Post 9/11, Britain’s armed forces face difficult challenges. The state on state conflicts which typified the first half of the 20 century, and which in any future competition for resources cannot be ruled out, appear for now to have been replaced by the challenges of dealing with highly thcomplex instabilities, invariably involving non-state actors, that will require a ‘whole-of-government effort to resolve. In this environment, liberal democracies will face increasing difficulties in drawing such operations to a conclusion, unable as they are to utilise their full military capability without reverting to the myth of total war. Most are unwilling to make such a commitment, constrained by domestic and world opinion. Indeed history has shown that public perception can have long term and decisive effect upon the nature and success of foreign policy and military operations. Conveying information messages to specific audiences, in order to affect behavioural change for specific political objectives, may well prove more decisive in future battles than the placement of bullets and bombs upon a target. Neither civilian nor military leaders can afford to take a passive view of public opinion, for in foreign policy in particular it has been shown to constrain and limit action.
Disturbingly, apparently weaker asymmetric actors seem to be performing increasingly well in their conflicts. Since 1800, stronger actors have defeated their weaker foes by a factor of 2:1. No surprise perhaps. Yet, between 1950 and 2001 weaker actors have significantly improved their performance.
…Our post 9/11 adversaries have proved adept at fusing information with new media, $100 cameras and remote internet connections, to shape global perceptions and to demoralise and intimidate.3 Information appears to move around the world in an instant, time and space seemingly collapsed by the speed of the internet. Today’s insurgents and terrorists know that opinions can be changed; it is this knowledge that empowers and enables them. It is a lesson that we might usefully learn. Information – its utility, effect and management – should be considered at the very core of future campaigns and operational planning, and done so not in isolation but as a coupled contribution to the whole plan.
This is a must read. Download the PDF from MountainerRunner.