July 29, 2017

Baloch woman sprayed petrol by Pakistan army & threatened to call her brother and hand him over. BNM


Baloch woman sprayed petrol by Pakistan army & threatened to call her brother and hand him over. BNM

July 29, 2017

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Baloch woman sprayed petrol by Pakistan army & threatened to call her brother and hand him over. BNM

July 29, 2017

Baloch National Movement spokesperson issued a statement in the media and said while mentioning the brutalities and barbarism in Balochistan by Pakistan, in the 1970's, the Pakistani Army, committed massacre and genocide of Bengalis, violating the international laws. The silence of international institutions on the issue gave the certificate of continuing the process by giving exemption to Pakistan for genocide of other nations. 

Today, the same Pakistan is engaged in Baloch genocide in Balochistan. Baloch children, youths, elders and women have become mentally ill by living under the shadow of Pakistan military’s guns and fighter jets. Similarly, a large number of Baloch children, youths, elders and women have been abducted and their whereabouts remain unknown for years.

Thousands of them have been killed.

The central spokesperson added that Pakistani forces have started to harass and abduct the relatives of Baloch political activists. 

Last night, in Pasni ward No. 6, Pakistani forces stormed into the house of previously killed Sabir Baloch and sprayed petrol on his sister and mentally tortured his old and sick mother. 

Pakistani forces forcefully abducted martyred Sabir Baloch Wali Mohammad on August 4, 2014, and handed over his decomposed body to hospital administration in Gwadar on November 2, 2016, and staged a false drama that he was killed in encounter. 

Along with Sabir Baloch three more dead bodies of missing Baloch persons were dumped. Among them were young Zafar Baloch, Salahuddin and Sajid Ali. 

Many people left their cities and homes due to this act of Pakistan, they live in exile or have migrated to other safe places. 

The men of Martyr Sabir's family have also left their town Pasni and moved to a different place. 

In recent incident, Pakistani forces have entered the house of Martyr Sabir and threatened his family to call Sabir's brother in Pasni and hand him over to Pakistan security forces. Or else, his sister will be abducted. 

The family members fear that the other brothers of Sabir Baloch will also get killed. 

Due to the fear, they have left their native area. With this threat Pakistani forces sprayed petrol at the family members, which is against all human rights and international laws.

Similarly, in recent days, Pakistani forces broke the windows and doors of BNM’s senior exiled leader Zafar Ali Baloch’s house and then occupied the empty house in Hub, Balochistan. 

After twenty-four hours without any intervention, the forces left the house and went back. But this is a policy to keep the entire family in mental pressure. Note, this house was vacated when the Pakistani forces raided and abducted Zafar Ali Baloch's cousin Safar Ali s/o Qadir Bakhsh on October 23, 2013. He is still missing. 

Similarly, BSO Azad’s leader and Safar Ali’s cousin Shabir Baloch, was abducted by Pakistani forces on October 4, 2016, from Gwarkop area of District Kech, Balochistan and his family is being constantly threatened.

He further added that, Political inmates are facing constant threats from the Pakistan army and other organizations, that they should quit their political activities. Otherwise, their families will have to face extreme consequences. 

Pakistani forces have abducted and murdered a number of relatives of the political workers affiliated with BNM or any other political organization working in Balochistan including the relatives of BNM leaders in exile. 

UN and Human Rights Institutions should bring Pakistan into

U.S. Landpower in the South China Sea

 July 07, 2017 LTC Clarence J Bouchat (USAF, Ret)



U.S. landpower is an essential, but often overlooked, element of national power in semi-enclosed maritime environments like the South China Sea. This monograph gives U.S. policymakers a better understanding of the role of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Forces (SOF) in the region through potential combat operations employing wide area defense and maneuver; deterrence through forward presence and peacetime operations; and security engagement with landpower-dominant allies, partners, and competitors in the region. Landpower’s capabilities are also essential for direct support of the air and sea services and other government organization’s success when operating in this theater in direct support of U.S. national interests

Prospects for the Rules-Based Global Order

Main content

Jun 2017

What might the future hold for the ‘rules-based global order’? The three essays in this volume address this question by looking at 1) what the end of US predominance, the rise of China and a resurgent Russia may mean for the future of the rules-based global order; 2) how differing national perspectives, the South China Sea disputes and China’s growing influence could affect the prospects for a regional system based on the ‘rule of law’ in Asia-Pacific; and 3) what Russia’s annexation of Crimea reveals about Moscow’s view of the international rules-based order.

Download English (PDF, 24 pages, 1.16 MB)

Author Greg Raymond, Hitoshi Nasu, See Seng Tan, Rob McLaughlin

Series SDSC Centre of Gravity

Publisher Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC

)Copyright© 2017 Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC)

Doklam face-off a power play by New Delhi in the disguise of border dispute


By Zhang Ye Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/27 19:58:40


Since the Doklam face-off started over a month ago, India has given different versions of the reasons why its troops crossed the border to stop a PLA road construction team. 

On June 26, Times of India reported that a PLA team invaded Indian territory by crossing the Sino-Indian boundary line in Sikkim section and triggered the face-off. On the same day a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responded by presenting a picture showing that it was Indian soldiers that crossed the border into Chinese territory, and two days later the Hindustan Times reported that General BipinRawat, chief of army staff of the Indian Army, denied that Indian territory was invaded by PLA troops. 

On June 30 the Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued an official document on the "recent development in Doklam area," which gave a different explanation of the incident. It said a PLA construction party entered disputed territory between China and Bhutan, and "in coordination with [Bhutan], Indian personnel approached the Chinese construction party and urged them to desist from changing the status quo." This indicates that where China entered is not Indian's territory but Bhutan's territory, and the purpose of India's action is to protect Bhutan's territory from China's invasion.

However, as a third party of the Sino-Bhutan border dispute, does the Indian military have the right to trespass across the Sino-Indian established border to stop China's road construction? If yes, it would be very dangerous, for under India's logic, if Pakistan requests, a third country's army can enter the area disputed by India and Pakistan, including India-controlled Kashmir. 

Moreover, in a statement issued by the Bhutan government on June 29, there was no mention of asking for help from or consulting with the Indian government. According to diplomatic sources, the Bhutan government even didn't know about India's move to cross the border in advance.

So what are the benefits to India in the Doklam face-off? The area is of very huge significance in military and geostrategic competition. When China started to construct the road, India feared this would facilitate China's projection of military forces and weaken India's advantages. 

However, the construction of a single road cannot change the military balance between China and India and the status quo. Therefore, it is India's illusory fear of losing its military advantage in the South Asia that leads to its overreaction in the Doklam region. This triggered the face-off in this remote mountainous area, although the site of the road construction is well within China's territory.

The other factor that should be considered is the ongoing border talks between China and Bhutan, a small mountainous country of only 700,000 people, deeply influenced by India in economics, politics and diplomacy. Since the 1980s China and Bhutan have conducted 24 rounds of border negotiations. Although the final delimitation hasn't been completed yet, consensus has been reached on the practical geographic conditions and the direction of the boundary lines. 

However, the progress of border talks is thought not to be in the interests of India, for if the border dispute is settled, China and Bhutan will establish a normal diplomatic relationship, which will strengthen Sino-Bhutan ties and weaken India's influence over Bhutan. Many Bhutanese people complain that it is India's interference that impedes the Sino-Bhutan border negotiation. 

Moreover, the ongoing border row in Doklam has put India in a better position to increase its military presence in Bhutan, which will further strengthen India's control over Bhutan. Therefore India sent its troops into the Doklam area in the name of helping Bhutan, but in fact, India is making use of Bhutan to increase its strategic advantage over China.

So the Doklam face-off is in nature a great power competition in the disguise of border dispute, a more complicated situation than past border disputes between India and China. Over a month into the standoff, the intention of India is becoming increasingly clear to the world, and more and more people believe that China has the right and power to defend its territory. As long as India keeps its military force there, it will fall deeper into the strategic dilemma created by itself, so withdrawing its troops out of the Doklam area is the only right approach to solving the crisis for India.  

The author is a research fellow of PLA Naval Research Institute. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

Doklam’s Big Picture: Neither Asia nor the World is China-Centric


Shyam Saran

Updated: 29 July, 2017 12:15 PM IST



India is in a prolonged standoff with Chinese forces on the Doklam plateau. China may have been caught off guard after Indian armed forces confronted a Chinese road-building team in the Bhutanese territory.

