Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rolling Stone As A Military Authority

I must confess that I don’t think of Rolling Stone Magazine as an authority on military matters. True, while in college I did regard Playboy as a source of good interviews, but that was a long time ago. The February 23, 2011 Rolling Stone article, “Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators” (see

Unlike Michael Hastings, the author of the article, I am an attorney and I don’t agree with his characterization of “illegal”. While it is indeed true that PSYOP (now Military Information Support Operations or MISO) cannot be employed against US forces, the incidents portrayed in the article don’t even come close to being illegal. They may seem inappropriate – but implying that a group of soldiers could “manipulate visiting American senators” is nonsense.

Information Operations (IO) teams are often multi-disciplined, but they are certainly not endowed with mystical powers that give the ability to control people’s minds. LTC Holmes, the IO officer quoted in the article is either confused, misquoted, unaware of what PSYOP should or should not do, incapable of dealing with the media or all of the above.

Labeling all PSYOP personnel as “propaganda people” is not only unfair and untruthful but also borders on slander. This type of quote surely reveals how little the Rolling Stone really knows about PSYOP in the first place and that they are more interested in readership and web clicks (which of course lead to more advertising money – duh) than in reporting actual news.

In the commercial sector many companies employ government relations as an information conduit between the company and the government. They may also employ lobbyists, who are paid and generally must register themselves to influence legislation. These two functions are related but different. The military possesses no such stated capability.

In my view, LTG Caldwell was only being prudent by preparing for a visit by a senior Congressional Delegation (CODEL). Executives prepare for visits by elected officials all the time and elected officials go out of their way to provide bios and other information through their web sites and other means.

Notwithstanding the fact that Caldwell is a 3 star LTG, he doesn’t have a government relations staff. People with the skills to prepare him for the visit would like sit in a number of places throughout his HQ such as Public Affairs, PSYOP (MISO), Intelligence and perhaps even Personnel or Operations. He could conceivably turn to any or all of these sections to provide people for this additional duty.

Clearly LTC Homes was a poor choice. To imply that PSYOP is the Voldemort of the military able to apply magical powers is, in the words of BG Anthony McAuliffe: “Nuts!”

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