Thursday, June 27, 2013

MISO and Lebanon Training Teams – Essential or Risky Business?

The Associated Press reported through Yahoo News (see and other outlets that “US looks to send training teams to Lebanon, Iraq”. GEN Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff  was quoted “"Militarily, what we're doing is assisting our partners in the region, the neighbors of Syria, to ensure that they're prepared to account for the potential spillover effects," Dempsey said during a Pentagon briefing Wednesday. "As you know, we've just taken a decision to leave some Patriot missile batteries and some F-16s in Jordan as part of the defense of Jordan. We're working with our Iraqi counterparts, the Lebanese Armed Forces and Turkey through NATO."

While I’ve never been to either Lebanon or Iraq, I suspect that they share a number of similar characteristics: strong factions that are bent on destroying each other, urban population centers, reasonable Internet access, adequate telecommunications and a host of broadcast and print media.
This Area of Operations (AO) is more amenable for MISO than is Afghanistan – but do we really want MISO to be a part of this  “training team”?

On the pro side is the fact that MISO (formerly PSYOP) was born out of Special Operations. Special Operations Forces have training foreign militaries as a core competency. Does it follow then that MISO should be as welcome by our “allies” as F-16s?

I frankly don’t think so. Even though we would be risking lives and assets by providing training teams in the first place, I’m not convinced that the governments we would be helping are anxious to try and influence their populations using American resources. In fact the very use of US resources as a means of influence directly or indirectly might undermine the host nation government even more.
It looks like training teams in this context ought to be limited to things that blow up stuff and how to move, shoot and communicate.

Reader input encouraged.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the case of Lebanon it is unclear what the role of the "government" is. There is a government and a military, but the government does not have a monopoly on force in the country, the civil war lasted 15 years (1975-1990) involved 3 countries and the Lebanese Army was but one of about 10 major factions in the war. The government also doesn't really have a monopoly on governing either.
My point is twofold: (1) if we go into Lebanon and help someone, MISO is not necessarily a bad idea. We should not be concerned too much about what the "government" does or does not want. (2) we better send in some people who really know the difference between Orthodox, Maronite, Shiite, Suni, Druze, Amal, Hizbullah, many in their pro- and anti- Syrian versions. We also have to have people who understand the vital hisotical relationship between Lebanese and Syrian politics. . . These are very non-trivial matters, especially in Lebanon where ethnicity and political rivalry is in everyone's blood and historical memory. If we send people who can't tell the Nationalists from Hizbullah and just treat them as "generic Lebanese" we already lost. Knowledge is everything here.
Iraq is a different story. We should have people who understand what the political situation is there. We need people who are sensitive to the ethinic makeup so we don't cause more problems than we solve.
I've been to both countries (one as military one as a tourist), nothing is simple in either case. We should not be scared to incorperate MISO, but if we do it badly, we will cause more problems than we solve.