We’ve all heard the phrase “The Strategic Corporal”. We’ve taken it to mean that a comparably junior soldier can perform an act that has a global strategic impact. Perhaps the same can be said for Social Media.
The NY Times 28 June 14 article, “Iraq’s Sunni Militants Take to Social media to Advance Their Cause and Intimidate” (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/world/middleeast/iraqs-sunni-militants-take-to-social-media-to-advance-their-cause-and-intimidate.html?_r=0) was a follow-up to a conference call I attended on Friday.
The topic was not the importance of Social Media as a MISO tool, but the issues of how these campaigns should be planned an implemented. On one hand, anyone, anywhere can access and engage in social media. Many of us are somewhat addicted to Facebook to let everyone else know what we are doing and to vicariously experience what are friends are doing.
Access is ubiquitous. Smart phones, tablets, kiosks and, of course, computers all are portals into social media. Does this mean that social media operations can be run in ‘reach-back’ mode where a centralized resource can globally execute social media MISO?
Or is it more prudent to have the forward deployed MISO CDR orchestrate the campaign employing local and reach-back resources?
Given the far-flung and fast moving nature of actions across the spectrum of conflict, perhaps the right answer is ‘none of the above’. Perhaps the right answer is to develop an evolving and dynamic doctrine and set of social media ROE that recognizes the need and resources required for social media MISO and apportions them up and down the chain of command.
We should also recognize that there might be times where our enemies will deny Internet access into their territory, but will actively employ social media operations internally. For example, if ISIS should be able to extend their control to include the ability to turn off outside world access, it would follow that they would do this for their areas. They would continue to provide this access for their own PSYOP as a core tenet of their influence strategy.
Social media MISO are also indicative of the shotgun wedding that is occurring between CNO and influence operations. The blending of these two disciplines is accelerating so that any future operations will more than likely require both in the assessment and execution phases.
Force providers and doctrine developers need to appreciate this and move with haste to develop the framework for future ops – because the future is already here.