Don’t Confuse 'Psychological Operations' With Soup
Apparently, Major League Baseball hadn’t received the memo.
Psychological operations are now to be known as “military information support operations,” or MISO. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved the name change in June.
The identical spelling of the acronym and Japanese bean paste soup has elicited a few jokes on blogs and from pundits.
Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr., commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, chimed in with his own quip during a panel discussion at the Association for the United States Army annual conference earlier in the week.
“For our Japanese allies here, we’re not talking about the soup,” he said when highlighting the efforts of special operators who conduct information operations in Afghanistan.
As Christopher Paul, a behavioral and social scientist at RAND Corp. wrote in the July issue of the Small Wars Journal, the military has struggled for years with how to name Psy-Ops.
“Although most psychological operations are no more than messages and broadcasts aimed at changing the opinions, attitudes, or behavior of foreign citizens, officials or troops, they have come to have a sinister connotation in the minds of U.S. citizens and policymakers alike. The very term PSYOP summons dark thoughts of orbital mind control lasers, dastardly propaganda, or deception,” he wrote.
MISO is not the first attempt at a kinder, gentler name change. A senior special operations command leader told National Defense in December 2007 that Psy-Ops personnel would be known as “military information support teams,” or MIST.
Perhaps that had a “fog of war” connotation.
Paul wrote: “Public and congressional support for PSYOP has lagged because of the incorrect assumption that these operations are inherently insidious.”
Lawrence Dietz wrote in the PSYOP Regimental Blog that the name change has been an emotional issue in the Army for those who embrace the traditional moniker. He echoed Paul when he wrote that those involved in what is now known as MISO play a vital part of counterinsurgency operations, but don’t always receive the respect they deserve.
“All of us in the community need to embrace the change regardless of our personal feelings and use this window of opportunity to strengthen the community,” wrote Dietz. “Perhaps not so much for ourselves, but for those who will come after us.”