Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Best PSYOP Requires Innovative People

The working group for the PSYOP Branch Medal, now dubbed the McClure Medal, heard a number of suggestions as to who should be the honor’s namesake. One of the name’s that came up was new to me – Arthur T. Hadley. Seems Hadley was responsible for putting loud speakers on tanks in WWII as a means to get the Germans to surrender. (See his book Heads or Tails and/or a 2006 article in the New York Times where he worked (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/25/opinion/25hadley.html?_r=1). Also check out “Combat Loudspeakers”, an excellent article by LTC (R) Dennis Bartow, President of the PSYOP Organization at www.psywarrior.com/combatloudspeakers.html

Photo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS8nqBuvrBo
Dubbed the “talking tank”, the weapon’s principle was a simple one: bring the information weapon into the battle. It seems logical enough -- an enemy’s motivation to surrender is in the heat of battle when the danger is greatest. Hadley employed the appeal of the Geneva Convention’s protection as his key message.

One of PSYOP’s greatest challenges today appears to be applying information power against the terrorist strongholds along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. These are denied areas and the exact location of a target at any one time is likely to be elusive. If NATO forces could regularly ‘attack’ the hostiles with information in these highly elusive lairs, the impact is likely to be profound.

The headlines are filled with comments concerning drone killing attacks (for example see: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9903E4D9153BF936A15751C0A96F9C8B63&scp=6&sq=pakistan%20remotely%20civilians%20protest&st=cse). Even successful kinetic attacks can go wrong because the enemy is perceived to have an information advantage and able to turn most attacks into offenses against civilians raising the hackles of the population and negating some of the positive impact.
Going to back to Hadley for a moment, the first article I cited contains this description: “Our broadcasts, then, took on the following structure: first, we’d outline what we knew about the German position; second, we’d describe the weight of artillery and air power that was about to fall on them; finally, we’d end with assurances that those troops who surrendered would be well treated under the Geneva Conventions.”

Desert Storm showed the success of a ‘direct mail campaign’ where ordnance and leaflets were mixed in a dramatic application of Hadley’s WWII formula. Suppose we could do the same in the Afghani theater, except we mix up the payloads so that the enemy isn’t really sure whether they will be hit by explosives or leaflets or electronic messages or ‘greeting cards’ with pre-recorded messages.

Of course there are some caveats. First of all the campaign must have a desired call to action - we want the bad guys to do something. Can we give potential sympathizers a way out? Can fighters defect from these camps without being shot? Developing an exit strategy for our potential targets is perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of this idea – but it is certainly worthy of thought as is the modification of airborne EW platforms for tactical PSYOP purposes such as this one.

Comments invited.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We require innovative people, but most psyopers are reservists who don't spend a lot of their year training. And when we do, it is painfully obvious that there are too many people recruited that should not be in psyop. I've met psyopers who graduated from psyop school who don't know what USASOC is, what cognitive dissonance is, or even that there is a 7 stage psyop process!! Holy shit!
Psyop school has become something closer to Ranger and infantry school than psyop school. The cognitive standards are far too low.
So supporting units don't know how to use us, but most of "us" are ignorant of what we are supposed to do. Many psyopers think that they are just supposed to gather information, other to just hand stuff out.
Psyop is really difficult and it is a skill that takes years to master. I'm only scratching the surface myself. So while people at the pentagon understand the need for psyop, psyop isn't developed to the point that it can deliver.
That is why they've moved onto civilians doing our jobs with the HTS program.