Information operations · Information Warfare · NATO · United States

How Do We Fight A War Of Ideas?


In a previous piece, we established that We Are In A War Of Ideas.  How do we fight a “War of Ideas”?

First, we need a “National Information Strategy”.  Making a great strategy takes time, so that effort must start immediately. Any and all maneuvering in the information space must fit within the limits stated there.

Next, we need to establish Measures of Effectiveness or MOE. A combination of academics, practitioners, policy wonks, and corporate experts must collaborate and determine the best way ahead. When we receive feedback, we adjust our strategies and tactics accordingly.  If we launch before establishing MOE, we cannot quantify what we are doing and we could be justifiably crucified in the press.  There is a community of practitioners who are the experts in the field of MOE, we need to really use their expertise.

Third, as I have illustrated in a couple of papers, we need to organize as a mirror of the Russian Information Warfare organization. It is a nine-part organization which accounts for every action by Russia in the information environment. If we do not, we risk missing and not at least accounting for every Russian action of Information Warfare. What we do would be slower and more deliberate than the Russian IW machine, with a few wonderful exceptions. Learning from several ‘Reputation Management Efforts’, we would construct numerous pre-determined quick-release responses ready to quickly edit and release in times of crisis. Most of the rest of our actions would be a simple matter of stating the truth – as fast as we can but with deliberate speed. A combination of fast and not-so-fast.  Bureaucracy is also the enemy. We need to emphasize speed in the approval process.  If a leader cannot make a quick decision, based on the evidence on hand, they might be a bad leader and may need to go.  This organization needs to be fluid as well, as new weapons, tools, and practices are detected – for both our use and to defend against.

Fourth, we need to organize, sensitize, and educate the masses of “We the People”, the press, all parts of government, corporate entities, academia, travelers, tourists, and so on.  A combination of conferences, journals, magazines, classes, action groups, information exchanges, in a myriad of forms, places, etc.  We need to network, globally, to seek out other strategies and tactics to both incorporate good ideas and share.  We need to establish ongoing information exchanges with experts. We need to critically examine what we’ve been doing and not doing.  We must brutally determine what went wrong when things go south and find better ways to do it.   In order to establish quality assurance milestones, we must hold periodic assessments of our success and not-successes, and determine what works best.

Most of all we need to incorporate innovation.  There are a ton of good MOE engines, a few which are better, and then the occasional great ones. How do we collaborate best? What tools do we need?  With whom do we partner?  How do we discover new tools, practices, techniques, and procedures?

Last, but certainly not least, we need to stay legal. We will need a ton of lawyers determined to make sure what we do is legal, determine what is not illegal and find ways to make them legal, and determine what is illegal.  These attornies need to act quickly, with the interests of national security of the utmost concern, to uphold democracy and counter possible unethical, immoral, and illegal actions of both our team as well as belligerents.

Some important considerations include scope and scale.

  • How large a target do we paint for our attention?  At what point do we begin monitoring a new actor?
  • Do we want to just make do, have a proportionately sized response, or do we overwhelm belligerent actions?  What determines each?
  • Is there such a thing as an act of war in the information space?  Who determines that?  Who makes the decision to respond or even conduct a pre-emptive action?
  • Who leads this effort?  How do we avoid any inference of domestic politics in the process and keep things professional and apolitical?
  • How do we limit collateral damage?  Who determines if something is PC or not? Are there combatants and civilians?
  • How do we avoid the appearance of propaganda?  Where do we get or establish the expertise to make that editorial decision?

As a friend and colleague just wrote to me, it’s a Herculean effort, at least for starters, but it is something we must do.

Lots more to include, this is just for starters.

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