Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libya: Who is in charge of the attack? An important PSYOP/MISO Issue.

My time in Bosnia during 1997 – 1998 taught me quite a bit about the practical aspects of running an alliance. In some respects an alliance is like a family and not everyone gets an equal vote all the time. The Stabilization Force (SFOR) had the advantage of being a NATO entity. While this wasn’t a perfect construct, at least there were some basic rules over who did what, how the force was organized, funding mechanisms and doctrine.

Photo Source: Wired; URL below

According to President Obama: “First of all, I think it’s very easy to square our military actions and our stated policies. Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Colonel Qaddafi to his people. Not only was he carrying out murders of civilians but he threatened more. He said very specifically, we will show no mercy to people who lived in Benghazi.

And in the face of that, the international community rallied and said we have to stop any potential atrocities inside of Libya, and provided a broad mandate to accomplish that specific task. As part of that international coalition, I authorized the United States military to work with our international partners to fulfill that mandate.” (source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/03/21/president-obama-answers-questions-libya-testament-men-and-women-uniform; accessed 22 March 2011).

Let’s take a look at a couple of key phrases here: “an international mandate from the Security Council”, “international coalition”; and “work with our international partners”. Does this mean that the Secretary General of the UN is the “Commander” of the Libyan mission? Do all of our international partners get to task our aircraft and prioritize targets?

The NY Times reported that the US is moving swiftly to hand command over to our allies (see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/world/africa/22libya.html?_r=1; accessed 22 March 2011). Does this mean a French or British flag officer will have opcon (operational control) over US forces in the Med?

Does this ersatz coalition have a formal HQ with a combined, joint Military Information Support task force? Are the influence operational objectives clear? Has the coalition taken the necessary time and effort to craft a coordinated information operations effort to include Computer Network Operations, Public Affairs and EW to maximize the effectiveness of the fighting force and minimize the danger to friendly forces?

Frankly I believe many of these questions remained unanswered as our planes streak over Libyan skies. At first blush it would appear that the President has moved swiftly to answer the political mail, and is now trying to minimize his and our collective exposure.

As with any operation, plans don’t often survive first contact and there is already fog in the media. The President implied that the US took the lead because “Our ability to take out, for example, Qaddafi’s air defense systems are much more significant than some of our other partners.” (same source as above) and that fine military authority, “Wired” reported on secret PSYOPs and Commando Solo (see http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/03/secret-libya-psyops/).

If there’s a formidable air defense system, you wouldn’t be seeing Commando Solo flying around. And, by the way, where is the funding for this operation coming from as the defense budget continues to get pruned.

Overall it would appear that we are potentially on the precipice of yet another military mission in a Muslim nation with the potential of fanning the flames of other conflicts and perhaps offering an excuse to jump start fundamentalist efforts in other parts of the globe.

I applaud President Obama for his nimbleness, but let’s hope we don’t get burned jumping over the latest candlestick.

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