Peaceful resolution requires awareness of the context for the unfolding events. China has engaged in incremental nibbling advances in this area with Bhutanese protests followed by solemn commitments not to disturb the status quo. The intrusions continued. This time, the Chinese signalled intention to establish a permanent presence, expecting the Bhutanese to acquiesce while underestimating India’s response.

Managing the China challenge requires understanding the history of Chinese civilisation and the worldview of its people formed over 5,000 years of tumultuous history.

Caution is required before mechanistically applying historical patterns to the present as these are overlaid with concepts borrowed from other traditions and behaviour patterns arising from deep transformations within China and the world at large.

Also Read: View from Bhutan – China Has Always Had Its Eye on Doklam

How China Constructs Modern Narrative of Power

The ideas of US naval officer Alfred Thayer Mahan and British geographer Halford Mackinder are just as discernible in Chinese strategic thinking today as concepts derived from the writings of ancient strategist Sun Zi.

The One Belt One Road project initiated by China is Mackinder and Mahan in equal measure: The Belt, designed to secure Eurasia, dominance over which would grant global hegemony, was suggested by Mackinder in 1904; the Road which straddles the oceans, enabling maritime ascendancy, is indispensable in pursuing hegemony, according to Mahan in the late 19th century.

China’s pursuit of predominance at the top of regional and global order, with the guarantee of order, has an unmistakable American flavour. It also echoes Confucius, the Chinese sage who argued that harmony and hierarchy are intertwined: All is well as long as each person knows his place in a predesignated order.

China uses templates of the past as instruments of legitimisation to construct a modern narrative of power.

One key element of the narrative is that China’s role as Asia’s dominant power to which other countries must defer restores the position the nation occupied throughout most of history. The period stretching from mid-18th century to China’s liberation in 1949, when the county was reduced to semi-colonial status, subjected to invasions by imperialist powers and Japan, is characterised as an aberration.

The tributary system is presented as artful statecraft evolved by China to manage interstate relationships in an asymmetrical world. Rarely acknowledged is that China was a frequent tributary to keep marauding tribes at bay. The Tang emperor paid tribute to the Tibetans as well as to the fierce Xiongnu tribes to keep peace.

History shows a few periods when its periphery was occupied by relatively weaker states. China itself was occupied and ruled by non-Han invaders, including the Mongols from the 12th to 15th centuries and the Manchus from the 15th to 20th centuries. Far from considering these empires oppressive, modern Chinese political discourse seeks to project itself as a successor state entitled to territorial acquisitions of those empires, including vast non-Han areas such as Xinjiang and Tibet. As China scholar Mark Elliot notes, there is “a bright line drawn from empire to republic.”

Thus, an imagined history is put forward to legitimise China’s claim to Asian hegemony, and remarkably, much of this contrived history is increasingly considered as self-evident in western and even Indian discourse.

Little in history supports the proposition that China was the centre of the Asian universe commanding deference among less civilised states around its periphery. China’s contemporary rise is remarkable, but does not entitle the nation to claim a fictitious centrality bestowed upon it by history.

The One Belt One Road initiative also seeks to promote the notion that China through most of its history was the hub for trade and transportation routes radiating across Central Asia to Europe and across the seas to Southeast Asia, maritime Europe and even the eastern coast of Africa. China was among many countries that participated in a network of caravan and shipping routes crisscrossing the ancient landscape before the advent of European imperialism. Other great trading nations include the ancient Greeks and Persians and later the Arabs. Much of the Silk Road trade was in the hands of the Sogdians who inhabited the oasis towns leading from India in the east and Persia in the west into western China.

Thus, recasting a complex history to reflect a Chinese centrality that never existed is part of China’s current narrative of power.

Also Read: Should India Take China’s Doklam Threat Seriously? Experts Speak

In Reality, Neither Asia nor the World is China-centric

China, as a great trading nation, owes its current prosperity to being part of an interconnected global market with extended value chains. This has little to do with its economic history as a mostly self-contained and insular economy. External trade contributed little to its prosperity.

Yet large sections of Asian and Western opinion already concede to China the role of a predominant power, assuming that it may be best to acquiesce to inevitability. The Chinese are delighted to be benchmarked to the United States with the corollary, as argued by Harvard University’s Graham Allison, that the latter must accommodate China to avoid inevitable conflict between established and rising powers. However in other metrics of power, with the exception of GDP, China lags behind the United States, which still leads in military capabilities and scientific and technological advancements.

In reality, neither Asia nor the world is China-centric. China may continue to expand its capabilities and may even become the most powerful country in the world. But the emerging world is likely to be home to a cluster of major powers, old and new. The Chinese economy is slowing, similar to other major economies. It has an ageing population, an ecologically ravaged landscape and mounting debt that is 250 percent of GDP. China also remains a brittle and opaque polity.

Its historical insularity is at odds with the cosmopolitanism that an interconnected world demands of any aspiring global power.

Any emerging and potentially threatening power will confront resistance. When Bismarck created a powerful German state at the heart of Europe in the late 19th century, he recognised the anxieties among European states and anticipated attempts to constrain the expanding influence. China, like other nations before, cultivates an aura of overwhelming power and invincibility to prevent resistance. Despite this, coalitions are forming in the region with significant increases in military expenditures and security capabilities by Asia-Pacific countries.

Also Read: Experts Decode China’s Doklam Dare: Troops Won’t Wait Indefinitely

China Wants to Weaken India’s Relationship With Bhutan

Doklam should be seen from this perspective. The enhanced Chinese activity is directed towards weakening India’s close and privileged relationship with Bhutan, opening the door to China’s entry and settlement of the Sino-Bhutan border, advancing Chinese security interests vis-à-vis India.

India must carefully select a few key issues where it must confront China, avoiding annoyances not vital to national security. Doklam is a significant security challenge.

India must form its own narrative for shaping the emerging world order. The world’s largest democracy must resist attempts by any power to establish dominance over Asia and the world. This may require closer, more structured coalitions with other powers that share India’s preference. In fact, current and emerging distribution of power in Asia and across the globe support a multipolar architecture reflecting diffusion and diversity of power relations in an interconnected world.

India possesses the civilisational attributes for contributing to a new international order attuned to contemporary realities. Its culture is innately cosmopolitan. India embraces vast diversity and inherent plurality, yet has a sense of being part of a common humanity. India should leverage these assets in shaping a new world order that is humanity-centric. Narrow and mindless eruptions of nationalism, communalism and sectarianism detract from India’s credibility in this role. India should advance its interests, with constant awareness of responsibilities in a larger interdependent world.

(Shyam Saran has served as India’s foreign secretary and as chairman of its National Security Advisory Board. He writes and speaks regularly on foreign policy and security issues. This article is adapted from the inaugural lecture delivered by the author at the Institute of Chinese Studies and the India International Centre, New Delhi. This column first appeared in YaleGlobal Online and has been republished with permission

India in one picture: This is real India:

This is real India. A CRPF jawan stands guard while a J&K Police man offers Namaz in #Kashmir. Brothers in arms! 🇮🇳 https://t.co/qRtspZFuXv

July 28, 2017

We’re the 99% and we’re not so united


by Serge Halimi 

Water boils at 100°C; that’s certain. But there’s little point expecting the behaviour of societies to conform to the laws of physics. That 1% of people command the majority of the world’s wealth does not mean that the 99% are a cohesive social group, still less a political force at boiling point.

The 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement was built around an idea and a slogan: ‘We are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.’ Studies just before it happened showed that almost all of the gains from an economic upturn had gone to the US’s wealthiest 1%. This wasn’t a historical aberration or a national exception. Almost everywhere a similar outcome has consistently been encouraged by government policy. In France, the tax plans of President Macron will largely benefit ‘the richest 280,000 households ... whose assets are mainly in the form of financial investments and business shares’ (1).

Does that mean that everyone else has so much in common that they could overthrow the established order by pooling their energies? When you’re privileged, but not a billionaire, it may be consoling to fantasise that you’re part of the same social bloc as the proletariat. But the 99% are a mix of the wretched of the earth and a (fairly thick) stratum of the upper middle class: doctors, university teachers, journalists, senior management, PR and senior civil servants, without whom the 1% couldn’t last for more than 48 hours. Lumping them all together in the 99% is reminiscent of the foundational American myth that claims everyone is middle class, and almost everyone is rich or about to become so (2).

