Here’s some good news on the information warfare front…from MountainRunner (a blog you ought to be reading if you’re not):
One of the most famous aphorisms of Edward R. Murrow is his statement on the “last three feet”: The really crucial link in the international communication chain is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal contact, one person talking to another. The importance of face-to-face, personal contact in counterinsurgency cannot be emphasized enough. Engaging in this last three feet requires more than figuring out the right words and establishing a grammar to communicate with locals. It means understanding we have a “say-do” gap (the propaganda of deeds versus the propaganda of words) that requires emphasizing actions over words and public and private pronouncements.
Marine Corps General Doug Stone, commander of Task Force 134, Detainee Operations, in Iraq has just signed off on a smart strategic communications plan that should be used as a model for other units. It clearly communicates intent and provides guidance and has the buy-in of General Petraeus.
It makes perfect sense to focus on detainee operations. As Stone notes, “detainee operations is certainly a battlefield; it is the battlefield of the mind, and it is one of the most important fights in counterinsurgency.” Besides the fact he has a captive audience, by definition, his charges have decided to take significant action against the Coalition. For more on the operations of TF134, read this post.
The primary audience and the primary target of the plan is the Task Force itself, which, as one reviewer noted, is a statement that the military culture still requires tweaking. The challenge will be, according to another reviewer, translating the high-level guidance into action.
Here’s a quote from the Overview:
For our purposes as the counterinsurgent force, we will consider it an absolute imperative that our actions are fully congruent with the ideals that we promote. There can be no “gap” between what we say and what we do.
Leaders must understand the importance of this last statement; it is the keystone of our communication efforts. As the above passage from Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice makes clear, we have the responsibility as the counterinsurgent to “walk the walk” as well as we “talk the talk.” Our priorities and values must be displayed in every deed, and reflected in the actions of every man and woman serving in internment facilities throughout the Iraqi Theater of Operations.
What you will find here is far more than a collection of talking points or a series of taskings for the Public Affairs Office and Information Operations Cell. The doctrinal information functions of PA and IO certainly serve to support select aspects of our strategic communication initiatives, but they are not the main effort. Rather, this plan places the emphasis on the conduct of the individual service member to demonstrate who we are, what we do, and what we stand for. This point is critical to the ultimate success of the plan.
The issue with information warfare – is simply the ‘propaganda of the deed’ which we have not done a great job of – in the sense that we have done many good deeds, and out enemy many bad ones that we have not seized upon or worked to publicize.
But at root, there has to be a commitment – from the very top – to occupy the high moral ground.
Undermine guerilla cause and destroy their cohesion by demonstrating integrity and competence of government to represent and serve needs of the people – rather than exploit and impoverish them for the benefit of a greedy elite.*
Take political initiative to root out and visibly punish corruption. Select new leaders with recognized competence as well as popular appeal. Ensure that they deliver justice, eliminate grievances and connect government with grass roots.*
Infiltrate guerilla movement as well as employ population for intelligence about guerilla plans, operations, and organization.
Seal-off guerilla regions from outside world by diplomatic, psychological, and various other activities that strip-away potential allies as well as by disrupting or straddling communications that connect these regions with the outside world.
Deploy administrative talent, police, and counter-guerilla teams into affected localities and regions to inhibit guerilla communication, coordination, and movement; minimize guerilla contact with local inhabitants; isolate their ruling cadres; and destroy their infrastructure.
Exploit presence of above teams to build-up local government as well as recruit militia for local and regional security in order to protect people from the persuasion and coercion efforts of guerilla cadres and their fighting units.
Use special teams in a complementary effort to penetrate guerilla controlled regions. Employ (guerillas’ own) tactics of reconnaissance, infiltration, surprise hit-and-run, and sudden ambush to: keep roving bands off-balance, make base areas untenable, and disrupt communication with the outside world.
Expand these complementary security/penetration efforts into affected region after affected region in order to undermine, collapse, and replace guerilla influence with government influence and control.
Visible link these efforts with local political/economic/social reform in order to connect central government with hopes and needs of people, thereby gain their support and confirm government legitimacy.
Break guerillas’ moral-mental-physical hold over the population, destroy their cohesion, and bring about their collapse via political initiative that demonstrates moral legitimacy and vitality of government and by relentless military operations that emphasize stealth/fast-temp/fluidity-of-action and cohesion of overall effort.
*If you cannot realize such a political program, you might consider changing sides.
(emphasis and footnote his)
And so the beginnings of an answer to the problem of how a democracy conducts information warfare start to emerge: we make a commitment to seize and hold the moral high ground and to fiercely sanction people who do things that challenge that commitment. And we facilitate letting the people who do the things get their stories out.
More thoughts in a bit…but if you want to know why a widely publicized policy of ‘aggressive interrogation’ is a bad idea, here’s a darn good place to start.