Over the weekend, it was reported that there had been what appears to be a triple murder-homicide in the small town of Feilding, only a few kilometres from where I’m based. The story recapped Feilding’s unfortunate recent history which has in the last few months included a particularly nasty ambush murder of a young farmer, a mid-air collision that killed two people and the death of LT Tim O’Donnell in an IED attack in Afghanistan.
It particularly annoyed me that Tim O’Donnell was described as being killed by ‘insurgents’ which may or may not be correct but it struck me that the use of this word ‘insurgant’ without any supporting evidence, indications or other pointers is again conceding the information battle to our adversaries. Surely better to be part of a strategic communication plan in which those perpetrated that attack are referred to as criminals, thus robbing them of any possible perception of legitimacy or right that may be inherent in ‘insurgent’. After all, it is a COIN truism that one man’s insurgent is another’s freedom fighter and another that most insurgencies are built in one form or another on elements of righteous greivance…mere use of the term implies a base level of right in their actions…so let’s stop doing that and in doing so, erode further their conceptual foundations…
One man who does ‘get’ strategic communication is Steve Tatham, who was the Director of Advanced Communication Research at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham, but whom I see from the tailpiece of his latest paper is now “…completing a PhD in Strategic Communication…” I hope he’s not planning on taking too long on his PhD because we really needed him to be out there expounding the Strategic Communication message. The new paper, Strategic Communication & Influence Operations: Do We Really Get It?, builds further upon his previous works, Behavioural Conflict – From General to Strategic Corporal: Complexity, Adaptation and Influence and Strategic Communication: A Primer.
Do We Really Get It? moves further into the how-to of Strategic Communication and, of particular note to anyone who’s ever wonder what the Strategic Communication group in their organisation actually does, defines the distinction between Strategic Communication and Strategic Communications:
The processes and sequencing of information for carefully targeted audiences
A paradigm that recognises that information & perception effect target audience behaviour and that activity must be calibrated against first, second and third order effects.
The paper also discusses in detail the concept of the Target Audience Analysis (TAA), a process clearly and sadly lacking from the coalition’s forays into the information arena against the takfiri: “…Understanding the audience is the beginning and end of all military influence endeavours. Without TAA, influence success is dependent upon randomness, luck and coincidence – in short, ‘a fluke’…” This is what we in the trade would call ‘good stuff’ however no more previews: to learn more you need to not just read the paper, but hoist its message aboard and look to applying it daily…
The Small Wars Journal Blog today linked to an interview with David Kilcullen on Australia’s rising casualty rate in Afghanistan – it is a very interesting read and well worth following the link to the full text of the interview. I offered a small comment of my own based on a discussion we had yesterday regarding the changing situation in Afghanistan and the vague endstates that still persist in most if not all nations with forces in ISAF. I was humbled by the response from one of the SWJ administrators “…and, BTW, nice blog. Added to our roll…” So way down the bottom of the Small Wars Journal blogroll is yours truly…I now know how Dean @ Shiloh felt after Tom Ricks picked up his blog comments on the COIN Symposium in May this year and am a little worried that I will be able to hold up my end in such company as other members of that list…