don’t want any of my soldiers who are leaving the Army to feel this action is personal. The Army is an institution and if you love the institution, you need to do what you can to stay connected in the way that makes the most sense for you.

In my case I moved on to the 315st CA Command where I served as the G2 and ultimately to SOCOM where I served as an IO Officer. While neither was as good as Group CDR, I was able to continue my relationship with the military.

Now that I have been retired over 12 years I’m still connected as an ESGR Volunteer, author of this Blog and occasionally, a small government contractor.

My advice to affected individuals is: if you can transfer to the Reserve or the Guard -do so. You’ll maintain the connection and you’ll have a pension when the time comes.

Enjoy the rest of your summer.