Information Warfare

No time for anything other than a recommendation to read the Small Wars Council discussion on the Milblogging crackdown. The discussion has evolved from one of freedom of communication to one of public diplomacy and information warfare.

This quote from Council Member Rob Thornton (MountainRunner is also a council member) really frames the crackdown within the mindset of the military:

This sounds allot more like a Super FOB IO strategy. We'll build these walls around us and communicate only on approved internal lines of communication with internal approval of approved internal discussions so that we can ensure we are discussing approved questions with approved solutions which we will then dissiminate at approved CTC and publications. The latency will be huge! The timeliness of useful information which can be placed in the correct context so that it can be applied will be largely neutralized. But we will be safe.

OK - this may not have been the intent - but that may not matter if someone does not clarify the directive - remember perceptions are reality.

I'd argue that while the enemy is prosecuting a very effective IO campaign and use of the Internet, we are tightening the chastity belt for fear of misuse. There probably has been some screw ups - but how do you measure the subjective value vs. risk? We are a quantitative bunch at heart facing a foe who is wlling to be subjective. Are we fighting the fight we have or wishing for the one we'd like? Is developing a real information warfare capability vs a better bank vault beyond us? I know people who sit on information for total fear they will be held accountable for its release - they are largely inneffective, but they are safe. They are not concerned about the mission any where near as much as they are self preservation andwill often use it as an excuse for lethargic behavior.

While the risks must be known and mitigated / minimized, don't assume the enemy will operate under any restrictions. How much terrain does a defensive position control - only what it can see and reach - and these days that is very limitied given that the key terrain is Human.

The real battlefield is information, and as Thornton points out, we do our best to stay out of the game. Once again, where are the rest of our information assets? War is a civil-military operation now and there remains an overreliance on the military to perform. This problem exists because of a lack of leadership and the remaining bureaucratic barriers. Once again, where is Karen Hughes?

How can you visualize our IO? Again Rob Thornton:

Can somebody in Hughes' office please call Thornton and give him a job?

I think there are at least 3 audiences we have to influence. Enemies, Neutrals and Allies. The effects we want to have on each probably vary depending how we are trying to influence them - ex. "are we trying to deter, repudiate, convince etc? 

Since sustaining your own public will is so important, an IO theme (and products) that resonate with them may be an important component of an IO campaign - particualrly when enemies or opponents may be trying to convince the public otherwise. I think as in marketing, you have to know your audience, and what you are trying to convince them to buy.

This is where our bloggers could be highlighted and profiled so they get location, location, location. Instead we grow sea monkeys - which come off as fake and contrived. This was a problem with CF IO aimed at Iraqis - Products produced by Americans and translated into Arabic don't look, sound or resonate like a product produced by an Iraqi for an Iraqi - what you wind up with the former is a Mentos Advertisement aimed at Americans vs. the Latter which could be compared with a Budweiser ad aired during the game. You could also compare the very successful USMC recruiting ads to the Army's - the former targetded their audience, the latter wound up confused with an Army of One.

In the end it won't matter if all we do say is "Katie bar the door!"

Later in the very active thread, ZenPundit implicitly reminds us of the consequences of not thinking information strategy through in the context of the information warfare:

The primary effect of this idiocy will be to corrupt our own feedback loops by suppressing *truthful* information from guys observing conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa. The sorts of CYA things the brass in any war likes to keep from their superiors, the Congress, the media and the folks back home ( I note the American media is on a PPT diagram with drug kingpins, al Qaida and Warlords - that juxtaposition pretty much says it all in terms of the reigning Army IO philosophy). It is my expectation that such an effect was the primary purpose behind these regs as the international Islamist movement is not going to be inconvenienced in the slightest.

The proper move would have been OPSEC education - milbloggers aren't stupid. Hermetically sealing the military off from the world ( which won't succeed anyway) is the sign of siege mentality in the officer corps and a harbinger of decline.

Anthropologist Marc added:

Credibility is a crucial element and, to be honest, I have a feeling that most politicians have a pretty low credibility when it comes to the war.

I have been trying to figure out why I reacted so strongly to this reg since I'm not really affected by it per se (except as a researcher). My tentative conclusion is that it stems, in part, from being a Canadian. On the whole, while we do tend to get on well with the US, we also tend not to trust the US government that much. Or, to be more accurate, we trust them to be rather short-sighted and throw their weight around while disregarding their own political and philosophical rhetoric in favour of short term political gains. At the same time, we also have an immense reserve of trust in the American people to act as a rein on their government, and freedom of speech, usually via the press but more recently via blogs, boards, etc., is at the core of this.

I have often felt, although I have little concrete proof, that this dichotomous image of the US is one of the crucial components of the "love-hate" relationship many non-Americans feel towards the US. I feel that this reg, if taken to the extremes that are certainly potential within it, will have a very damaging effect on international perceptions.

This is a very active thread on the Small Wars Council that, if you're interested in information operations and public diplomacy, you should take a look at.

I'd add more commentary, but I spent too much on it already. Read and SWC thread...

Thunder Run has the same thoughts and also reminds us of the upcoming milblogging conference this weekend... that should be interesting. (No MountainRunner isn't going. MR was planning on sleeping to recover from the last five weeks but he's traveling to lay the voice track narrating a movie on PMCs... no not my movie.)

Thanks Noah for the reminder on this