Army Colonel (R) Lawrence Dietz: PsyWar, Zig Ziglar & Influence Ops in the Battle for Hearts & Minds

Lawrence (Larry) Dietz, is a nationally recognized expert in the area of PsyWar (Psychological Warfare), Cyber Warfare, and Information Operations. Larry is a former military intelligence officer with the U.S. Army, and was at one time, the Officer in Charge of Strategic Intelligence with the 7th PsyOp Group as well as the commander of the 12th PSYOP Battalion, and Deputy Commander of the Combined Joint Information Campaign Task Force, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Dietz was also an Information Operations officer with USSOCOM (The United States Special Operations Command), and he is the author of the authoritative blog on Psychological Operations, The PSYOP Regimental Blog.

Sun Tzu said, “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” To accomplish this, the military uses Information Ops or Influence Ops, what Dietz refers to as “non-kinetic fires,” and what the Office of the Secretary of Defense characterizes as “the integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities (IRCs) … to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries while protecting our own.”

The IRCs or the “tools” of Information Operations according to Dietz include PsyOps along with Social Media Disinformation, Electronic Warfare (signals and comms disruption), and Cyber Warfare. Effective IO also relies on the application of a number of soft skills to decimate the reasoning, behavior, and actions of an enemy nation including Psychology, Media, and Cultural & Linguistic Skills, however, one of the most important skill sets that the tactical PsyOps team can leverage is marketing and sales techniques.

So integral is sales proficiency to the in-the-trenches execution of PsyOps, that Dietz would often have his men study the methods of the masters of sales training, arming his PsyWarriors with the legendary Zig Ziglar’s “Secrets of Closing the Sale.”


Lawrence Rosenberg: Why, typically, are psychological operations (PsyOps) used on an enemy or an enemy population?

Larry Dietz: “You want to as a commander and you want to remove whatever physical environment trench there might be against you or your force. And so inducing the enemy to surrender is a really good way to do that. And psyop is a real battlefield multiplier, where the influence actions and the if you will, the marketing campaigns to convince an enemy that it is futile to fight. Those are all very positive. However, in a number of situations where the military finds itself, the problem, the challenge is getting the cooperation of the civilian population or providing the civilian population with information. So for example, if the military is in a humanitarian assistance disaster relief operation, you the military force plus the host nation want to provide information to the citizens and potential migrants as to where they could find food and shelter. And you want them to not interfere with military operations and, and psyop is one of the non-kinetic tools (meaning you’re not shooting or blowing them up) to make that happen.”

Lawrence Rosenberg: There are subtleties here, on the one hand, we’re talking PsyOps, but there’s also information operations and  influence operations, what is there a difference when it comes to influence operation and PsyOps?

Larry Dietz: “Information operations is the orchestrator of non-kinetic fires. So the commander has at his or her disposal PsyOps, cyberspace operations, electronic warfare, civil-military affairs, combat camera, public affairs, these are all non-kinetic fires, and the IO, the Information Operations Officer orchestrates all of those non-kinetic fires to try to help the commander accomplish his or her goals … Influence operations, and information operations (IO), in my opinion, are very much synonyms. PsyOps is one of the tools for influence operations, social media disinformation, that is another tool, electronic warfare, jamming a target so they can’t receive anything, that’s another tool. And then the act of jamming can also be considered a PsyOp, a psychological act designed to have an impact. So, for example, I worked an exercise last week, where we had a hypothetical country that calls in the Americans because their country’s president died and the Vice President is now the president and some people didn’t like that. And so there’s a lieutenant colonel in the army of that country that wants to have a coup. And so he tries to get a convoy to come down to the capitol city. Meanwhile, the Commanding General says that that convoy is not to reach that city. So first, you would try non-kinetic fires, you would try text messages, you would try leaflets, you would try stuff like that to get them to stop. They keep going and you have an F-18 fly over. And then if they’re dumb enough to still keep going, you just have to blow them up.”

Lawrence Rosenberg: I want to quote something (from Joint Pub 3-13, the joint doctrine for the planning, preparation, execution, and assessment of information operations) ” … the Secretary of Defense now characterizes IO as the integrated employment during military operations of information related capabilities. in concert with other lines of operation to influence during corrupt or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries, while protecting our own forces.”

Larry Dietz: “Yeah, the IO doctrine is essentially designed to dominate the information domain of war, the information domain of battle. and I personally have to extend that because a lot of what is done today with the military force around the world, not necessarily a battle, per se, it’s, you’re in a country, and you’re not shooting at anybody, so the influence war if you will, the non-kinetic war, has to be orchestrated. That’s what the IO guy does. And so what happens is you have the non-kinetic people, the information operations people, they look at an area and targeting, and then you have the “let’s blow them up and shoot em” guys, the kinetic guys, and those two meet at a target joint targeting working group where the recommendation is ultimately formulated and presented to the commander. So you have to be able to balance and orchestrate your kinetic and non-kinetic fires, and IO is the non-kinetic fire control.”

