Friday, July 27, 2012

If the Rules on Cyber War are unclear, Cyber PSYOP Must Be Mud

The 26 July 2012 AP story “Pentagon still grappling with rules of cyberwar” (see is an intelligence indicator that if the rules of ‘conflict’ are unclear then the Cyber PSYOP rules must be clear as mud. 

We are facing a cross section of enemies and adversaries who are very proficient in using the Internet to further their goals and as an influence vehicle.

The notion of the ‘strategic corporal’ is real. Actions in the street in one part of the world are spider webbed globally via the Internet. We have also seen that Social Media are a powerful means to generate a wide range of actions to a variety of target audiences. In addition we know that future conflicts and hot spots will cross an incredible range of socio-economic and geographic lines. Urban centers as well as rural AOs are likely to be the setting for MISO during the next decade.

All of this means that it is vital to sort out the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for Cyber Influence now before they are needed. In fact it is probably more prudent to take diligent steps now than to sit on our hands and watch our enemies and adversaries gain even more ground in the cyber influence war.
Given all the above who should be the Champion of Cyber Influence? From a DOD perspective, it seems only logical to me that USSOCOM is the driver. According to the SOCOM website: “The Unified Command Plan assigned USSOCOM responsibility for synchronizing Department of Defense plans against global terrorist networks and, as directed, conducting global operations. USSOCOM receives, reviews, coordinates and prioritizes all DoD plans that support the global campaign against terror and then makes recommendations to the Joint Staff regarding force and resource allocations to meet global requirements.” (

SOCOM should be leaning on the Army Special Operations Command and the Army Reserve to assist by providing personnel to assist in this vital mission. Clearly this assumes a strong linkage to the Training and Doctrine Command so that influence operations can be mainstreamed into the training of the “Big Army” to help soldiers prepare for their individual roles in the on-going influence war.

Photo: Mud Pool in New Zealand:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hezbollah: The New Al Qaeda

All too often we have used the phrase “Prepared to fight the last war.” Regrettably it looks like we are about to go through a phase of resetting our Strategy and TTP to make sure we’ll be successful in the next Iraq or Afghanistan. While there are certainly aspects of lessons learned from these conflicts that will be applicable in the future, we also need to be developing our ability to anticipate the kinds of enemies we will face in the future and the trajectory of enemies we fight today.

After 9/11 the US was hell bent on bringing down Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden in particular. Over the past week as the Olympics gets ready to kick off in London on the 27th of July, I started giving some thought to what was lurking behind today’s headlines. I should add that I have been an Adjunct Professor for an on-line College for several years so I’m constantly dealing with new issues and trends raised by my students.

One of my students did their final project on Hezbollah’s ability to attack in and from Latin America. He did a very solid job of describing past attacks in Latin America notably in Argentina. Just about the same time the Wall Street Journal published an article: “Israel Says Intelligence Ties Hezbollah to Bulgaria Attack”. (see

Admittedly Bulgaria is not exactly Main Street, but the fact that such an attack could take place far from Hezbollah’s home base in Lebanon is an intelligence indicator that their capabilities should not be underestimated. 

Hezbollah stands for the proposition that nation states will support non-state actors that further their cause. This is especially true for states that don’t exactly have total freedom of movement such as Iran. Consequently we need to be more than vigilant, we need to be anticipatory so that we can put the appropriate strategy in place that will yield the TTP needed for kinetic and informational dominance in the conflicts of the future.

Photo source: Stratfor via Counterterrorismblog. org

Monday, July 16, 2012

Civilian Skills and MISO/PSYOP

Those of us who are part of the PSYOP Community are lucky in many ways. This is especially true in lack luster economies such as we find ourselves in today. Military personnel often excel under pressure every day. Disciplined, generally well organized and used to working in teams we have the kind of traits that employers should covet.

However, the overwhelming majority of employers have no military background. They can’t make the leap from military assignment success to commercial career success. PSYOP and MISO, while as we tend to endlessly debate, are not the same as Marketing or Sales, they are however quite similar.

A Tactical PSYOP Team Chief can relate how his team surveyed the market place – meaning developed an understanding of the community they were going to work with and then assessed how to best communicate their messages. The Team Chief can then relate how he worked with “Corporate” (the Media Development Center) to come up with appropriate products such as posters or how they worked with interpreters to canvass the town and engage in personal selling (face to face communications).

Some of what we do in the Community can even translate into more senior role success. The notion of “Strategic Communications” permeates the corporate world as multi-national organizations seem to maintain a high level of consistency in brand, message and tone, yet strive to insure appropriate localization to maximize profit and sales. 

Of course Defense Contractors are prime prospects for MISO personnel transitioning out of the military. Many of them have already started executing business development plans to compensate for the draw down in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraq.

Some have turned to the Homeland Security market while others are exploring their options with new customers inside DOD. A typical requirement for a senior planner and project manager would be “advise, assist, facilitate and support the planning, integrating and orchestration of the organization’s Campaign Plan effects that are fully nested with the Higher HQ Campaign Plan in support of the intent and end state designated by the Commanding General“.

The previous paragraph was taken from an actual job description and is included as a proof point in support of the proposition that we in MISO should consider ourselves lucky to not only have such a dynamic profession, but one that is appreciated outside of the pure military context.

By way of closing, if you are trying to sell something, you need to insure that the prospect likes you and is listening to you. Hence the puppy picture – everyone loves puppies!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Helping to Support Protests: An Overlooked MISO Role?

The article positions protests below insurgencies on the scale of insurgencies largely because protests are viewed as non-violent activities whereas insurgencies are made up of violent acts. The article also points out that protests can “spur insurgencies” and cites Syria as a case in point.
Protests are considered an asymmetric tool because the protestors are assumed to have far less resources than the ruling entity they are protesting against. 

In many cases protests have shown themselves to be cost effective means to affect people’s behavior. 

If that is the case, should one of the functions of MISO to provide protest coaching to those favorable to our messages and causes? Should MISO try to influence governments by helping the citizens of that government be more effective in their protests?

Protestors are also attempting to make their effort look larger and more consequential than it really is. In my posts on “Occupy” I pointed out to the meager presence the protestors had in San Jose, the 10th largest city in the US, but how pictures of the protestors could be positioned in such a way as to make the few people look more like a crowd than they really were.

While I’m all in favor of new and original angles and tactics for MISO, and while protests do seem to have made quite a difference, especially in the Middle East, I don’t think MISO should be a force in the process.

MISO might work with friendly minded parties to help them understand the nuances of the communication process and to support those who support us, I believe that MISO needs to stay squarely in the military lane and avoid mixing in to what should be civilian or diplomatic efforts.
Reader thoughts always welcome.

Photo of 2009 protest outside the G20 Meeting in London: