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Thread: Historical Parallels?

  1. #1
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Historical Parallels?

    One of the aspects of Small Wars that I find especially interesting are the way they tend to link back through history. For example, you had the Cuban revolutionaries in the early 1890s using the Western press to make their case for support in their fight against the Spanish - something that we see appear again later in the 1960s and of course today. While each war or conflict is clearly different in many ways from what came before, it's also important to be able to recognize those similarities that do exist and learn what we can about what did (or didn't) work.

    Perhaps this is simply stating the obvious, but it's a way to get some discussion started.

  2. #2
    DDilegge
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    Default Good point.

    We talk a lot about Information Operations but seem to lag in executing the same successfully. Many believe that IO equates to influence and that in the case of Small Wars it is tactical in nature. Grand IO campaigns have a place, but only if they enable boots on the ground - those that come into daily contact with the local population. The USMC / JFCOM Joint Urban Warrior war game in 2004 called this "IO ON POINT".

    That said, there are some now who call for an IO component command at the operational level. I remain skeptical until this is thought out fully and adequately experimented with prior to implementation.

    One could argue we hold too many capabilities and responsibilities at too high a level and might be better off "pushing" them down to the tactical. In the case of urban operations tactical may be the "strategic corporal"...

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default

    As far as I'm concerned, it's the "boots on the ground" that end up making the most difference. There's also a pronounced tendency in American military thought on the whole to "drag" capabilities up in the chain of command instead of leaving them at lower levels where they would be most useful. One need only look at the changes in intelligence gathering and desimination to see the reality of this. All too often the "need to know" of higher command levels gets in the way of those who really NEED to know the information.

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    Default The definition of IO remains nebulous

    I join the growing crowd of skeptics concerning information operations. I think they tried to embrace too much, and should have restricted their focus to technical targeting and exploitation of enemy C4I systems and protecting ours. Psychological operations needs to be removed from the IO umbrella and further matured. While PSYOP has had some limited success in the past, real influence generally takes place between individuals on the ground (read soldiers, marines, etc.) talking to local decision makers or key speakers. The radio broadcasts, speaker teams, leafet drops have their purpose, but until we somehow grasp that we're all responsible for influence operations, then we'll continue to execute disjointed attempts of getting our message across.

    Consider our PSYOP/influence objectives being briefed as part of every OPORD down to squad level. I'm not sure how to get there, but the intent is to convey to every soldier that your words and behavior are absolutely critical to winning this war, as critical as your fighting skills. In a perfect world (always a goal, never reality) every leafet, radio broadcast, tactical operation, every conversation, all personal behavior etc. should convey a consistent theme to our audience. Of course there is a training/education piece associated with this, and not just for the troops, but for the senior leaders to ensure that their statements are in synch with what is really happening on the ground, and that their stated goals are obtainable. We can't afford to lose our credability, because it is extremely tough to regain. Food for thought.

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    Post Psyops and combined arms doctrine

    Combined arms operations have usually resulted in the quickest least costly victories because they cause the enemy several dilemmas at once, which tends to overwhelm them. For example strategic bombing is rarely deceisive. At best it is a set up for future attacks. However tactical air attacks combined with ground forces that include armor and infantry "fix" the enemy and are usually devastating. Psyops I think fall into the setup category, although there were some examples during the major combat operations phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom where psyops caused the enemy to make irrational attacks on tanks and other weapons systems that destroyed them.

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    Default PSYOP levels

    Merv,

    I don't disagree with your statement, but I think if we only use PSYOP as a line of operation to acheive limited tactical operations, then we're under utilizing a tool. Your example of using PSYOP will always remain a viable use, but staying course on Small Wars where political actions trump military actions, our PSYOP activities must effectively influence the target audience to support our political objectives. Obviously we're not going to convince a thinking man that it is in his interest to support U.S. economic or strategic interests, so we need to tailor our approach to find a win-win theme that convinces the target audience this is the direction they want to go. Then all our actions and words must support that theme if we want it to be credible. Perhaps using the term PSYOP is the wrong approach because it is already hamstrung by existing definitions and perceptions. I like term someone used earlier in this thread "Influence Operations". The objective for our GWOT wars are not geographical, but the space between the ears. Bill

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Psyops or something else?

