█ JUDSON KNIGHT
The term "information warfare" refers not to a single idea or phenomenon, but to a variety of tools and techniques all centered around the concept that military success is as much a matter of information and ideas as of weapons and tactics. According to the National Defense University's Martin C. Libicki, seven distinct areas of information warfare exist. These include command and control, intelligence-based, electronic, psychological, and economic information warfare, as well as cyberwarfare and computer hacking. Examples of information warfare in practice include a number of techniques applied by the United States in Western Hemisphere conflicts and the Persian Gulf War of 1991, as well as the overall campaign of "shock and awe" waged as part of the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Libicki's Definition and Critique
According to Libicki, the seven components of information warfare include command-and-control warfare, designed to strike at the enemy's command systems, leadership, and infrastructure; intelligence-based warfare; electronic warfare, including cryptographic and radio-electronic techniques; psychological warfare, involving the use of information to influence the views of allies, enemies, and neutrals; "hacker warfare," or attacks on enemy computer systems; economic information warfare, the control of information in pursuit of economic dominance; and cyberwarfare, which Libicki describes as "a grab bag of futuristic scenarios" involving computer technology.
Libicki has cautioned, not only that "information warfare" is not a single, monolithic entity, but that its value in some cases has been overestimated. He has sought to distinguish between historically useful forms of information warfare, and others that he dismisses as "fantastic," or "involv[ing] assumptions about societies and organizations that are not necessarily true."
Even though information systems are becoming increasingly more important to defensive forces, Libicki has maintained it is not necessarily the case that attacks on information systems yield increasing returns, the reason being that these systems have increasingly become distributed and compartmentalized. Above all, it is Libicki's contention that, outside of specific applications such as electronic jamming, information should not be regarded as a medium of warfare to any greater degree than other aspects of combat support such as logistics.
Shock and Awe, Rapid Dominance, and Decisive Force
Notwithstanding these cautionary statements, the quick U.S. victory in Operation Iraqi Freedom revealed the success of information warfare as articulated by Harlan K. Ullman, James P. Wade, and others in Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance. The book, published in 1996 by the Center for Advanced Concepts and Technology, provided a strategic blueprint for the methods applied seven years later in Iraq.
"Shock and awe" defines two principal components of combat, "rapid dominance" and "decisive force." These can be equated to threats and intimidation (rapid dominance), coupled with the ability to back up those threats (decisive force). The analogy is not a perfect one, however, because rapid dominance also involves the use of force, albeit in a more limited and targeted fashion.
The objective of rapid dominance is to control the perceptions, understanding, and even the will of the adversary, whereas that of decisive force is military victory. Rapid dominance uses military force in support of its objective, so as to make the enemy impotent—or convinced that he is impotent, which amounts to much the same thing. Use of military capabilities within the framework of decisive force is more straightforward, and once again supports its objective.
Accordingly, forces employed for rapid dominance may be much smaller than those of the opposition, as long as they possess the advantage in training and technology. In the case of decisive force, the technological edge is likewise critical, but so is sheer volume of numbers. It follows that casualties may be high in the case of decisive force, while they could be relatively low in the realm of rapid dominance. Speed of action, desirable for decisive force, is essential to rapid dominance, whose scope is allencompassing rather than a matter of one fighting group against another.
Information Warfare in Action
Long before "shock and awe," or even more general modern concepts of information warfare, military forces practiced basic principles of psychological warfare. Ancient Biblical texts describe several instances in which the armies of the Israelites used psychological tactics in one form or another against their enemies, including banging loud cymbals and shouting as a means of convincing the inhabitants of their numbers and aggressive intentions.
Assyrian armies employed "shock and awe"-style techniques apparently designed to influence by intimidation as much as by sheer military force. It has been noted by military historians that the Nazis' blitzkrieg style of warfare—which again was as effective psychologically as it was militarily—was influenced by the Assyrians' high-speed chariot warfare tactics. The Nazis also seem to
have appropriated aspects of the iconography and military regalia used by the Assyrian empire to impress and psychologically dominate their foes.
