Sunday, March 23, 2008

PSYOP and the Intelligentsia

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines intelligentsia as “intellectuals who form an artistic, social, or political vanguard or elite” (see It is generally conceded that the intelligentsia of any society exerts a disproportional influence on the population. They are generally regarded as thought leaders and are held in high regard by the rank and file population. If PSYOP campaigns are to be successful, they must be supported by the intelligentsia within the audience. These groups might be religious leaders, professionals such as academics, doctors or lawyers or they may be leaders who have emerged from their respective populations due to their leadership, charisma, military prowess or other accomplishments.

Intelligentsia groups have rigorous standards and norms. They are the opposite of the classic comment attributed to Groucho Marx: “I wouldn’t join any group that would have me as a member”. Membership in n these groups requires careful vetting and undoubtedly has a pre-requisite of credentials including academic degrees and perhaps licenses to practice. Anyone who has not cleared the bar of these qualifications is likely not to be admitted. The group tends to put the greatest credibility in their members, outsiders are generally regarded with disdain and have little influence on members.

Exceptions in some groups can be made where the outsider has obtained comparable credentials or recognition in an allied or parallel field or is vouched for by a group insider. Just as giraffes have giraffe babies and elephants have baby elephants, physicians tend to respect physicians, and lawyers respect most other lawyers (and judges of course), etc. Occasionally a professional in one field may be accepted in another, but this is not a given.

Consequently effective PSYOP in these environments requires significant planning and may require a longer time approach than that employed with other audiences. For example many professionals rely on their specialty journals as a source of reliable information. Even in the day and age of the Internet the paper magazine retains a lofty perch in some circles. This is especially true for older professionals who have not adapted well to the digital age, regardless of their setting. Journals might require several months lead time for articles so that a 90 day window from time of creation to publication would not be uncommon. Furthermore, authors of journal articles need to be subject matter experts (SME) as many of the articles are subject to peer review prior to acceptance for publication.

Should the PSYOP campaign were able to work with a credible member of the community, there is no guarantee that a particular publication would be accepted for publication and if it was published that it would have any influence at all. In addition the problem of attribution or collaboration may serve to negate any positive influence if the audience perceives that the PSYOP campaign influence itself pollutes the publication.

A way to success with this audience is an inside out approach. Leaders of the group or alternatively respected outsiders must be the lynchpin of any PSYOP effort. There must also be recognition that achievement of PSYOP goals may require a significant amount of time and patience and that care must be taken to deal appropriately with egos and emotions because these elements are often the real key to effectiveness is this kind of rarified environment.

Friday, March 14, 2008

NATO, Denmark and Afghanistan

This morning I had the opportunity to attend a press conference held by H.E. Soren Gade, the Minister of Defense for Denmark. Minister Gade was here in the US visiting Secretary Gates and appeared as a part of the Newsmaker Series at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Prior to his presentation there was a bit of a ruckus as there were several very vocal demonstrators protesting. Sort of gave me a time warp back to the 1960’s in a way.

By way of background, Denmark’s troop contribution to Afghanistan is ranked either #1or #2 on a per capita basis and they have recently increased their manning to 700 or so in Southern Afghanistan. The Minister pointed out some tremendous achievements in terms of education – 4 or 5 million children in school and 10 universities compared to less than a million students and a single university under the Taliban. He also noted that 80% of Afghani’s now have access to medical facilities.

He noted that Europe as forgotten 9/11 and categorized Denmark’s mission to Afghanistan as a security mission to secure Denmark against future terrorist operations. In other words prevent other 9/11 like attacks in Denmark or elsewhere. Key overall aspects of the Danish mission:
1. Train the police and the Army.
2. Improve the agriculture in the country and replace the opium poppy crop.
3. Build roads.
4. Improve the power supply

Gade also noted that it was important to win ‘the hearts and minds’ at home and in Afganistan and to strengthen Strategic Communications which he defined as:
• be better at telling ‘good’ stories;
• show what kind of enemy we are up against;
• and improve news and video coverage by devoting Danish resources as a news medium.

He will introduce a NATO Channel at upcoming Bucharest summit. The channel will have resources in Kabul and Kandahar.

It was encouraging to hear such positive statements from one of our allies; however, it would appear that even the Minister didn’t understand that the Department of State, not DoD is responsible for Public Diplomacy. From his passion about telling ‘good stories’ to the home country audience it would seem that he doesn’t have the rigors of the Smith Mundt Act and the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1972 to deal with.

