Sunday, October 4th 2015
“In the twenty-first century, observes Joseph Nye, Harvard professor and coiner of the term ‘soft power’, conflicts will be less about whose army wins than whose story wins. Ambitious powers such as China and Russia . . . are taking this idea seriously, asking questions about the nature of war and whether winning without fighting is possible.” These concepts open a new report by the Legatum Institute, “Information at War: From China’s Three Warfares to NATO’s Narratives,” issued on September 22, 2015. Laura Jackson, Timothy Thomas, Mark Laity, and Ben Nimmo contributed major essays in the Institute’s “Beyond Propaganda” series. In the introduction to the report, Peter Pomerantsev wrote:
In the twenty-first century, observes Joseph Nye, Harvard professor and coiner of the term “soft power”, conflicts will be less about whose army wins than whose story wins. Ambitious powers such as China and Russia—powers keen to challenge the global status quo without directly confronting NATO and the US in a military head-to-head—are taking this idea seriously, asking questions about the nature of war and whether winning without fighting is possible. “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting,” argued Sun Tzu back in the fourth century BC. Have the technological advancements of the information age made that ideal possible?
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We can only hope that this is still possible ideologically, but the issue of how to organise such strategic communication remains. In the Cold War governments were, for good or ill, behind efforts as diverse as publishing the magazine Encounter, helping publish the translation of Doctor Zhivago, funding the BBC World Service, and setting up the myth-busting Active Measures Working Group. Many such activities would be deemed unacceptable today. How does one coordinate the work of the private, public, and non-commercial sectors so that the phrase “our strength is in diversity” actually means something.