Friday, September 26, 2014

Where is PSYOP in the ISIS Strategy?

While it is disheartening to see that Defense doesn’t make the cut for  “Top Issues” at the Whitehouse (see:, if you do some searching, you can find President Obama’s Counter-ISIS strategy at:

There are two areas where PSYOP could be employed:

1. Exposing ISIL’s True Nature: Clerics around the world have spoken up in recent weeks to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy, condemning the group’s barbarity and criticizing its self- proclaimed “caliphate.” We will work with our partners throughout the Muslim world to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy and counter its false claim to be acting in the name of religion.  

2. Disrupting the Flow of Foreign Fighters:  Foreign terrorist fighters are ISIL’s lifeblood, and a global security threat—with citizens of nearly 80 countries filling its ranks.  Over 100 foreign fighters from the United States have traveled or attempted to travel to the conflict.  On September 24, the United States will convene an historic Summit-level meeting of the UN Security Council, focused on this issue.

Interestingly enough there would be no clear delineation as to what echelon will fight the influence battle. One could argue effectively that the influence battle has to be fought at the tactical (local), operational (regional) and strategic (global) levels. 

To be effective the efforts would have to be international in nature and fine tuned with the language and cultural nuances necessary to give them credibility. It would also follow, as I’ve posted before, that credible spokes people need to be employed at all levels.

Both of these influence battlegrounds will require synergistic efforts in traditional and on-line media. Local efforts will have to be tailored to the literacy and technology environments on the ground. Urban areas may gravitate to cell phones and TV while rural areas will lean towards face to face and locally fine tuned other products.

Both of these efforts are long term and both will have to adapt to the changing environment in order to be effective. It is also implied that Department of State and DoD are working in tandem to avoid information fratricide.

If it were me, I’d have a small, independent cell working at CENTCOM with a DC LNO empowered to develop and release a full range of influence weapons without going through the normal excruciating approval process. 

It might also be useful to have a complementary NATO cell which might be better able to work with European and Middle East influence challenges and media.

In any event – autonomy and responsiveness are the keys to success in dealing with the type of asymmetric enemy ISIS represents.

Friday, September 19, 2014

ISIL Softer Touch Video Approach

About a month ago, on August 21, 2014 I made a posting about the brutal murder video (see: In that post I talked about audience impact.

There is no doubt in my mind that ISIL is an adaptable enemy and, like any creature trying to insure its own survival, has made adapted to deceive its enemies and elude destruction.

Perhaps recognizing that there will always be a slice of the population that will believe what it wants to believe and who can be easily swayed, the group has turned its video strategy around by using a journalist prisoner spokes person, John Cantlie. (See; which is also the photo source).

Cantlie is a prisoner and while clearly under stress, he comes across in a matter of fact like manner. According to the NY Times article Cantlie promises that there will be further videos coming along that will help explain the ‘truth’ from ‘the other side of the story’.

The video is anything but homemade. The quality is good and there is a news-like professionalism to it. The implications of the video are important.
1.     The Internet is a global medium, one whose images are credible to at least a slice of the audience.
2.     If you are hoping to influence people that you are merely being an objective speaker, professional caliber production is a must.
3.     Personifying your cause with a likeable spokesperson is a solid and proven technique.
4.     If you promise more, you will need to deliver.
5.     This propaganda offensive will likely result in attitudinal gains by the enemy.
6.     Direct countering may be not be productive because the affected audience will believe only what it wants to.
7.     The technique is a good one and may be adapted for friendly usage. This might be appropriate in looming urban battlegrounds where credible spokes people may be able to directly influence the population on behalf of the coalition.
8.     PSYOP Task forces must have preplanned how to produce their own videos and must have skilled personnel working with spokespeople to insure they are at their best.
9.     Contracting with professional studios and production resources close to the battlefield may make more sense than reach-back if the appropriate resources are available.

Let’s see what the next installment will bring.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mega City MISO: One of the Next Frontiers

The Army feels that Mega Cities will be among the next major battlefields. Mega Cities are defined as cities with 20 million or more people. (see:

In addition to dense populations, these cities would likely house significant masses of vulnerable populations. They would be served by all manner of major media to include TV and would likely overflow with mobile phones.

Notwithstanding their size, these population centers would like have informal or formal ethnic areas some of which evolved from internal migration, probably from rural areas and others may have developed due to international immigration both legal and not.

If the city is a battlefield, then it would be reasonable to assume a lack of government control, problems with infrastructure, and warlord or criminal organizations pretty much prowling around at will.

Implications for PSYOP here are huge.

Technology will be paramount with mesh networks and other ad hoc means of communications sprouting in ways not even considered today. Traditional media, especially ethnic and language appropriate TV will be important as well because of the loyalty that some TV programs and personalities engender and because of the power of imagery.

Individuals will more likely be connected to each other with mobile phones. Even the poorest of areas will have mobile phones even if they are shared much in the same way that party lines (old analog lines shared by several subscribers) used to be in the olden days.

From a content perspective “reachback” may be critical to develop and deliver the quality and quantity of products needed for operations in such an AO.

Given that no existing military has fought battles in this AO it would be appropriate to develop Command Post Exercises (CPX) based on a few cities. This would give a concrete basis for influence preparation of the battlefield. My nominees would be:
·      Jakarta
·      Karachi
·      Manila
·      Sao Palo
·      Mumbai
·      Bangkok
·      Lagos
·      Tehran

Be advised that the Regimental Blog will be in Italy for the next two weeks, so don’t be too surprised if we’re ‘dark’ for a bit.

Photo is of Lagos, Nigeria from Wikipedia.