From Rolling Stone:
In short, the story is about how Lt. Gen. William Caldwell tasked his Information Operations (IO) team with targeting visiting U.S. Representatives and Senators in order to provide more personnel and funding to support his efforts to train the Afghan security forces. The team, trained in psychological operations, apparently resisted the plan as unethical.
“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”
The rub here is apparently about the difference between Information Operations and Public Relations which seems to entirely depend on who is considered an enemy, who get the Psy-ops and propaganda; or an ally, who get the orchestrated briefings, staged demonstrations and photo-ops.
“In March 2010, Breazile issued a written order that “directly tasked” Holmes to conduct an IO campaign against “all DV visits” – short for “distinguished visitor.” The team was also instructed to “prepare the context and develop the prep package for each visit.” In case the order wasn’t clear enough, Breazile added that the new instructions were to “take priority over all other duties.” Instead of fighting the Taliban, Holmes and his team were now responsible for using their training to win the hearts and minds of John McCain and Al Franken.”
From a Fifth Gradient Warfare point of view there really isn’t a difference between IO and PR. Preparation of context is the heart of either of these kinds of efforts. To my thinking General Caldwell gets that. He is trained (I hope) to seek advantage wherever he can find it and he saw an opportunity to use the resources at his disposal to improve his position in order to better accomplish his mission. According to the article he was even considering using his IO operation to create support among U.S. and NATO populations. That’s pretty bold but it certainly isn’t stupid. If politicians or anybody else is upset because they were the “targets” of this operation they need to grow up. The world is full of conflict and you are always somebody’s target. Any perceived difference between IO and PR is a polite fiction we use to convince ourselves that we are the good guys and they are the enemy.
Further Recommended Reading on the article at the always interesting Small Wars Journal:
On a lighter note,
Via Popular Science:
I’m not afraid that the Zombie Apocalypse is actually coming, but I do love the “what-if” scenarios that make it so interesting to think about. This article asks scientists if it would even be possible to manufacture a virus that would turn the population into brains-seeking, shambling, undead monsters.
One possible answer has cows going mad, or rather causes cows to go mad:
The most likely culprit for this partially deteriorated brain situation, according to Schlozman, is as simple as a protein. Specifically, a proteinaceous infectious particle, a prion. Not quite a virus, and not even a living thing, prions are nearly impossible to destroy, and there’s no known cure for the diseases they cause.
The first famous prion epidemic was discovered in the early 1950s in Papua New Guinea, when members of the Fore tribe were found to be afflicted with a strange tremble. Occasionally a diseased Fore would burst into uncontrollable laughter. The tribe called the sickness “kuru,” and by the early ’60s doctors had traced its source back to the tribe’s cannibalistic funeral practices, including brain-eating.
Prions gained notoriety in the 1990s as the infectious agents that brought us bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. When a misshapen prion enters our system, as in mad cow, our mind develops holes like a sponge. Brain scans from those infected by prion-based diseases have been compared in appearance to a shotgun blast to the head.
Now, if we’re thinking like evil geniuses set on global destruction, the trick is going to be attaching a prion to a virus, because prion diseases are fairly easy to contain within a population. To make things truly apocalyptic, we need a virus that spreads quickly and will carry the prions to the frontal lobe and cerebellum. Targeting the infection to these areas is going to be difficult, but it’s essential for creating the shambling, dim-witted creature we expect.
via Fast Company.
“Hence the workshop to try to learn how stories connect to people’s minds, how they influence or prejudice individual thinking, and whether the flow of narrative information sharing in a group can be influenced by an outside agent–all in a “scientifically respectable manner.”
Yes, that does sound creepy.
The workshop has three goals. It will survey theories about narrative data flow to work out “what is a story? What are its moving parts?” and more. It will try to understand how narratives influence security situations, asking “how do stories influence bystanders’ response to conflict” and other questions. And it will survey the state of the art in story analysis and decomposition, with a goal of building a better toolset for quickly understanding the nature of a story, and “how stories propagate in a system to influence behavior.” “
Fast Company’s article approaches the idea with a tongue-in-cheek “Oh no, its 1984! / Mind control!” mentality but kidding aside, DARPA is in essence exploring a very central aspect of Fifth Gradient Warfare (5GW) thinking. These stories, these narratives, are consumed by Observation that interact with and trigger particular aspects and identities of Orientation. Call it psy-ops, call it memetics, call it spin, call it propaganda, whatever you call it these are all processes that seek to control the narrative in order to exert some sort of control over a targeted audience in order to create an outcome, and that is 5GW.
