I received the following comment today from a respected Ph.D. colleague and a former chief of IO at CENTCOM. Now he runs an IO/Influence corporation.
I hope the White House and Congress are listening.
…we need to take the debate up a level to talk about strategy to counter mal-influences. The mechanisms to execute the strategy will be tailored to each agency/department and be too numerous to list. A broad outline:
First: Go on offense. We need to start playing the game unapologetically and loudly to beat Ru/Ch/Ir/IS at their own game. Our government does not appear to believe that we have a good product to sell, despite US influence in the world being overwhelmingly positive — for instance: the amount of government and charitable aid we provide the developing world swamps most of the developed world’s aid combined and that fact will not change even if the President’s 2018 budget stands.
We need to call out the monotonically negative influence by Ru/Ch/Ir/IS that only benefits the local ruling class and Ru/Ch/Ir/IS. The Anzob Tunnel is a great example of Ch “aid” that didn’t really help the Tajiks despite all the propaganda to the contrary because it was built (badly) by slave/prisoner labor brought from China. So much for expanding Tajik jobs and building local capacity.
This requires a change of culture in the government that is willing to state that capitalism and freedom, by any objective measure, is better than the alternatives. Any other message is simply false.
Second, we need to mount a strong defense, counterpunching when Ru/Ch/Ir/IS spread disinformation around the world or, esp, in the US. This also requires a change of culture, unafraid to take action when lines are crossed — we need to define those lines and be ready to act, not discuss it to death. We need a culture of action, not debate.
Third, we need to be willing to take chances on messages. If they work, reinforce them, if not, cut them loose without regret. We are so paralyzed that we may be criticized and so apologetic if we misfire we are slow to act which ensures our own failure.
Fourth, we need solid metrics that that measure the impact of messages against our national interest — informational messages as well as messages by deed, like training activities that expose people in other cultures to our people and engender goodwill.
All this requires centralized planning and decentralized execution across all agencies/departments. There has been no one at the NSC evaluating the impact of actions nor coordinating messaging for a long time. That position needs to be defined and funded so that it has clout among the bureaucracy. Put the right people there with the right mandate, and rest of government will evolve the structures needed.