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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tibet is All A Twitter – But For the Wrong Reasons


I have often talked about “cyber psyop” or cyber influence. The notion of using traditional techniques in the cyber medium. The NY Times on July 22, 2014 ran an article on July 22, 2104, It’s Another Perfect Day in Tibet! (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/22/world/asia/trending-attractive-people-sharing-upbeat-news-about-tibet-.html?_r=0, which is also the photo source).

The article talks about the Chinese competent Twitter poster, Tom Hugo (That's Tom's picture above.) Seems Tom is actually a figment, he’s not real, but his Twitter pages are real – real good examples of how PSYOP can be used in cyber space.

Tom and many of his colleagues are the progeny of the PRC’s propaganda machine designed to shape he news in the way the PRC government feels the news ought to look like. The bogus sites were found by a “Free Tibet” group. While there is no direct evidence that the government of the PRC is behind the efforts, most experts concede it would be difficult to point out any others who would benefit from tis type of campaign.

The people in these social media efforts are generally commercial images. Tom Hugo for example is a Brazilian model. Like their PSYOP counterparts in other times and places, there are no MOE on the PRC efforts.

The PRC may have banned Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube in their own country, but it is apparent they recognize how important these social media sites can be for influence purposes.

It would not be a giant leap to see this kind of influence operations extended to Military Deception (MilDec) operations where details of future deployments, or unit readiness are ‘leaked’ via social media postings.

Hopefully all y’all are enjoying your summer. On a travel note, I had a chance to visit the Disney Family Museum at the Presidio of San Francisco and enjoyed it. Here are a couple of Walt’s efforts in WWII. These photos were taken by the author.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Middle East: PSYOP’s Ultimate Battlefield


One of the unique facets of PSYOP is that it can be employed at all organization levels from strategic to tactical. Nowhere is this more evident that the Middle East. While one could probably argue that there was more than a little early Middle Eastern PSYOP involving a snake, an apple and a garden – there is no doubt that PSYOP is a key element of conflicts in the Middle East.

At the Strategic level, heads of state take steps they know will not directly effect their adversaries, but would position them more favorably in the court of world opinion. One such PSYACT took place when Israel unilaterally accepted the short-lived “Truce” announced early this week brokered through Egypt. Israel announced that they would abide by the truce knowing that Hamas couldn’t go along with the truce without losing face among its own people and appearing to be weak in dealing with its enemy.

Given the small size of Israel, what might have been operational level influence efforts turn out to be more tactical ones. Leaflets and SMS warning Gaza residents of impending attacks and urging them to flee are tactical in nature. Yet the act itself could be considered operational or strategic because of the way it would show the international community that Israel is really the good guy here because it is seeking to avoid collateral injury and death to civilians.

The efforts on both sides offer some best practices:
1.     Images coupled with music are a good combination and reinforce each other.
2.     All influence channels have to work together. While it is fair to say that neither Israel’s Defense Force (IDF) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or Hamas do not have the separation of Public Affairs and MISO that the US and others have, during active conflict all elements need to work together.
3.     Knowing the communications landscape is key. Use of SMS is vital in densely populated areas.
4.     Traditional techniques may have side effects. While one may debate the use of leaflets as a MISO tool, there can be no doubt of the psychological effect of thousands of pieces of paper streaming down from aircraft. The implication is control of the sky and ability to drop more lethal ordnance from aircraft.
5.     Language is key. You use your language, your enemy’s language and English to reach the world media.
6.     While Internet exposure may not impact tactical operations, the internet facilitates global influence.

The Middle East conflicts are an on-going laboratory for PSYOP and MISO.

Readers should be aware of these activities and store them away for training or other lessons learned activity. If there are readers who speak either Arabic or Hebrew, I’d appreciate knowing how the English differs from those two languages.

As always, reader comments encouraged.

References:

Hamas Propaganda Videos:
Video pushing Beer Sheeva Evacuation:
Iron Dome is a "failed project," Israel is concealing death toll: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgz1YK0dxro

Propaganda Song against Egyptian President Sisi Surfaces on Hamas Forum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVrIekWCtsk

Israeli Counter-Propaganda:

Hamas' Actions Match Its Words

IDF Leaflets Over Gaza:

http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/11/21/idf-drops-warning-leaflets-over-gaza-strip-providing-safety-instructions-for-civilians/

Gaza: Israel Warns Targets by SMS And Phone To Leave Before Bombing
Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1342806/gaza-israel-warns-targets-by-sms-and-phone-to-leave-before-bombing/#ygkYkulOUC3xBcRA.99

NY Times article on Recruiting Foreign Fighters for Syria:
Gaza: Israel Warns Targets by SMS And Phone To Leave Before Bombing
Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1342806/gaza-israel-warns-targets-by-sms-and-phone-to-leave-before-bombing/#ygkYkulOUC3xBcRA.99

Photo Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/middle-east-unrest/israel-drops-leaflets-warning-northern-gaza-airstrikes-n154571