Successful info ops, but who are the targets?

 This looks like good news:

U.S., Allies See Progress in Selling Al-Qaeda As an Enemy to the Muslim World“, Walter Pincus, Washington Post  (28 April 2008) — Excerpt:

“More and more Muslim and Arab populations — [including] clerics and scholars — are questioning the value of al-Qaeda’s program,” Juan Carlos Zarate, deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism, said Wednesday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Or, it might be bad news:

Using Info Operations to Defeat AQ“, Marc Lynch, posted at Abu Aardvark (29 April 2008) — Excerpt:

Thanks to Matt Armstrong for tipping me off to the online proceedings of the 2008 Unrestricted Warfare Symposiumat Johns Hopkins, which includes an interesting set of briefing slides by Col. Karen Lloyd of J3, Joint IO Warfare Center.   The interesting part of her presentation was what appears, from the slides, to be some frank discussion of what the US is currently doing in the information operations arena against al-Qaeda, including from Slide 6 …

… Now, compare this to an April 23 speech at the Washington Institute by deputy national security advisor for combatting terrorism Juan Zarate called “Winning the War on Terror,” which offered four examples of the “growing rejection of the al-Qaida program and message”:
These examples offered by a senior American official to an American audience in support of the claim that “al-Qaeda is losing” (persuasive enough to merit a story in the Washington Post) mirror, nearly point for point, the examples presented by Col. Lloyd of successful US information operations aimed at defeating al-Qaeda.

But this only makes it more important to highlight yet again the very real risks of “blowback”, conventionally defined as “the consequences that resulted when an intelligence agency participated in foreign media manipulation, which was then reported by domestic news sources in other countries as accepted facts.” In this case, the blowback effect would be Americans coming to believe our own propaganda about al-Qaeda and then formulating policy based on our own disinformation.

It’s one thing to “fabricate stories”, “exploit disillusioned jihadis”, or transmit a narrative that “al-Qaeda is losing” in order to weaken al-Qaeda with Muslim audiences and counter their propaganda. It’s another when such information operations then filter back into our domestic policy debates or into the policy-making process (or, worse yet, if shaping the domestic arena is actually the point – but that’s a slightly different set of issues).

Prof Lynch assumes (or pretends to assume) that this ‘info blowback’ from foreign info ops to the America public is inadvertent.  I doubt that, and recent disclosures support that guess.

Please share your comments by posting below, brief and relevant, please.  Too long comments will be edited down (very long ones might be deleted).  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Other posts on this topic

  1. News from the Front: America’s military has mastered 4GW!  
  2. The 2 most devastating 4GW attacks on America, and the roots of FM 3-24
  3. The media discover info ops, with outrage! 
  4. Only our amnesia makes reading the newspapers bearable

4 thoughts on “Successful info ops, but who are the targets?”

  1. When an employee or executive
    quits or retires from a Bussiness,
    how long does it take to find

    Find one they can, and do,
    every single time !

    These people, do nothing, they have no jobs, not a care in the world except thier sole pre-occupation
    with 4GW against the United States.

    How long before this guy gets
    replaced ?

    To be oblivious to that, is to ignore
    the reality of 4GW.

    A temporary set back, perhaps,
    but not a solution at all.

    Cinics like myself might suggest only a means to protract and extend the conflict.

    US military: Al-Qaida in Somalia head targeted in US strike By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN, Associated Press Writer
    9 minutes ago

    The U.S. military confirmed an attack on a suspected al-Qaida target but did not identify the target.

    Aden Hashi Ayro was killed when the airstrike struck his house in the central Somali town of Dusamareeb, about 300 miles north of Mogadishu, said Sheik Muqtar Robow, a spokesman for the Islamic al-Shabab militia.

    MOGADISHU, Somalia – The U.S. military killed a man believed to be the head of al-Qaida in Somalia and 10 others in an airstrike overnight, an Islamic insurgent group said Thursday

  2. Fab, I don’t think the links are what you mean them to be. The abuaardvark link has a typo. The links to some of your older post are actually to the wordpress edit functions.
    Fabius Maximus replies: fixed! Thank you for alterting me about this!

  3. Info Ops / public diplomacy / propaganda aimed at alienating AQ from the Muslim world makes a lot of sense. Actually, it makes 1,000 times more sense than the ongoing Afghanistan affair.

    It makes absolutely no sense at all to talk about that openly in an admitting style, though. Actually, that makes about as much sense as the Iraq invasion.

    I call this a serious lack of cohesion and discipline among high-ranking politicians and probably also officers. Amateurish. You don’t tell people that you are attempting to shape their thinking. People don’t like that.

    Btw; due to the very different topics and languages I don’t think that relevant amounts of propaganda that’s directed at Muslims needs to spill back to domestic non-Muslim citizens. The whole campaign needs to by ‘synchronized’ and contradictions need to be avoided, but that’s it – no more. No need to manipulate the information that your citizens get in a undemocratic style.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I, and probably most Americans agree with you about info ops against our enemies. However, the info ops by our government against us are not appreciated (I doubt the “spill-back is accidental). That is the subject here.

  4. I fear some military officers like Col Llyod are advocating propaganda without consideration of the blowback. Its an ill advised strategy that will eventually discredit the military with the American public, who is currently very supportive of the troops. Military public affairs officers are supposed to tell the truth, albeit our view of it. It appears Col Llyod is advocating anything but the truth. Smith Mundt has a purpose and Col Llyod seems to be dissatisfied with the law which she is sworn to uphold. We have seen this kind of behavior before, someone needs to find out who this Col is and who is in charge of this Joint Information Center. This dialogue sounds like Rumsfeld’s Office of Strategic Information which he assured all of us was disbanded.

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