Academic journal article Military Review

Psychological Operations in Bosnia

Academic journal article Military Review

Psychological Operations in Bosnia

Article excerpt

NATO forces used low-intensity nuclear weapons when they conducted air strikes on Serb positions around Sarajevo, Gorazde and Majevica in 1995.

-Serb anti-NATO propaganda

broadcast, September 1997

The lion's share of attention within the special operations forces (SOF) community often goes to SOF's commando-like aspects raids, rescues and the like. However, SOF in Bosnia have found little scope for these activities. Instead, the less glamorous psychological operations (PSYOP) efforts have often taken the lead and, in so doing, may be pointing the way to the future of special operations.

The summer and fall of 1997 brought an increasingly acrimonious power struggle between opposing political leaders in the Republika Srpska (RS). When a faction led by anti-NATO hard-liners began inflammatory broadcasts attacking the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) and the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), it became necessary to counter these broadcasts with factual information. SFOR and its American-led component, Multi-National Division (North) [MND (N)], conducted PSYOP to promote peace using US Air Force EC-130E Commando Solo broadcast aircraft and information leaflets developed by US Army civil affairs and PSYOP personnel.

As in most areas where operations other than war (OOTW) occur, there were few public communication means in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including both the federation and the RS. News magazines were non-existent and newspapers were few, expensive and had limited circulation. Thus, broadcast media were extremely influential, especially the small number of television transmitters still functioning. This became important when a factional dispute threatened to destabilize the elected RS government. One faction, supporting former Serbian leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, began using the limited television facilities to oppose the GFAP, NATO and the elected government. The broadcasts, for example, routinely referred to Bosnia's Muslim leader as "Alija Izetbegovic, Muslim murderer."1

The Commando Solo Airborne Broadcast Platform

The EC-130E could perform airborne psychological broadcast missions in the standard AM, FM, high frequency, television (TV) and military communication bands. Missions were flown at maximum altitudes to ensure optimum propagation patterns. Highly specialized modifications had been made to the latest EC-130E variant, including enhanced navigation systems, selfprotection equipment and the capability of broadcasting color television on a multitude of global standards throughout the TV VHF/UHF ranges.

Three Air National Guard EC-130Es were deployed from the 193d Special Operations Wing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to a base in Italy, an hour flight across the Adriatic Sea from Sarajevo. This was a direct response to persistent hostile Bosnian-Serb radio and television propaganda from the Karadzic faction.

Operating from Brindisi, Italy, the EC-130Es were equipped with high-power transmitters for TV, AM and FM radio broadcasting. The planes could also operate as jamming devices against Bosnian-Serb hard-liners' TV and radio broadcasts or simply overpower their signal, blasting them off the air and replacing them with other programs. The aircraft executed three test flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina in September, testing radio broadcasting equipment as a nonviolent "show of force" by SFOR The aircraft successfully broadcast programs from the SFOR radio station "MIR" (peace) without disruptions.

Despite the efforts of both the High Representative and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the dissident RS faction repeatedly refused to cease or moderate their broadcasts. The intemational community took direct action. Under GFAP authority and orders from the NATO Council and the Office of the High Representative, SFOR seized four RS transmission towers.

This reduced but could not eliminate the offending broadcasts because all broadcast media in the RS were state-operated, and SFOR was neither willing nor prepared to control the entire Serbian radio and TV system. …

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