DARPA press release (.pdf) for Stories, Neuroscience and Experimental Technologies (STORyNET): Analysis and Decomposition of Narratives in Security Contexts workshop, is here. It would be really interesting to have a 5GW-ist voice in the room.
The Underwire blog at Wired.com recently posted an article (pretty funny) that tripped my 5GW radar. The article involved the NetLife Research Bad Useability Calendar and June’s entry (seen to the right) referenced somebody I had, admitted, not heard of; BJ Fogg. I don’t know what persuasive design is but it sounds kinda 5GWish to me.
(Heavy linking to follow. All links expand greatly on the topic)
Dr. BJ Fogg founded the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and is the creator of the Fogg Behavioral Model (FBM). He also has published two books about the intersection of persuasion and computer technology:
Dr. Fogg calls this intersection “Captology” and it is the centerpiece of his research and primary application of his model.
Captology and the Fogg Behavioral Model seem to have a strong resonance with the nuts-and-bolts and the hows-and-whys of Fifth Gradient Warfare Theory in particular and XGW in general. It seems mainly to be applied to social media at this point but for a 5GWist that is a very attractive form of leverage for the manipulation of a target actor. I am going to have to make it a point to track down at least one of his books. Until then I will have to settle for reading his 2009 paper about the Fogg Behavioral Model. Further study will have to determine how closely 5GW and Captology/FBM really intersect.
A bit of Recommended Viewing as well that touches on social media:
“What if you could remove all the ugliness in the world? It’s not a hypothetical question. Researchers at Ilmenau University of Technology in Germany have developed a new augmented reality technique that erases images from real time video. Called Diminished Reality, the software can take any area selected in a video feed and use photo-shop like adjustments to copy the surroundings into its place. Where once you saw an object now you see the object has been removed. A piece of your world has been erased. Diminished Reality records video from a camera and displays the modified result on a screen with only a 40ms delay. To your eyes it’s effectively instantaneous. Watch a demonstration of the augmented reality editing program in the video below. I’m blown away by how well it works in these early examples.”
Talk about giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Most of the applications I have come across for Augmented, and now Diminished, Reality are gaming / entertainment and advertising in the form of virtual pets, virtual LARP-type activities, and virtual advertising banners that can be highly targeted to individual persons. This demonstration seems closer to the espionage application of the really ugly shirt that played a key role in William Gibson’s novel Zero History (my review here) by rendering the character wearing it invisible to video surveillance by triggering a computer program deep in the London surveillance camera system (see questions five and six of this interview with Gibson) . It may not exactly be to that stage yet though it seems to me this is a very long step in that direction.
Considering this is a potentially very long, twisty, branching and strange road, the ability to modify reality in this way seems to have limitless implications. The 5GW theorist lurking in my brain (and clapping on the sidelines), also has to wonder about how easy it may one day become to seamlessly and unobtrusively cause distortion between perceived Observation and actual Observation before that information feeds into Orientation. Understanding the mechanisms of 5GW may be instructive in harnessing this type of power, it may also be vital in learning to protect against it.
“The Catch” is, from here on, the heading and category for “Recommended Reading” posts here at Red Herrings.
Recommended reading from Small Wars Journal:
The Cognitive Dissonance of COIN
Right Doctrine, Wrong War
by Jason Thomas
“The psychological investment in COIN is now so deep that the cognitive dissonance would be too great to change course or admit COIN is the right doctrine for the wrong war. Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that despite contrary evidence, people are biased to think of their choices as correct. Like climate change, so much has been invested in counterinsurgency with huge reputations at stake, that anyone who challenges COIN in Afghanistan could be labeled a COIN skeptic. No matter how much we try to win the hearts and minds, no matter how many millions of dollars is spent on development and regardless of attempts to improve governance and eliminate corruption, the socio-cultural ecosystem of Afghanistan does not respond to the doctrine of counterinsurgency. While the pockets can be won the heart and minds in Afghanistan will always remain notoriously capricious.
