Thursday, July 5, 2012

Helping to Support Protests: An Overlooked MISO Role?

The article positions protests below insurgencies on the scale of insurgencies largely because protests are viewed as non-violent activities whereas insurgencies are made up of violent acts. The article also points out that protests can “spur insurgencies” and cites Syria as a case in point.
Protests are considered an asymmetric tool because the protestors are assumed to have far less resources than the ruling entity they are protesting against. 

In many cases protests have shown themselves to be cost effective means to affect people’s behavior. 

If that is the case, should one of the functions of MISO to provide protest coaching to those favorable to our messages and causes? Should MISO try to influence governments by helping the citizens of that government be more effective in their protests?

Protestors are also attempting to make their effort look larger and more consequential than it really is. In my posts on “Occupy” I pointed out to the meager presence the protestors had in San Jose, the 10th largest city in the US, but how pictures of the protestors could be positioned in such a way as to make the few people look more like a crowd than they really were.

While I’m all in favor of new and original angles and tactics for MISO, and while protests do seem to have made quite a difference, especially in the Middle East, I don’t think MISO should be a force in the process.

MISO might work with friendly minded parties to help them understand the nuances of the communication process and to support those who support us, I believe that MISO needs to stay squarely in the military lane and avoid mixing in to what should be civilian or diplomatic efforts.
Reader thoughts always welcome.

Photo of 2009 protest outside the G20 Meeting in London:

3 comments: said...

Tough line to draw.

In spite of Clausewitz's "war is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce", IMHO, this sounds more "political" than the military should be doing. Far better fit for diplomats, even intelligence agencies. How much more effective they would be under such regimes is a separate question :)

Erik719 said...

This type of activity is a valid MISO mission, but falls under the purview of the CIA as a "covert" action.

Soldier-Cynic said...

According to Robert Gate's memoir, the first CIA support to the mujahedin in Afghanistan was "...insurgent propaganda and other psychological operations..." This was six months prior to the Soviet invasion and may have played a role in triggering the decision to invade. Since the risk of Soviet escalation was briefed at the time, this may have been a desired outcome of the support.

Concur with the others that any support would need to be covert, an overt support role leaves the protestors open to a number of new nationalism arguments from the regime, i.e., the protestors are actually proxies and agents of the US.

This should be viewed as a subset of UW. Furtermore, IMHO it is a legitimate MISO function, whether a specific mission would fall under Title 10 or Title 50 depends on the lawyers and the authorities in the EXORD for that mission.