If union brings strength, so too does cohesion; but history has taught us that the great moments of agreement and unanimity do not last long. In February 1848, workers and the middle class manned the barricades side by side in Paris, but by the June Days (3) they were in deadly conflict. It’s hard enough building an alliance, even between progressive movements in the same country. Imagining a common plan, a sustainable political force on such an indiscriminate scale as ‘humanity minus the oligarchs’, smacks at best of utopia, at worst of an unwillingness to choose, to come down on one side. It won’t ultimately achieve much more than a defence of consensual rights or opposition to child abuse and road accidents.

For anything else, the 99% will get us nowhere.

Serge Halimi

Serge Halimi is president and director of Le Monde diplomatique



By Peter Gleick June 15, 2017

The failure to address water problems through diplomacy will lead to new and growing security risks, including for the U.S.

Around 2500 BC, Urlama, the King of the city-state of Lagash, diverted water from boundary irrigation canals between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to deprive a neighboring region, Umma, of water. This act, in a region corresponding to parts of modern day Iraq, Syria, and southern Turkey, was the first recorded political and military dispute over water resources. Four and a half millennia later, water remains an instrument of coercion and a source of tensions and conflict. The Islamic State has reportedly used water as a weapon, depriving communities in Mosul of access to a water supply, and control over water facilities has been used repeatedly, worsening access to safe water for civilian populations.

Fresh water has long been a vital and necessary natural resource, and it has long been a source of tension, a military tool, and a target during war. The links between water and conflict have been the subject of extensive analysis for several decades, beginning with the development of the literature on “environmental security” and water conflicts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In coming years, new factors, including rising populations, industrial and agricultural demand for water, human-induced climate change, and political uncertainties make it increasingly urgent that solutions to water tensions be found and implemented. The failure to address water problems through diplomacy will lead to new and growing security risks, including for the U.S. The U.S. and its allies must develop and employ a wide variety of instruments to reduce instability and the risk of conflict related to growing water problems, before military intervention is needed.

Global and regional water challenges

Fresh water is vital for all human economic and social activities, from the production of food and energy, to support for industrial development, to the maintenance of natural ecosystems. Yet freshwater resources are limited, unevenly distributed in space and time, increasingly contaminated or overused, and poorly managed. These constraints, coupled with growing populations and economies, are putting more and more pressure on natural water resources, even in regions where they were previously considered abundant. Such pressures have the potential to explode into violent conflict.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, military and academic experts concerned about international security and conflict began to shift their focus from realpolitik and superpower politics to an evaluation of other threats to national and international stability. These included environmental threats such as energy security and oil transfers, transboundary environmental pollution, conflicts over water resources, and the potential impacts of climate change.

The fundamental concept, now widely accepted, is that political instability and violence, especially at the local or regional level, are extensively influenced by economic, demographic, and social factors that are themselves sensitive to resource and environmental conditions.

Even in a static world, conditions and challenges in major international river basins would persist. Yet the world is not static, but experiencing dynamic and often rapid changes in demographics and environmental conditions. Populations are growing rapidly, economies are expanding or changing focus, and the climate is undergoing increasingly rapid shifts due to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.

The links between resources and security concerns include direct and indirect impacts. Direct conflicts over access to water are uncommon and almost always local – related to water scarcity and access. But there is also a rise in direct attacks on water systems, such as dams, water treatment and distribution plants, and hydroelectric facilities, in conflicts that start for other (non-resource-related) reasons. In recent years, major dams and water infrastructure have been both used as weapons of war and directly attacked by different sides in the wars in Iraq and Syria, as well as in Ukraine.

Indirect effects include cases in which water resources lead to changes in food production or other economic factors, which in turn contribute to state instability and conflict. In Syria, for example, the civil war is a complicated mix of ethnic, religious, and ideological disputes, but there are also documented links between social unrest and violent conflict related to influences of regional long-term droughtclimate change, agricultural crop failures, rising rural unemployment and migration to cities.

It is no accident that water is especially politically controversial in the Middle East: it is an arid, water-short region; every significant river and watershed is shared by two or more countries, including the Nile, Jordan, Tigris, Euphrates, and Orontes. As a result, international agreements about sustainable river management are critical, yet there have been very few successful inter-basin treaties signed for the region.

National and international leaders must take steps to reduce the risks and threats associated with water insecurity.

In recent decades, the lack of adequate international agreements has contributed to a series of political and potentially violent water-related disputes in the region. In 1974, Iraq threatened to bomb the al-Thawra (Tabqa) Dam in Syria and massed troops along the Syrian-Iraq border, alleging that the dam reduced flows of Euphrates water to Iraq. In 1990, the flow of the Euphrates was temporarily interrupted when Turkey finished construction on the massive Ataturk Dam. Both Syria and Iraq protested the interruption. The political situation was worsened when Turkish President Turgut Özal threatened to restrict water flow to Syria to force it to withdraw support for Kurdish rebels. In June 2015, Islamic State militants shut off and redirected water flows below Ramadi Dam on the Euphrates River in order to facilitate military movements. Two months later, Syrian rebel groups cut off water from a spring in Ain al-Fijah, reducing water output to Damascus by 90 percent for three days and leading to water shortages and rationing. In December 2015, Russian Federation forces reportedly bombed the al-Khafsa water treatment facility in the city of Aleppo cutting off water for millions of people.

According to Global Water Security, a recent report produced by the U.S. intelligence community, such threats are increasingly relevant to decisions about conflict resolution and national security policy and strategy. Analyzing global and regional water security issues, the report concludes that water problems along with social tensions, poverty, environmental degradation, weak governments, and other factors will contribute to political instability in regions and countries important to U.S. national security. The intelligence report also identified competition between nations over water, weak economies, and limited technical ability as destabilizing factors in some countries. It concluded that these issues would grow over the next decade.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community have acknowledged the reality of environmental disruptions and the risks they pose to U.S. global interests as “threat multipliers” that contribute to destabilizing political and security impacts. The Center for Naval Analysis Military Advisory Board raised this point in the context of the growing likelihood that climate change would worsen drought, famine, flood, and refugee problems.

The 2014 U.S. Quadrennial Defense Reviewalso considered resource issues as threat multipliers that pose significant challenges for the United States and the world at large. The 2014 Review argued that these threats “can enable terrorist activities and other forms of violence.” A March 2017 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Parliamentary Assembly assessment identified food and water problems as special challenges for security in the Middle East and North Africa, noting, “[d]eteriorating food and water security can lead to domestic unrest, potentially destabilising countries” and “[f]ood and water resources and infrastructure can also be targeted or used as coercive tools in times of conflict.” The May 11, 2017 statement of the Director of National Intelligence to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence noted, “[h]eightened tensions over shared water resources are likely in some regions.”

Recent security concerns in Europe have been related to the massive population dislocation and refugee flows driven by the civil war in Syria, as well as by the continued economic and political unrest in Iraq and North Africa. The European Commission has linked the refugee crisis to both the overall political situation in the conflict region as well as to climate change and water problems.

National and international leaders must take steps to reduce the risks and threats associated with water insecurity. Options include: improvements and modifications in water supply and use; reduction in inefficient water practices; agricultural reform; economic strategies to strengthen resilience to climate and water variability; improved resource management; broader political stabilization; diplomatic approaches; and direct military strategies.

For water resources, combinations of these approaches have been synthesized in descriptions of a more integrated management approach, or a “soft path for water.” An application of these kinds of strategies could have reduced the role that water played in the recent Syrian civil war: more efficient agricultural water use would have permitted greater food production and the retention of rural jobs. Policies to more effectively manage variable supplies could have lessened the economic costs of the drought. Modern technologies such as precision irrigation, soil-moisture monitors, desalination, distributed wastewater treatment, smart metering, and more can also reduce the difficulties associated with sustainable water management.

A long history of political tensions and violence associated with poor water policies and management, combined with new threats associated with growing populations, new ideological challenges, and a changing climate make it urgent that we better understand – and work to reduce — the risks of water-related conflict. Solutions to water tensions exist but the failure to address these issues greatly increases the risks that violence and conflict over water will grow and that military and intelligence resources will be called into action. The British politician, Tony Benn, said, “War represents a failure of diplomacy.” If we fail to manage water sustainably, strategically, and effectively, water will be an increasing source of conflict. The good news is that smart solutions exist if we have the foresight and initiative to pursue them.


Dr. Peter Gleick is a hydroclimatologist and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Army or the U.S. Government.

