Read Abu Muqawama’s posts Counterinsurgency Reading List and COIN Book Club if you are a) interested in COIN, b) interested in public diplomacy or strategic communications, or c) interested at all in how wars will be fought in the near to long term.
Here are two contributions to Abu Muqawama’s nuggets of wisdom from the readings that should be read by those interested in (a), (b), or (c) above. The first is from page 14 of David Galula’s 1965 CounterInsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (Praeger):
Propaganda — A One Sided-Weapon
The asymmetrical situation has important effects on propaganda. The insurgent, having no responsibility, is free to use every trick; if necessary, he can lie, cheat, exaggerate. He is not obliged to prove; he is judged by what he promises, not by what he does. Consequently, propaganda is a powerful weapon for him. With no positive policy but with good propaganda, the insurgent may still win.
The counterinsurgent is tied to his responsibilities and to his past, and for him, facts speak louder than words. He is judged on what he does, not on what he says. if he lies, cheats, exaggerates, and does not prove, he may achieve some temporary successes, but at the price of being discredited for good. And he cannot cheat much unless his political structures are monolithic, for the legitimate opposition in his own camp would soon disclose his every psychological maneuver. For him, propaganda can be no more than a secondary weapon, valuable only if intended to inform and not to fool. A counterinsurgent can seldom cover bad or nonexistent policy with propaganda.
Galula shouldn’t just be required reading in war colleges, but also in programs on public diplomacy and strategic communications. Public diplomacy and strategic communications must both be national security priorities as it is in these realms that potential kinetic conflict could be prevented. For that, see Sun Tzu.
The second is my own:
The fungibility of force decreases as information asymmetry increases.
In other words, the pen can be mightier than the sword in a world were perceptions matter more than fact.