Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Liberated Information and the Future of Irregular Warfare

The control, manipulation, and dissemination of information have always been a staple of conflict, but now the ability to use information in war is no longer a monopoly of the nation state. At USNI’s Blog, Petty Officer Lucien Gauthier cites a tremendous MIT Technology Review article on the subject and discusses the role of individuals who intervene in wars, with last year’s Libya revolution as a case study. Lucien presents some thought-provoking questions on the ethical dilemmas these activists will present to future nation state belligerents. Of interest to the naval crowd in the MIT article is how the how rebel NTC smugglers aided by one of their countrymen in Denver, Colorado circumvented NATO’s maritime embargo. “When the opposition smuggled weapons and humanitarian aid into Misrata's port, which was being heavily shelled by the regime, Benfayed gave NATO the time of the run, and the size and name of each boat, to reduce the chance of friendly fire. Benfayed ran his control room until he was confident he had directly linked NATO to the key leaders in each of his networks.”

The sort of informal humint network/virtual JOC Benfayed established is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to how global citizens will partipate in future wars.  The net result of this new reality is that even future state-on-state conflicts will devolve into irregular, population-centric warfare, as vigilante groups, hacktivists, diasporas, and other individual actors become engaged in the information and cyber battle spaces.

I have been researching aspects of this subject for an upcoming journal article and will discuss in future posts here how the United States and allied nations can embrace and exploit the concept of liberated information and virtual belligerents. The alternative – ignoring the power of non-state actors – will risk ceding control of not just the information high ground, but of entire military campaigns, as the initiative shifts to groups or individuals who are able to manipulate militaries on one side or the other to do their bidding.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense, the US Navy, or any other agency.

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