Can you hear the bagpipes?


The relief column! It’s here at last…!!!

Royal Navy Commander Steve Tatham is the author of Strategic Communication: A Primer that I found in the Staff Collge library when I was in Shrivenham in October last year. At the time I commented that it was “…quite positively the best reference I have found for IO, Influence and Perception Shaping…it should be compulsory reading for anyone in the PR, IO or COIN games…” Well, the good Commander has just released another work which is even more required reading than Strategic Communications…Through the power of Facebook (don’t knock it!), Small Wars Journal advertised the release of Behavioural Conflict – From General to Strategic Corporal: Complexity, Adaptation and Influence The link goes directly to the College library site but, curiously, Small Wars Journal has yet to load the paper onto its main site – this is quite surprising as SWJ is normally very proactive in getting papers like this into circulation. It is interesting that there are currently two significant papers in circulation that have been produced by Major-Generals (the other being MG Flynn’s Fixing Intel) but of the two, I believe that this new paper by Steve Tatham and Major-General Andrew Mackay (the ‘other’ MG) is far more important and far-reaching in its implications – let’s be honest about it: the int world has been FUBARed since some Neanderthal first lined his tribesmen up and called them an army – his wife said he had to give his gammy-legged, drooling brother-in-law a job and that’s how the S2 came into being (nice to have on the orbat but no great loss if someone puts a rock through his head).

My opening lines re the relief column reflect a feeling that finally someone else has stated unequivocally that we need to take this Influence stuff seriously and not keep it as an afterthought on the opord after all the cool blowing stuff up and mandatory ‘hearts and minds’ buzzwords have been massaged to death. More than that, we MUST change the fundamental mass-focussed industrial age emphasis of our training and start to empower individuals from Day 1 of getting of the bus at initial training institutions – I say training institutions because this is way broader than just the military: this approach must be implemented across government, and, eventually, maybe even into the general education system. The big problem though is not changing the training – that is simple – but changing the mindsets of of more senior embedded generations to both truly embrace (lip service not accepted here) AND keep up with the shift from a focus on mass to focus on individuals (sounds like that Scheiern guy again…). When this shift reaches its tipping point, the natural flow-on effect will be seen in other functional areas like the much bagged intel sector…

That this paper has come from the UK is gratifying as well – it shows beyond a shadow of doubt that all is not lost in the land of Empire and the paper is open and honest in flagging the issues to be overcome for Influence to be truly implemented in the UK. If for no other reason, professionals should read this paper as a heads-up on the institutional problems that are endemic, not just in UK MOD, but across Western militaries…

I will do some more work on this topic later but it is Saturday today and Carmen comes home for the weekend tonight – so it’s off to tidy the house and grounds so it looks nice for her when she gets in…


3 thoughts on “Can you hear the bagpipes?

  1. Looking forward to hearing you expand on this.

    And I won’t take that S2 shot personally…And we don’t drool. We’ve just got over-active salivary glands.

    • Don’t worry…I used to 2 as well – got in with the gammy leg line…all the guys were pretty good at heart but we had a real mix of issues (I think the only issue type we didn’t have was the latent wannabe axe murderer – but there was at least one elsewhere in the unit!) – the only one who was pretty ‘normal’ was the boss but he was straight infantry so the lobotomy had probably removed his salivatory glands…the problem even back then was that the int focus was more on finding a reason to go out with a 9mm down your undies or being the one with the vital ‘clue’ to the 3rd Shock Army’s intentions that would win the war instead of just providing good solid information for the operators to plan and work with…I’m not sure that much has really changed…

      • Ah…3rd Shock Army….good times.

        My unit was looking at the 8th Guards Army.

        Of course you’re right. Intel types can be a bit strange. Too many people using their spare time to learn Klingon and not enough time learning how to be a soldier. I have found that S2s work best when you’ve got a combat arms guy in charge who also knows the potential of intel. That gives you the nice mix of credibility, capability and intent (dang! couldn’t find another ‘c’ word to complete the alliteration). I’ve been lucky enough to experience that and, unfortunately, even more time when command just thinks of the S2 as a two-bit weatherman.

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