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Cognitive Warfare: Aspects Of New Strategic Thinking – Analysis

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By Gagliano Giuseppe

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Combining the strategic observations on revolutionary war – those made by Colonel Trinquier during the war in Algeria, in particular–with US strategy regarding information warfare, the authors Harbulot and Lucas, leading experts at the French École de guerre économique, and Moinet, Director of the DESS (Intelligence économique et développement des Entreprises) – place their emphasis on the profoundly innovative and strategic role played by information warfare and on its implications for companies. Naturally enough, it emerges with clarity that the authors’ intention is to utilize cognitive warfare in defense of the interests of French companies against their US competitors.

It is undeniable – in the opinion of the authors – that the date of September 11, 2001, represented a change in strategic thinking of fundamental importance. Undoubtedly, the war in the Persian Gulf, the US military intervention in Somalia, and the conflicts in former Yugoslavia had already presaged – even if in terms not yet precisely defined – an evolution of military strategy in the direction of newer strategic scenarios. It is enough to consider – the authors observe – that at the time of the invasion of Kuwait, US public opinion was mobilized following a disinformation process planned at military level or more exactly, at psychological warfare level. In this regard, it is sufficient to recall how the televised landing of US troops on the beaches of Mogadishu, the televised lynching of a US Army soldier enabled the marginalization of the politico-military dimension of the civil war in progress. Yet the importance ascribed to the manipulation of information was determined by the conviction – which proved to be correct – that the absolute mastery of the production of knowledge both upstream (the educational system) and downstream (Internet, media audio-visual means) can ensure – the authors emphasize – the long-lasting legitimacy of the control of world affairs.

Yet in light of the American political-military choices and reflections on the revolutionary war in Algeria, French strategy felt the need to define in strict terms exactly what information warfare is. First of all, the expression used in the context of French strategy is the one of cognitive warfare defined as the capacity to use knowledge for the purpose of conflict. In this regard, it is by no mere chance that Rand Corporation information warfare specialists John Arquilla and David Rundfeldt assert the domination of information to be fundamental to American strategy. Secondly, the ample and systematic use of information warfare by the US creates the need – in geographical-strategic terms–for the European Union to do some serious thinking on cognitive warfare. On the other hand, the absence of legal regulation of manipulation of knowledge in the architecture of security inherited at the end of the Cold War can only lead to serious concern above all for economic security of European companies and must consequently bring about the formulation of a strategy of dissuasion and the use of subversive techniques that must be capable of creating barriers against attempts at destabilization.

Naturally enough, this presupposes: “au préalable la maîtrise de principes élémentaires issus de la tactique dans un rapport du faible au fort: contourner et prendre à revers, attaquer sur les points déficients, affaiblir et contre-argumenter (avec une notion d’anticipation) plutôt que de désinformer.”[1] By no coincidence, the work group’s conclusions at European level read as follows: “Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises du Commissariat général au Plan – dit rapport Martre – ont mis en valeur l’importance de l’intelligence économique comme facteur immatériel de la compétitivité des organisations.” Precisely this awareness of the crucial importance of a conflict-oriented information dimension has brought economic operators to adapt themselves to the new equilibrium that is being established between competition and cooperation, obliging them to realize that by now industrial strategies depend essentially on the abilities of companies to access strategic news in order to better anticipate the markets and strategies of their competitors in the future. Precisely for this reason – the authors emphasize – the strategic management of economic news has become one of the fundamental motors behind the overall performance of both nations and their companies. Despite the fact that significant results have been achieved, the “maîtrise des aspects offensifs de l’intelligence économique demeure encore imparfaite dans l’immense majorité des grandes organisations. Pourtant les procédés concurrentiels visant à l’affaiblissement ou l’élimination d’une entreprise ont un coût bien identifié”.

Precisely for this reason it has by now become necessary to accept that these strategic choices no longer possess the unexpected or exceptional nature they had before. In a context of global competition, companies can no longer rest content with understanding and even anticipating the strategies of their competitors but “doit se préserver des attaques envers son patrimoine informationnel, et plus généralement à l’encontre de ses intérêts vitaux. Les aspects offensifs et défensifs sont à ce point imbriqués qu’il est difficile de les séparer et même dangereux de les penser distinctement”. From this point of view, European economic enterprises must defend themselves not only from American competition but also from the various antagonists who place the Capitalist system itself in doubt: “Parce que les États-unis sont les seuls en mesure d’asseoir une réelle supériorité dans l’ensemble des domaines fondamentaux, il importe que l’Europe s’arroge les principes tactiques et stratégiques de fragilisation ou de contrainte à l’encontre du fort. L’avènement de la doctrine de sécurité économique américaine a généré une mutation profonde des antagonismes concurrentiels. Par ailleurs, au-delà des menaces représentées par la concurrence, les entreprises vont de manière croissante être également confrontées aux courants contestataires issus de la société civile, et dont les revendications idéologiques seront en mesure de porter gravement atteinte à leur image. Les firmes de certains secteurs industriels (énergie, alimentation et grande distribution) figurent déjà parmi les cibles de telles organisations. L’opposition des qualités de l’esprit aux défauts du profit, des constantes humanitaires aux variables économiques, et les mobilisations des intellectuels contre les intérêts marchands monopolistiques sont déjà autant de motifs de déstabilisation que seul un projet discursif de contre-argumentation peut rendre caduque.”

In conclusion, the emergence of new information technologies – above and beyond their initial utopian prospects – has contributed to an exasperation of the competition while determining–the authors emphasize – a conflict that has not been seen since the end of the Cold War: “En effet, au temps de la guerre froide, la rivalité entre les deux blocs était prioritairement de nature idéologique, politique et militaire. La maîtrise de l’information relevait quasi exclusivement du champ géostratégique. Or, l’effondrement du bloc soviétique a transformé ce paradigme. Désormais, l’appréhension de l’information dépasse le seul cadre géostratégique classique et s’immisce en profondeur dans les sphères concurrentielles et sociétale”.

Source:
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy

Notes:
[1] Christian Harbulot-Nicolas Moinet-Didier Lucas, La guerre cognitive: A la recherche de la suprématie stratégique, VI Forum intelligence économique de l’Association Aéronautique et Astronautique Française Menton, 25 septembre 2002, p. 8


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Modern Diplomacy

Modern Diplomacy

The Modern Diplomacy is a leading European opinion maker - not a pure news-switchboard. Today’s world does not need yet another avalanche of (disheartened and decontextualized) information, it needs shared experience and honestly told opinion. Determined to voice and empower, to argue but not to impose, the MD does not rigidly guard its narrative. Contrary to the majority of media-houses and news platforms, the MD is open to everyone coming with the firm and fair, constructive and foresighted argumentation.

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