    It's also possible that Psyops as a whole have gotten an undeserved bad reputation due to some of the operations that have been conducted under that title.

    Historically, the SW campaigns that have been successful have always included an innovative (or at least active) psyops component. The key is that this component was always integrated with the entire campaign. Looking at it in isolation tends to lead to some incorrect assumptions, IMO.

  8. #8
    DDilegge
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    Default PSYOP vs. Influence

    We had several Army PSYOP teams attached to us (1st MARDIV) during Desert Storm. They were quite effective. That said, they were targeting conventional forces in open terrain with little to no noncombatants (excepting Kuwait City which just rolled over).

    Things are different in the situation we now face in Iraq and I have to agree with those that advocate pushing influence capabilites down to the lowest tactical levels. Every level must understand the "influence plan" and be culturally savvy enough to ensure actions do not sink this plan. That said, there are times when the velvet glove must be pushed aside and a hammer used. In those cases the influence plan must be able to "explain" the why.

    Moreover, the influence " plan" must be consistent and reinforced with ALL actions. There must also be a mechanism to respond to rumor (rampant in the areas we now operate in) and in doing rapid "damage control' when an event or action detracts from the mission / achieving our goals (endstate if defined).

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    Council Member Hansmeister's Avatar
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    Default

    Let me comment as a PSYOPer.

    Overall, our PSYOP capabilities are quite limited for three reasons.

    1. The training our PSYOPers receive is quite pathetic. It amounts to little more than an entry-level college marketing course, wholly inadequate for the mission.

    2. Our focus is too tactical and towards WWII media. We still focus mainly on loudspeakers/leaflets/radio, while having only limited competence in modern media.

    3. Legal constraints make it impossible to operate at a truly global scale and to influence independent media, which is what is necessary today to win IO.

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    Default PsyOps

    While I agree that we have limited dedicated PsyOps assets, this does not mean that we have limited capabilities overall. PsyOps are about influence and assisting and enabling the commander to influence people. ANY competent infantry officer can develop effective influence programs as part of overall operations. These become extremely difficult when commanders are required to seek the approval of HHQ, both in and out of country, for the authorization to distribute fliers, play radio messages, etc.

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    Council Member zenpundit's Avatar
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    Default Local elites

    Re: Cuban revolutionaries in 1890's

    To go back to the original premise, there's another factor to consider in such revolutionary situations - the gap between the local elite who are connected and adept at influencing the outside world in enlisting ( or resisting) American intervention and the general populace. The latter may not speak English, be familiar with mordern media, be literate or have experienced much beyond the horizon of their own village, yet their attitude may be determinative to the outcome of any American mission.

    In the case of Cuba, the light skinned, well-educated economic elite in contact with Pulitzer and Hearst reporters who struggling against Spanish rule had different objectives from the mostly black Cuban agricultural laborers in revolt in the interior. Guess which group gave the USMC the most problems after the Spanish-American War and which one misled American authorities in the first place as to the nature of peasant grievances ?

    We have to be very careful not to be snookered by the friendly, smiling locals who speak excellent English. They have invaluable local knowedge but usually came by that information by running the system prior to our arrival and they intend to run things again after we leave. We need to be plugged in to the non-elite as well simply to keep our own frame of reference in reality rather than in some fantasy zone our " friends" wish us to be.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default

    This is where the cultural intelligence aspect comes in. There needs to be a more unified recognition of the value of this kind of intelligence. Right now I'm not sure if that exists.

  13. #13
    DDilegge
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    Default A bit of a dilemma...

    ... we find ourselves in. I am a big fan of cultural intel - General Zinni sold me on this, but how much can we absorb? What do we give up in exchange, combat and SASO training?

    With global deployments and sub-cultures in each AO we operate in - what is the breaking point? Moreover, there are those who subscribe to the school of thought that no matter how much cultural awareness training we receive we will always be subject to trying to mirror-image cultural nuances to fit with the cultural values we are ingrained with.

    Don't get me wrong - we need a certain level of cultural awareness and training but I think we need cultural advisors attached from the culture we are operating in - and trusted agents.