Portions of this paper were prepared for Gleick, Peter H. 2017. “Water Resources, Climate Change, and the Destabilization of Modern Mesopotamia.” In Water, Security and U.S. Foreign Policy, edited by David Reed, 1st, 149-167. Routledge.



By Theodore Zagraniski June 28, 2017

How do action officers (or anyone below the executive level) get their principal’s priorities on a final list of recommendations for the Secretary of Defense’s approval? Faithfully, even forcefully, presenting the message is not enough.

You can learn a lot about an institution by listening to its arguments. Not so long ago, a disagreement in the Pentagon ended something like this:

“We have to do this my way,” a combatant commander’s action officer said. “This is what my four-star wants as the supported commander.”

“That’s interesting,” a Joint Staff representative replied. “But everybody here works for a four-star.”

The matter was not decided in the combatant command’s favor.

This vignette might be taken as evidence of bureaucratic obstinacy. The combatant command’s request appears to have been dismissed out of hand. However, one might also say this argument is an example of strategic integration. When two dozen organizations have roughly equal authority and two dozen action officers have their own wish list of requests, the Joint Staff has no choice but to decide how much of each command’s list can be supported in concert with all the other lists without completely neglecting an entire command or overwhelming joint capability and capacity.

In situations like this, which are very common in the Pentagon, how do action officers (or anyone below the executive level) get their principal’s priorities on a final list of recommendations for the Secretary of Defense’s approval? Faithfully, even forcefully, presenting the message is not enough. There are six things you can do to increase the chances that your command’s interests are reflected in the outcome of discussions in Pentagon.

1. Accept that no choice is binary.

There are always more than two options. Through decades of schooling and sports, many of us learn to think of all choices as a matter of right versus wrong. We mistakenly believe there is a rationally optimal choice, which anyone, anywhere would accept as long as they apply sound reasoning. The Pentagon disabuses workers of this fallacy in short order. The fact is, no choice is binary in the Pentagon.

Every position that must be taken, option that must be exercised, or policy that must be developed falls somewhere on a vast spectrum of choices between “do absolutely nothing” and “throw out the system, start over.” Too often, well-meaning workers present their leaders with a “this-or-nothing” decision brief, as if to say that the leader must only choose whether to accept or reject the work exactly as written.

Wise Pentagon workers know there are as many nuanced positions and policy options as there are stakeholders in a conversation. To win an argument, the first step is to recognize that everyone’s proposed position is both valid and fluid. If rationality should be involved, we must rationally acknowledge that no stakeholder’s position is inherently more or less valuable than other stakeholders’ positions. Accept that no choice is binary, and you will start to see that winning an argument is about trading ancillary aspects of your position to others so that every stakeholder gets as much of their core position or policy adopted as possible.

2. Avoid technical or bureaucratic reasoning.

Executives care about the destination, not about road-building and lane-striping. Even the most Byzantine processes are determined by executive decisions. At the leadership level, the details of how a decision is carried into effect matter much less than the results and implications. The best executives speak in a common language that spans organizational cultures and rests on the concepts of cost, benefit, end state, and risk. More on that later.

Abandon forever the habit of describing a policy option in terms of the process needed to achieve it. Instead, elevate your thinking and your talking points beyond the technical or bureaucratic. Executives, even from other organizations, have great faith in your ability to carry out their decisions. They trust that you will take the steps required, even if you are not sure what they are yet. And — just to be clear — a recitation of the required steps is not necessary. So, save yourself from patronizing politeness by pulling your argument out of the wire diagrams and routing slips. Come to the discussion ready to explain what your proposal achieves and more audiences will relate to it. The more people think your position is relevant, the more likely you are to influence the discussion.

3. Never stake a position on less than six stars.

Title 10, United States Code, section 526, limits the number of general and flag officers on active duty in the Department of Defense. If you have never read this rather obscure federal law, you would be forgiven for thinking the number is small. It is not. The statutory limit is 963 general and flag officers across the Department of Defense, plus many exceptions that do not count towards the limit.

Those thousand general and flag officers are encouraging, guiding, and directing their action officers every day in the hopes of affecting change in their commands’ interests. When virtually every organization that participates in any discussion can produce a general or flag officer memo with ease, the memos lose their clout. That matters because it means no one organization has a voice powerful enough to win an argument in the Pentagon on its own.

At the Pentagon, the same staffers who show mild interest in a single organization’s position will pay immediate attention when a position is presented with the overt support of two or more high-ranking generals. Although this is admittedly a rule a thumb based on anecdotal information, “six stars” is a good reference point.

In the Pentagon, six stars behind a position is likely to get instant attention. This is equally true when three Directors (major generals) address their Vice Chief of Staff (a general), or when the Vice Chiefs of Staff of two services (both four-star officers) send a memo to an Undersecretary. Schedules are rearranged swiftly, no-notice meetings are called, and recommendations are given careful consideration. Where to find the six-plus stars you need depends on the argument you are trying to win.

4. Build the broadest possible coalition.

You should always seek to build a coalition that spans as much of the breadth of a forum’s membership as you can manage. Joint discussions demand joint coalitions. For example, if all of the uniformed services are invited to a round-table, and the Army wants to win the argument, then the Army’s representatives will have a much higher chance of carrying their point if they spent the time ahead of the forum to get the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps’ representatives on board.

Arguments within a single organization require coalitions across staff sections. Sometimes the composition of a would-be coalition is obvious. Other times, it is not. Consider budgeteers, strategists, acquisition professionals, policymakers, as well as human capital managers, force designers, and supply chain managers. The permutations are extensive, but always remember that the broadest possible coalition willing to speak with a shared voice, has the best chance of carrying the day.

Granted, forging many stakeholders into a cooperative body can sometimes require moderating the finer points of various positions. Fortunately, the act of coalition building will force you to decide which aspects of your desired outcome are essential, and which can be adjusted, traded, or dropped for the sake of shared buy-in. Some may say this is losing, but you will know better. This is winning as much as you can, when you can, with friends.

5. Stick to a common language: costs, benefits, ends, and risks.

Voltaire wrote, “Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another.” Differing definitions of any term can cause organizations to talk past each other. Removing jargon from your communications not only helps to avoid confusion, it also focuses your words more clearly on the essence of a problem, such as making the right trade-offs across disparate activities.

All governmental activities incur costs to deliver benefits toward a desired end state, but do so while imposing some risk to other activities that could have used the same resources in a different way. Jargon can be fatal to achieving the essential understanding of these trade-offs. Ruthlessly criticize your own communications. Stick with broadly applicable terms which have generally accepted definitions. As mentioned earlier, executives often speak in a common language that rests on the concepts of cost, benefit, end state, and risk.

redefine what it means to “win.” Winning is not about crashing through every barrier and reaching the top of everyone’s priority list. Rather, winning means achieving productive, positive change, adequately resourced and properly administered.

Whether you want to launch a satellite, patrol the ocean, guard Americans overseas, or train an ally, every one of these activities can be described in terms of the foundational understanding of benefits and costs. By using a common language, you will avoid explaining your position as if you are addressing a hall full of mid-level managers from your own organization. Rather, you will create shared understanding across many stakeholders. This allows influential people who may know nothing about the details of your work to feel comfortable putting your position into the context of all the other positions competing for the same resources.

You cannot build a coalition outside your own office unless people with significantly different points of view feel like they have a good idea what you are talking about. Stick with a common language to achieve that.

6. Embrace a new way of “winning”.

Finally, if you want to win an argument at the Pentagon, redefine what it means to “win.” Winning is not about crashing through every barrier and reaching the top of everyone’s priority list. Rather, winning means achieving productive, positive change, adequately resourced and properly administered.

Embrace compromise and the moderated goals that go along with it. the Pentagon is the place where the interests of many organizations are merged into a single, $600 billion annual budget with clear priorities. Priorities wax and wane. White House interest is piqued and sated. The winds and tides are good metaphors for the swirl of competing interests, ideas, and priorities that exist at any given time in the Department of Defense.

If you are serious about achieving something great at the highest levels of American national security policy, cast off the simplistic idea of zero-sum arguments. Seek instead to build a broad coalition remembering that every organization has interests, which often overlap. Use common language to avoid minutia while focusing on important, cross-organizational questions. Compromise to let many stakeholders gain 80 percent of something rather than 100 percent of nothing. That is how you win an argument in the Pentagon.


Theodore Zagraniski is a Major in the United States Army. The views expressed in this article are the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government



By Michael Dhunjishah July 7, 2017

The dissolution of the Soviet Union did not mean the end of active measures. Allegations of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential election should serve as a wake-up call.

