Information in its many forms has become a significant component of national power—the primary medium of competition between the United States and its adversaries.
Our guests today are both experts in their respective fields, each looking at this competition from opposing perspectives—one as a practitioner focused on the employment of military information power toward US national security goals, the other as a political scientist and historian who has investigated the strategic use of disinformation against the United States.
Lt. Gen. Lori Reynolds and Dr. Thomas Rid discuss how this campaign for influence is waged below the threshold of armed conflict. What are the rules of this domain, the risks and the opportunities, and the best methods for achieving dominance? From a national security perspective, what are the challenges in planning a campaign focused on competition short of war? Is the United States as a democratic society at a disadvantage in this competition—or are there ways that it can turn the tables on its adversaries? Our guests explore these topics in a frank and fascinating conversation that reveals the critical role played by information in every aspect of national security.
Lt. Gen. Reynolds is the US Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for information. Her responsibilities as such range from cyber to influence to command and control—encompassing all aspects of what the Marine Corps terms “military information power.”
Dr. Rid is a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’ School of Advanced International Studies. He has devoted more than a decade to investigating the use of information and disinformation by national powers—most notably Russia. He was the first named source to identify the cyberattack on the 2016 US election as a Russian operation and has been consulted for his expertise by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as well as the German Bundestag and the UK Parliament. Dr. Rid is author of the recently published book Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare.
The Irregular Warfare Podcast is a collaboration between the Modern War Institute and Princeton University’s Empirical Studies of Conflict Project. You can listen to the full episode below, and you can find it and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app. And be sure to follow the podcast on Twitter!
Image credit: Lance Cpl. Britany Rowlett, US Marine Corps
With regard to such things as "competing for influence: operations in the information environment;" as to these such matters today, I suggest that if we:
a. Come to better understand ourselves (and our objectives), then we can, thereby:
b. Come to better understand our enemies (and their objectives).
Beginning in the 1980s — and continuing more aggressively since the end of the Old Cold War and until President Trump — U.S./Western domestic and foreign policies were designed to better provide for — and better benefit from — such things as capitalism and the global economy. This requires, today as in the past, certain political, economic, social and/or value "changes."
Example from here at home:
“First (U.S. Supreme Court case) 'Lawrence’ furthers the deconstruction of the States as moral communities, capable of legislating in ways that might inhibit the functioning of markets for the sake of higher-order collective values." (Item in parenthesis here is mine.)
(See the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law paper “Moral Communities or a Market-State: The Supreme Court’s Vision of the Police Power in the Age of Globalization,” by Antonio F. Perez and Robert J. Delahunty. See Page 690.)
There are exceptionally well-known benefits — and exceptionally well-known costs — associated with these such efforts, for example, as described here:
“In any case, the argument for capitalism was based on long-term collective interest, an argument with little appeal to those left unemployed by the process of ‘creative destruction’ so central to capitalism, as entrepreneurial innovation led to the obsolescence of existing forms of production and those employed in them.” (From the book “The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought,” by Jerry Z. Miller, in the section therein on Joseph Schumpeter.)
“All in all, the 1980s and 1990s were a Hayekian moment, when his once untimely liberalism came to be seen as timely. The intensification of market competition, internally and within each nation, created a more innovative and dynamic brand of capitalism. That in turn gave rise to a new chorus of laments that, as we have seen, have recurred since the eighteenth century: Community was breaking down; traditional ways of life were being destroyed; identities were thrown into question; solidarity was being undermined; egoism unleashed; wealth made conspicuous amid new inequality; philistinism was triumphant.” (Also from the book “The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Western Thought,” in this case, from the section therein on Friedrich Hayek)
“Capitalism is the most successful wealth-creating economic system that the world has ever known; no other system, as the distinguished economist Joseph Schumpeter pointed out, has benefited ‘the common people’ as much. Capitalism, he observed, creates wealth through advancing continuously to every higher levels of productivity and technological sophistication; this process requires that the ‘old’ be destroyed before the ‘new’ can take over. … This process of ‘creative destruction,’ to use Schumpeter’s term, produces many winners but also many losers, at least in the short term, and poses a serious threat to traditional social values, beliefs, and institutions.” (From the book “The Challenge of the Global Capitalism: The World Economy in the 21st Century,” by Robert Gilpin, see the Introduction.)
