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Thoughts on Deception Operations

American Mercenary had “a criminally brief introduction to the shaping operation known as military deception” the other day, and it reminded me of an old show on the Discovery Network’s Military Channel called Battleplan. In each episode they describe two battles in modern military history that employed the topic of the episode. Naturally, one of the topics is deception. For each episode, the battle plan is described as an ordered set of (mostly) sequential steps, and as the hour passes each step is described in detail. As a complement to AmMerc’s post, consider this summary of the Deception episode, which examined Operation Bodyguard (the deception around D-Day) and Desert Storm (where Gen. Schwartzkopf wanted to draw Iraqi forces towards the east while he attacked in the west).

Each Deception operation consists of five components:

  • Objective
  • Enemy Assumptions
  • Method Selection and Operational Options
  • Execution
  • Exploitation

Objective
As with actual military operations, false military operations must have a clear objective. What are you trying to get the enemy to believe? What do you want him to not believe? Do you intend to draw his forces away? The more detail that goes into planning and understanding the objective, the easier the implementation will be.

Enemy Assumptions
People are hungry for information, especially war planners. Feed them a careful diet. You must be careful to understand what they already believe and feed those prejudices. If, for example, your enemy believes you will conduct a blitzkrieg assault across the narrowest part of the English Channel, create a force located in Dover and make its commander your general best known for that tactic: George S. Patton, III. For extra flair points, the Allies could have made the First US Army Group a real force with real men, instead of an entirely fictional force, and used that as the reserve force for Normandy. Let the enemy believe what they want to believe.

Method Selection and Operational Options
AmMerc does a quick job of covering the basics of this, and I won’t repeat those here. Instead I’ll make two observations. First, a deception operation is generally more successful if there is more evidence (read: more methods utilized) to convince the enemy of what you want him to believe. To that end, don’t focus on using just one method; instead use several. Second, whatever method you choose must be accessible to the enemy. The cadaver loaded with false plans would have done the allies no good if the Germans hadn’t found it. Likewise, the press reports in 1991 detailing Marine rehearsals for an amphibious landing would have done no good if Saddam Hussein had no TV tuned to CNN.

Execution
This is where the rubber hits the road, or the metal meets the meat. Execution of the deception operation must be believable in order to be believed. For example, suppose your enemy sees your deception force assembling to his right. If he observes that there is no logistics train supporting it, he could correctly conclude that you’re trying to deceive him. Likewise, if a deception force is too obviously exposed, with no effort at camouflage, it is not likely to be believed.

Exploitation
The ne plus ultra of deception operations is to get the enemy to continue believing in the deception even after you’ve launched your actual operation. This is difficult, since it requires everything to break your way, including the enemy’s stupidity. But if it can be achieved, it becomes a force multiplier for you, since you now have two things working on the enemy’s OODA loop – your actual operation and your deception operation.

Counterdeceptions
The difficult trick in running a deception operation is detecting the enemy’s own deception operations. If you can’t tell when the enemy is deceiving you, you can’t really tell if your deception operation is working or not, because you can’t tell if he sees your deception and is playing along or is actually being deceived.

Conclusions
Walter Scott was right: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave When first we practise to deceive!” The right metaphor from nature for a deception operation is a web, but it is the web of a black widow – tangled, without order, confusing, with no definite center, as contrasted with the orderly spirals most people think of. You must remember that deceptions are equal parts psychology and salesmanship: know your customer and know what will make him come around to your point of view. A deception is only a supporting operation, but a critical one, for it plays to the fears the enemy manifests while the actual operation works towards his vulnerabilities. Neglect neither and you will master both.

Now back to the massive task of raising a child.

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