Jul 8, 2008

Struggle For Cognetic Dominion

Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria II's monograph Wars of Ideas and the War of Ideas [63-page pdf] analyzes how the United States and its allies and strategic partners might proceed in the current "war of ideas" with al-Qaeda and other groups. Two diverging schools are proposed to exist. The first treats the conflict as a matter of public diplomacy, and calls for revitalizing the U.S. State Department and reestablishing many traditional tools of statecraft. The second advocates waging the war of ideas as a "real war," destroying the influence and credibility of the opposing ideology. It calls for continuing the transformation of the U.S. Defense Department so that it can better leverage information-age weapons. Excerpts:

Simply put, a war of ideas is a clash of visions, concepts, and images, and—especially—the interpretation of them; for the images themselves matter much less than the way they are perceived. They are, indeed, genuine wars because they serve a purpose, usually political, social, or economic in nature, and they involve hostile intentions or hostile acts, though they are not always physically violent.12 History suggests wars of ideas fall into four general categories: (a) intellectual debates, (b) ideological wars, (c) wars over religious dogma, and (d) advertising campaigns. All of them are essentially about power and influence, just as with wars over territory and material resources, and their stakes can run quite high. In fact, many wars of ideas occur as part of larger physical conflicts. One of the principal motives for a war of ideas is fear that others will gain access to, or control of, some form of physical power or material wealth. In some cases, ideas are the most effective weapons for countering such threats.


The U.S. military must consider revising its corpus of doctrine pertaining to information operations. Joint doctrine is reasonably comprehensive in terms of addressing information operations, to include sub- and related categories such as psychological operations and military deception.84 However, the chief assumption underpinning each of these documents is that information operations support (kinetic) military operations. That is true in many types of conflicts. However, in other cases, particularly the current war of ideas, this relationship is reversed: military operations need to support information operations. Al- Qaeda and other jihadi organizations are not fighting a new kind of war, but instead are subordinating their military operations to a well-crafted information campaign designed to exploit certain cultural and religious values. All Joint and service publications pertaining to information operations should be revised to incorporate those wars where military operations are conducted in support of a larger information campaign. Put differently, U.S. military doctrine must broaden its view of the relationship between kinetic and information operations.


[...and pertaining to IO supporting deep intelligence]

Furthermore, doctrine concerning information operations must be revised to reflect the reality that the “information environment” is neither neutral nor static. Disparate cultural and social influences almost ensure that diverse audiences will interpret the same information differently. Even within that variegated landscape, the meanings of images, concepts, and visions are often bitterly contested. It is almost impossible to interpret information objectively because the very tools needed for interpretation in the first place are derived from subjective experiences and structures of meaning. In many cases, enough commonalities exist to allow at least a baseline of communication to take place. Yet, an important assumption underpinning U.S. doctrine on information operations is that all audiences will essentially draw the desirable conclusion, if given enough of the “right” information. This assumption overlooks how various cultures assess information depending on the sources. Simply put, “right” appears differently to diverse audiences. While we would expect our opponents to spin information to their advantage, even so-called neutral populations are not necessarily impartial when it comes to interpreting information offered by either side.


Anonymous said...

Problem is DoD and State don't know how to communicate very well. For example, you cite how the different cultures translate the same information. A good communication model to reference is Schramm's Field of Experience model. If the political leadership would apply the same effort to communicate to the world as they did to their constituencies, we might be better off.

theBhc said...

waging the war of ideas as a "real war," destroying the influence and credibility of the opposing ideology. It calls for continuing the transformation of the U.S. Defense Department so that it can better leverage information-age weapons.

To that end:

The U.S. military is looking for a contractor to patrol cyberspace, watching for warning signs of forthcoming terrorist attacks or other hostile activity on the Web.
n a solicitation posted on the Web last week, the command said it was looking for a contractor to provide "Internet awareness services" to support "force protection" -- the term of art for the security of U.S. military installations and personnel.

My favourite part, the search for "antipathy":

"The purpose of the services will be to identify and assess stated and implied threat, antipathy, unrest and other contextual data relating to selected Internet domains."

We've known for sometime that Pentagon posture has been to regard the internet as an hostile environment, one that, as far as they are concerned, must be dominated. While a program purportedly designed to hunt for cyber-baddies may have a surface legitimacy, you just know that by employing a private contractor will permit several degrees of IO freedom while offering a stable platform of plausible deniability should the privateer's operations veer from the ostensibly intended purpose.

And whaddya know, the U.S. Army's Fifth Signal Command recognizes this potential but a spokesperson is quick to assure us that, "We're not interested in being Big Brother," which has to stand as one of the funniest things I've read in quite sometime.

Meatball One said...


Nice mining, Stargazer.

Meatball One said...


DoD and State don't know how to communicate very well.


(Now you know why stay glued to Tanji & Armstrong.)