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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part II

Transition to a New Campaign

Chapter 7
Fighting the Battle of Ideas in Iraq


Information Operations: Definitions and Doctrine

While IO is a relatively new term in the Army, the fundamental concept behind IO is not novel. The Army has a long history of using information as a tool or a “weapon” to influence the outcome of its campaigns. One of the more famous examples of IO was Operation QUICKSILVER, a deception operation undertaken in support of the D-Day invasion during World War II. For the deception, the Allied military headquarters in Great Britain created a fictional Army group in England that appeared to be poised for the invasion of France at the Pas-de-Calais. American troops used a variety of tactics to deceive the German High Command about the intent of this force and location of the primary invasion, thus keeping German reserves away from the actual landing sites in Normandy.4 Although IO has changed over the years, especially with the advent of the information age, some of its basic concepts such as deception have remained the same.5

IO is a term and a concept with which the Army, the Services, and DOD have grappled with since the 1990s when it emerged and served to combine previously disparate activities into a whole. The Army’s IO doctrine prior to 2003 was encapsulated in Field Manual (FM) 100-6, Command and Control Warfare, and then in the 1996 version of FM 100-6, renamed Information Operations. IO in the FM 100-6 construct was directed toward attacking an enemy’s command, control, and communications systems and abilities while protecting one’s own. This concept of IO as an integrated set of tools to be wielded in support of a campaign is similar to how a commander would employ maneuver, fires, or logistics to achieve the objectives. With the US advantages in technology and systems integration, its proponents saw IO as a way to prevent adversaries from degrading US capabilities while exploiting enemy weaknesses in the information age. Army planners expected to need these capabilities if the United States found itself fighting an enemy with its own information-age capabilities.

The Army’s new IO doctrine published in late 2003 as FM 3-13, Information Operations: Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, built on this definition of IO, defining these operations as “the employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare (EW), computer network operations (CNO), psychological operations (PSYOP), military deception (MILDEC), and operations security (OPSEC), in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to affect or defend information and information systems, and to influence decision-making.” These five core capabilities of IO were complemented by six “supporting capabilities” that would provide additional affects: physical destruction, information assurance, physical security, counterintelligence, counterdeception, and counterpropaganda.6 The 2003 manual placed responsibility for conducting these operations in the G7 IO cell on staffs at division and higher level to synchronize the various core and supporting capabilities into a unified whole. These capabilities and missions had previously been divided among a number of separate staff sections.7 In the 1990s the Army also created an IO career field for officers who would be trained to integrate this disparate range of activities into a whole.8

Alongside the predominant understanding of IO as offensive and defensive actions to destroy or protect information systems, proponents supported a complementary aspect of IO—the use of information itself, in part through the use of traditional PSYOP and MILDEC methods—to affect enemy behavior. MILDEC and PSYOP are well-established techniques used to gain a military advantage over one’s enemy. In recent years, IO targets were expanded to include nonmilitary audiences in host nations and the international community. To distinguish this aspect of IO from its other functions that were more closely related to conventional combat operations, military leaders began referring to it as “soft-power.” In this construct, the purpose of IO was to “influence the behavior of target decision-makers or audiences through the use of information and information systems.”9 The goal was to encourage others to act in ways favorable to US forces. In the 2003 version of FM 3-13, this aspect of IO doctrine included three related capabilities: PA, civil-military operations (CMO), and defense support to public diplomacy.10

In this concept, information itself could be used to influence neutral or hostile audiences to support US forces and host nation authorities, an effort that was often articulated as “winning hearts and minds.” Most counterinsurgency theory views information as particularly important in trying to sway public opinion against insurgents, terrorists, or other opposing forces, thus isolating these opposition groups from the general population of the host nation. Based on this assumption, military commanders could use a combination of themes and messages delivered by PSYOP units and practical steps undertaken by civil affairs (CA) units to demonstrate the credibility and effectiveness of the counterinsurgent force and the host nation government. Surrounding these actions was the continual PA mission to inform the American public of Army operations. It is important to note that the creation or use of information for a particular purpose could be segmented within a military organization, but once disseminated it was to become unified into a whole that would have a particular outcome.

In the information age, even the most isolated or technologically primitive target audiences have access to a wide variety of news sources. Military planners and commanders had to compete in this information environment to get their messages heard and to counter false messages launched by other outlets, including adversaries. Therefore, IO doctrine held that PA measures taken to spread US and host nation messages, themes, and objectives via the media could also be used in support of military operations.11 It was this nexus, the juncture of IO and PA, that has presented Army planners with doctrinal, organizational, and ethical challenges since the 1990s.

The role and mission of PA will be discussed later in this chapter; briefly, Soldiers involved in PA are charged with providing accurate and truthful public information in support of US operations. The distinction between IO, which is focused on manipulating an enemy or neutral host nation audience, and PA operations, which are directed at US (and international) audiences, at times made for uneasy relations between those Soldiers and units performing these related activities. In turn, commanders struggled with how to organize their staffs and how to assign responsibility for the many core and related capabilities that defined IO. The issue of subordinating PA staff officers to the IO staff cell was contentious and, as will be shown later, was addressed in different ways by US Army units as OIF progressed.

These dual aspects of the doctrinal basis of IO, and the relationship between IO and PA, evolved during the 1990s and greatly influenced the US Army’s planning and operations during OIF. This chapter will focus on the “soft power” side of IO for two reasons. First, the offensive and defensive use of information systems and other weapons is both highly classified and technically complex. Second, though the US Army extensively employed various EW and IO systems in the invasion of Iraq and, to a lesser degree, continued to do so once the new campaign began, the primary focus of IO and PA in Iraq since May 2003 has been on the use of information in the public sector. The following section will briefly examine how the Army employed the soft-power aspect of IO in the Balkans before turning to events in Iraq between 2003 and 2005.


Chapter 7. Fighting the Battle of Ideas in Iraq

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