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Media As Force Multiplier

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2569 words Published: 13th Apr 2017

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Today media needs to be used in a more pro-active manner to shape the operational scheme of a commander. This can be done by more integration and engagement of the media, public relations officer and the men in uniform into two way communication looking after each others needs at the same time. One very important aspect is the education of the staff and subordinate commanders at operational level to realise the need and advantage of engaging media towards military operations.

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The fourth estate in this informational age gives commanders with vast opportunities to leverage towards own operations which should be exploited to the maximum. The media can be used as potent force multiplier in achieving the objective by boosting the morale of our own forces and people, as an agent of deception for the military, gathering valuable intelligence and enhancing better build up of situational awareness, sustained psychological operation and finally communicating the objective and end state to the international community.

Maximizing the use of fourth estate

Maximising and moulding the perception of the masses and adversary by the use of fourth estate and how the commander leverage the media to effectively achieve operational objective to his own advantage is what the commander should explore which obviously is the need of the hour.

Before employing the media, a brief review of the nature of the media would be required to better understand its potential. Media covering any military operation ranges from novice in the field to the seasoned veteran. Thus employment of media by the commander should be in a judicious manner like not allowing the media to wander in the battlefield at free will due to the wide spectrum of their work experience. At operational level coverage of media can be divided into three main principles namely mobility, capability and responsibility. Mobility is considered as the center of gravity of the media which is reporting from the scene while safety is the media’s critical vulnerability. This is evident from journalist getting stuck during operations not able to move due to lack of mobility. The units which are more mobile or the ones with freedom of mobility cover the operation in a much more realistic manner. Regarding the safety many a journalists have landed themselves in dangerous situations and few lost their lives while covering news from the crisis zone. With regards to capability, media is often ahead of military on information age battlefield being armed with sophisticated satellite communication technology. This mobility and capability have complicated the operational commander’s challenge to be more proactive in winning or at least not loosing to the media coverage.

Understanding the media’s concerns, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses will help operational commanders in utilizing media towards the operational design and conduct of operations. Use of media by the commander’s is enumerated below:-

(i) Media as a platform. Media offers a platform for the operational commanders to transmit his operational objectives and goals. In many a cases during the operation when a commander is interviewed he communicates to general masses by giving his objective without divulging any intricacies which could jeopardise the operation. This way the people are aware as to what is happening and further their support towards the operation. This also keeps rest of the forces informed and they understand the goal.

(ii) PSYOPS potential. The use of media’s PSYOPS potential by the operational commander towards own advantage. Propaganda might get victory before the first shot is fired by merely demoralizing the adversary and breaking the will to fight. Using commercial broadcast would provide a heightened level of credibility with the enemy because its third party stature provides some assurance of truth, over military broadcast. Using commercial television for PSYOPS would have to be covertly subtle, done on a sublime level, and would require special authorization. The military might and capability can be projected to the adversary and people to play with their minds. Destructive images of the adversary, pumping in of more forces to the theatre and special training of our troops to take on the enemy will affect the way the operation will be conducted by the enemy. In short, to maximize the potential of PSYOPS the operational commander must consider the media as a primary means of influencing an opponent’s actions.

(iii) Media as a deception tool. The operational commander must consider using the media as part of the overall deception plan. Media can be utilized to inject information regarding a plan or designs however act on some other plan thus keep the adversary guessing on the course of action and delay his moves.

(iv) Media for intelligence gathering. An area rich with possibilities for operational commander is harnessing the potential of media in gathering intelligence. Valuable intelligence like background information on people, terrain and facilities in a particular region can be provided by the reporters. Military may assign agencies/reporters to a particular geographic region to gain intimate knowledge of the social fabric and the culture. Military leaders need to exploit this intelligence asset when planning or entering a new theatre. Tapping into the media is an excellent open-source for gathering information about the adversary though it might be time consuming and challenging. Radical expansion and modernization of open-source exploitation is an important reform for the intelligence community these days. Commanders should develop innovative ways to penetrate and analyse the most difficult targets, the objective should be to strengthen analytic expertise, methods and practice. Exploiting open-source information must be the priority and is one way operational commanders and intelligence staff can aide in this challenge.

Day in and day out, there are new revelations about Muslim terrorist sleeper cells in India. Most of the suspects arrested and/or tried have links to Pakistan. Islamist extremism in India needs to be explored by recognised experts. Military forces are subjected to this extremism in day to day operations which needs to be addressed. Military has to look into the modus operandi, funding, support (state and non-state), recruiting pattern in terms of location, general populace, mode, means, etc to understand the enemy to maximize its operations. The internet, where a virtual caliphate has been created in cyberspace, is used to proselytize, recruit, radicalize, fund raise and plot act of terrorism. Military should be proactive in tapping the internet in conjunction with the state and friendly nation intelligence network to draw out inferences and intelligence to further their operations. Knowledge building and knowledge sharing should be the priority in this information age.