On July 16, 1983, a pro-Soviet Indian newspaper, Patriot, ran the headline “AIDS may invade India: Mystery disease caused by US experiments,” based on a letter to the editor it received from an anonymous American scientist. The letter, planted in the newspaper by the Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (KGB), was the beginning of a large Soviet disinformation campaign claiming the US Military created the AIDS virus and released it as a weapon. The story did not get much attention until October 1985, when the official Soviet cultural weekly, Literaturnaya Gazeta, quoted the Patriot article, lending more credence to the story. The disinformation campaign gathered momentum. By the end of 1985, similar articles were published in 13 countries. In 1986 it reached 50 countries, including many in the West. By July 1987, the story had been published over 40 times in official Soviet press and was reprinted or rebroadcast in 80 countries in over 30 different languages. Only after the U.S. government’s Interagency Active Measures Working Group (AMWG) published factual evidence countering the Soviet disinformation did the Soviets finally agree to stop promoting these falsehoods in October 1987.

Although the idea that AIDS was a U.S. military weapon seems ridiculous now, it serves as an example of the ability of unchecked disinformation to spread. In the pre-internet world of the AIDS disinformation campaign, it took a little over two years for the false story to “go viral.” In today’s media environment, it can take just a day, making disinformation a very attractive low-risk strategy for adversaries.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union successfully employed what it called active measures — the integration of disinformation, propaganda, assassinations, political repression and other activities to undermine popular support for governments. According to a 1987 State Department report, “[T]he goal of active measures is to influence opinions and/or actions of individuals, governments and/or publics.” Importantly, the Soviet Union did not differentiate between “overt propaganda [and] covert action, or between diplomacy and political violence.”

The Active Measures Working Group was formed in 1981 to counter Soviet disinformation. It was an interagency activity that included members of the State Department, Department of Defense (DOD), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), U.S. Information Agency (U.S.IA) and the Arms, Control and Disarmament Agency (now part of the Department of State). Its mission was to identify and expose Soviet disinformation, which it accomplished using a report – analyze – publicize methodology. They “received and combined reports from U.S.IA posts around the world, the CIA, and FBI investigations,” which the respective agencies would analyze and then come together as an interagency group to determine what they could and could not effectively counter. The resulting unclassified reports on Soviet disinformation were circulated throughout the interagency and to the press. It was one of these reports in 1987 that forced the Soviet Union to disavow the allegations against the U.S. inventing the AIDS virus.

The success of the AMWG in the 1980s provides some important lessons for the modern-day context. One was a commitment to a very narrow mission — exposing“disinformation (outright lies) rather than propaganda (persuasion).” Additionally, the AMWG focused on countering disinformation campaigns that could be “exposed in a compelling way with unclassified or declassified information.” This was not always easy because the FBI, CIA and DIA had a responsibility to protect their sources and methods. Persistence, accuracy, trustworthiness, credibility were all hallmarks of the AMWG’s work.

Moreover, the working group recognized that using arguments focused on countering Soviet ideology could hinge on an individual’s political beliefs, therefore they worked to expose Soviet lies and not directly attack the underlying Soviet ideology. Where is the U.S. Government’s Active Measures Working Group now? It was disbanded in 1992, and never replaced.

Herbert Romerstein, the working group’s longest serving member, summed up the dismantling of the AMWG, “Without counterpropaganda, we’ve unilaterally disarmed.” Consequently, the U.S. presently lacks the capability to counter active measures and sustain trust in media sources. The dissolution of the Soviet Union did not mean the end of active measures. Allegations of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential election should serve as a wake-up call.

The United States is investigating Russian disinformation efforts during the 2016 presidential election campaign. The alleged hacking of Democratic National Committee emails by Russian-backed hackers is well known. This selective release of private information was a combination of political espionage and sabotage. But another, perhaps more insidious, aspect of Russia’s purported activities is classic disinformation: spreading actually false information in attempts to shape the political narrative, while undermining the credibility of legitimate sources. Shortly after the election, various news outlets highlighted allegations by several groups that “a Russian propaganda effort had helped spread these ‘fake news’ stories to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 presidential election.” Commentators have argued over whether Putin’s “aim [was] to discredit the U.S. election process,” or merely “sowing distrust” of all media in the U.S. Regardless of whether the operations favored one candidate over another, or if the purpose was simply to disrupt and discredit the U.S. electoral process, it is a problem. The U.S. Government must change the way it counters Russian information operations campaigns, specifically propaganda and disinformation.

The U.S. government has no coherent reply when adversaries direct active measures against the U.S. population. Russia exploits seams and gaps in the U.S. bureaucracy to prevent the U.S. from properly identifying and exposing disinformation and propaganda. Which agency has the responsibility to lead the national response?

Currently there is no credible whole-of-government approach. The U.S. geographic combatant commands, especially U.S. European Command, are working to combat Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns focused on our North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. However, this highlights one of the principle problems of the U.S. government in tackling this problem — the lack of a global approach. Instead, the U.S. government is currently fighting this problem one geographic region at a time.

The U.S. government must develop a capability that prevents such propaganda and disinformation attacks from slipping under the radar and going unnoticed or unanswered. The U.S. was founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and prides itself on the freedom of speech. However, it is this freedom of speech that the Russians and other adversaries of the U.S. are exploiting. Once again, Herbert Romerstein succinctly summed up this point by stating, “[The U.S.] democracy need not let its institutions serve as delivery systems for enemy propaganda. As it has in the past, the U.S. and its allies can neutralize the threat through counterpropaganda.”

The U.S. government has no coherent reply when adversaries direct active measures against the U.S. population. Russia exploits seams and gaps in the U.S. bureaucracy to prevent the U.S. from properly identifying and exposing disinformation and propaganda. Which agency has the responsibility to lead the national response? Is it the FBI, U.S. Northern Command, DoS, the CIA, Department of Homeland Security or some other federal agency? The answer right now is “it depends.” It depends on a myriad of circumstances: was a law broken, was someone slandered, was the information sent over a computer network, was a foreign agent directly involved, etc.?

Fortunately, the U.S. Congress is aware of the growing efforts of Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns and passed a provision in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (FY17 NDAA) directing that the Department of State (DoS), in conjunction with the Department of Defense (DOD), establish an element within the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) that would be responsible for counter-disinformation and counter-propaganda efforts. As with anything of this nature, the devil is in the details. Although the expanded mission of the GEC to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation campaigns is now law, actually making the change within the GEC will be difficult. Grafting the AMWG model into the current situation may not work because of several factors, each of which requires a thoughtful approach.

First, the U.S. public may have concerns that the new AMWG may violate freedom of speech. After all, how does the U.S. government determine when something is disinformation or propaganda. Once that determination is made, how does the government discriminate between ordinary U.S. citizens expressing their right to free speech and a foreign government trying to influence the American public.  Fighting lies with lies is unlikely to work in the U.S. system, in which a free press is constantly (and appropriately) auditing the claims of the government. It must be clear what the GEC can and cannot do. The language in the law specifically states that the GEC will be set up to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.” When communicating the change, U.S. leaders must continuously remind the public of the impact (real or perceived) that propaganda and disinformation had in the November 2016 election.

Second, the creation of an AMWG-like element in the GEC may simply create a new bureaucratic bottleneck. The tendency of large organizations to seek to improve themselves through bureaucratic growth is notorious, and often counterproductive. However, this concern does not accurately account for the dysfunctions of the current environment regarding information operations in the U.S.G. Currently, in order to execute any significant information operations campaign, planners must gain approval at the Undersecretary of Defenselevel or higher, especially in cases regarding counter-terrorism. This new element in the GEC will be able to approve broad themes and messages, but it must also empower and enable elements at the lower levels to act quickly and independently within those themes and messages. This should make things much more efficient.

Third, success depends heavily on the legitimacy granted personally by the President. If the President does not believe in or support this change effort, then he could easily undermine it through the selection process for the GEC’s lead. The legitimacy that President Reagan conferred in his choice of leadership was a critical factor in making the original AMWG a success.

Implementing a newer, updated version of the AMWG will not be easy. It will encounter significant resistance. However, the current environment and crisis created in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election should serve as the catalyst for the change effort to take place.

