Saturday, October 1, 2016

Quotable: Sebastian Gorka on information in irregular warfare

Donald M. Bishop, "Quotable: Sebastian Gorka on information in irregular warfare,"

image (not from entry) from

Sunday, September 25th 2016
“This article is an introduction to three of the most important enemies we face today and who we will also face in the future, and how these actors use IW and unconventional warfare (UW) against our interests: the Islamic State, China, and Russia."

Author:         Sebastian Gorka (Institute of World Politics)

Source:         Military Review

Date:             September-October 2016

Key Quotes:

  • Though none of these adversaries or enemies unilaterally could feasibly win a conventional war with the United States that still maintains a “hyperpower” position amongst the nations of the world, they have deployed old IW [irregular warfare] techniques as well as developed new ones with which to progressively both undermine our interests now, and weaken our allies and partners.

  • . . . of all the wars since Napoleon (460), more than 80 percent (380) were irregular in nature, conflicts in which at least one of the fighting forces was not a representative of a recognized government. In other words, in modern history we see four times as many conflicts resembling our war in Vietnam, or the war with IS and the Taliban, than wars that look like World War I or World War II, or even the first Gulf War.

  • Eleven years after the 2001 attacks, the Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis (JCAO) division of the Joint Staff J7 published a set of reports titled Decade of War: Enduring Lessons from the Past Decade of Operations.  Several of the J7’s observations and conclusions concerning Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF and OIF) bear directly upon current and future missions. They include * * * a slowness to recognize the importance of information and the “battle for narrative” in achieving objectives at all levels . . .

  • And the Russian Federation has not only used established modes of UW in Europe in ways that would impress surviving members of the Office of Special Services (OSS) of World War II, but it also has deployed a full suite of psychological operations (PSYOP) and information operations in the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States that matches anything from the heyday of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

The Islamic State Has Demonstrated Stupendous Recruitment Capabilities

  • Thirdly, IS has been incredibly impressive when it comes to mobilizing jihadist fighters. * * * This has been done through the use of truly pioneering Internet-based propaganda, which has enabled recruitment globally in ways that were previously unheard of when recruitment had to be done mainly face to face.

Establishment of a Theocratic Caliphate

  • . . . IS has leveraged a religious narrative, specifically an eschatological one that portrays their “holy war” as the final jihad prior to end times.

The Russia Federation: War by Other Means

  • . . . it is well to observe that today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union: it is not an existential threat to the United States.  However, it is an anti-status quo actor that intends to antagonize, undermine, and frustrate accomplishment of U.S. goals, a spoiler controlled by a thuggish former KGB officer who called the dissolution of the USSR the “greatest geostrategic calamity of the twentieth century.”

  • Some have argued that it has developed a new mode of “hybrid war.” This is not in fact true. Moscow has simply further developed and re-calibrated old Cold War tools in a new combination that emphasizes a less direct and more subversive approach to war that Sun Tsu would have instantly recognized.

  • . . . Janis Berzins summarizes Russia’s approach as emphasizing the following guidelines for war in the twenty-first century: * * * 5.  from the traditional three-dimensional perspective of the battlespace to an emphasis on information operations, PSYOP, and the “war of perceptions”; 6. from compartmentalized war to a total war, including the targeting of the enemy’s “psychological rear” and population base; 7. from war focused on the physical environment to war targeting human consciousness, cyberspace, and the will of the enemy to fight . . .

  • The guidelines are, according to Berzins, implemented in a set of clear phases.

  • First Phase: Nonmilitary Asymmetric Warfare. Synchronized informational, moral, psychological, ideological, diplomatic, and economic measures supporting the overall Russian plan to establish a political, economic, and military environment favorable to the interests of Moscow.

  • Fourth Phase: Propaganda.  Information operations targeting the civilian population to increase discontent amplified by the arrival of Russian-sponsored and trained bands of militants, escalating subversion.

  • The Russian Federation has even established a pseudoscientific theory upon which its new approach is based. This repurposed Soviet-era theory is called Reflexive Control and is the science of how to shape the information environment in such a way as to make your enemy take decisions that are preferable to your victory and detrimental to his success.

  • This more aggressive version of “perception management” is well worth studying by the U.S. military and intelligence community.

Irregular Warfare: Back to the Future

  • With America’s capacity to maintain an overwhelming competitive advantage in the conventional military arena, our adversaries and enemies will continue to develop and employ established unconventional and irregular modes of attack. Although not all of these are revolutionary, or even novel, there are proving very effective already. The sooner our strategists and policymakers recognize and acknowledge this, the better able they will be to develop relevant counters and hone our own indirect and nonkinetic modes of attack to better secure our republic and all Americans in what has become a decidedly unstable and ever more dangerous world.

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