Monday, November 18, 2013

Do even smart warriors consider PSYOP?

The November 16, 2013 NY Times featured an article about a Philosopher-General of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)  (see: Which is also the photo source.)

The article talks about the storied career of BG Herzyl Halevi who is about to leave command of IDF forces in the northern Galilee region – the border with Lebanon. The article talks about the General’s family, his previous assignments and his destiny for greater things. It concludes with his posting to run the IDF Command and Staff College. 

Nevertheless, given that the General, like many other General Officers and Fleet Officers (GOFO) is rotted in combat operations. With an agile enemy such as Hezbollah and a mercurial legislature, can even an officer who has studied philosophy and business administration be expected to understand the nuances and advantages of a non-lethal battlefield multiplier like MISO?

Patton was regarded as a learned General, one who spoke French and who devoured reading on a variety of subjects not the least of which was the tactics of his enemies such as Rommel. Would Patton have ever employed MISO over combat action? Seems like a shaky proposition to me.
As we move out of Afghanistan and the force becomes adjusted to a more garrison based and perhaps disaster abating role (witness the new 3* JTF 505 in the Philippines), are we inculcating the next general of GOFO with the tools they need to employ MISO?

My bet is probably not. Hopefully SWC is working in concert with TRADOC to insure that the military education curriculums are inclusive of MISO just as they are of urban warfare and the growing likelihood of cyber conflict.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir -

You raise an interesting question and the short answer is – Yes.
Despite the proclaimed warrior philosopher embodied by General Halveli, our current and next crop of General and Flag (not Fleet) Officers are well aware of the benefits of Military Information Support Operations. Given the progression of military careers and the past decade + of combat experience – the exposure that our senior leadership has had towards PSYOP Soldiers surpasses that of previous generations. At a minimum, this exposure influences their options when developing plans, making recommendations, and considering options.

The label of “smart” is subjective. I agree with your suggestion that General Patton was a learned and educated man, but my studies suggest that he is far from smart. In fact, by today’s standards, Patton would be considered a toxic leader – exemplified by his treatment of a lower enlisted soldier that he labeled a “coward”. As a shining example of employment psychological operations - a very smart Commander did employ Patton in convincing the enemy that Operation Overlord was not the main assault force for the invasion of Europe. Instead, General Eisenhower created the fictitious First US Army Group (with Patton as the Commanding General) as a rusee de guerre.

Additionally, I would suggest caution in relating the study of Rommel’s Book “Infantry Attacks” as a hallmark of being learned. Rommel’s book was first printed in 1937 and had a limited distribution. Furthermore, it was only printed in German and covered nothing more than infantry tactics from World War I. In essence, it was a battlefield memoir – a collection of observations and limited recommendations. The book referenced by the epic movie Patton, in which George C. Scott proclaimed “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!” never existed. Chances are, most United States Army Officers had read the abridged version of “Infantry Attacks” - it was used as a training manual in 1943.

I can’t speak, nor offer opinion, on curriculum development between TRADOC and the United States Army Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS). I won’t even attempt to inject hyperbole into the discussion. I can suggest that as combat operations terminate, we will emerge from this conflict with one of the most experienced armies ever. Most certainly, we will lose some great people as the Army draws down force size – but those that remain do retain their experiences (which includes application of PSYOP), which can make all the difference.

PSYOP is not necessarily non-lethal. I personally eschew that moniker. PSYOP without the threat of action (in the military capacity) is limited. After all – we are attempting to change behavior and force our adversary to acknowledge that there are consequences if they don’t move the way we desire.

I hope that this adds some clarity to the argument you presented and I wish you all the best.

Lawrence Dietz said...

@Anon - thank you for your feedback, it is much appreciated. You provided some good balance and insight. When I say 'non-lethal' I mean instead of kinetic. MISO used in a conflict against a military force is quite different than MISO in support of a humanitarian assistance or disaster relief operation. PSYOP on non-state actors is a different matter. I appreciate the acronym clarification GOFO is one of my favorites!