A character in the 1995 movie The Usual Suspects says, “[T]he greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” This statement perfectly encapsulates the danger of the unrecognized problem. The American public and many members of the government remained oblivious to Russian active measures prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The perception of political success has brought Russia back to being the center of U.S. attention. The two things the U.S. is missing in combating disinformation is the awareness that it is happening, and a strategy to combat it. The U.S. is combating disinformation in a piecemeal fashion, and needs a better coordinated and focused campaign to be effective in the future. Disinformation and propaganda are permanent features in the communication landscape. The U.S. must be fully prepared to engage in it.



Michael Dhunjishah is a colonel in the U.S. Army and graduate of the U.S. Army War College resident class of 2017. The views expressed in this article are of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Army or the U.S. Government

Speed, Volume, and Ubiquity: Forget Information Operations & Focus on the Information Environment


Michael Williams 

 July 26, 2017

What is Information Operations (IO)? This short response to the question posed by The Strategy Bridge should be as short and simple as lifting a sentence from U.S. military doctrine. Alas, it isn’t, and this paper could easily extend for hundreds of pages and be just a description of the debate itself.[1] Part of the reason for this tendency toward the lengthy is an urge to deconstruct information operations into some list of capabilities and to explain how a particular capability is vital in a rapidly changing environment. Instead, we should encourage those not familiar with information operations to see it as a vital component of planning in an information environment that is much more important to military planning and operations with each passing day. This focus on capabilities does more to confuse than enlighten, and simple alternatives are available.

U.S. military doctrine began well enough in the 1990s to answer the question of what the mission and functions of information operations are and should be.[2] As the impact of the information environment has grown, however, doctrine writers continues to narrow the focus in subsequent iterations of information operations doctrine by attempting to narrow the field to specific capabilities or to suggest the role of information operations was to integrate specific capabilities in support of operational and tactical objectives. This has obscured the original concept of information operations. Perhaps a better alternative for future doctrine would be to return to the original intent, and define it as the use of any tool to create an effect in the information environment which results in one or more persons making a decision supporting friendly force’s missions or undercutting the decision-making of the enemy. Does this make all planners information operations planners? No, but it does require that all planners include an understanding of the information environment—which may require the assistance of such an expert.

Whether it is a tactical deception to support a battalion-sized operation, or the use of mass media and the internet to influence a large population, a precondition for successfully planning and conducting information operations is the study and understanding of decisions by human-beings necessary or desired to achieve the mission. Just as we must understand the terrain to conduct ground operations successfully, understanding the information environment—including the cognitive terrain—is necessary as well.

The discussion of which capabilities or tools are “part of information operations” undercuts the entire concept and hamstrings the planner.[3] As in any operation, planners develop courses of action using available and requested (or desired) resources and capabilities. The value of an information operations planner is the ability to break down an operation into the potential decisions made by the enemy and the population within which friendly forces must operate. This is part of mission analysis and must be the activity at which the information operations planner is most capable and practiced.

Information operations is also the application of capabilities, and like any other service member an information operations planner must have an understanding of how to apply weapons systems within their expertise and to integrate those capabilities into the fight. However, just as cyber operations cannot be conducted without regard for the content of a website or an email, the overarching information operation must consider what decisions must be disrupted, prevented, etc. The tool used to achieve the information operations objective need not come from any list of information-related capabilities.

How does this understanding of information operations differ from what military planners and operators have always done? Haven’t commanders always endeavored to understand the decision-making of the enemy? Of course! For instance, Napoleon Bonaparte was a master planner of information operations. His development of the military Corps and Brigade structures and the assignment of mission-type orders to his subordinate commanders meant his Army’s decisions were made more quickly than those by his opponents, which were using a centralized chain of command. He knew his commanders could make logical, effective, and rapid decisions to turn the battle to his favor, and by doing so out-pace the decision-making cycle of his opponents. Making these changes to create moments in time (even if fleeting) when the commanders had information superiority is an example of an information operation.

"The Battle of Austerlitz, 2nd December 1805" by François Pascal Simon Gérard (Wikimedia)

So, in the modern era, what has changed to necessitate specialists in information operations? In my opinion, three important things about the information environment have coerced the change: speed, volume, and ubiquity. Effective information operations planners understand how to use intelligence or organic resources to gain an understanding of the information environment which may encompass an area far greater than that of the the physical area of operations. These same planners must also have a good understanding of how to apply a range of capabilities to achieve the desired effects.

Identifying the changing nature of the information environment is nothing new. U.S. Army Field Manual 100-6 (and later Field Manual 3-13) and Joint Doctrine in an early version of Joint Publication 3-13, all from the 1990s and early 2000s, stressed the need to consider the changes wrought by the instant availability of information nearly anywhere on the globe. The brigade-level satellite downlink previewed in Desert Storm brought unprecedented levels of situational awareness and created a need to consume and make sense of an ever-growing volume of information—information which would inevitably be in possession of the enemy. Throughout the 1990s, the volume of readily available information grew, as did the speed with which information was disseminated. After 9/11, the U.S. military found that even in remote areas of Afghanistan where public infrastructure was non-existent, American military members could find a link to global telecommunications. The satellite telephone had become common among deployed forces and the enemies they faced. Later, the emergence of the smartphone increased the availability of information. Now, we consider the handheld computing power of smartphones and download speeds sufficient to watch live video as commonplace.

These three characteristics of the information environment—volume, speed, and ubiquity of connectivity—conspire to ensure no matter the level of operation, the ever present flow of information has the ability to influence military operations. Human beings—whether farmers in the developing world, London investment bankers, or military commanders—consume, consider, and react to information. The principles and practice of war cannot ignore this.

So, what exactly is information operations? Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates conducted a comprehensive review of the information operations field—both from a policy and a budgetary standpoint—and among other changes modified the definition to:

“The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operations to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.”[4]

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (Washington Post)

Like anything produced by a large bureaucracy (and every significant player in the Pentagon had a comment about this definition) the definition is, inevitably, a compromise. It has the key elements of any good definition of information operations:  decision-making is central, information operations can be directed at the enemy or anyone else who can affect the outcome of military operations, and information operations cannot be limited to any particular capability. Yet, questions remain: Can cyber operations be part of information operations? My assertion is: Of course they can. Can Military Information Support Operations (MISO) be part of information operations? Again, my opinion is they are. Can the use of specific operations security measures to limit the information available to an enemy commander be part of information operations? I think this becomes obvious once it is understood that information operations are about the integration of the information environment into the planning and conduct of any military operation.

Examining the institutional assumptions the U.S. Department of Defense hold regarding information operations is a necessity, but obsessing over the definition of information operations and what capabilities it may or may not include is a distraction. The impact of the information environment and its increasing importance to military planning and operations is well supported by an examination of U.S. military operations over the past 20 years. How we continue to adapt to the changing nature of the information environment and educate our leaders on the impact of the changing characteristics of the this environment is critical. When consideration of the information environment as a component of the terrain has become second nature to planners and leaders, perhaps information operations as a discrete field will pass into history. We aren’t there yet.

Michael Williams is a retired U.S. Army Information Operations officer

An Extended Discussion on an Important Question: What is Information Operations?

Strategy Bridge 

 May 8, 2017

This essay is part of the #WhatIsInformationOperations series, which asked a group of practitioners to provide their thoughts on the subject. We hope this launches a debate that may one day shape policy.

What is information operations? The debateto answer this question spans the military, governments, business and industry, academia, and the international community. The U.S. military has maintained a rather steady definition, but has differed in how that definition is interpreted based on the focus of the different services. The U.S. Air Force and Navy, for example, tend to view information operations as technical efforts to disrupt the flow of information over networks and the electromagnetic spectrum. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps and Army tend to focus more on human-to-human engagement. These differences make sense, given the different roles of each service, but they add to confusion in the broader debate. In contrast to its sister services, the Army has changed its definition of information operations several times over the past 25 years—they’ve even changed the term itself. From information operations, to information engagement, back to information operations, to a brief flirtation with inform and influence activities, and recently back to information operations. Today, the Army’s definition of information operation, once again, mirrors the joint definition in Joint Publication 3-13 Information Operations. Organizations outside of the military add their own definitions of the term to the discussion. Just recently, Facebook published an entire document on information operations, highlighting disinformation as the key characteristic of information operations. Meanwhile, news media and think tank reports have been awash with the term “fake news” as a synonym for information operations. All of these variations lead to confusion.

