Friday, September 28, 2012

“Game Over” Text To Syrian Rebels – What’s the Message Behind The Message?

Imagine my surprise when I picked up local newspaper (the San Jose Mercury News) this morning and see the article “Syrian military's text to rebels: 'Game over'” (See: The same article appeared in a number of other publications such as the Boston Globe (see (which is also the photo source).

The article describes a MISO campaign wherein the Syrian government has texted various rebels. The first reaction is that this is perhaps another one of those campaigns that I call the ‘surrender now and avoid the rush’ campaigns where the goal is to convince the enemy to surrender. The article makes it clear that the predominant feeling is that the campaign is not likely to influence any of the rebels to surrender or even diminish their activities. In fact the spike in rebel activity is partially attributed to the provocation of the text messages (see photo).

We can see that today’s battlefield is truly a 5 dimensional one (air, land, sea, space & cyber) as clearly expressed by the Economist (see Just as the domains of war have blurred, it is important to remember that other aspects of the battlefield have evolved as well.

For example, the fact that the texts were delivered could also mean:  “we know who you are, we know where you are and because we control all communications, we are listening to every word you have to say.” It’s implied that SIGINT can be used to find the enemy and that the Syrian government can effectively deny the rebels their mobile phone communications.

While no one disputes the notion that the best defense is a good offense, it would be prudent for influence and kinetic warriors to consider the multi-level effects found on the 5th dimensional battlefield.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Green on Blue Attacks: Can Brochures Really Help?

All of us are concerned about “Green on Blue Attacks”.  Incidents where Afghans turn on coalition forces. The Afghan government has developed a 28-page "Brochure for Understanding the Culture of Coalition Forces" (see: The document which is being distributed to Afghan soldiers and presumably Afghan National Police, is regarded as a positive step in building bridges of understanding across the cultural divide.

Media reports and other sources keep saying that most of these attacks are angry, offended or troubled individuals. Reportedly foreign influence and Taliban infiltration are involved in a small percentage of the incidents.

What has this got to do with MISO/PSYOP?

We look at target audiences, assess alternative media and delivery means, develop messages and execute. We do all this to support the CDR and his mission. No one would deny that the mission in Afghanistan is complex, unique for us as a military force and unforgiving. 

Sowing distrust for allies is among the most classic forms of PSYOP. This very cost effective strategy exploits existing feelings, grudges, histories, preconceived opinions or other already negative impressions. 

Deception, such as  wearing the uniform of a friendly force is another classic technique. The Germans were renowned for their efforts employing this tactic during the Battle of the Bulge.
The Green on Blue attacks seem to include a bit of both of these.

Perhaps a brochure is fine for those who can read and for those who are open to learn. For those who can neither read or who are fixed in their beliefs or who lack the discipline and training to carry weapons, brochures are of no use.

If I were a cynic I might say the purpose of the brochure for the Afghan government to try and convince NATO that the government is actively involved in helping to stop the attacks by negating bad feelings through education. History, however, would not be on the side of this argument.

These incidents appear to be caused by individuals who have not been properly screened to see if they are suited to do what they are tasked to do. No amount of influencing will change this, so perhaps the brochure effort can serve as a very bad example on two fronts: 1. It will not accomplish the task for which it was developed and 2. It serves to show yet another misstep by the Afghan government. 

Photo Source:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

MISO Billets and the Army National Guard

Searching for the right slot is always a challenge for MISO (PSYOP) personnel. Anyone intent on moving up in rank has to balance a number of factors when looking for their next slot. Geographic location, rank and MOS are high on the list. I was pleased to receive the 4th QTR FY 12 issue of the MISO Advocate published by the Joint MISO Proponent Office at USSOCOM.

I was intrigued by the article “72 MISO Billets at NGB Maneuver Units” written by long time PSYOPer Phil Krigbaum. Just as the line between AC and RC is fuzzy, the line between USAR and NG can be even somewhat more mysterious.

During my 27 year career I came into contact with a few NG units because the USAR unit I belonged to was “Capstoned” to the NG Unit. I still fondly recall one weekend with the Dixie Brigade of the Alabama National Guard in Tuscalosa, AL. The Captstone designation  meant while we never trained together or perhaps even known very much about each other, we were destined to go to war together if ‘the balloon’ ever went up.

Just as the AC perhaps looked askance at the RC, my view of the NG was not entirely neutral. Fast forward to April of this month when I became involved with the DOD Employer Support to Guard and Reserve (ESGR) program and was immersed into the Guard world.

For better or worse, we (those serving) are all in the same boat.

The article indicates that the NG assignments are for a 2-3 year duration. The type of unit varies. SF Brigade, Brigate Combat Team, Infantry Division MP Brigade, and Fires Brigade seem to be the most common. Pay grades ranged from 04/05 and the range of NCO paygrades: E6, E7 and E9.
Locations were just as varied – Los Alamitos, CA; Rosemont, MN; Columbus, GA; Fort Belvoir, VA, Camp Douglas, WI and some interesting ones like Cheyenne, WY; Tupelo, MS and Boise, ID.
If were still serving and could apply for one of these slots I would. It’s not quite the glamour associated with a joint billet like Naval Special Warfare Group or an Air Force Cyber unit, but it could prove to be a great learning opportunity, and perhaps, just perhaps an alternative way to complete one’s service before retirement.

There are some ‘issues’ that exist when an Officer or NCO transfers from one component to the other and you need to carefully assess the possibilities. Perhaps there would be a way to try a slot by drilling with the NG but processing the paperwork as if you made up a USAR drill.
As always, y’all are closer to this than I am and comments are more than welcome.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Picking The Right Spokesman

Renown actor and director Clint Eastwood was the big mystery guest at the Republic Convention last week . As PSYOPers we know that we need to select our messages and our desired results before we engage spokes people and energize the campaign. If you didn’t see the speech, then check it out on YouTube at: which is also the photo source. This is the official version published by gopconvention2012.

The 11 minute performance was perceived in predicable ways. Republicans and Conservatives thought it was great while Democrats and Liberals felt it was neither well done,  nor effective. Spokes people are often wild cards – Eastwood is above all a performer, and likely a performer with his own agenda – an agenda which apparently was close to, but not exactly a total match for with the Republican one.

To be fair Eastwood made a few good jabs and it was nice to see a more conservative actor on the political stage for a change. His conversation with an imaginary Obama had its up and downs. He made the point that attorneys shouldn’t be president – an easy target, no one favors attorneys. He also hit the key points of jobs and his feeling that President Obama hasn’t lived up to his own campaign promises.

Probably Mr. Eastwood was a warm up act – an act designed to energize the faithful and set the stage for the Nominee. He was credible to the target audience and he certainly has the communications skills needed to get his point across. 

The results were indeed mixed.

The bottom line is that you roll the dice every time at spokes person gets up and speaks or is quoted. Pandering safe lines to a safe and captive audience is always a safe bet. If Mr. Eastwood’s purpose was to fire up the troops- he succeeded. If his objective was to leverage off his star power to change minds and votes then he was a likely a flop.

After all, not every spokes person can make your day.