Friday, August 27, 2010

PSYOP and Iraq: It Ain’t Over Yet

Notwithstanding declarations touting the end of combat operations in Iraqi, the influence war is far from over. Seemingly coordinated attacks across the country are sending forceful and graphic messages to Iraqis that their lives remain perilous. (Photo: NY Times)

With the withdrawal of the Warfighter, influence operations must take on a new flavor and tempo. Unlike Afghanistan which is mostly tribal and rural, Iraq has significant urban centers. These centers are served by local and regional media to include TV. In many quarters of these cities there are even likely (I haven’t been there so I can’t say for sure) Internet cafes and ISPs serving a growing body of Internet and smart phone users.

Iraq serves as a laboratory for future conflict. Military Information Support Operations (MISO) must now TRULY be in support – but this time of diplomatic efforts to thwart the insurgency and raise the conscious of Iraqis. Security is no longer just the problem of government. Citizens need to be more vigilant and supportive of their fledgling police and security forces. Aggressive influence operations are needed to mobilize the support of the population.

The people of Iraq need to dry up the sea of support that allows the insurgents to move freely. The government should help the process by maintaining truly anonymous channels of communications to allow citizens to provide tips on the enemy without fear of retribution.

DOD information support can and ought to come in several ways: First, PSYOP personnel can augment and assist State Department through the embassy and its outreach efforts. PAO personnel can facilitate the Iraqi media and in concert with the State Department, aid in the maturing of a potent and objective media that can inform and help the Iraqis defeat their insurgent. Other avenues could include training Iraqi MISO and PAO personnel and facilitating working arrangements between these Iraqi government personnel with local and regional media.

In addition to these programs, Strategic Communications efforts aimed at the Region should be undertaken via the Internet and other channels designed to ‘reach the street’.

The bottom line is that the influence war needs to ramp up even more than during combat and that all government instrumentalities need to be brought to bear under a clearly articulated strategy and with a mindset to learning on the fly. Lessons learned over the next few years should not have to be relearned in new influence battlefields where ever they may be.

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