Operational secrecy and media. Some secrecy is essential to both national security and democracy but excessive secrecy undermines accountability and decision-making, and sometimes national security itself. Disclosure decision in a democracy thus must balance the importance of public knowledge and deliberation against the risk of exposing and undermining desirable actions or damaging national security. But neither the military nor the press can be trusted to strike the balance, for both have asymmetric incentives. The military risks public criticism when it announces an audacious plan but risks little when it is secretive. Likewise, journalists have much to gain from publishing classified secret and little to loose. They almost fully internalize the benefits of publication, but may discount or inaccurately assess national security harms. A free press is essential to inform the public, but critic urge that reporters are less accountable than the military they seek to check. The press wields vast power to undercut desirable classified information and to communicate the nation’s capabilities and vulnerabilities to the enemy. The military needs to look into unauthorized possession and disclosure of documents or information relating to the national defence by the press which could harm future operations.

Operational security is paramount in any campaign be it a full scale war or handling internal crisis situation. Commanders at all times establish rapport with reporters so they develop trust in him and accept his explanation of events. General Schwartzkorf established four rules to engage the press, they are, “don’t let them intimidate you, there is no law that says you have to answer all their questions, don’t answer any question that in your judgement would help the enemy and finally don’t ever lie to the people of the nation you are fighting for”. These rules apply and holds good to any commander. Press brief of any commander is transmitted via satellite to world wide audience which includes the adversary as well. Clear message can be sent across to the public and the adversary government and its military leaders.

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Information overload by the media. The rapid advancement in technology and the media’s ability to report real time as they occur, military can no longer realistically hope to maintain operational security by denying information to the media. In the present context, to reduce the enemy’s military effectiveness is information overload. This entails providing the enemy more information than his ability to assimilate in any given point of time. A new military – media construct, synergistic relationship with cooperation at all levels will ensure information overload and will force the enemy to focus on many diverse scenarios, making it impossible to discern valid intelligence data. These days media not only gathers information on preparation for the theatre of operation but have gone a step ahead by broadcasting possible strategies and tactics debated by military strategists. International community, general public and fighting forces will monitor these telecasts and contemplate scenarios and reviews presented on global cable network and may be compelled to commit their scarce military resources to counter possible attacks. Thus the adversary’s forces may be diluted and their overall military effectiveness reduced. The media has invariably become an indisputable ally in this process.

Media for neutralizing propaganda. Media can be used to expose the untrue stories and the evil design of the adversary and thus making the propaganda machines of the parties involved ineffective. Media can aggressively hunt for the truth and fed with intelligence by various agencies to publish/broadcast the same thereby neutralizing the force multiplication effect of the propaganda by the adversary.

Social dimensions

Public and military morale. Public support, national morale and soldiers will are powerful force multiplier for a commander to have victory. Opinion creates a state of mind, which is what precisely what constitutes the will and in other words is known as morale. Many difficulties are overcome with a high state of morale. If the people in general are not supportive of the cause of the war or operations other than war and adopt a couldn’t care less attitude towards it, the same attitude gets passed on to the soldiers which is detrimental to the cause. Commanders should use media to project a true and correct image to the public and once this is done, no matter what the odds are, a willing public support and response multiplies the chances of victory. The soldier’s morale needs be boosted by the media as well and should peak just before the impending attacks sustaining it through the operations. Media serves as a forward as well as a backward link for the soldier with the people back home. Any wrong news or rumours traveling either way will affect the morale of the people as well as the troops which should be monitored by the commanders and negated by responsible journalism.

Reaching the public. Today the commander should know the fact that the thrust which comes from the people of the nation when any operation takes place is due to the instant relay of situation to the masses by the media. The military thus have an advantage in reaching to the people as fast as possible to generate and harness the support. Military being known for a respected institution and profession in the country, the image maintenance if not enhancing should be the prime concern of the commanders. During any conventional war or operation other than war, the credibility of military action is seldom questioned due to the trust, confidence and respect which the military enjoys. Commanders need to be proactive in engaging the press rather than being reactive and thus loosing the opportunity to use the media rather than being used by the media.

Accurate and correct reporting. Inaccurate reporting and depiction of the operations will have a negative and devastating effect on the conduct of operation there on in terms of likely changed perception of our own people and international opinion. This in turn will effect the decision making cycle from tactical to strategic level. Apart from the people of the nation and high level decision makers, one very important factor which comes into picture is that of our own troops, who are exposed to the same news, be it at the air bases, ships, harbours, communication chains, rear areas, etc will have an impact on the psychi. This again is going to have a telling effect on the way the troops are going to fight subsequently. Commanders should to be concerned of the said fact in this information age to keep the morale of the troops high. In fact the operations where our forces have given a valiant fight should be projected to each and every possible people by the fastest means. Our soldiers are the best and to maintain the image of this potent force especially in this fast pace materialistic world, Commanders must take every opportunity to showcase our outstanding airmen, soldiers and sailors.

Image building when our armed forces are engaged in aid to civil power.

Disgruntled armed forces personnel, rejected equipment suppliers or contractors, families and others seek justice through media and court. More worrying are court cases, some of which have been widely reported and sensationalised. These incidents are in an increasing trend and common to all the three services. Such adverse publicity has a bearing on the discipline and morale and cannot be simply ignored. Military commander’s need to engage with the media and rationalise the news and not let the media to sensationalise the issue.

The problem arises because of human rights violation, real, exaggerated or sometimes fabricated. These must be investigated and the findings made known to the public. Human rights commissions, NGO organisations and media can help redress the balance. These instrumentalities, therefore, need to be cultivated, not shunned. The commanders need to pay more attention to these issues and negate any adverse publicity which might bring down the morale of the troops and operation as such.


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