A Strategic Perspective on “Information Warfare” & “Counter-Propaganda”

On Wednesday, March 15, 2017, the Emerging Threats & Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee convened a hearing entitled “Crafting an Info Warfare & Counter-Propaganda Strategy for the Emerging Security Environment .”

I recommed watching the worthwhile conversation. Below are my prepared remarks given at the top of the hearing.

Continue reading “A Strategic Perspective on “Information Warfare” & “Counter-Propaganda””

The Past, Present, and Future of the War for Public Opinion

The myth of the United States Information Agency as America’s defense against political warfare lives on. Just last month, the Director of National Intelligence repeated calls for a muscular USIA. Others have declared that the absence of USIA has left us vulnerable.

In November 2015, I wrote that these and similar invocations of USIA are coded laments that “we lack a strategy, an organizing principle, and empowered individuals to execute information warfare today.” These calls also ignore the role our actions have in influencing the minds and wills of others. Informational activities — whether public affairs, public diplomacy, strategic communication, or psychological operations — is not “pixie dust” that will magically transform a mind when actions contradict the words. This is not merely an issue of values versus interests, though that is a factor. No, whatever psychological or information instrument we employ cannot compensate for absent or ill-conceived policies and plans.

Last month, in The Past, Present, and Future of the War for Public Opinion, I expanded the look back into the environment which gave rise to USIA. But USIA was a public affairs bullhorn and never charged or prepared, structured, or properly equipped, including training, to deal with the realities of political warfare, defensive or offensive, despite the mythology. It’s notable that examples given to support arguments that USIA was responsive to the Soviet Union’s nonmilitary aggression are not from the “cold war” period marked by political and ideological conflict waged before borders the walls went up. Instead, they come from the “Cold War” bipolar order marked my military confrontation between two superpowers and proxy battlefields.

As I wrote in The Past, Present, and Future of the War for Public Opinion, the Congress essentially re-established a USIA with regards to its coordinating function. It’s named the Global Engagement Center. The other components, the elements of great substance and impact, exist in the State Department. The Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), for example, continues to languish under a lack of direction, poor support, and self-marginalization as successive unit leaders chased resume-building initiatives rather than national security requirements or supporting inter- and intra-department needs.

We need to focus on the people, organizations, and tools we have before wasting more money on new toys. Money cannot buy a solution. There needs to be leadership, a purpose, training, accountability (as well as tolerance for experimentation and failure), and an overall a strategy. What does success or “victory” look like? Knowing what we are attempting to achieve, followed by how we can achieve the goal or goals, helps define the methods and never is the solution a bigger bullhorn.

I closed the latest article with a quote from 1963 that fits today as much as it did then: “Someday this nation will recognize that global non-military conflict must be pursued with the same intensity and preparation as global military conflicts.”

Read the whole article here: The Past, Present, and Future of the War for Public Opinion.

There’s a new #1 “R”… as in longest tenure

Milestone near Richmond Park, Greater London area, UK
Source: Matt Armstrong, taken in East Sheen near Richmond Park.

Milestones are important. They were to reassure travelers that they were on the right path, how far they had gone, and how far they had to go. Living in London, I find it surprising how many milestones, many of which are hundreds of years old, are hiding in plain sight. They do not, however, tell us how we are doing.  Continue reading “There’s a new #1 “R”… as in longest tenure”

Diplomacy’s Public Dimension: Books, Articles, Websites #79

March 9, 2016
Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome.
Bruce Gregory
Adjunct Professor
George Washington University
Georgetown University
  Continue reading “Diplomacy’s Public Dimension: Books, Articles, Websites #79”

No, We Do Not Need to Revive the U.S. Information Agency – endnote edition

Cheshire cat queries Alice

You know you’ve heard it. Whether it was at the office, at school, or a social setting (how erudite of you!), you heard someone bemoan the loss of the United States Information Agency. Perhaps that someone was you. In my experience, these laments are really a coded acknowledgment that the U.S. lacks a strategy, an organizing principle, and empowered individuals to operate in an information-driven world. Continue reading “No, We Do Not Need to Revive the U.S. Information Agency – endnote edition”

Certain Aspects of the European Recovery Problem from the U.S. Standpoint

Here Helps the Marshall Plan, not ‘Courtesy Of’ (Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-20671-0014 / CC-BY-SA)

On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall delivered a “routine commencement speech” at Harvard University. The only pomp and circumstance was for the graduates and the lone reporter in the crowd was there only because of a friend. It was, however, a speech that changed history as the retired General of the Army proposed a program for Europe based on building local economic strength, governance, and self-confidence.  Continue reading “Certain Aspects of the European Recovery Problem from the U.S. Standpoint”