Image courtesy of Spiros Karkavela via Art of Future Warfare Challenge.
Editor’s Note: This essay is part of a short essay series on Future Warfare which asked what the dominant trend in warfare will be over the next 20 years.
By Cadet Patrick Crowley
The next century is the information era and war’s next theater will be an information front. Today American generals are deposed by one negative news article, Russian invasion forces hide behind an obfuscating wall of mixed signals, and terrorist groups take their propaganda cues from Hollywood to allow mass consumption. In the connected future history isn’t written by the victors. The victors will be the ones who write the history before it happens.
America has two weapons to win these informational wars. The first is an increase in secret and clandestine forces. Armies will need to prevent any information from leaving the warzone when direct action is needed and time is a factor. Cyber branches will establish internet blackouts to prevent the flow of information out of an area. Though effective, secrecy only lasts a short time in the era of wikileaks and calls for government transparency. We will need to go beyond simple denial of information. The military needs to radically change the way it allow information to leave the battlespace and enter the media. Propaganda departments such as MISO and the Public Affairs offices will need to be linked in mission and message. The mass media climate should be understood and utilized to the best of our PR ability. To win the wars of the future military action needs to be followed by media action.
The trend of warfare from 2015-2035 will be that of strategic communication. The country that aligns what the media says and their military actions with their political goals will win. War used to be a private affair between armies and states. The public didn’t know the outcome of a battle until hours afterward, its significance years later. In the future people will watch soldiers intimately, videos of combat across the globe with less than a second of lag. Armies’ actions will be dissected like football games and every decision will be under intense scrutiny. To achieve their goals militaries must control what the people perceive is happening, no matter the actual outcome on the ground. Victory is only achieved when it is believed.