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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Time to Review our Internal Branding of 9-11

      A month ago I tweeted is was time after a decade to establish 9-11 as a “Remembrance Day” instead of a day of horror, tragedy or revenge. While adults can easily compartmentalize such categories, I offer our younger generation is not capable of such. It is time to actively reflect how we are internally branding this watershed moment and ask ourselves “Is this how we want to instill, reinforce and project our perceptions of what 9-11 means?” The answer could very well be “yes.”
      I offer a vignette, an insight into a young mind whose only understanding of “9-11” is from a church remembrance video that day and questions he asked of me that morning. Levi, 7, in church drew the image he found compelling-the “God’s Cross” at ground zero. Several weeks ago, on his own he drew a “slide show” (see below) of his understanding of 9-11: “sad day,” “when the planes crashed,” God’s cross, and images of the towers before impact. On three sheets of paper he produced images that spurred more emotional impact than the images I saw live on TV in 2001. While I was proud his young mind understood what occurred that day, I was concerned how he would digest it in the coming years. This is not a call to remove such associated imagery, but a call to focus on how we want to portray this event to ourselves and to those that will follow. Let's determine our information projection and not succumb to information momentum.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My guest post on the DIME Blog

The Army War College's Information as Power Blog published a piece I wrote about tackling the Taliban's influence in preparation for a drawdown.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Egyptian Saif al-Adel interim AQ leader; UBL's baya to Taliban dead with him

Egyptian  Saif al-Adel named "acting" (read interim) leader of al Qaeda. Suggested could be to gauge supporter reaction to an Egyptian leader, paving way for al-Zawahiri to take over as permanent AQ leader. Even terrorists can be PR savvy. More interesting is the topic of baya (religious oath of allegiance). Bin Laden gave baya to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. That oath died with UBL and opens door for Omar/TB to sever ties with AQ and reconcile.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why the Death of bin Laden means Something....and Nothing

    No doubt there will be pundits and experts caught up in patriotic fervor who will say the death of Osama bin Laden is a critical turning point. I would agree, if it were 2006 or earlier.  Now, his death is simply just as symbolic as was his life.The death means more to the US than UBL's supporters, just as his life was a symbol to his supporters of him being "untouchable." Well, the US just painted "touchable"with his blood in the information battle-space
    Now a symbol in this case is more like a rich/successful board member: he has cachet, brings some juice to the table, but doesn't really do anything and is not likely in control. His death will be lionized, morale will be deflated in some circles and jihad inspiration will be found in others. But losing a board member won't affect the "company" because the strategy, coordination, direction, decision making and the getting-it-done was done by other more active organization members, namely al-Zawahiri (think CEO). Now, al-Zawahiri's death would be cause for rejoicing as it would cause AQ great damage that would take years to recover from. Now that the symbol is dead, let's put our focus on the real AQ leader (s).
     Explaining my "if it were 2006" comment. With a small force commitment, before the resurgence of the Taliban and a change of our role and mission to include nation building, it would have been easy to declare "mission accomplished" and pull out. But we're fighting a different war now, much like Iraq in 2007 when GEN Petraeus was testifying to Congress. Neither war started out as a counter-insurgent effort with the intent to prop up a fragile democratic-ish government to achieve national security goals of stability in their respective regions. But that's what they became, and we have an obligation to see that through regardless of the initial motivation to get involved in either country. When are we leaving? No time soon, no matter how many UBLs, al-Zawahiris or al-Libis we take out.
       Now, an influencer's perspective-was the timing coincidental or purposely coinciding with the Taliban's self-proclaimed country-wide "Tet." If yes, then brilliant strategic thinking. If this occurred just one week earlier, it could have provided Taliban's spring offensive with a rally of support, inspiration, and recruits. But in the midst of the fizzling spring offensive, it can likely have a jarring effect on the morale of the foot soldiers needed to carry out efforts. Those same individuals/groupings also have the most vulnerable attachment to the Taliban as their tenuous commitment is rooted in many factors other than ideology. So in terms of event AND timing, we might see a turning point in the fight in Afghanistan, but al-Qaeda's crippling watershed moment has yet to occur.
     In any event, AQ just experienced the "Chicago Way," and that watershed moment may soon be within our reach.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trying to Solve Mysteries as Puzzles -do influencers have it wrong?

