The concept of Information Warfare is subject to varied definitions, with some choosing to describe it as "the process of protecting one’s own sources of battlefield information and, at the same time, seeking to deny, degrade, corrupt, or destroy the enemy’s sources of battlefield information". According to this definition, Information Warfare comprises six parts: Operational Security, Electronic Warfare, Psychological Operations, Deception, physically attacks to disrupt enemy communications, and cyber attacks to disrupt enemy information processes. These processes are used to achieve "information superiority"; the ability to see the battlefield while your opponent cannot.
Information Warfare can be separated into two distinct categories: Offensive Information Warfare, which deals with the degradation of the enemy's battlefield information; and Defensive Information Warfare, which comprises efforts to protect one's own battlefield communication methods.
Whilst Information Warfare campaigns have occurred prior to modern warfare, they are now becoming a much more important part of conventional warfare. Vast leaps in information technologies in the late-20th and early-21st Centuries are making offensive Information Warfare a more potent instrument against enemy militaries.
Examples of Information Warfare
Vladimir Putin's Russia
At a September 2014 NATO summit in Wales, General Philip Breedlove, the military alliance’s top commander, stated that Russia was waging "the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare." According to Breedlove, the efforts of Vladimir Putin's Russia far surpass the petty Disinformation, Forged Documents, lies, leaks, and cyber-sabotage usually associated with Information Warfare. Russian initiatives reinvent reality, creating mass hallucinations that then translate into political action.
Gleb Pavlovsky, a political technologist who worked on Putin's election campaigns but has since left the Kremlin, recounts "I remember creating the idea of the 'Putin majority' and hey, presto, it appeared in real life". "Or the idea that 'there is no alternative to Putin'. We invented that. And suddenly there really was no alternative".
"If previous authoritarian regimes were three parts violence and one part Propaganda," argues Igor Yakovenko, a professor of journalism at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, "this one is virtually all propaganda and relatively little violence. Putin only needs to make a few arrests—and then amplify the message through his total control of television."
It is argued that in Putin's Russia the idea of truth is irrelevant. On Russian 'news' broadcasts, the borders between fact and fiction have become utterly blurred. According to Alexei Volin, Russia’s deputy minister of communications, students of journalism should understand that "They are going to work for The Man, and The Man will tell them what to write, what not to write, and how this or that thing should be written...And The Man has the right to do it, because he pays them". The point of this new propaganda is not to persuade anyone, but to keep the viewer hooked and distracted, with Russian media broadcasting focusing more on ratings than reporting of the truth.
The United States of America
Just as the Kremlin’s international propaganda campaign intensifies, the West is having its own crisis of faith in the idea of 'truth'. Daniel Boorstin, librarian of the U.S. Congress, notes how advances in advertising and television mean that "The question, 'Is it real?' is less important than, 'Is it newsworthy?'...We are threatened by a new and a peculiarly American menace...the menace of unreality". If nothing is true, then anything is possible.
In an article for The New York Times, an anonymous aide to George W. Bush, in reference to the administration's Perception Management initiatives, stated that "We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality".
In modern Information Warfare, it has been stated that the United States is struggling with getting its message to the outside world. America is in an "information war and we are losing that war", Hillary Clinton told Congress in 2011, citing the success of Russian and Chinese media as their main adversaries.
2015 Ukraine Crisis
According to ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern,Information Warfare strategies have taken a firm hold of the U.S. Government’s approach to international crises, especially the Ukraine showdown, in an attempt to break down enemies and dictate geopolitical outcomes favourable to the U.S. He argues that the U.S. has treated Ukraine as if it were a testing ground for the latest techniques in Psychological Warfare or Information Warfare aimed at the U.S. and European publics.
In the 2015 Ukraine Crisis, the U.S. Government has employed a tactic of exaggeration, constantly accusing Russia of a back-door invasion without releasing supporting evidence. This tactic has begun to erode the unity of the NATO alliance where Germany, in particular, is openly criticising the Barack Obama administration's use of heavy-handed Propaganda in its "information warfare" against Russia. A German magazine Der Spiegel published a highly critical account of U.S. Information Warfare surrounding Ukraine: "For months now, many in the Chancellery simply shake their heads each time NATO, under Breedlove’s leadership, goes public with striking announcements about Russian troop or tank movements. … False claims and exaggerated accounts, warned a top German official during a recent meeting on Ukraine, have put NATO — and by extension, the entire West — in danger of losing its credibility".
It is argued by MacGovern that this U.S. "rhetoric" strategy follows the tried-and-true intelligence gambit known as the Mighty Wurlitzer, in which Disinformation and Misinformation are distributed by so many different sources – like the pipes of an organ – that the deceptive communications become believable just because of their repetition. According to him, the Ukraine story has followed this pattern with dubious claims being made and repeated by U.S. and Ukrainian officials and then amplified by a credulous Western news media, persuading people who otherwise might know better — even when supporting evidence is lacking.
NATO has installed a new media Information Warfare office in Riga, the capital of Latvia, in order to counter alleged Russian propaganda. The office is called the Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, and is not only in charge of producing propaganda. As the director of the center, Janis Karklins, explained, they are also working on "the weaponization of social media" aimed at countering pro-Russian sentiment.
The center also studies the official Russian political narrative and suggests responses to the military bloc. It is working on educational proposals to make future citizens more media savvy in order to prevent Russian influence. "To develop skills of media information literacy and critical thinking in our education system to make it harder for adversaries to disorient the population," explains Karklins.
- Wikipedia, Information Warfare: Overview of Information Warfare, particularly in the U.S.
- InfoWar, Welcome to InfoWar.com: Site dedicated to tacking Information Warfare issues
- Brian Nichiporuk (2002), "U.S. Military Opportunities: Information-Warfare Concepts of Operation" in: Zalmay Khalilzad, Jeremy Shapiro, eds., Strategic Appraisal: United States Air and Space Power in the 21st Century: Article on the future of U.S. Information Warfare
- Brian Lewis, Information Warfare: Report into U.S. Information Warfare initiatives
- Peter Pomerantsev, Russia and the Menace of Unreality: Article concerning Russian information Warfare
- John Hamilton (2014), Happy 100th birthday, information warfare: How World War I led to modern propaganda and surveillance: Information Warfare during the First World War
- Strategy Page (2015), Information Warfare: China Takes A Victory Lap: Modern Chinese Information Warfare
- Brian Nichiporuk (2002), "U.S. Military Opportunities: Information-Warfare Concepts of Operation" in: Zalmay Khalilzad, Jeremy Shapiro, eds., Strategic Appraisal: United States Air and Space Power in the 21st Century, Pittsburg, PA: Rand, pp.187-222. Rand website, accessed 31 March 2015
- Brian Lewis, Information Warfare, Federation of American Scientists website, accessed 31st March 2015
- Peter Pomerantsev, How Russia Is Revolutionizing Information Warfare, Defense One website, 09 September 2014, accessed 01 April 2015
- Ray McGovern (2015), Guiding Obama into Global Make-Believe, Consortium News website, 14 March 2015, accessed 10 April 2015
- Der Spiegel, Breedlove's Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine, Spiegel Online website, 06 March 2015, accessed 10 April 2015
- TeleSUR (2015), NATO Installs Information Warfare Center in Latvia, teleSUR website, 29 march 2015, accessed 01 April 2015