While differences in the interpretation of the term serve their purpose for each organization, when those organizations communicate with one another, or across audiences, the differences leads to misunderstanding at best, and information fratricide at worst. If Facebook associates the term information operations with fake news, then it will also associate military efforts to use Facebook as part of a campaign to inform the public, something some in the military might think of as a benign information operation, as deliberately misleading...in spite of the fact that U.S. military doctrine describes the primary tenet of public affairs, one of the many capabilities available to commanders for information operations, as “tell the truth.” It remains important for each organization to serve its own purpose, but it is also important for each organization to have a common understanding of one another’s perspective.

When you strip away all the buzzwords and politics, information operations is nothing more than activities to encourage a desired audience to act (or not act) in a manner that is beneficial to the organization conducting the activities. It doesn’t matter if it is a corporation advertising a new product for consumers to buy, a politician campaigningfor constituents to vote for them, or the Allied Forces of World War II floating a bodyin the Mediterranean loaded with documents to convince the Axis powers to defend Sardinia when the attack was actually planned for Sicily. In every case of information operations, the goal is to persuade the object of the operations to behave in a particular manner.

This week The Strategy Bridge examines information operations from the point of view of its military practitioners, those who leverage various military capabilities to elicit a desired action from a target audience. They discuss options for the application, and offer insights into the value of these capabilities toward achieving desired outcomes. Thomas Lorenzen, an information operations practitioner with the Joint Information Operations Warfare Center will kick off this series with a discussion on the need for an information operations renaissance. Michael Holloway, an officer in the U.S. Army, will follow with a discussion on Russian weaponization of information to achieve its desired ends in Crimea. Finally, Brian Wieck, a practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in military units focused on the conduct of information operations, will offer considerations for information operations employed to counter the anti-access/area denial capabilities of potential adversaries.

While we do not expect to settle the debate over what information operations is, we do hope to contribute valuable insights to the discussion by building awareness and empathy in their partner’s roles and methods, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about information operations and how they might employ them for the benefit of their own organizations


Nine Links in the Chain: The Weaponized Narrative, Sun Tzu, and the Essence of War


Jon Herrmann 

 July 27, 2017


Decades ago, the unprecedented power of nuclear weapons required new adaptations of strategy. Now, the unprecedented power of weaponized narrative requires new adaptation of strategy. No one should mistake natural anthrax for weaponized anthrax designed for speed of transmission, virulence and exploitation of vulnerabilities in the body to destroy the ability to fight. Likewise, no one should mistake natural narrative for weaponized narrative designed for speed of transmission, virulence, and exploitation of vulnerabilities in the mind to destroy the will. Sadly, we often do mistake the deliberate and dangerous as the accidental but contagious; that must change.

That all war is a conflict of narratives is a premise worth considering. Each side claims to be more powerful or morally better than the other, and military action is both an extension of politics by other means and an extension of “propaganda of the deed.”[1] Narratives around a conflict solidify when the winners get to write history.[2] Further, when a war is not won outright, both narratives survive. Sometimes, the losing side’s narrative dies off. Other times, it persists or regenerates to spark a new conflict.[3]

To explain this premise, let us begin with some concepts. First, the concept of threat is generally understood to be  comprised of intent and capability. War is ostensibly intended to counter perceived threats. Therefore, war must destroy an enemy’s intent or capability. Capability to wage war usually cannot be destroyed (though a case might be made for total nuclear war doing so). As an example, look to attacks and conflicts that have made use of cars, machetes, and even rocks. Therefore, war must focus on destroying an enemy’s intent or will to threaten. Will has several possible foundations. Foundations include belief in the necessity of conflict to defend oneself, others, foundational values, or interests. The narrative of each side links that side with the lives and values supporting the will. Breaking the will requires discrediting a narrative, whatever that narrative may be. One narrative foundation for a will to war is that one group is superior or unworthy, as seen in Naziism, genocide, or ethnic cleansing. A similar narrative is a higher power’s mandate, such as some interpretations of jihad, or the royal divine right to command war. A third narrative is defense, described as the need to defeat an offensive narrative like those mentioned above. When a narrative, as a key example of information power,  falters (due to time, casualties, cost, etc.), other forms of power also falter. Without the narrative to link events into a cause for conflict, military and economic power become much less relevant. The strength of an entity doesn’t matter without the will to use it, and the will comes through the power of the narrative.  


The weaponized narrative is distinct from traditional information attacks like disinformation or propaganda because several factors, from cognitive neuroscience to communications technology, are now combining in unexpected, synergistic ways. Six key differences (abbreviated V3S3) are Vector, Vulnerability, and Virulence; Scope, Speed, and Synergy. Vector means information’s reach—physical weapons require delivery systems, and often extensive logistics. However, there’s no bunker to keep out information. Information is self-propagating, and it can now have a global “blast radius.” Vulnerability highlights that just as a series of events, from stress to prior disease, can overcome a body’s resistance, cognitive science has shown how sequential stories can overcome a mind’s resistance. Virulence expresses that advances in understanding cognitive flaws empower narratives tailored to exploit near-universal, hard to resist biases. Scope refers to the number of actors. Low cost allows information attacks to come from millions of individuals in infinite combinations. Speed addresses information “rate of fire”—the ability to plant a resilient idea and reinforce it in minutes or seconds, akin to a fire-hose of falsehood.[4] Synergy speaks to how each of these changes is a force multiplier for the others. Taken together, a narrative can now deploy in a rapid-fire series of mutually-reinforcing stories that are hard for people to disregard and reach a global audience in seconds at minimal cost.

Using weaponized narrative offers an advantage. This work explore how Sun Tzu’s Art of War can illuminate the notion of a weaponized narrative, but it touches many other strategic approaches as well. Recent uses of weaponized narrative are as different from old-school propaganda as the nuclear weapon is from the conventional bomb (e.g., computational propaganda effects).[5] Yet, ample traditional strategy applies, and Sun Tzu offers nine principles applicable to the use of weaponized narratives.


First, non-kinetic force matters. We read in Sun Tzu, “He who relies solely on warlike measures shall be exterminated; he who relies solely on peaceful measures shall perish,”[6] and “in which army is there greater constancy both in reward and punishment?”[7] Sun Tzu suggests the faction perceiving its social system to be more just has an advantage in warfare. The advantage parallels high ground through the moral high ground of a system that prevents the wealthy or well-connected from escaping justice or profiting unfairly through inconstant reward and punishment. Weaponized narratives can leverage partisanship and perceived miscarriages of justice to create divisions. Underlining the point, Sun Tzu enjoins, "If his forces are united, separate them," which is also interpreted by some thus: "If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them.”[8] Weaponized narratives of injustice may claim that leaders don’t protect one group, even alleging a refugee crisis (e.g., Ukraine stories).[9] If a weaponized narrative widens divisions, those divisions could both create and shape open conflict.


Second, chaos drains energy, but drains less from the side already prepared for the chaotic environment. Speed chess can give an advantage players who have memorized specific gambits, for example. Using a fast-paced, weaponized narrative can undercut proactive, strategic thinking in favor of reactive, tactical thinking. (E.g.,“If he (the enemy) is taking his ease, give him no rest”[10]) Weaponized narratives can showcase urgent crises to distract the public and leaders from more important events.[11] Creating chaos is a means to deny rest. Physical chaos is one means. Mental chaos is another. Chaos in planning creates decision fatigue. Cognitive capability declines as successive decisions must be made. In such cases, leaders often fall back on standard templates, such as doctrine.

