Friday, May 23, 2014

Comic Books – Still A Relevant PSYOP Vehicle?

One of the more popular items during my time in Bosnia was the Superman Comic Book dealing with mines. It was designed to help kids understand the dangers associated with mines and with the cooperation of DC Comics. (short note about it found at:

In today’s pile of electronic stuff I couldn’t help but notice that there is a new comic book in the works on Edward Snowden (see:, which is also the photo source).

While I haven’t gone through the effort to download it. I must admit I was pleased to see that the popularity of comic books (at least in the Western English speaking world) hasn’t decreased. For more on this you can check out:

In the day and age of smart phones, super smart tablets and texting, I found it quite refreshing to see that some things seem to transcend the digital age. I’d also wager that comic books, some without words might even be useful in some future MISO engagements in places where literacy is lacking.

Memorial Day Commentary
This is the start of the annual Memorial Day Weekend here in the US. I’d like my readers to take a moment away from the BBQ and remember our comrades who are no longer with us. I often think about my visits to the Viet Nam Memorial where the names of one of my childhood friends, a Marine and one of my classmates at college, a Marine officer are etched.

I will also be revisiting the Civil War this weekend at an annual reenactment. I can certainly relate to the modern era, but sometimes we forget about the primitive conditions of wars past and the hardships our forebears had to deal with.

Friday, May 16, 2014

UK Merge of All Influence Activities – Portent For US?

The PSYOP Linkedin Group posted a link to IO Global (, a commercial site promoting their June 2014 Conference.

The link features this quote: “May 2014
The UK military's communications strategy is in the process of a shakeup. Where before there existed two ‘universes’ – that of IO and psyops, and that of public relations, media ops and marketing – the emerging tactic is now in bridging the gap to better coordinate a full spectrum approach to Ministry of Defence communications. As Stephen Jolly, the Director of Defence Communications, tells Defence IQ, such a move should see benefits to all aspects of MOD functions, from recruitment to operations, but it carries the need for a complex adjustment and one that other nations may see as controversial...”

While a more cynical person than I might think this is merely a shameless way to, as the Brits are wont to say, “flog their conference”. The notion is one worthy of consideration this week.

I have had the pleasure of working in each of the named disciplines at one time or another. We all would agree that there are indeed some common skills: operational planning, writing, on-line/social media savvy, video and still photography, etc., the nature of the two worlds couldn’t be more different.

If perhaps one channel were kept strictly military oriented and the other pegged toward commercial media and commercial-like tasks such as recruiting, perhaps there is some merit.

From a Public Affairs perspective, credibility and reputation is everything. This is especially true in a conflict environment when the media may be non-existent or evolving and where the media has historically been state controlled.

The other aspect here is of course the international media and the US domestic media. Experienced journalists would likely view the marriage of PSYOP (MISO) and PAO as useful as creating the perfect kosher pork chop.

A bit of research on Mr. Jolly the source (see: reveals that we was “a black propaganda expert at the University of Cambridge” and appointed as director of media and comms at the MoD in April 2013.

Perhaps this blend of skills in Mr. Jolly’s background was coincidental or perhaps he was put in that position to help orchestrate the merger in the first place.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Putin, 21st Century Warfare and MISO

On May 5, 2014 Foreign Policy’s website featured an article entitled “How Putin is Reinventing Warfare” (see:, which is also the photo source)

While President Obama may have said that Russia was stuck in the “old ways” referring to either the Cold War or 19th century, it is abundantly clear that this is not the case based on Mr. Putin’s strategy in the Crimea.

FP goes on to say that “But look closer at the Kremlin's actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances. Could it be that the West is the one caught up in the "old ways," while the Kremlin is the geopolitical avant-garde, informed by a dark, subversive reading of globalization? “

The article goes on to describe the concept of non-linear war. However, from my perspective, there are a couple of aspects if Russian operations in the Ukraine that are interesting.

First of all the conflict in Eastern Ukraine seems to be fought from the inside. By this I mean that Russia succeeded in infiltrating its own force and exploiting local forces (paid for, criminal or legitimate) to establish their presence and take the fight to the Ukrainian government. Establishing this force within the borders of a sovereign nation is a feat to be studied.

Secondly Mr. Putin has sized up his enemies to the point where he pretty much felt that force would be met with economic sanctions and it appears that he frankly doesn’t give a sh*t about sanctions. This begs the question of what other instruments of national power can be brought to bear short of combat forces?

Third, and perhaps the most important from a MISO perspective is that Mr. Putin is doing quite well in shaping media coverage on an international scale. The FP article gives a couple of specific examples that I will leave to your research.

It is apparent that sanctions are not working at this point. President Obama and his minions are mulling over their options. These options likely include what to do about influencing media in Europe, Ukraine, Russia and other locations around the globe. Will this include bolstering digital operations from SOCOM? Time will tell.

Friday, May 2, 2014

MISO and the Pivot to Asia

Much has been said about the President’s “Pivot to Asia”. The President himself has finished his recent tour to Asia, where on April 28, 2014 he addressed Filipino and US Armed Forces at Fort Bonifacio. Among other things the President was there “to reaffirm the enduring alliance between our two countries.  I thank President Aquino for his partnership and the deeper ties that we forged yesterday.”

I’ve been a dedicated Asiaphile since my first Chinese food experience in Brooklyn during the 1950s. Over the years I’ve continued to study and visit Asia in military, commercial and private capacities. I maintain that the bandwidth of people and cultures is much greater in Asia than it is in Europe.

Asian philosophy, with its long range perspective, often runs at odds with the Western penchant for instant gratification. Consequently when a sitting US President visits an Asian ally and meets with their military, notice must be taken.

An often underplayed aspect of MISO is the interaction of one nation’s military with another’s. Those of use who have had the honor and pleasure of working with allied nations are well aware of the kinship that runs between military personnel.

Working with other militaries pays big dividends. First of all, you learn a lot about each other as people. You also learn about the style and culture of the allied force. Sometimes you learn that officers of the same rank in particular exhibit extraordinary similar behaviors, without regard to the color of their uniform.

Back in the olden days I commanded the 12th PSYOP BN. We were an Asia focused unit. This meant our soldiers worked exercises in Korea, the Philippines, Japan and Thailand. One of the long running Exercise is Balikatan which, coincidentally, started today in Visayas (see: Other exercises such as Yama Sakura in Hokaido, Japan tool place in less hospitable weather – during winter.

It would make logical sense to assume that these long running, historic exercises would continue to be funded and support. But what about other mil to mil contacts? What about engaging countries that we have historically not worked with very much such as Malaysia or Indonesia? Would these contacts have to be large scale and formal, or would simple short-term visits, mobile training teams and exchanges work? Or should we save our money?