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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.

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