Thursday, August 29, 2013

MISO-in-Chief: Syria

President Obama is facing difficult choices concerning Syria. No matter what action he takes, he will impact the global influence battlefield. Conceptually high level missions like any against Syria are created through the analysis of strategic goals and the best way to accomplish them. Theoretically serious consideration also needs to be given to the other intended and unintended effects of those missions. (2nd and 3rd order effects)

The President’s decisions are made considering national and international factors that would include political, military, moral, social, etc. I don’t believe that his advisors at the White House level are really going to worry about what the Taliban might do to exploit US attacks on yet another Arab country in Afghanistan or how Al Qaeda will leverage any media footage or casualties for their own ends. 

Yet, those of us who plan and execute MISO at the operational and tactical levels need to be mindful of the likely second and third order effects and be prepared to either leverage them for our own purposes to accomplish our influence missions, or to plan on countering the likely campaigns seeking to exploit the attacks.

Some fundamental assumptions I would work with are: rural villages have no conception of what goes on beyond the edge of town. Any attack on an Arab nation would be viewed as yet further evidence of America’s desire for world domination and suppression of Arabs and Islam in particular. The US will likely not have support from very many international partners and the American people are certainly weary of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

While political support may go down traditional party lines, the American public has shown a general disdain for being the world’s policeman especially in the face of economic trouble at home. This may manifest itself into media coverage that our adversaries may exploit as well.

So –what can we do about it? My cynical, Brooklynite nature says ‘not much’. Nevertheless, as good soldiers we need to be prepared and we need to try and learn from the past. Here are a couple of thoughts:

  • At the tactical level perhaps images of victims might be effective, although it may be difficult to personalize the victims.
  • Consider having trusted, credible spokespeople prepare interviews on the history of chemical warfare and the international conventions that have banned it.
  • Research appropriate religious references against inflicting harm on innocent victims backed up by visuals that depict women and child victims.
  • Monitor international news media – perhaps with special attention to Al Jazeera America to determine the pulse of the international community and the Arab world in particular. (Photo Source:
  • Renew propaganda and anti-propaganda efforts in areas likely to be targets of negative influence campaign.

Reader comments encouraged. For my American colleagues, enjoy your Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

COCOM Realignment and MISO

The August 11, 2013 Defense News (See: - which is also the photo source) addressed a realignment of the combatant commands. According to the article consideration is being given to a major reorganization which would reduce costs by eliminating HQ overhead – perhaps over 5,000 military and civilian slots and the associated real estate and operating expenses. 

The potential realignment reduces the number of COCOMs to four and eliminates two of the current COCOMS:
1.       An “Americas Command” which would consist of the current NORTHCOM AND SOUTHCOM.
2.       EUCOM
3.       CENTCOM
4.       PACOM which would not include Afghanistan and Pakistan

While anything contemplated by the Pentagon is like mating elephants (done slowly at high levels), its worth a moment to consider what the potential impact of such a realignment would mean on MISO.

Overall, it would appear that this potential reorganization would simply the chain of command and take into account many of the cultural anomalies that have plagued the current schema.
Moving Afghanistan and Pakistan under PACOM makes a great deal of sense and takes into account the intertwined nature of these two countries. 

The combination of NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM could mean a leveling of resources which would facilitate rotation of more personnel through SOUTHCOM assignments than would otherwise be possible. In theory this could also facilitate Spanish and Portuguese language training throughout the command.

Perhaps the greater concern is not so much which 4* is in charge, but how the MISO force would be composed and what changes can be expected as a result of the sequester process. Operators need to be focused on cultural and linguistic skills in addition to MISO professional skills. The AC and the RC must sort out responsibilities and develop on-going relationships so that deployments are a continuation of business as usual rather than a surprise partnering. However, some strategic thought needs to be given on how to manage the potential realignment with a minimal impact on the force and its ability to execute the mission.

The nature of trouble spots and potential trouble spots doesn’t change simply because the Pentagon changes its maps. The Middle East will continue to roil in its own troubles and the nature of insurgencies in Africa and elsewhere will continue to grow unabated while Latin America and Central America present their own challenges. MISO will be there no matter who is at the top of the Command chain.