Monday, October 27, 2008
PSYOP And The Raid On Syria
The official Syrian news agency, Sana, reported an attack by US Forces in the Abu Kamal area near the Syrian border with Iraq. (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7692153.stm or http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/27/AR2008102700511_2.html?hpid=topnews).
The Washington Post and BCC reports extensively quote the Syrian news agency including the facts that “The dead include a man, his four children and a married couple, the Syrian report said, without giving details of the children's ages.”
Both reports included the following: “But the Associated Press quoted an unnamed U.S. military official as saying the Special Forces raid had targeted a network of foreign fighters that regularly crosses the border."We are taking matters into our own hands," the official told the Associated Press, speaking on the condition of anonymity.”
Thus far (1146 Mountain Time, 27 October), no official USG comments have been made although the Washington Post article offered up:
“Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq called Syria "problematic," and blamed fighters based in Syria for one cross-border raid in May.
"We do know that there are operatives that live, we believe, certainly -- let me say, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi intelligence forces feel that al-Qaeda operatives and others operate, live pretty openly on the Syrian side. And periodically we know that they try to come across," the commander, Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly, said.”
In a world where ‘secret’ raids are news moments after they begin and where unanswered claims of our enemies and adversaries are taken as ground truth, does it make sense to maintain official silence? In this particular case, it would seem that US forces executed the action. The truth behind the casualties has defaulted to the Syrian view and anti-war activists of all nationalities have seized on the action as yet another club footed act by the USG.
This is yet another case where a tactical action has turned into a strategic communication and where it appears that the information engagement value has not been given the proper consideration. Was the purpose of the action simply to attack the village of Sukkiraya or did the action have a broader purpose?
Perhaps there were some messages that ought to have been transmitted:
• “Sure, we’re in the middle of a Presidential election, but don’t think for a moment that we will hesitate to attack terrorists no matter where they may hide.”
• “If sovereign governments do not act to address terrorist activities, we will.”
• “The government of Iraq has powerful friends who will help it deal with its enemies”
No matter what, the information engagement facets of the kinetic attack should have been handled differently. Failure to address the information engagement aspects of similar moves will do more harm to the overall war on terrorism than the tactical victories.