Certainly German leaders made use of Roman symbols such as the war eagle, which may have been influenced by Assyrian models. The Romans themselves, of course, were ancient masters at psychological warfare, from their impressive uniforms and the legions' imposing battle standards to the triumphal parades, in which defeated kings and their treasures were paraded through the streets of the capital city.
Aided by propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, as well as architect Albert Speer and others, Adolf Hitler made his forces into an intimidating spectacle for all the senses. Every aspect of Nazi regalia, beginning with the bold red flag and its intimidating black swastika on a white field, was intended to present an image of overwhelming power. The swastika was an ancient Buddhist symbol for life, but when the Nazis adopted it for their own purposes, they made two critical changes. Turning the symbol to the right, along with a 45-degree shift of its axis, the symbol resembled a wheel rolling forward against all adversaries.
As powerful as the dextrogyrate (rightward-turning) swastika were the uniforms of the German forces, particularly the SS. These have been repeatedly imitated, and even parodied in movies, but they are unparalleled in the care with which they were designed. The black SS uniform, with its black boots, jodhpurs, and swastika armband, could make even a slight, bespectacled figure such as SS director Heinrich Himmler—a chicken farmer before he joined the Nazi regime—appear intimidating. After the war, when the Nazis who had not committed suicide or escaped were placed on trial at the World Court in The Hague, they looked small indeed in civilian clothes, a testament to the terror inspired by their uniforms.
Nazi psychological warfare with visual images also included their wide use of film for propaganda purposes. They even flirted with television, then in its developmental stages. Nor did they ignore the aural sense: for example, they equipped their Stuka dive-bombers with sirens for no purpose other than to strike fear into their victims. Late in the war, Hitler fired his V2 rockets toward London, and though they had limited success militarily, these too served a strong psychological warfare purpose.
American forces were latecomers to the idea of psychological warfare, though they did wage a number of successful propaganda campaigns in World War II through the use of leaflets and radio broadcasts. Attempts to win "hearts and minds" in the Vietnam War proved much less successful, however, in part because the United States lacked a clear strategic plan in that war.
In contrast to lack of U.S. success in strategic psychological warfare were a number of achievements in tactical psychological operations, or psyops. In the late 1940s, for instance, operatives with knowledge of rural Filipino folklore used sounds and imagery to convince local Philippine communist insurgents that they were being chased by ghosts.
Operation Just Cause and Commander Solo. During Operation Just Cause, the campaign against Panama's General Manuel Noriega in 1989, psychological warfare experts accompanied U.S. Army Rangers on airborne missions. They broadcast U.S. propaganda from loudspeakers, and bombarded the Vatican embassy, where Noriega had taken refuge, with loud rock music.
Aiding U.S. psychological and propaganda techniques is an array of technology, an example of which is the EC-130F aircraft flown on "Commander Solo" missions. These carry equipment for broadcasting on the AM, FM, television, and military communications bands, with missions flying at the highest possible altitude to ensure maximum coverage.
Commander Solo operated in Just Cause, during which it broadcast propaganda against the Noriega regime. During Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994, it was used for radio and television broadcasts to the people of Haiti, and its frequent relays of messages from President Jean-Bertrand Aristide contributed significantly to the orderly transition from military to civilian rule. In 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, or the Persian Gulf War, Commander Solo aircraft deploying from bases in Saudi Arabia and Turkey broadcast a program called Voice of the Gulf, along with other programs designed to convince Iraqi soldiers to lay down their arms.
The Persian Gulf War. U.S. psyops tactics in the 1991 Persian Gulf War revealed considerable sophistication. While U.S. forces jammed local radio signals, they broadcast on their own channels, and even dropped portable radios into Iraqi units so as to ensure that opposition forces would hear U.S. broadcasts. Members of the 13th Psychological Operations Battalion operated among prisoners of war in camps, playing "good cop" to the "bad cop" of the military police.
