Monday, December 20, 2004

Our PsyOps are different from your PsyOps

Goodness me, whatever will they think of next? Apparently, the recently launched EU operation in Bosnia (where the same NATO troops without most of the Americans merely exchanged one lot of badges for another) is considering the use of psychological operations (PsyOps). These will consist of them trying to persuade the local population that the troops are actually very friendly and want to bring peace and harmony. Oh, and also, please could you disarm and make our lives easier.

One EU military officer (nationality not mentioned) told the European Voice:
“In Bosnia, we see it [PsyOps] as a means to promote ethnic tolerance and to talk people into handing over illegal weapons. If you call it propaganda, that is OK. But propaganda is a loaded word. And our approach would be different to that of the US.”
Well, OF COURSE, it will be different. Ça va sans dire. Is not EVERYTHING the Europeans do different from the American approach? We fight wars differently, we spread propaganda differently.

Actually, the use of propaganda to fool the local population ….woops, sorry, to inform them of the good intentions of the invader goes back to at least the Trojan war. Was there not some business about a wooden horse? An early example of PsyOp, I’d say, though the Greeks did have an unfair advantage – those serpents from the sea.

Seriously, though, how will this differ from the sort of information sent over in British aircrafts during the Second World War? Even the European Voice article mentions NATO’s propaganda offensive against Milosevic during the last stages of the Yugoslav war and the American leaflets in Iraq.
“The US defence department defines PsyOps as operations to convey information to an audience in order to influence their emotions, motives and behaviour. Its purpose is to induce or reinforce attitudes favourable to a military undertaking. In Iraq, PsyOps have included broadcasting messages outside mosques and sending emails to senior personnel in Saddam Hussein’s army, offering them clemency in return for help in locating weapons of mass destruction.”
As usual, we are told that the Europeans’ approach will be different, “more a hearts and minds exercise” (though what the American one was if not a “hearts and minds exercise” it is hard to tell) without specifying what those differences are.

According to Daniel Keohane of the perestroika europhile Centre for European Reform:
“People tend to like Europeans more. If I was advising Javier Solana [the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs], I would say emphasize the holistic approach. Say ‘yes, we have soldiers in your country. But we also have aid workers, diplomats, judges. So this is not just about stopping a conflict but we care about the reconstruction of your country too’.”
Muddled thinking, I fear. People do not necessarily like Europeans more. There is no sign of that anywhere and, in particular, they do not like “Europeans” in Bosnia, where they have not forgotten that it was the EU and various “Europeans” who remained obsessed with keeping the failing Yugoslavia together and resisted all attempts either to arm the Bosnians or to help them against Milosevic’s murderous thugs.

There is, however, a difference if Mr Keohane is to be believed. The Americans and other members of the coalition send engineeers, experts in finance to help the launch of a new currency and other suchlike people. The EU is taking in aid workers, whose “achievements” in the Balkans have been seriously criticized by the Court of Auditors, diplomats and judges. More jobs for the boys and girls. Very useful. Very “European”.