Strategic Communication & Influence Operations: Do We Really Get It?

imageStrategic Communication & Influence Operations: Do We Really Get It? by Dr Lee Rowland  & Cdr Steve Tatham, RN. published at Small Wars Journal.

The last 2-3 years have seen an explosion in interest in the application of influence as a tool for achieving military objectives. This is not new, the military have always sought to exert influence – albeit at times unwittingly. However, two significant events have brought the issue to further prominence – the publication of JDP3-40 and the deployment of 52 Brigade to Helmand Province in 2007/8. This article does not intend to debate either in any detail – a quick search of inter and intra nets will provide plenty of information for the curious reader – but there are two issues worthy of slightly more discussion.

The first concerns 52 Brigade’s deployment. When Brigadier Andrew Mackay led 52 Brigade to Helmand Province2 he did so having examined previous kinetic based deployments and concluded that these, for various reasons, had not achieved the effects that he envisaged for his mission. For him the consent of the population was utterly key and would not, nor could it, be achieved by hard power alone or even with hard power primacy; as he developed his operational design he felt frustrated that existing doctrine did not adequately prepare him to operate within the influence arena. The second is that Andrew Mackay subsequently became one of the driving forces behind JDP3-40 and in particular the forceful articulation of the ‘centrality’ of influence. However, the ‘how to do it’ guidance still lags behind the emphasis on and enthusiasm for, its use. …

This paper seeks to provide greater clarity in two key areas – Target Audience Analysis (TAA) and Measurements of Effectiveness (MOE). …

Influence has become the ‘must have’ accessory for the battlefield. Good. But think at how difficult it is to influence, say, your teenage kids, into a particular course of action. You know them. They have grown up in your house. You know the groups they belong to, their interests, their likes and dislikes. Yet as every parent knows influencing a 16 year old into a particular course of action can be difficult. Now apply this thinking to an Afghan whom you do not know, who has grown up in a completely different culture with different values and beliefs anchored in a wholly different world from our own. You want to influence them? Wow! This is hard stuff to do and whilst the UK’s capability and understanding has leapt forward in the last couple of years there is still much work to do – particularly in the reinforcement of TAA and understanding MOE. Above all else doctrine needs to manage expectations.

See also:

Tactical Strategic Communication! Placing Informational Effect at the Centre of Command

Written by Cdr Steve Tatham, Royal Navy, imageTactical Strategic Communication!” (PDF, 192kb) is a necessary read for communities interested in strategic communication and the operations of our adversaries. Steve is a Director of Research at the UK Defense Academy and the author of Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion.

Tactical Strategic Communication!” describes how strategic communication must be holistic, agile, and awareness of both the adversary and the target audiences (related: Call Haji Shir Mohamad ASAP!). In a twist on the “guy in a cave” mantra popular on this side of the Pond, Steve notes how the Taliban transformed and adapted to their new environment:

The early years of the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan were not known for their press freedom. Technology was unwelcome, images of human beings considered apostate and world public opinion largely irrelevant to an organisation that actively sought to return afghan society to that of the Prophet Mohamed’s time. Yet the success of Al-Qaeda’s manipulation of the media in its global insurgency, and more latterly in its operations in Iraq, had not gone unnoticed.

Continue reading “Tactical Strategic Communication! Placing Informational Effect at the Centre of Command

UK SAS-SBS poaching

This is not about the highly respected UK SAS-SBS soldiers poaching but of the poaching OF THEM by private security companies:

The SAS and SBS have fewer than 600 "shooters" between them and all have already served several times in Iraq and Afghanistan since the war on terror was launched in 2001.
Part-time volunteer reservists from 21 and 23 Territorial regiments of the SAS have also been called up to ease the strain.
Between 40 and 60 experienced regular troopers have abandoned their roles over the last year to earn up to �500 a day – about five or six times their army pay – as mercenaries with private security firms in Iraq.
A joint SAS-SBS detachment is based in Basra with a second contingent operating out of the US base at Balad north of Baghdad. They amount to about a third of the manpower of the UK’s special forces.