Monday, January 25, 2010

The Passing of COL (R) Jeff Jones – A Sad Day For PSYOP

COL (R) Jeffrey B. Jones passed away on Sunday evening 24 January. Jeff was the consummate PSYOP professional and an extraordinary gentleman. I first met COL Jones in 1993 was he was the Commander of the 4th POG and I was the S-3 of the 7th POG working for then COL Altshuler. It was obvious that the two CDR liked and respected each other. This feeling of camaraderie filtered down through the staffs in what I termed “The Golden Age of PSYOP” because the active and reserve components truly worked together as a single force.

(Photo is mine: from left to right, COL (R) Larry Dietz, Mrs. Jones, COL (R) Jeff Jones, Mrs. Boyd and COL Curt Boyd, then CDR, 4th POG)
We had frequent coordinating meetings where we shared the duties for support and addressed issues of importance to the entire PSYOP community. This was due in a large part to Jeff’s statesmanship and strategic insight.

COL Jones was more than an outstanding officer, he was a diplomat. He did a tour in the White House and his final military assignment was as Defense Attaché in the US Embassy Paris. I visited him there and his office was as palatial as his hospitality. At the time the PSYOP community was united in the hope that Jeff would be our first PSYOP flag officer, but this was not to be.

Jeff worked on national security issues after his retirement. He worked with the National Security Council and on various projects and assignments dealing with PSYOP and Strategic Communications.

In 2007 I had the good fortune to work with Jeff on a project for USSOCOM. I could see that the cancer was starting to take its toll, but it didn’t diminish Jeff’s talents or ability to contribute.

As the process for the McClure Medal moved along it was clear to me that it would be fitting to honor Jeff’s lifetime of service to PSYOP and I’m pleased that this came to pass last June.

PSYOP has lost one of its guiding light and many of us have lost a mentor and a good friend. My family and I extend our deepest sympathies to Jeff’s wife Pam and to all his family and friends.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Winning the Battle – Losing The War

You don’t often see simple and elegant statements that describe complex issues. I found one such statement in the January 22, 2010 edition of Small Wars Journal ( ). I have commented about the lack of unity of effort for information engagement. While no one would argue that LTG Patton was always in charge, today as well stated by the Small Wars Journal: “Our enemies are winning in the information environment, while we continue to discuss and debate how to operate in this environment. Our adversaries are using simple, cost-effective means to close the physical battle space gap by taking control of the narrative and effectively subverting with their radical ideology and propaganda. It is absolutely critical for every government agency within the U.S. government to participate, coordinate, cooperate, and arrive at a final, integrated and definitive standard of Strategic Communications against terrorists.”

Photo Courtesy of:
The authors are all senior deployed practitioners with extensive experience and the article concentrates on Cyberspace. I’d like to do the authors one better by saying isn’t this the case for all communications both verbal and nonverbal?
As the January 2010 earthquake relief assembled and poured into Haiti a unity of purpose seemed apparent. While there were disparate actions in terms of search and rescue, food and water distribution and medical care, you just got the feeling that each of the pieces were moving forward, albeit slowly.

The Iraqi ‘battlefield’ may no longer be fraught with daily small arms fire and may have moved into cyberspace. However, Afghanistan is just ramping up. PSYOP soldiers on the ground are at the center of a maelstrom of Afghani political jockeying, Taliban insurgent activity, combat troops moving around attempting to secure ground and people while the citizens wonder when all the interlopers will leave.

It would appear that the State Department needs to concede information coordination to the military command responsible for a regional AO. Each region needs to adapt them to the local environment. This means understanding all the aid efforts and using concrete achievements and testimonials as a means of informing the local population and as a way to shape positive influence. This presupposed that the State Department or the military command knows what is going on to include activities by Non Governmental Organizations (NGO).

The regional effort in turn would be translated into village programs that ultimately become a two way flow of information from national down and from local up. The local information can consist of success stories, testimonials in video and other formats which could in turn be harnessed by other regions and local campaigns. At the national level the programs and input could be consolidated with access granted to other information programs globally.

However, all this implies a unity of effort that we have yet to see. Perhaps this Small War Journal article can be one small step to information dominance.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Attacking The Terrorist Mind

The January 10, 2010 NY Times features an article entitled: “The Terrorist Mind: An Update” (see

The author analyzes works by a number of academicians who have studied the terrorist mind. According to the article, Dr. John Horgan of International Center for the Study of Terrorism at Penn State is credited with leading “much of the research into what is known as disengagement – a terrorist’s departure from the organization”. Dr. Horgan claims that there are a couple of key reasons why terrorists leave the movement. This is not to say they abandon their radical views, but rather they have left the group and renounced violence.

Leading reasons include: the small groups they are in “are rife with jealousies and personal competition; life is boring; pressure of maintaining a double life is too exhausting. Others include “aging out” where the member has grown to the point of wanting more stability and perhaps starting a family. Some may sense that the group’s goals are unattainable and/or they have reached their moral limit. Others are dismayed to find elderly and children engaged in battles.

From a PSYOP perspective we want to stimulate and reinforce these views. The Internet is likely the ideal medium to transmit dramatizations and perhaps ‘testimonials’ form former terrorists (to include Taliban) that underscore the feelings noted above.

The Internet has been cited as a key medium for recruitment for Al Qadea and Others (see NY Times, December 31, 2009, “Focus on Internet Imams As Recruiters for Al Qaeda” ( Consequently it is logical to assume that the same medium would be the way to reach the terrorist member and transmit messages reinforcing the desire to leave the movement.

Chatrooms and other virtual meeting places need to be designed that can attract terrorist recruits and members and that offer messages stimulating disengagement. In my view it makes sense to post messages from various sources on websites known to espouse terrorism. I am a believer of using the Internet like the ocean. Taking down offending websites is like playing Whack A Mole because new ones will pop as quickly as others are taken down.

It seems to me that these kinds of operations need to be joint (more than one service) and ideally combined (more than 1 nation). Furthermore the best work product is likely to come from a combination of military, diplomatic and civilian minds – groups designed to think like the customer with the native linguistic ability to carry the creativity and disengagement messages forward in multiple directions on the Internet and elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Not All Good News Stories Are Good PSYOP

The Washington Times ran an article about Afghani girls flourishing in school. The Jan 6, 2010 article touts how the Marines have helped build the school and that the students are looking forward to bright futures (

Photo: Washington Times

This ‘feel good’ story concludes with “According to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, an estimated 63 percent of rural Afghan men and 90 percent of rural Afghan women are illiterate. In Now Zad, those illiterates are sending their children to school in defiance of threats from Taliban operatives.”

The story would have a positive influence on many audiences, especially Western minded audiences who hold the principle of gender equality in high esteem. However, this doesn’t mean that the story, pictures or excerpts would be appropriate for all audiences.

There is no question that education especially in the context of gender equality is a key American value. The issue is this the kind of value held by the target audience? If the target audience is male dominated and historically prone to control all aspects of female life in their society, then the story and its images and messages are not appropriate.

Having said that the story is not appropriate PSYOP, is it appropriate for the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) of the unit? That answer would have to be clearly “yes it is”. Marine support of core American values with happy smiling faces as testimonials is the kind of story that is likely to help bolster support for US forces and instill local pride in the deployed unit.

Perhaps a take away here is that PSYOP personnel need to be on the lookout for stories and images that, while they don’t necessarily apply to PSYOP, can be effectively used by our PAO colleagues.

Best to all of you for the New Year!