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Addressing NATO officers on creative PSYOP


TAMPA – As the wrapup speaker at the 22ndannual NATO Joint Senior Psychological Operations Conference, IWP Professor J Michael Waller outlined a range of new opportunities for the military and intelligence communities in the area of psychological warfare.

The conference topic was “Psychological Operations Support to Counterinsurgency.” Waller proposed reviving an alliance-wide psychological strategy worldview and doctrine.

The US Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) Joint Special Operations University cosponsored the November 17-20 event with Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). Senior officers from 12 NATO countries participated. All officers are assigned to military information operations (IO), psychological operations (PSYOP) or intelligence duties in their defense forces or at NATO headquarters.

American military officers have credited Waller with innovations in the IO and PSYOP fields, citing his monograph, Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War (IWP Press, 2007), as helping to shape worldview and inspire experimental operations on the battlefield. IWP has distributed thousands of printed and electronic copies of the monograph to US and allied military and intelligence officers.

Professor Waller has trained more than 2,700 US military officers and noncommissioned officers in preparation for their deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The real credit for these innovations has to go to the US military, which has been a voracious learner of the need to know local cultures and beliefs in military areas of operation, and to employ that cultural knowledge in combination with kinetic and social science techniques to destroy the enemy more effectively while saving the lives of soldiers and innocent civilians,” Waller says. “Our military people are incredibly creative and adaptive. It’s an invigorating opportunity as a scholar-practitioner to work closely with them, as well as with NATO allies and others involved in the fight.

“The Army and other services are successfully incorporating social sciences into tactical and operational-level combat, and it’s exciting as a civilian to be able to apply social science to help win the war,” according to the professor. “I look forward to when we can do the same at the strategic level, and in non-combat situations where we can accomplish military objectives without the use of conventional military force.”

The professor says he was happy to see the level of commitment to the Afghanistan mission by such senior NATO officers, and to the overall commitment to a strong alliance with the United States.

“We mustn’t underestimate the resources and skill sets that many of our allies and friends in NATO and elsewhere bring to the global war against terrorists and Islamist extremism. We as Americans often think that we can go it alone, when we need the unique skills and assets that many other countries – including predominantly Islamic countries – can bring to the table,” Waller argues. “We can win this fight, but we can’t do it alone.”

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