There are many reasons to continually question COIN from every angle, but the two this paper is concerned with are i) whether COIN could be the right military doctrine being applied in the wrong campaign; and ii) preparing for the next major unconventional war – as is often the case in political campaigns and war, we tend to find ourselves fighting on the issues, theories or practices in the last campaign.
This paper will attempt to “play the ball and not the man” by pointing to the range of reasons unique to Afghanistan on top of self-imposed obstacles that reinforce the hypothesis of right doctrine, wrong war.”
All in all, a thought-provoking paper that is well worth a read even if you don’t agree with the author’s argument. Personally, I don’t think COIN is the wrong doctrine for Afghanistan. At least, not all of Afghanistan. If the Taliban is seeking to create a parallel, non-secular, (Pakistan aligned) government that usurps the government of Kabul. That makes it an insurgency. The problem is using COIN in Afghanistan is that it is being used across the board, even in places where the Taliban isn’t active. If there isn’t an insurgency, you can’t wage a counterinsurgency. Personally, I think the disconnect about using COIN as the go-to doctrine of the U.S. forces, comes from an inflexibility of practitioners to have multiple doctrines. Everything is COIN because counterinsurgency is the sexy buzzword of the moment. However, COIN is not an anti-terrorism or homeland security doctrine. If you are chasing Bin Laden, you shouldn’t be using a COIN doctrine.
Actually, what I found most interesting about the article were the author’s 6 points for adapting COIN for future campaigns. I felt they had a great deal of 5GW resonance.
“The following are suggestions for improving the adaptability of COIN for future campaigns:
1. Stress test COIN and other military doctrines against a range of insurgent scenarios taking place in potential host countries – what is unique about the cultural and tribal dynamics.
2. Anticipate the next host nations and begin a coordinated, international effort to limit the opportunity for the global jihadists to re-base themselves (Australia has done a good job with its intense support of governance, security and development initiatives in Indonesia) – almost an interntional version of COIN.”
3. Develop sophisticated social networking and internet countering-platforms devised by and run by maintstream, globally recognised and respected Muslim organisations.
4. Intesify the global ‘hearts and minds’ campaign to convince young, mobile and increasingly sophisticated Muslims that the West is not a threat to their belief systems. This must be coordinated at an international level across governments and non-government actors.
5. Identify communications strategies and tactics to undermine the jihadists perceived legitimacy in the minds of eye of mainstream media. Every time the insurgents claim ‘civilians have been killed by US forces’ this is treated as fact by the media.
6. Avoid seeking a generic, off-the-shelf, model of COIN devised from previous campaigns to be applied to the next campaign.”
All six of these points are in line with 5GW thinking. First, working to trigger established rule-sets of a target population’s Orientation by feeding them information in specific context, through their own prefered information channels, is the basis of Fifth Gradient doctrines. 5GW is also inherently strategic in scope, meaning that anticipating the next hot-spot and preemptively targeting it with 5GW operations is required. Above all, adaptability is a hallmark of, not only 5GW, but XGW itself. A basic tenet of XGW is to create a specific doctrine for the situation at hand that is X+1 of the doctrine being used by your opponent, there is no such thing as an “off-the-shelf” doctrine.
“As long as human beings have killed one another, theorists have struggled to forecast the nature of future slaughter correctly. Military futurism, however, is different from more popular forms of futurism. Speculation about future warfare inevitably garners more attention than debates over the nature of technological change and human civilization. One reason may be that people are particularly attuned to matters of life and death. But an emerging technology or social change may have just as” much long-term impact as a new kind of weapon or tactic. So why does Patton always flatten Schrödinger and his cat under his tank treads?”
A valuable insight by Adam Elkus, a co-blogger of mine at Dreaming 5GW, on the difficulty of peering into the crystal ball to determine the future of anything, much less warfare. I personally favor the approach of trying to find those elements of warfare that don’t change, that remain constant independent of technology or social change, to use as the basis for theory. I think this is one of the strengths of the XGW framework, that you can take any given situation in any given era and use the XGW framework to classify the gradient of the methods being used, the doctrines behind them, and judge if the response was appropriate or not, and if not, to use the framework to suggest what reaction could have been more effective.