Tuesday, October 21, 2008

PSYOP And The Next Phase In Iraq

(Photo Courtesy of NATO, General Babakir Baderkhan Zibari, Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces and Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, Commander JFC Naples met during the Admiral's visit to NATO Training Mission-Iraq, Jan. 24.)

Readers are forewarned that today’s posting is a bit futuristic, but hey, it’s almost Election Day and we all should be used to it by now. The October 16th headline screamed “Iraqis Tout Business Opportunities to U.S. Firms” (http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=3775513) and the story concerned the Iraqi government’s promotion of the unlimited investment opportunities in Iraq. Of course the speakers were from the Ministry of Defense and there was the appropriate caveat that safety was not guaranteed.

Speakers included Gen. Babakir Baderkhan Zibari, chief of staff for the Iraqi Joint Forces , Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal Ahmedfahmi, deputy minister of the Ministry of Interior, and Sameer Abdulwahhab Razooqi, director of public affairs for the Ministry of Defense. The premise of the pitch was that foreign companies ought to do business with the Iraqi government, especially the Ministry of Defense. There can be no dispute that the country’s infrastructure is bad shape and that it cannot be repaired without external resources.

Today’s posting is actually about what happens when the security posture is considered stable and outside investment beyond the defense sector beings to flower in Iraq. What would be a proper role for PSYOP and what new issues and concerns will surface?

First of all, PSYOP will continue to be a voice of the USG until the troops leave. They may not be the only voice as PAO will still be the major information conduit to the media. Time will tell if the new administration gears up Public Diplomacy, nevertheless, PSYOP troops and their products will be functioning.

As the security environment shifts from lethal to benign, USG messages and the media used to transmit them will evolve. Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy ought to be employed in Western Europe and Asia to induce investment in Iraq and risk taking opportunistic firms will trickle in. Then what?

Increasingly Coalition forces, especially Tactical PSYOP Teams will hear something like: “Soldier, can you and your boys help me out here? I need to get this truck load of my product from here to there and I’m really concerned about security.” Kind of training has been provided to help PSYOP soldiers and others deal with requests from commercial companies or even from NGO? Would the USG be subject to liability if one vendor’s request was honored, but another was not? What would happen if the Coke truck got through, but the Pepsi truck did not? Have officers and NCOs been trained on the ethics of conflicts of interest within the commercial context?

Given today’s optempo, the answer is that none of these issues have been addressed in training. The message of today’s post is that we in the PSYOP community need to address these issues now, at least in the academic sense. Curricula need to be developed that address the conflicts of interests and other ethical dilemmas that are likely to pop up during the more mature phases of nation building.

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