Whereas the latter carried weapons and enforced order, psyops personnel presented themselves as the prisoners' friends. They provided them with prayer mats and signs indicating the direction of the Moslem holy city of Mecca, and passed out cigarettes, extra food, and candy to those who cooperated. Each night, they showed the prisoners movies for entertainment, but uncooperative detainees were not allowed to attend. Recalled one member of the 13th Psyops, "We had some Iraqi movies that were [made] according to strict Muslim laws, but they didn't want to see those. They wanted to see Superman. "
The Iraqis made their own attempts at psychological warfare in at least one regard. Using a tactic applied by Axis radio broadcaster Tokyo Rose against Allied forces in the Pacific during World War II, and by Hanoi radio against American GIs in Vietnam, they attempted to convince enemy soldiers that their wives and girlfriends were cheating on them back home. One leaflet that was intended to inform the American soldier that his wife was being un-faithful at home referred to a figure the Iraqis apparently mistook for a film star: Bart Simpson, actually a cartoon character.
Operation Iraqi Freedom. Both in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom 12 years later, U.S. forces made extensive use of propaganda leaflets. In Operation Desert Storm alone, 14 million leaflets were dropped over Iraq. These were designed to be as simple as possible, keeping in mind the fact that many Iraqi soldiers had only enough education to enable them to read the Koran. Therefore, leaflets relied on images such as a picture of Americans making an amphibious landing—a ruse designed to divert Iraqi defenses for an attack that never occurred.
In early March 2003, just before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition aircraft operating from Turkey undertook Operation Northern Watch, in which they dropped leaflets over Kurdish areas in northern Iraq. The leaflet campaign continued and expanded as hostilities began, and forces bombarded Iraq with messages designed to win over the populace, and to convince the Iraqi military that resistance was futile. An example of the latter was a leaflet that stated, "Attention Iraqi air defense. Any hostile action by Iraqi air defenses toward coalition aircraft will be answered by immediate retaliation. Iraqi air defense positions which fire on coalition aircraft or activate air defense radar will be attacked and destroyed."
Other psychological tactics employed in Operation Iraqi Freedom included announcements by U.S. leadership that Iraqi leaders were prepared to surrender at the outset of the war. Coalition forces used amplified sound to convince Iraqi forces that tanks were operating outside the city of Basra, and continually broadcast to the populace over radio and television.
Coalition aircraft dropped millions of leaflets over Iraq even after the fighting ended, with the purpose of convincing the Iraqi populace that the invaders had come not to conquer, but to turn the country over to its people. The coalition also released a set of playing cards depicting key personnel from the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein who had yet to be caught or otherwise neutralized. Hussein himself was the ace of spades.
█ FURTHER READING:
Alexander, John B. Future War: Non-Lethal Weapons in Twenty-First Century Warfare. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Lesser, Ian O. Countering the New Terrorism. Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1999.
Libicki, Martin C. What Is Information Warfare? Washington, D.C.: National Defense University, 1995.
Schwartau, Winn. Information Warfare: Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1994.
Ullman, Harlan, James P. Wade, et al. Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance. Washington, D.C.: Center for Advanced Concepts and Technology, 1996.
Information Warfare and Information Security on the Web. Federation of American Scientists. < http://www.fas.org/irp/wwwinfo.html > (April 14, 2003).
The Information Warfare Site. < http://www.iwar.org.uk/ > (April 14, 2003).
Institute for the Advanced Study of Information Warfare. < http://www.psycom.net/iwar.1.html > (April 14, 2003).
Americas, Modern U.S. Security Policy and Interventions
Iraqi Freedom, Operation (2003 War Against Iraq)
Persian Gulf War
Propaganda, Uses and Psychology
World War II