Good episode of The Convergence Podcast last month. Guests were Joe Littell and Maggie Smith, who recently co-authored a good article on information warfare for the Modern War Institute.
In the podcast, they discuss the article and its implications for the military.
What I like about both the article and the podcast is that we are hearing directly from practitioners – in this case in the fields of psychological operations and cyber.
Often – and especially as of late – we are hearing everyone’s opinion on these fields, whether they hold expertise or not.
One thing that I think gets to the crux of many of the military’s issues in dealing with information warfare came in the form of a question. After a long back and forth on some of the background concerning information warfare on a grand scale – political polarization, distrust in media, misinformation/disinformation, etc – the host poses the following question?
“How does the Army combat this?”
It’s not a bad question – and it is literally referencing the problem addressed in the guests’ article. The issue here is the solution to the problem goes way beyond the scope of what the Army can do. Even those tiny parts of the Army that deal exclusively with these issues.
What is the role of the Army? To win our nation’s wars.
We do ourselves a disservice if we ask it to do more than that.
There are limits to what the military can achieve in a traditional sense. Look at Afghanistan.
But there are also limits to what the military can achieve in an irregular sense. It doesn’t matter what combination of tactics, techniques, or tools you can pull together. There are extreme limits to what can be accomplished when dealing with the complexities of the human condition.
Thinking that it’s possible to fix everything, that we just haven’t discovered the right tool or educated the right people in the right way is dangerous.
This isn’t a cause for cynicism. Rather, it’s a cause for critical thinking and clearly understanding the role of the military and executing accordingly.
And pushing back when asked to do the impossible.
Lastly, there was a good conversation towards the end on the need to move away from the terms misinformation and disinformation. I agree. They are used everywhere now, mostly interchangeably or without a clear meaning.
Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re going anywhere. For what it’s worth, this is how I think of them.
For those who hang in there until the end, you’ll learn a couple of interesting facts about Joe and Maggie.
“Hangin’ with railbait like you is gonna lower my rep.”
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