He did not know which countries were supplying soldiers capable of executing the hearts and minds missions and was focused on the broader goals getting other EU nations to contribute more troops to Afghanistan and being optimistic on the effect of a military run news channel.
When I noted that military sources are generally not very credible with foreign audiences, he was hopeful that the Danish effort would be an exception to the rule. He indicated that there were many new TV stations and newspapers in Afghanistan and felt it was not NATO’s mission to encourage or support Afghani media.

Experience has shown that credibility is a key to message acceptance. Pure military forces are not generally able to and while I applaud the Danish actions with regard to their news channel, I’m afraid that it will not have a very pronounced impact on the AO. Success on the information front can only come from capable and credible local media who have the trust of their audiences.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Orders and Travel Pay SNAFUs Persist

When I was a young and humble 2LT (OK, so I was only a young 2LT). Many an NCO would tell me: “Never mess with a soldier’s pay or their mail.” I found that advice to be among the more durable tips I’d been given in ROTC and early on in my career.

Apparently the senior echelons in today’s Army Reserve haven’t gotten the word as chronic problems persist in cutting mob, ADSW AND ADT orders so employers can be notified, soldiers can get paid and travel vouchers languish for weeks. While the Government Travel Card (GTC) may have made life easier for those who didn’t have credit cards or were unable to get them, it hasn’t helped out on the payment end. DFAS processing time remains unacceptable.

To be fair, many civilian employers, like my former employer, Symantec dictated that you used the company credit card or supposedly your expenses wouldn’t be reimbursed. Employees were responsible for paying that AMEX card regardless of when they submitted their expense reports for reimbursement or when the check was ultimately cut by the employer. Failure to pay on time could adversely affect the employee’s credit report. It would appear that the USAR has unfortunately lifted the page from the commercial sector in this case.

Given the pressure on today’s force, the hectic optempo, and the economic pressure on soldiers and their families its time that our GOs and elected officials worked together to quickly address these chronic issues.

I have e-mailed both my Senators and my Congressperson. I’ve also sent e-mails to the leading candidates from both partiers and I suggest you do the same.

I’m not sure if well get a reaction, but it is past time for these problems to be conquered and this is THE election year after all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Can You “PSYOP” An Individual?

PSYOP is generally employed by a military force against a group target in a defined geographic AO. The use of PSYOP against individuals is rare and reserved only for very high value targets where the stakes are quite high. The world of fiction has portrayed PSYOP against individuals in a number of ways. Among my favorites was the original Mission Impossible TV series which employed specially selected people with particular talents, not to mention disguises, drugs, theater, electronics and whatever else was required to alter the perception and decision making of the target.

In some ways it worked like CSI in reverse. Instead of starting with a dead body and figuring out what happened prior to the victim’s death, the Team started with the desired results in mind and performed the backwards planning to orchestrate the scenario to get to the desired results.

There was one episode where the evil doer de jure was convinced that a nuclear holocaust had just occurred. The MI Team built a mock-up of a wasteland around the periscope that the target used to observe what was going on outside. While I don’t exactly remember the outcome, I do remember thinking that was pretty cool.

Moving into the 21st Century – is it possible to “PSYOP” an individual by altering his perception of his environment and events around him to the point where his behavior moves in the desired direction or his decision making capability is severely hampered?

In thinking about the problem, one would have to consider the information and influence environment around the target, as much as the target itself. Given that the target’s actions are a function of the sum of all influences, it is important to determine what influences can be realistically altered or influenced and those that cannot.

For example, it would be difficult to subvert a target in a rural environment where communication is strictly via trusted messenger.

Alternatively, urban targets are typically inundated by information – face to face, television, radio, Internet, news papers, magazines, etc. PSYOP could be performed by controlling what is received by altering the genuine or providing false broadcasts or publications. However, would it be possible to exert enough control to get the desired results?

Another dimension of individual PSYOP in today’s world is the cyber dimension. In this case cyber means the information technology (IT) infrastructure used by the target as well as the Internet itself. CNO might prove effective in altering the effectiveness of decisions by changing the nature of ‘facts’ and information available to the target. CNE operations could be designed to employ computer crime techniques such as salami slicing to alter data in such a way to change the framework upon which decisions would be made. Drastic CNO could be employed perhaps in conjunction with EW to denigrate the information technology (IT) used by the target to the point where it is useless.

Regardless of the target it should be obvious from even this short posting that “PSYOPing” individuals require meticulous planning and significant resources. It also requires an in depth understanding of the target and its environment and an opera