An excellent book I just finished reading was Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw”. I occasionally find his stories and points having great relevance to the field of influence (Is there any concept better boiled down than “stickiness” to describe influence objectives?). In the chapter Open Secrets, he breaks down if were really deceived by Enron by proposing there are two approaches to information gathering as it relates to solving either a puzzle or a mystery (his thesis is Enron was not a mystery because it provided full disclosure in all of its filing, it’s just that the amount and confusing projection of the information made it a puzzle to solve) . For the Cold War, intelligence gathering was solving a puzzle—we knew the players and boundaries, we just needed to “fill in the blanks” here and there. The hunt for UBL--a mystery. If it was a “fill in the blanks” puzzle problem-set, we would have much more quickly ended this hunt. The problem was, Gladwell proposes, is we tried to solve a mystery as if it were a puzzle. I pose that the challenge of truly succeeding in Counter-IED efforts is that we are approaching a mystery as a puzzle, and perhaps not knowing the difference. Using puzzle solving processes, to include assessing results/success/intelligence, on a mystery problem may be the proverbial “wrong tool for the job.” No matter your effort, your starting point/approach is all wrong, and won’t get better.

Do influence practitioners fall into the same trap? Our effects cousin, field artillery, operates in a “puzzle” battle-space: those practitioners know the physical layout, they engage when the enemy is found, fill in the blanks of the puzzle with assessments, repeat process. The influence or true information aspects of IO operate on a mystery basis: no eyes on target, receipt confirmation difficult, time and difficulty in assessing effects and causal actions, etc. This is why the OODA loop has been a flawed process when applied to IO: it’s a puzzle process and IO is a mystery. It’s the difference between two boxers in a ring (classic OODA loop situation: I know my opponent is going to engage; the puzzle is when, how, how hard and how frequent) and a boxer walking down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood in a nice suit and a lot of bling, facing a potential hidden opponent. The first is a puzzle, the second is a mystery.

Influence is mystery construct. Just because we know who how and maybe when to influence doesn’t mean it’s less of a mystery. Do we falter because we try to make it a puzzle with our approach to processes such as MOE? Presence, access, and awareness might be distinguishing qualifiers of a puzzle versus a mystery. A Tactical MISO Team that operates in a brigade AO might have success treating its problem-set as a puzzle, but what about a regional MISOTF? A GCC JSITF? Definitely at the mystery level, but our processes, doctrine, if not our analytical intuition drive to treat it as a puzzle. Are we using the wrong tools and mindset in strategic and operational IO, SC, MISO, PA or influence activity in general?

**An afterthought: How I would categorize the functions of the various IO capabilities-
Puzzle: EW, OPSEC, Deception, CNO, (CMO?), tactical MISO, KLE
Mystery: IO, SC, MISO, PA

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Levi's Levity 2

More Levi Levity. on today, his 7th b-day, I will share one of my many awesome stories of him from the past year. A few months ago, as I sat on the couch working on my laptop, Levi came in and instructed "Dad Norman, come with me. It is time for your (ninja) training." I responded with "Yes, Master," as I popped up to follow him, and he stops, swirls around gives me a stern stare and scolded "Dad Norman, I told you NEVER to call me "Master" outside of the lair!" Kewl, we have a LAIR!!!! Who knew? That's like platinum-level manspace.

Levi's Levity

A little off-topic, but these stories are gems!

So, my 6 year old son Levi recently offered me a job as a captain in his worldwide army of 100,000, which he commands. Says he has 3 captains now, but "I have an opening" (his words) for me if I am willing to train hard. I know the economic recovery is in full swing when my 6 year old is hiring.
I have not yet accepted the job. I'm still in training. There are 100 ninja levels (it is a ninja army) but I only have to do 12 to be a captain. I'm only level 2. I do have a certificate he made and awarded to me stating I am a level 2 ninja (beat that, Six Sigmas!!). [update-now Level 4]

Two interesting pieces I am reading

Article "Influence as a Measure of Success" by Andrew Knight, and the book "Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Strategic communication to Combat Violent Extremism." I will post my thoughts when I finish them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The PSYOP CODEL brouhaha

I have avoided commenting on the Runaway General II for several weeks now, mainly because I didn't want to jump in with only limited facts. What has emerged has made for interesting discussion.

