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U.S. Denial and Deception: Effectiveness and Implications Essay

The experience of the United States in intelligence gathering and its military campaigns in the past have indicated both its capability to launch effective denial and deception strategy as well as its susceptibility to enemy use of denial and deception. In military speak, “denial” refers to practices that are intended to prevent accurate information from reaching opponents while “deception” involves deliberate activities that are intended to provide opponents with misleading information, causing them to perceive reality according to the deceiver’s intentions (Godson and Wirtz, 2000).

This paper explores two historical examples of how the U. S. employed strategic denial and deception with differing outcomes. The first case involves the effective strategic denial and deception campaign used against Iraq in 1991 with the Operation Desert Storm. The second case highlights the vulnerability of the U. S. when faced with a weaker adversary that has maneuvered denial and deception successfully, particular in Operation Allied Force used in Kosovo.

Effective Deception in Operation Desert Storm Operation Desert Storm illustrates how intelligence can lead to the successful planning and launch of strategic denial and deception in a military campaign. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the U. S. along with Coalition forces came up with a robust campaign that utilized strategic denial and deception in overpowering Saddam Hussein and Iraqi forces. Efforts to employ successful deception anchored on three crucial pieces of information.

The U. S. trategized its military campaign around them, pulling a combination of element of surprise and security, thereby effectively crushing Iraqi’s advance against Kuwait. The strategy dubbed as the “Hail Mary” or “Left Hook” maneuver is a leading example of a resoundingly effective use of strategic denial and deception. First, the U. S. gathered credible intelligence and correctly assumed that the Iraqis knew of troop movements and location of forces considering the presence of Western journalists in the area and Bedouins often used as Iraqi agents.

This became the basis for choosing the flanking maneuver in winning the campaign. Second, the U. S. made sure that the Iraqis were convinced it was not planning a flanking maneuver to overpower them. The Iraqis however had already been confident that U. S. forces, being ignorant of the desert terrain, would easily get lost and will find difficulty threatening Iraqi positions. Iraq’s ignorance of the capability of the global positioning system (GPS) also played well in favor of the Coalition forces. It was GPS capability that made the flanking maneuver possible in the first place.

Third, key to the successful use of deception involved the use of press and the media in the projection of heavy buildup of Marines in the Gulf, which eventually led Saddam Hussein to believe of an amphibious assault. Shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the U. S. deployed 2,500 Marines aboard USS Inchon. This was followed shortly by the extensive press coverage of 15,000 members of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade aboard 13 different ships leading Saddam to be certain of an amphibious attack.

This led Iraq to position forces on the beaches to overcome an anticipated amphibious landing which never happened, proof that the denial and deception operation worked (Dunnigan, 1995). Other methods of deception include using a series of loudspeakers that broadcast a massive fleet of tanks, trucks and helicopters to confuse Iraqi scouts into believing that a large force was present.

Enemy’s Effective Use of Denial and Deception in Operation Allied Force For the world’s most technologically-sophisticated nation, the U. S. ’ increasing confidence and belief in its fire power makes it vulnerable to the use of denial and deception by the adversary. An example would be its failed bid to counter the denial and deception strategies employed by Serbs against NATO forces in Kosovo. The Serbs used deception techniques to humiliate NATO and affecting world opinion in their favor (DOD, 2001). The salient feature of the Serbs’ success is that it was well-documented and actually became a source of humiliation for OAF’s planners and implementers.

First, it successfully deceived Allied aircraft into assaulting various decoy targets, thereby reducing its air power. By manufacturing fires from plywood and canvass and creating false thermal images with them, NATO aircraft were lured into targeting those decoys. Second, the Serbs used the media to influence international public opinion. One example is leading the media to cover only nonmilitary targets hit by NATO forces and excluding from coverage military targets hit by NATO. This had the effect of undermining the victories of NATO in the war.

Other examples were aimed to project the NATO in an inhumane or evil light, by enabling media to video bloodstained dolls to indicate the extent of civilian casualties, especially children. Third, the Serbs capitalized on using the media as a means of discrediting NATO success. These efforts proved successful because claims of the Serbs were echoed and reported in the international mainstream media. To illustrate, the Serbs ensured the presence of media to cover a large column of military vehicles numbering around 60 or 80 to project that they were not as badly hit as reported by NATO forces (Grant, 2000).

Countering Denial and Deception These historical examples provide a picture of how a superior military force like the U. S. can effectively wage a denial and deception campaign and how it can also be duped into an enemy’s campaign of denial and deception. The challenge of countering denial and deception has become apparent in the light of recent threats from Islamic fundamentalists and the looming nuclear threat from both Iran and North Korea. As U. S. dversaries launch denial and deception strategies through propaganda campaigns geared at false projections of truth, it must be able to build and upgrade its intelligence capability to overcome them. Successful countering of denial and deception from the enemy requires the usage of timely and reliable intelligence. Constant upgrading of the intelligence community’s stability to supply information about enemies’ capabilities, intentions, predispositions and actions is key to overcoming enemy deception.

The tragic experience from 9/11 earned valuable lessons for the intelligence community. The quality of intelligence is crucial and although the U. S. possesses the best-financed and technologically sophisticated intelligence community, there has been a difficulty on its part to confront priority targets by gathering reliable intelligence about them. For a powerful nation, the U. S. remains vulnerable to deception. Thus, it must hone its efforts, train personnel and dedicate attention and resources to countering deception.


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