In 1955, a young (and unknown) Henry Kissinger stressed the importance of public engagement over traditional statecraft when he noted the “predominant aspect of the new diplomacy is its psychological dimension.”
At the same time, Nelson Rockefeller recognized the struggle as “shifting more than ever from the arena of power to the arena of ideas and international persuasion.”
As much as its vogue to think of asymmetric warfare as new and the war of ideas as a contemporary phenomenon, underlying the Cold War was a pervasive belief in the importance of “national morale” as Hans Morgenthau called it. A few years earlier, another venerable author, E. H. Carr, relegated to the realpolitik genre and thus supposedly out of touch with modern conflict, also noted the rise of the “power over opinion” as contemporary war nullified “the distinction between combatant and civilian; and the morale of the civilian population became for the first time a military objective.”
It’s easy to forget that we once knew information was the “cheapest weapon.” It wasn’t the only weapon, but it was the cheapest and it had an effect, if it was backed up by and synchronized with smart policy.