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Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

viernes, 2 de octubre de 2015

EE.UU. y sus percepciones estratégicas.

U.S. Must Revamp Its Approach to the ‘Battlefield of Perception’

Steven Metz |Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 

Security experts often disagree when ranking America’s security challenges, but most believe that the top three are violent Islamic extremism, Russia and China. These adversaries or potential adversaries have radically different capabilities and goals, but share one characteristic: All seem to be beating the United States on what can be called “the battlefield of perception.”

An Islamic State militant waves his group's flag as he and
 another celebrate in Fallujah,
Unconstrained by democracy and driven by a fierce pursuit of power, they adroitly craft and disseminate narratives to weaken and delegitimize the existing international order and undercut American will, thus seeking to counterbalance the U.S. advantage in military and economic power. They consider belief and perception as much a part of war as any physical fight. “We are in a battle,” al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri explained, “and more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.” The “war of the narratives has become even more important than the war of navies, napalm, and knives,” added Omar Hammami, a leader of Somalia’s al-Shabab terrorist movement.

Unfortunately, the United States faces major shortcomings on the battlefield of perception. Fourteen years after the Sept. 11 attacks and several years into Russia and China’s transition to more assertive and even aggressive foreign policies, America continues to lose at information warfare. There is no easy solution: When it comes to information warfare, the United States must accept legal and ethical limitations that dictatorships and extremist groups can ignore. That is an immutable reality.

It also doesn’t help that the narrative used by Islamic extremists, Russia and China—particularly their emphasis on the injustice and inequity of the American-dominated international system—includes, like all successful propaganda, a grain of truth. Sunni Arabs are, in fact, persecuted in Syria and Iraq. Groups like the so-called Islamic State build their narrative on very real grievances and then exaggerate them in a way that appeals to Muslims. While Russia and China are not trying to attract foreign supporters, they too build narratives of victimization that legitimize their assertiveness and undercut efforts to restrain them.

While the United States can do little about these inherent limitations on its ability to shape global narratives, it can, with leadership and effort, address self-inflicted restraints, particularly ones caused by faulty organization. The existing architecture for America’s narrative-shaping efforts is staffed by many talented information warriors but is disjointed and bureaucratic. Messages and narratives often require senior-level approval, making actions ponderously ineffective. And at the highest level, the United States lacks an overarching national organization to synchronize efforts and adjust narratives as conditions change or opportunities arise.

Things weren’t always so bad. In the opening years of the Cold War, American policymakers recognized that information warfare was an important component of Soviet strategy and built U.S. capabilities to counter Moscow’s. A series of organizational reforms led to the creation of the United States Information Agency to coordinate the efforts and messages of various government agencies. While it had shortcomings and failures, it did help the United States compete with the Soviet Union on the battlefield of perception.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, America’s information-warfare capability seemed less important. In 1999, the U.S. Information Agency was split up and its non-broadcasting information functions given to a newly created undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Department. As this position’s title indicates, the goal was more public diplomacy than information warfare.

In the seemingly benign post-Cold War security environment, the erosion of America’s information-warfare capability didn’t seem to matter much. Then the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and the ensuing conflict with transnational extremists reminded American strategists just how important the information realm had become. To an extent, former President George W. Bush attempted to regenerate America’s information-warfare capability, but the job was never completed.

Still, there has been some organizational innovation along the way. In 2010, the State Department created the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) specifically to answer online jihadist propaganda. This has not been enough, though, to turn the tide. As Simon Cottee wrote in The Atlantic, the State Department’s center “doesn’t have a narrative,” but instead relies on “counter-messaging”—defensive rather than offensive information warfare. It works hard at this and scores tactical wins, but cannot dominate the battlefield of perception. In fact, an internal State Department assessment grimly concluded that the Islamic State is winning in the realm of social media.

Outright victory in information warfare may be impossible given America’s inherent constraints. And it certainly doesn’t help that internecine conflict in the Islamic world and tension between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds fuel the extremist narrative. Even so, it is important that the United States fix its information-warfare architecture. A time of budget austerity and government downsizing is inauspicious for creating new organizations, but that is exactly what the United States needs to do. Ordering the State Department, Defense Department, National Security Council or some other existing organization to coordinate and synchronize information warfare as a secondary function simply isn’t working.

One useful—even vital—step would be to revive and strengthen the U.S. Information Agency, which should then lead the way in crafting and disseminating narratives to erode support for transnational extremist movements and aggressive dictatorships. It should actively promote the rule of law within and among nations, good governance, inclusiveness and diplomacy. This may not be a panacea, but it would help. Clearly the battlefield of perception is more important today than it has ever been. To succeed, American policymakers must recognize they can’t compete in the 21st-century security system with a 20th-century information-warfare architecture.  

Steven Metz is the author of “Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy.” His weekly WPR column, Strategic Horizons, appears every Friday. You can follow him on Twitter @steven_metz.

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