From the perspective offered here, "experts" such as David Kilcullen way back in 2006 — in this case writing about how these such problems came to adversely effect the Greater Middle East — noted the following differences re: insurgency and counterinsurgency today — as compared to the past:
"Similarly, in classical theory, the insurgent initiates. Thus, Galula asserts that ‘whereas in conventional war, either side can initiate the conflict, only one – the insurgent – can initiate a revolutionary war, for counter-insurgency is only an effect of insurgency’. Classical theorists therefore emphasise the problem of recognising insurgency early. Thompson observes that ‘at the first signs of an incipient insurgency … no one likes to admit that anything is going wrong. This automatically leads to a situation where government countermeasures are too little and too late.’ But, in several modern campaigns – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chechnya, for example – the government or invading coalition forces initiated the campaign, whereas insurgents are strategically reactive (as in ‘resistance warfare’). Such patterns are readily recognisable in historical examples of resistance warfare, but less so in classical counter-insurgency theory.
"Politically, in many cases today, the counter-insurgent represents revolutionary change, while the insurgent fights to preserve the status quo of ungoverned spaces, or to repel an occupier – a political relationship opposite to that envisaged in classical counter-insurgency. Pakistan's campaign in Waziristan since 2003 exemplifies this. The enemy includes al-Qaeda-linked extremists and Taliban, but also local tribesmen fighting to preserve their traditional culture against twenty-first-century encroachment. The problem of weaning these fighters away from extremist sponsors, while simultaneously supporting modernisation, does somewhat resemble pacification in traditional counter-insurgency. But it also echoes colonial campaigns, and includes entirely new elements arising from the effects of globalisation."
(See Kilcullen's "Counterinsurgency Redux.)
IT IS IN THIS EXACT SUCH CONTEXT, I suggest (since the 1980s, it has been progressive governments who have been engaged in "revolutionary warfare;" this, while it has been the generally conservative population groups — both at home and abroad — who have, accordingly, been engaged in "resistance warfare");
IT IS IN THIS EXACT SUCH CONTEXT, I suggest, that Kilcullen came to view such things as "competing for influence: operations in the information environment" today. Here again from his "Counterinsurgency Redux:"
"One of the most significant ‘globalisation effects’ is the rise of a worldwide audience, giving insurgents today (those engaged in resistance warfare, to wit: fighting to prevent and/or roll back unwanted political, economic, social and/or value "change") near-instantaneous means to publicise their cause. Globalised Internet communication also enables moral, financial and personnel support, creating a strategic hinterland or ‘virtual sanctuary’ for insurgents. Classical theory deals with ‘active’ and ‘passive’ sanctuaries, methods to quarantine such sanctuaries and their effects on insurgent performance. But it treats sanctuary as primarily a geographical space in which insurgents regroup or receive external support. Today's Internet-based virtual sanctuary is beyond the reach of counter-insurgent forces or neighbouring governments, and its effects are difficult to quarantine. Insurgents in Iraq are adept at exploiting global media effects, while the ‘Global Islamic Media Front’ (al-Jabhah al-'ilamiyah al-islamiyah al-'alamiyah) and al-Qaeda's as-Sahab media production arm have achieved new heights of professionalism. Internet-based financial transfers, training and recruitment, clandestine communication, planning and intelligence capabilities allow insurgents to exploit virtual sanctuary for more than just propaganda. Classical counter-insurgency theory has little to say about such electronic sanctuary." (Item in parenthesis above is mine.)
Bottom Line Thought — Based on the Above:
If you come to know yourself: (our "revolutionary warfare" efforts, beginning in the 1980s both at home and abroad, to advance such things as capitalism and the global economy more throughout the world; requires, both at home and abroad, certain political, economic, social and/or value "changes."), then you can, thereby:
1. Come to know your enemy (great power or small; state or non-state entity) — both at home and abroad — (who, as Kilcullen discusses above, is engaged in "resistance" to unwanted political, economic, social and/or value change "warfare") and:
b. How and why this enemy might (in this such "resistance to unwanted "change"/roll back of unwanted "change" endeavor) "compete for influence" and "operate in the information environment."