Lawrence Rosenberg: Are these non-kinetic fires, are they given an opportunity to burn down any resistance before going in, or are they used to pepper the ground, soften the ground before going in?

Larry Dietz: “Well, I think most commanders that have a real strategic vision, recognize that the use of non-kinetic fires can make their job easier to accomplish their mission. And so the non-kinetic fires would certainly be before a kinetic operation.”

Lawrence Rosenberg: How far in advance could such an operation be allowed to play out before the (kinetic operators go in)?

Larry Dietz: “That would kind of depend on the OpSec, the operational security that that commander wants to maintain. If the commander wants to have a surprise attack, then of course you wouldn’t do very much. In Iraq for example, they used leaflets dropping out of planes onto the (Iraqi) tanks saying “today it’s leaflets, tomorrow it’s bombs.” You don’t want to be in these tanks right now. So there was clearly a telegraphing of what the plan was going to be. In Georgia, the Russians used cyberattacks on Georgia and Estonia, two different situations as a prelude to a kinetic attack. So it’s kind of like a digital artillery barrage. And in terms of length, in some situations, you would, not the American forces but other forces, would be planning to take over a territory that adjoins theirs. And so they might want to try and seed the information battlefield, traditional media as well as social media, with their point of view well before attempting any kinetic activity, so there’s no real hard, fast rule.”

Lawrence Rosenberg: What elements of the US military or the US government deploy Psychological Operations? Is it just the military, do the intelligence agencies engage in PsyOps?

Larry Dietz: “PsyOps by definition is a creature of the military. That’s the definition of it, a military influencing the behavior of a target audience. So, the Marine Corps has recently organized their information operations efforts under a three-star. interest, the army has PsyOp groups in the active force and the reserve force And, frankly, I’m not up on the Navy, and the Air Force has gravitated much more towards the cyber world. Now, having said that, the US government writ large engages to influence and inform, many people regard those two terms as synonymous, influence and inform, and so the public diplomacy function of the Department of State is to influence foreign audiences. along the lines of the goals that the president and the Secretary of State have said are important to share with the rest of the world.”

Lawrence Rosenberg: What are the skills of PsyWar?

Larry Dietz: “The first view is you have to be culturally attuned to the target, whatever the target audience may be, military, civilians, their country, their language, you have to be attuned. You also have to have an understanding of what biases that target audience already has that you could appeal to that would accomplish what you want to accomplish and would be comfortable for the target to assume that belief, then you would have to figure out how does the target audience get information and how can I get information to them in a credible way? You’d have to be able to figure that out as well. And then, of course, you’d have to have the capability of getting the information out. And then you’d have to be smart enough and objective enough to develop measurements of effectiveness, and adjust your non-kinetic fires to get better results.”

Lawrence Rosenberg: You mentioned understanding the culture that you’re targeting what about other soft skills, like psychology?

Larry Dietz: “Yeah, you have to, also salesmanship, salesmanship is a big part of PsyOps. And frankly, I think one of the most effective tools is the tactical PsyOp team. Those soldiers who speak the language go into the hamlets and villages and talk to the locals and maybe have a newspaper in that language. That’s a very important part of it, sales skills, and in fact, when the 12 PsyOps Battalion was deploying to Bosnia, I felt that my troops needed to have sales training. And unfortunately, when you go through the qualification you get shipped out overseas. There’s not a whole lot of fluff time. And so I called Zig Ziglar in Dallas, Texas, a very famous sales trainer. And because I was a big fan of his, and I had his cassettes in my car, and they were responsible for more than one deal that I got. And I called him up and I said this is Lieutenant Colonel Larry Dietz, I’m deploying with a task force of army reservists to Bosnia, and I’m wondering if Zig would donate his book “Secrets to Closing the Sale,” I need about 100. And that nice lady on the phone said “Colonel, let me check on that and get back to you.” So she calls me back and says “we have a couple of boxes of our books but the covers are the wrong color, we can’t sell them, you pay for the shipping, and we’ll send them to you.” I said, “you got a deal, here’s my credit card!” And so when you saw the soldiers getting ready to deploy they had their map reading book, their M-16 cleaning manual, Secrets of Closing the Sale, and (a book on) Bosnian phrases. It was it was cool. And we had a lot of troops that were on the ground there and selling techniques are very, very helpful. No matter what your specialty is. Particularly we’re trying to influence people to do something.”


Lawrence “Larry” Dietz:
The PSYOP Regimental Blog:
Cyber Influence: Cyber War & Psychological Operations:
Secrets of Closing the Sales by Zig Ziglar:


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