First has been the inevitable character evaluation of LTC Michael Holmes, who has seemed to have launched his own information campaign to rally support for his version. I don't blame him; if my career was in jeopardy, I'd go on the offensive too. What is clear is he was disgruntled/disappointed/frustrated at training for a deployment to lead an IO Field Support Team and then arrived to find he would be anything but. This is a failure of the TIOG who manages the FSTs and NTM-A to waste a resource that should have been shifted elsewhere. But this is key-the IO team was NOT doing the IO team job. As happens often, warm bodies were parceled out. It doesn't matter what the training, or intended job, an officer assigned to protocol is working protocol, not IO or PSYOP or whatever. The chief of staff may have used poor choice of words ["get in their minds"] but the task was not illegal if LTC Holmes was not in an IO-related role.

Second has been the discussion of influencing versus communicating. There is nothing in the article that would qualify as PSYOP or even subversive influencing. What occured goes by other terms-lobbying, persuading. In college we learn to write persuasion papers and give persuasion speeches; this intent is not labeled "PSYOP" in any manner. In the military we learn to develop decision and information briefs. Heck, even a COA brief to the commander is usually based on and includes information planners/XO provides to get the commander to select the COA WE want. Briefs are tainted, especially if not done by your own staff. It is almost insulting to suggest the CODELs are naive enough to not know there is a persuasion/lobbying element in the presentations. We are talking about politicians here.
Communicating and influencing are not crimes; what would have been egregious, but never mentioned, if deception was involved. The issue was "how do we get the CODEL to support xyz" and not "We need the CODEL to believe the training level of Afghan security forces is much different than reality so they will support xyz." NTM-A wanted more resources, and the CODEL was the path to obtain that, but nothing in the article or discussions suggest that NTM-A employed underhanded or illegal methods.

A third issue I have is in both cases of Hastings writing about "Runaway Generals" is he provides information of improper attitudes and comments of a staff working for the Generals, but not the Generals themselves. In LTG Caldwell's case, it is his Chief of Staff who made the controversial comments and gave the orders, not the General.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Great posting on interesting information domain premise

Really enjoying Professor Cynthia Ayers postings addressing the premise of "Information Momentum Warfare" on the DIME Blog.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Using IO Practitioners in the Government Sector

How do we bring our understanding of the information battle space to the civilian government sector? Agencies other than DOD have a limitation in personnel and resources staffing. Therefore it would make sense to explore multipliers to complement existing intelligence and operations. Who might benefit by cherry picking the most relevant and effective IO related capabilities, doctrine and employment successes? DOS is an obvious choice, but what about DHS? DEA? FBI? Can the FBI use an IO planner to fix a fugitive, or make him move? Obstacles to such thinking might mirror overcoming of the dismissive warrior mentality in DOD. But soft concepts are no longer unsexy pie-in-the-sky bright ideas-it has been proven in hostile and limiting environments and embraced if not trumpeted by warrior leaders.
Leaflets aside, why can’t we use the same inter-agency (IA) collaboration developed to find AMZ, AAM, or a number of other highly valuable individuals? But instead of it residing in DOD, it resides in the IA, supported by civilian (not military) or contracted planners. If IO can work with intel and ops in the hunt for AAM, why can’t it be done domestically as well as internationally for terrorists or high value individuals? The principles are enabling or exploiting operation and information success, synchronizing to support FBI or DEA operation objectives/intelligence collection requirements (do we want suspect to move/communicate, not move/communicate, communicate). Very likely that pieces (public information releases, EW, etc) are being done, but think back 10, 7 or even 4 years ago to when commander’s/staffs thought they were already doing IO because they had a Public Affairs officer or a Tactical PSYOP Detachment in direct support. The eaches don’t essentially equate to  the whole if not part of a broader and deliberate information environment concept to support achieving objectives, and the IO practitioners and the commanders and staffs they support have learned this well in the last five years. So if there is practical application in the government sector, consider the target audience that has to buy into this to be where our military leadership at various levels was 8-10 years ago.
The payoff is government agencies incorporating the IO practitioner capability for operational effectiveness. Since there are no civilian schools or feeder systems to create such a skillset, at least initially it may be contracted to quickly bring in those civilians and military who have developed said fundamentals, skills and intuition to support ops/intel.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SECDEF releases Joint IO/SC reorg memo//25 Jan 2011

SECDEF released yesterday a memo outlining his decisions that effect the Joint IO/SC fields (I do not have a soft copy), namely IO management/oversight moving to USD(P), the USD (P) and ASD (PA) are co-leads for SC, and the re-org of JIOWC. I will write on the opinions/impact this will have on Joint IO. From the wording, it looks positive.