Some suggest the War of Ideas is simply between us and “violent extremists”, “Islamists”, or some other derivative label for Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and associated movements from the Middle East to South Asia and eastward. There is even proposed legislation that places boundaries on who the adversaries are. However, while some of our policy makers continue to ignore or even reject the importance of information and persuasion in international relations from economics to war, our major competitors do not.
The dean of international relations at the Russian foreign ministry’s Diplomatic Academy said
The Russian government must prepare to fight information wars which are becoming an ever more important part of geopolitical life, restoring parts of the Soviet-era system and going beyond that as well…
The Chinese meanwhile are spending time exploring informatized warfare, “attitude warfare”, “perception warfare”. All of which are fundamentally based on Sun Tzu’s dictum of defeating an enemy without fighting. Unrestricted Warfare will attack the enemy’s strategy and diplomacy, contend for “hearts, minds and morale”, and focus on enemy’s decision-making skills and personal traits.
Interfering with the OODA loop is not new to us, even Hans Morgenthau described the importance of morale and the quality of diplomacy (as did George Kennan in his intentions on containment).
The U.S. is still not armed for the Second War of Ideas, a war we’re already 7-10 years into. To be effective, we need a Department of Non-State, functionally if not bureaucratically, armed with the appropriate tools and comprehensive collaboration across agencies and countries and organizations. But we also need a Department of State as traditional diplomacy is not obsolete. The War Department changed to the Defense Department at the end of World War II and the beginning of the First War of Ideas, maybe it’s time to change the Department of State to the Department of Global Affairs.
Ideas are not confined by geo-political borders, including our own. Myopic and temporally challenged visions of who the enemy is and will be and where and how the struggle takes place must be challenged.