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: http://america.aljazeera.com/)
- 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.