Psyops played a major role during the Iraq war. Our job was to build relationships with key communicators in the hope of winning their confidence for the future. In military terms our job was to win the hearts and minds of the people.
As you can imagine, this mission was hard to sell on the ground.
Our first order of business was convincing the front line platoon commanders to let us come with them on their missions.
A Psyops element is a three man team attached to an entire battalion, so we were considered an add on.
Why would a battery commander want to take on the added responsibility of three more men and an interpreter?
Here is how I used to sell our capabilities:
"Well sir it's like this, we can compliment your fire power with an extra 240B, but we also have an interpreter and a loud speaker."
Why is that useful to you?
"Well sir, our job in your AO is to encourage the Iraqi's to see and understand all the different ways we are trying to help them. Successful campaigns result in greater cooperation between us and the Iraqi's thereby making civilians less likely to support the insurgency, which makes the AO safer for your men."
The second on the ground issue was convincing the Iraqi civilians that we weren't occupiers hell bent on destroying their culture and pillaging their treasures.
The trick to this was a consistent message and constant face-to-face interaction.
Sometimes I felt like I was campaigning for America.
Over time, we became a welcome addition to patrols and a welcomed sight in our sector.
Key communicators invited us in for tea and rapport was well established.
This kind of interaction was recreated all over Iraq, which allowed for the creation of Joint Operation Security Stations which became a key component of the Surge in late 2007.
Now, everything is not all peaches and cream in Iraq, but there was some real progress and I believe that progress was largely due to our ability to develop power from the people instead of power over them.
Why am I talking about this? There are two on the ground reasons.
The first deals with the upcoming election and the second deals with transition.
What concerns me most about Romney is his foreign policy. Peace through strength is what he said in his speech the other day at VMI.
The basic idea being that if someone gets out of line we are strong enough to force them back (power over the people).
Obama's approach is different. His response to the Arab spring and the embassy attacks has been measured and patient. We have tried to force our will on people in the past and that's what led us to today. Obama's idea is to give nations the opportunity to help themselves and only intervene if absolutely necessary. Ideally, rebuilding the image of America as the ideal instead of the enforcer (power of the people.)
To lead into my last point let me say this: convincing infantry batterys to use Psyops in sector is similar to trying to convince SMBRs coming home to use mindfulness meditation to help with transition.
Psyops like meditation doesn't quite mesh with a hard charger image, nor do the subtle changes created cause shock and awe.
But trust me when I say that subtle, consistent change is far more powerful.
This post was guided by the 31th stanza of the Art of Peace, a book written by Morihei Ueshiba , the founder and creator of the Martial Art, Aikido.