    That is what I think was the most important aspect of the CAP in Vietnam.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default

    This could be seen also as a blending of local trusted agents/liaison types and U.S. area specialists. I agree that you always need to involve the locals, and work with them as closely as possible, but Vietnam also showed (as did other LIC operations) that you need an outside specialist viewpoint as well. For example, the Vietnamese would at times only tell their US counterparts what they thought the US officers wanted to hear. Without an 'organic' area specialist (who granted may have some of the mirror-image issues you mentioned but is still valuable), new arrivals may not be aware of this habit.

    This also leads into the practice of short deployment tours. While this does have its pros, there is also a downside to it. Compare, for example, the Vietnam CAP/CAC program and the efforts in Haiti and elsewhere during the 1920s (or the Philippenes before that). Troops are often not in an area long enough to begin to understand the culture they're operating in. This makes them more susceptable to manipulatin by local interests, a sense of disengagement, and other problems. Having area specialists as a part of the chain of command (each command staff level, perhaps) would help to offset this to some degree, but longer tours might be a better long-term answer (or a combination of both). This might hamper ticket-punching activities (a reference to Vietnam, not any current situation), and would I think make for stronger, more adapted teams on the ground.

  15. #15
    DDilegge
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    Default Agree

    FAOs (and they do not have to be officers) would be a great asset down to the lowest tactical level. Too bad FAOs have historically not done well in the promotion arena - I believe that is true in most services and hopefully that has changed or is now changing.

    Still, we need to be integrated with the locals - and CAP did that. No FAO can come close to the cultural nuances and "rhythm of the streets" as a local trusted agent - in the case I present - military and civil service locals integrated with US / coalition military and interagency personnel.

    One thing you brought up and is very, very valid is the length of tours - we do learn by living in a culture - learn many valuable lessons that only come after time "in country". That said, how to you tell a hard-charging Cpl, Sgt or Lt that his tour is extended because he is too valuable to be sent back home. We have Marines and Soldiers on their 3rd tour in Iraq - there has to be a trade-off somewhere.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    The key with tours may be to extend the basic tour by a set amount of time...say two years instead of one (and that's just a discussion example, by the way). Another way to look at things is to rotate units and not individuals. Vietnam should have shown us the folly of the individual rotation system. Units would come in for X amount of time and then be replaced by a unit that has had Y amount of lead-in training. Complex, to be sure, but it may provide a better way to manage things. This is being done already in varying degrees, I believe.

    I agree that one of CAP's greatest strengths was the integration with the population. I also tend to view the ideal solution as a combination: a CAP-type effort with an attached FAO-type (officer or enlisted; either way an area specialist) to provide counsel as needed.

  17. #17
    DDilegge
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    Default Quick Response

    Have to run some errands - but your comment on individual replacements vs unit rotation is spot on. Then LTC Hal Moore saw that early on in Vietnam... We Were Soldiers Once...and Young.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Tour of Duty

    This was also noticed in the early advisory effort (pre-1965), but little was really done. That and the six month field command tour did great harm to unit stability. Hopefully we've learned since then.

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    Default

    Personally, I'd find an SF opinion on this very interesting, considering their missions and history with the subject.

    Martin

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair
    I agree that one of CAP's greatest strengths was the integration with the population. I also tend to view the ideal solution as a combination: a CAP-type effort with an attached FAO-type (officer or enlisted; either way an area specialist) to provide counsel as needed.
    I'm surprised no one has brought up the Army SF Civilian Irregular Defense Group program in this context. Like the Marine CAP, the SF Team on CIDG duty was integrated with the locals, but they also had a small slice of Intel, CA and PSYOP support in a structure that almost brings to mind the intended structure of the PRTs in Afghanistan. (I say "intended" because, too often, they don't have full manning or key personnel do not possess the regional expertise and/or language ability required) The linchpin with the CIDG program was cultural understanding and the ability to communicate in the local language. Although you certainly can't paste the concept on top of current ops, there are many valuable lessons to be learned from the program.

    The Vietnam Studies texts are available on-line at the Center for Military History, this one talks a bit about the CIDG program: US Army Special Forces 1961 - 1971

    The Virtual Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech University is a tremendous resource for pulling up a number of primary documents on the topic at hand.

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