Third, weaponized narratives attack an enemy’s strategy. The information environment isn’t complicated, but complex, adaptive, and chaotic.[12] In a chaotic environment, crafting strategy becomes exponentially more difficult. Strategy relies on ends, ways, and means as basic tools. However, in a chaotic information environment, those may change faster than in kinetic warfare. In a kinetic war, authorities can separate saboteurs from reconnaissance by checking for tools to damage versus tools to observe. In the information environment, the tools to observe are the tools to damage, so ends are less clear. Means are also less clear. In traditional war, one tank means military power, and two tanks results in roughly a doubling of power, so counting tanks matters. In informational conflict, one story means power, but a second may mean a decrease in power (if the story backfires), or minimal increase in power, or a thousandfold increase in power if it goes viral and gains global attention. Ways are also more variable in informational conflict. A particular story released in a particular way on a Tuesday may fail based solely on the other news of the day. The same story, released on Monday, might have changed the course of the world.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center back, speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

Fourth, by targeting strategy and creating chaos, the weaponized narrative favors revisionist powers. Chaos can undermine rules-based international order aligned with the values of the principal state. While chaos is risky for rising powers, it tends to be more damaging to a predominant or status quo power.[13] The weaponized narrative can distract, allowing a slow series of gains, such as claiming small, contested regions while keeping potential adversaries focused on new crises.[14]

Fifth, narrative is a low-cost weapon. “Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more.”[15] Similarly, weaponized narratives exploit short-term stories to support long-term themes. In Iraq, the theme of shock and awe, apparently intended to deter resistance by portraying U.S. and allied forces as invincible, used multiple actions and stories for a single intended effect. An actor can now create and propagate such stories in seconds, rather than months or years. The stories only matter in context, like skirmishes. The narrative is the campaign plan that coordinates repeated, rotating themes.[16]


Sixth, narrative can win a conflict by preventing it. Sun Tzu suggests,“Though the enemy may be stronger in numbers, we may prevent him from fighting.”[17] He goes on to say, “A clever general, therefore, avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined to return.”[18] Key themes might assert that a conflict is unimportant, for example.[19] While Sun Tzu was referring to an army’s mood during a day, the concept also applies to a nation’s mood and the criticality of national will.

Seventh, weaponized narratives leverage combined energy. Varied sources amplify assorted crowd-sourced stories, bolstering one narrative.[20] Sun Tzu described this: “The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals.”[21] Beyond patriotic hackers, organizations such as Bellingcat use crowd sourcing to debunk Russian narratives of the flight MH17 shoot-down.[22, 23] Botnets multiply crowd sourcing by orders of magnitude (e.g., astroturfing—making a message appear to come from a grassroots movement when it actually comes from a sponsoring organization).[24] Bots will prove increasingly powerful as chatbots convincingly replicate humans.


Eighth, narrative is typically fast, difficult to predict (which benefits those with little to lose over those with much to lose), and concentrates actions. Narrative resembles the way a commander’s desired end state paints a picture of goals and objectives to concentrate the actions of those under his or her command. Sun Tzu advised, “Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle, we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order to fight.”[25] In the information environment, distance means little, but the first mover advantage means a great deal. A new idea can take root before it can be debunked. We’ve all seen or heard of flash mobs, for example, assembling for actions from performance to theft and then dispersing in minutes. Groups such as Anonymous can similarly mass thousands of hackers, each perhaps with dozens of autonomous attack programs/bots for a cyberattack, exemplifying Sun Tzu’s directives to “let your rapidity be that of the wind.”[26] and “take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.”[27] The information environment’s nature challenges principles of war (or battle) like mass, maneuver, speed, and surprise—not just for cyberattacks on physical targets, but against the minds of the public.[28] Crowd sourced authors, multiplied by botnets, can create a faux movement instantly, making counteraction impossible. The appearance of many sources and supporters make the movement persuasive unless targets are inoculated beforehand.


Finally, weaponized narrative targets our minds- and we rarely defend our minds well. We tend to accept stories uncritically (the illusory truth effect).[29] Even if we know a story is false, a desire for the story to be true, or a story framed to support preexisting beliefs (confirmation bias) might make us believe the story in part.[30] When people trust very few sources for truth or facts, it’s difficult to inoculate against adversary narratives going viral. When someone lacks the ability or will to think critically about incoming information, that individual has no analog to disease resistance. The mind is undefended territory in the information war. Sun Tzu noted, “You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.”[31] Actors worldwide are targeting undefended and unwitting minds.


Weaponizing a narrative resembles weaponizing a disease in several ways. One similarity is that neither is kinetic, yet both can have immense effects. Both are dangerous and chaotic, but are less dangerous to the faction prepared for the risks—or with less to lose. Modern scientists better understand disease resistance than did their predecessors, but some use that to tailor diseases to be more dangerous, easier to acquire and transmit, and harder to resist. Similarly, modern scientists better understand the mind, but some use that to tailor messages to be more dangerous, easier to accept and pass along, and harder to resist. Like viruses, narratives can combine to create overwhelming effects, and can appear and propagate with unnerving rapidity. Unlike viruses, though, the narrative is so inexpensive that almost anyone can weaponize and deploy it. Also unlike viruses, the weaponized narrative targets our minds, which usually lack the resistance our bodies enjoy. We have no immune system for the mind. Defending the body but sacrificing the will still means defeat.

Jon Herrmann is a career Air Force intelligence and information operations officer. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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Header Image: Statue of Sun Tzu (Marketo)


[1] Bakunin, Mikhail; "Letter to a Frenchman on the Present Crisis" (1870)

[2] Attributed to Winston Churchill or George Orwell; related to a quote attributed to Napoleon: "History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon."

[3] See also Clausewitz, On War: "Lastly, even the ultimate outcome of war is not always to be regarded as final. The defeated state often considers the outcome merely as a transitory evil, for which a remedy may still be found in political conditions at some later date." (Book 1, Ch 1, S 8, Howard and Paret, page 80)

[4] For more information, see the RAND Corporation article by Chris Paul and Miriam Matthews at http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE100/PE198/RAND_PE198.pdf

[5] See Matt Chessen’s at https://medium.com/artificial-intelligence-policy-laws-and-ethics/artificial-intelligence-chatbots-will-overwhelm-human-speech-online-the-rise-of-madcoms-e007818f31a1. See also http://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/ for more on computational propaganda and https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/271028.pdf for more on how public diplomacy is adapting

[6] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 1.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid. There are two translation versions. One asserts that Sun Tzu's phrase refers to unity between the military leader and his forces. The other refers to unity between a sovereign and his subjects.

[9] https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraineunspun-minorities-facing-persecution/25317466.html; https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russia-refugees/25313128.html

[10] Sun Tzu, Art of War, Chapter 1.

[11] “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”Dwight D. Eisenhower, popularized in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

[12] For more detail on complexity, see Complexity: A Guided Tour by Melanie Mitchell, Complex Adaptive Systems and the Development of Force Structures for the U.S. Air Force by Eric M. Murphy, or Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by M. Mitchell Waldrop

[13] For more information on why and how the dissatisfied accept risk, see Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, “Prospect Theory: an Analysis of Decision under Risk,”Econometrica 47, no. 2 (Mar 1973): 263-292 and Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, “Rational choice and the Framing of Decisions,” Journal of Business 59, no. 4 (Oct 1986): S251-S278.

[14] For more on this tactic in traditional conflict, see Arms and Influence by Thomas Schelling

[15] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 5.

[16] See also Clausewitz, Howard and Paret, p. 143

[17] Ibid., Chapter 6.

[18] Ibid., Chapter 7. Readers familiar with Sun Tzu may also recall one of this work’s most frequently applied (or misapplied) axioms: "For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."

[19] Fora historical example of the risks of ignoring issues that don’t seem to affect one directly, see Pastor Martin Niemöller's “First They Came…” on the rise of Naziism.

[20] Traditional options include paid “trolls,” but perhaps more dangerous is the proliferation of limited artificial intelligences (“bots,” or “chatbots”) capable of passing for human in online conversation, as some have already done. Such bots can be programmed to not only re-tweet across Twitter, but to generate simple original, supporting comments and send messages throughout social media at machine speed. For more on this phenomenon, see Matt Chessen’s articles in “Can Public Diplomacy Survive the Internet?” at https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/271028.pdf

[21] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 5.

[22] http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Patriotic-Hackers-Cyber-War-Against-Terrorists-292825571.htmlhttp://world.time.com/2013/02/21/chinas-red-hackers-the-tale-of-one-patriotic-cyberwarrior/http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/01/16/patriotic-hackers-attacking-on-behalf-mother-russia.html

[23] https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-bellingcat-mh17/27715129.html

[24] Howard, Philip N. (2003). "Digitizing the Social Contract: Producing American Political Culture in the Age of New Media."The Communication Review. 6 (3): 213–45

[25] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 6.

[26] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 7.

[27] Ibid., Chapter 9

[28] Echevarria, Antulio J. “Principles of War or Principles of Battle?” in McIvor, Anthony D. ed. Rethinking the Principles of War.Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2005. p. 58

[29] Polage, Danielle (May 31, 2012). "Making up History: False Memories of Fake News Stories." Europe's Journal of Psychology. 8: 245–250

[30] Risen, Jane; Gilovich, Thomas (2007), "Informal Logical Fallacies", in Sternberg, Robert J.; Roediger III, Henry L.; Halpern, Diane F., Critical Thinking in Psychology, Cambridge Univ. Press, pp. 110–30

[31] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter