Today's(28 Jan 2011)NY Times reports that the Egyptian government has blocked Internet access in a move designed to reduce the effectiveness of protests against the Mubarak government.
Clearly this is IO at its finest where CNO is being employed simultaneously as a PSYOP and an EW weapon. This points to the critical need for more widespread training and exercises by our own forces whee they can develop offensive and defensive skills.
These tactics are, as I have pointed out in numerous previous postings, especially effective in AOs with large urban populations and where the target audience is part of the intelligentsia. Students and 20/30 somethings are particularly effected due to their demographic's disproportionate reliance on connectivity.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
I believe that TV is the uber information weapon. While TV is not everywhere, it is certainly more pervasive than the Internet. A TV needs power and an antenna while the Internet requires some sort of smart phone or computer and a connection. The Internet seems to be for those who can afford the devices and the access while TV continues to be for the masses.
Photo: Author's photo of Mount Trebevic SRT Repeating Tower, Bosnia
The NY Times article “Tunisia Shuts Down Private TV Channel” which was dated 23 Jan 11 and appeared in the 24 Jan print edition (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/24/world/africa/24tunis.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper) reported that Tunisian government had shut the TV Station down.
Government sources claimed justifiable reasons for the shutdown. However, the action was alleged to have fanned the current flames of discontent even higher. There were also comments about the station owner and the wealth that the owner and family had gained.
The shutdown was reportedly short lived with station coming back on the air Monday local time.
Some of my loyal readers may recall my earlier postings about TV. For those new to the Blog, I’ve often said that TV is a far better info weapon than the Internet. While I was in Bosnia during October 1997, the Republika Srpska and NATO got into, as the Brits might say, a bit of a sticky wicket. Seems NATO alleged that the Serb Radio and TV (SRT ) was inciting the local population against NATO forces.
The 1st Infantry Division under the command of MG David Grange mounted an attack against one of the TV repeater/transmitters in the network antenna stream and effectively halted TV broadcasts. The NATO press release can be found at: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/opinions_25555.htm?selectedLocale=en.
The population was dependent on TV for their entertainment. The fact that the State may have controlled the new content was not nearly as important as the daily dose of pirated Venezuelan soap operas. The Serb government was compelled to negotiate with NATO in order to regain their broadcasting capability and thereby assuage the population.
The lesson for MISO personnel is clear. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, know your AO’s TV channels and their executives like you know yourself. Part of your information preparation of the battlefield is to draw overlays of broadcast and print media to determine their effective footprints. It also makes sense to analyze the programming to determine if the medium is controlled by a particular political faction and to get a feeling for their audience demographics. It is also worthwhile to try and determine where the medium derives its revenue.
MISO forces can and do utilize a variety of media for paid advertising so that one way to get your message out can sometimes be to simply pay for the service. Care must be taken in working with media from a business as well as a cultural perspective so that media management is positively disposed to you and your efforts.
Sometimes the media can provide or point you to credible local spokespeople which can be invaluable.
Bottom line: never underestimate the power of an irate TV viewer!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Admiral Eric T. Olson, the Commander USSOCOM, the joint proponent for Military Information Support (MIS) Operations is moving forward with his vision for a MIS Command. He is de-establishing the Joint Military Information Support Command at Mac Dill AFB and moving the bulk of those resources to Fort Bragg, NC which will be the home of the Command.
My information indicated that the Command would consist of 2 MIS Groups. It’s not clear to me if the Commander of the MISC would report to the CG of the Army Special Operations Command since he is the senior Special Operations Forces officer at Bragg or whether the unit would report directly to Admiral Olson.
In any event this is a giant step for the community and will cement Fort Bragg’s role as the center of gravity for military information support operations physically, organizationally and spiritually. Of course the down side is that Bragg is a long way from the 4* flagpole and dominating Army flavor may diminish joint cohesion.
In any event – we’ll all stay tuned for further details.
Recognition of our outstanding soldiers and community supporters is growing as the 4th MIS Group (Abn) will be hosting a ceremony on 21 to award Silver and Bronze McClure Medals. This is great news. All MI troop units, active and reserve need the ability to recognize excellence in our field. Hopefully, BG Sacolick has provided his guidance and input on the process for awarding these medals and that all of the Groups in the community have the authorization to do so. If not, Group CDRs need to rattle their Chains of Command.
The 4th MISG is also recognizing several honorary members of the Regiment which is also appropriate and hopefully the guidance on how to do so has also been spider webbed through the community.
On a personal note, I will be attending the funeral of my former First Sergeant for my first Company Command. 1SG Arthur Shepherd was more than my senior NCO, he was my partner, my mentor and my friend. He helped me to be a better officer and was the most outstanding NCO I ever worked with in my 27 year command.
Art was also a great champion of the West and noted for his common sense and passion for horses, perhaps his influence is one of the reasons I have taken up Cowboy Action Shooting. I think of him often.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The P-5+1 talks concerning Iran will resume on 21 January 2011 hosted by Turkey. (See http://www.presstv.ir/detail/159632.html). “P-5+1” means the five permanent members of the UN Security Council + Germany. While Turkey has promised to serve merely as the host and not a participant, their impact on the talks will surely be felt through their direct and indirect acts.Photo Source is link above.
Stratfor reported that “Then there are the Turks. The Turks opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq because they expected it to fail to establish a viable government in Baghdad and thereby to destroy the balance of power between Iraq and Iran. The Turks have also tried to avoid being drawn into the south beyond dealing with threats from Turkish Kurds operating out of Iraq. At the same time, Turkey has been repositioning itself as both a leading power in the Muslim world and the bridge between the Muslim world and the West, particularly the United States.” Read more: The Turkish Role in Negotiations with Iran | STRATFOR
Clearly the US has strong interests and goals with respect to Iran and that Iran is a pivotal player in the troubled region. How does this translate into the MISO/PSYOP world?
The MISO community has a critical need for people that understand a variety of cultures and that can quickly build rapport with other military personnel. Some of these skills can be built from NATO assignments.
For example while I was in Sarajevo the Turks provided security for our quarters. The guards were mostly young conscripts who were eager to obviate their military obligations with a single year of service. Albeit this service was not easy and their lives during the year were hard ones.
Interestingly the more senior (in rank and age) officers went for a daily run when curfew was lifted. This gave us time to spend with the guards prior to our run. They were a fine group of lads and were very interested in learning English. I gave them all my magazines and newspapers including some on esoteric topics like stamp collecting. They were eager to learn and practice their English and they had a great sense of humor.
I had the opportunity to learn more about the culture of the Turkish military when I attended the Allied Command Europe (ACE) PSYOP Officers Course in the UK where I served as the informal escort officer for a Turkish Colonel.
Many of our MISO personnel have the opportunity of serving on Military Information Support Teams (MIST) in our embassies. I have talked to many of these soldiers at Fort Bragg and I can tell you that they are extraordinary. They are articulate and culturally oriented with many conversant with one or more foreign languages.
Notwithstanding today’s optempo, we need to provide more opportunities for MISO personnel to become culturally familiar. This could include training with other forces, college abroad as well as authorizing modest amounts of funds to pay for memberships in local clubs that foster this kind of knowledge. A good example Is the Japan Society of Northern California (http://www.usajapan.org/).
We also need to place a higher priority on NATO support and integration than we do in order to insure that we learn more about how to work with our allies and that we indeed train as we fight.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
On 5 January 2011 the Washington Post reported that “Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr returns to Iraq after self-imposed exile (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/05/AR2011010500724.html?wpisrc=nl_natlalert)
Photo Source: Bassem Tellawi- Associated Press via the Washington Post.
Sadr has evolved from faction leader to an important piece of the Iraqi governmental puzzle. The memory of battles in and around “Sadr City” are still somewhat fresh. Sadr is a true wild card, one that bode well or not for Iraqi and US interested. He has done many things right to position himself as a keystone in the new Iraqi government.
He has done well to retain the loyalty of his followers and pays attention to the small things that impact loyalty such as visiting the grave of his father upon his return. Sadr also was the beneficiary of a deal reportedly brokered by Iran.
What does all this have to do with Military Information Support Operations?
I believe there is a great deal at stake because Iraq and its new government are now in charge of their own destiny, unless something really bad happens such as an increase in sectarian violence, a power grab by Sadr or some other development that pushed Iraq back on the brink of disaster.
Now is the time for contingency planning by Executive Branch Strategic Communications, State Department Policy & Public Diplomacy, MISO personnel. Alternative scenarios need to be developed and considered. Intelligence and fact gathering needs to be on-going and file footage for potential information operations should be compiled.
Additionally it would be useful to track press releases and other activity by the Maliki government as well as profile and track the public affairs apparatus of the Sadr organization.
Monday, January 3, 2011
I have been a student of China since I was but a wee lad in Brooklyn. Motivated by the cuisine and the fact that we had to actually get in the car and to the Chinese restaurant, I have been a life long Sinophile. In College I was the only ROTC student in Philosophy of Oriental Religion (it was a very long time ago). So it’s no surprise that I enjoyed the NY Times Article of 31 December: “Revolution Isn’t a Party, But It Draws The Tourists” which you can check out at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/31/world/asia/31china.html. Photo source: Gilles Sabrie for the NY Times
It’s not Disneyland, but it fosters emotional attachment to the People’s Liberation Army and The Chinese Community Party. China.org describes the travel destination:
It was in this historical site about three kilometers northwest of Yan'an that the CPC Central Committee led the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. At the entrance is an auditorium, a vaulted brick and wood structure. The small building at the rear used to be the office of the Central Committee's General Affairs Department. Mao Zedong, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai, and other leaders of the revolution had their residences on a small hill in the north. An exhibition hall has been built there to show the revolutionary activities of the leaders and the people in Yan'an. (see http://www.china.org.cn/english/chuangye/42187.htm)
This is a superb example of multifaceted information operations and plain old good salesmanship. In the sales business we’re taught that if you put the prospect in the picture of owning your product or using your service, you are well on the way to closing the sale.
In the case of Yan’an, today’s Chinese can put on uniforms of the revolution and experience battles as participants, albeit with a very safe perspective. This emotional connection to the revolution servers several purposes: it stimulates emotional support of today’s Chinese government because, after all, it is an extension of the Revolution. It also stimulates the domestic economy by encouraging those with money to spend to do so domestically.
In the US we have dedicated re-enactors who devote significant time and treasure to their hobby of dressing and acting like their forebears. Civil War re-enactors are very popular and the new sport of Cowboy Action Shooting is also on the upswing.
However, these kinds of efforts require dedication over time, something Americans are not famous for. Also it’s fair to say that most of the re-enactors are not the younger generation which seems to be attracted to Yan’an.
Perhaps Disney or Six Flags could devote part of one of their theme parks to mini-battles where people could experience battles of the past. Not only a good profit maker, but a help to bolster the American pride in ourselves.