Sunday, June 24, 2007

Today's Quote: It’s a Contest Between Producers with Stories.

Perceptions may trump or displace reality within the information dimension of counter-insurgency. In the Information Age, perceptual isolation will be even harder if not impossible. There are too many sources and means of transmitting ideas and images in real time today. The battle of ideas has always been a central competition within an insurgency, but in the past governments had some advantages. Now, the IT revolution magnifies the ability of the modern insurgent to exploit his limited success. A sophisticated insurgent can exploit the communications revolution to extend his influence and maximize his credibility by continuously flaunting his tactical successes all out of proportion to their accumulative operational effect. This is where a true competition exists, best captured by General Rupert Smith’s analogy of rival commanders as film producers, competing with each other for the best narrative and the imagery to support it in order to influence people. Instead of Clausewitz’s duel, it’s a contest between producers with stories. Combat and casualties are no longer the key cash transaction of war; it’s an exchange of carefully choreographed images and stories to produce an effect. Rather than physical effects, the psychological impact of all actions has to be considered. As Kilcullen has noted “In the battlefield, popular perceptions and rumor are more important than a hundred tanks.”

We need to fully exploit the cognitive terrain of conflict and “maneuver” in the minds of our allies, friends, neutrals and the enemy. But how does one “clear, hold and build” in the virtual dimension?

From NEO-COIN? by Frank Hoffman at the Small Wars Journal

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