Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bill Clinton As A PSYOP Weapon

I’ll admit I was no fan of Bill Clinton when he was president. However, I did feel that his wife worked for and earned a reputation as a hardworking Senator for her adopted State of New York. As the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/world/asia/05korea.html?_r=1&hp) reported his arrival at Pyongyang, North Korea it was clear to me that a charm offensive was under way.

Kim Jong-il is a tough nut and given his isolation and mercurial nature, nut is the right word. While the Obama administration claims Mr. Clinton’s visit is ‘unofficial’, it surely has been executed with the blessings of the White House and some shrewd maneuvering by Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State.

In selecting Mr. Clinton as the emissary they have given the Korean leader the subtle recognition he needs. As a former President, Mr. Clinton was a head of state and it would be fitting for Kim Jong-il to meet with him. Further, there can be no doubt that even in his ‘unofficial’ capacity Mr. Clinton has a direct link to President Obama and very strong diplomatic support from his wife.

In fact the selection is ingenious!

In addition to personifying the USG at a high level Clinton has the smarts and the reputation for personal charm that may be exactly the kind of influence weaponry needed to crack the wall in the souring relationship between the US and North Korea.

Military PSYOP can learn from this when the CDR has the charisma, the smarts and the balls to meet with their oppositions in conflicts other than war. One such GO is MG (R) David L. Grange. Grange was the CDR of the 1st Infantry Division in Bosnia. I interviewed him in 2007 while working on a project and learned how he leveraged his personal abilities to learn and influence his adversaries. Senior leaders should consider well the advantages and pitfalls of a personal influence strategy. It is not to be undertaken lightly.

A key best practice when engaging in this strategy is to bring along an observer who can record the event for the CDR and help assess responses and reactions in a more cool and objective manner than the CDR who is in a face to face influence operation. Another best practice is to understand some of the subtleties of salesmanship. One of my personal favorites is that it is important to get the person on the other side of the table to more or less like you as a person before they will actually start listening to you and your point of view.

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