Information operations

Baghdad Ten Years Ago: 17 FEB 07

WEEK 14 – 17 Feb 07:

Say Something

The following is a true story.  The names were changed to protect the guilty.

Last September, Mike and Barbara dropped off their oldest daughter, Jan, at college near Houston some two hundred miles from home.  They unloaded the car, set up Jan’s dorm room, had lunch and prepared to say goodbye.

Mom and daughter started to get choked up over saying their farewells.  Jan started to whimper, “I guess this is it.  I can’t believe it. Mom?”  Barbara was stymied, “Mike, say something.”  Mike looks at Jan and says, “Jan, you can go to school here. You can go to school at the VoTech. You can join the military.  But, you ain’t coming back to Mike’s house.”  Mike could barely hear Barbara’s reply, “That was helpful”, over Jan’s crying.  It didn’t matter.  Barbara’s look said it all.

Mike made two mistakes. He didn’t pause to think about what he wanted to say.  He allowed his raw emotions to take over and said something he wished he hadn’t.  It is a good lesson to heed when conducting Information Operations and, in particular, Psychological Operations (PSYOP) in Iraq.  It is too easy to allow our emotions take over the situation.

Typically, the best form of communications is a face to face engagement where you can deliver a resonating salient message while discussing current events.  Before you conduct the engagement, you need to ask yourself if you want the other party to know the facts, change behavior or both.  Typically, it is both.  Your talking points help frame the discussion and the events in order to inform your target audience, and if done well, begin to influence your audience.

img_2209When conducting PSYOP, we want to influence the audience’s emotions, motives and ultimately behavior.  To reinforce the theme and messages of the face to face engagement, we may deliver a print product for the audience to absorb.  We don’t need to restate the facts. We need to restate our message.  For example, militias do not care about your future.  Call the Joint Security Station for assistance.

(Photo – A US Army PSYOP Soldier stops to speak with an Iraqi man north of Baghdad)

Multinational Division Baghdad has over three hundred and sixty already approved products available on our web portal.  When we factor in the products with more than one variant, the number probably tops four hundred and fifty.  I could, practically, issue a different product every day of the week and two on Friday (when in Baghdad, do as the Iraqis do) for an entire year and never use the same product twice.

If we take this knowledge back to our face to face engagement, we now decide what product to deliver.  ssg-bonchi-2Do we use one of the approved products that convey the desired message or messages: report TIPS, anti-militia, anti-Al Qaeda, counter-IED, weapons ban, support the government?  Or, do we create a new product we think is unique to the situation?

Choose the latter and we ask ourselves some more questions.  Are we conveying a message in support of our information objectives and campaign or are we rehashing the events?  Are we displaying even-handedness or are we picking a side?  Is our product objective or laden with our emotions?

It is okay to appeal to the target’s emotions, but the target doesn’t care about your emotions.  After all, the product is for the target audience and not for us.  We should not be sending the message we want.  We should be delivering the message we want the target to sense.  Think about this next time we want to make a new product.

Our soldiers are in harm’s way every day.  It is easy to allow our emotion of these events to cause us to lash out at the obvious suspects.   The information drill is the same as before you kick in a door.  Take a deep breath and hold it.  Count to five.  Slowly exhale.  Say something.