Information Warfare: August 31, 2001


A long known, but infrequently used, aspect of warfare is psychological warfare operations (psyops). Put another way, this is playing mind games on the enemy. While psychological warfare is sexy and much talked about, it isn't practiced nearly as much. Sort of like the weather. There are several reasons why psyops has not been used more, or used successfully when it does get into play. First, psyops is scary (it can backfire in embarrassing ways) for the user, as it is little understood by most senior military leaders. Even if psyops is understood, it is often elbowed aside by more vital matters (like logistics, combat operations and communications with allies and political leaders.) Moreover, the field has gotten more complex during the 20th century. You now have Information Warfare (mass media and electronic media games), public affairs (dealing with media on a professional level) as well as psyops. What you got here are three different bureaucracies fighting over who does what, often with the same resources. For example, the psyops crowd has found out that the U.S. Air Force Commando Solo psyops aircraft (it can broadcast radio and TV signals) doesn't have a strong enough signal to really make a difference. This was discovered in the Balkans during the 1999 Kosovo operations. At least they won't have to fight with the Information Warfare (IW) people over who gets to use Commando Solo. Both the psyops and IW now want access to satellites for broadcasting more powerful signals. Deciding what the new IW crowd deals with and what the psyops crew gets to do is still a work in progress. Then there are the public affairs (PA) officers. These folks are supposed to release the official word to the media. But often the psyops and IW folks want to doctor up the official word as part of a deception. But if they do that, they do it at the expense of the credibility the PA people. All of this internal strife and confusion is getting in the way of anything getting done. It's uncertain if things will somehow be made all better any time soon. 


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