Friday, September 01, 2006

A Return to Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear....

Commenter Nemesis alerted me to these piece he wrote Reasons for Optimisms: Part I and Reasons for Optimisms: Part II Very interesting stuff. A good look at some of the elements of the war we are fighting by a 20-year veteran of the the Intelligence business.

I have one small point of disagreement about our information war strategy that Nemesis discusses. Nemesis thinks we don't have a strategy. I think we do.

I think what we have is a return to the days of the citizen militia. The information war has been farmed out to the citizen militia. The government is doing the blockade and military stuff. The citizen militia is doing the information warfare stuff.

How effective has the citizen militia been? Very. The Lebanon war brought out to a large fraction of the American people that the news from the other side was often faked or manipulated. Bloggers did this. The bloggers have counter-attacked the enemy's information warfare strategy to such an extent that Green Helmet Guy = Baghdad Bob. Every story and picture now gets intense scruitiny for manipulatiion. This is going to make our enemy's greatest asset - our media - tighten ship.

It will also make the American people more wary.

I think the Israeli-Hizballah War has turned the tide on the information war.

It seems the strategy of letting the militia handle the information war (mostly) is starting to work briliantly. The Spirit of Flight 93 lives.

I might mention that we owe a great debt of gratitude to Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs for all the work he has done showing and explaining our enemy's intentions and media manipulations. He is not the only one doing the work, but he has been the most continuously effective. Plus he serves as a clearing house for the work of others.

Now I might add that somtimes the commenters are over the top (heck I've left some over the top comments there, search - cloudy mushroom soup), but the quality of his investigations is always excellent.


geoffgo said...

M. Simon,

Next, we need digital vigilantism. If various sites are declared legitimate "prizes," then the citizenry can respond accordingly. Digital privateering, real-time Letters of Marque. Constitutionally appropriate.

Automated vicious stuff, oncall from 20M - 50M desktops. Swarming, clogging, disrupting, denying, infecting, wiping, retrieving, bombing, plus other newer tricks invented daily.

Make using the web a real maintenance headache the enemy. Make their B/W really expensive.

Chas said...

Is this the same "Intelligence business" that so accurately predicted the presence, and indeed the location of the WMD's in Iraq?
To say nothing of knowing the exact whereabouts of Osama in the elaborate bunkers of Tora Bora?

I know you probably, from your tone, regard this as some sort of real world computer game .. but it is not .. the main counterbalance to the overwhelming forces in favour of war is dialogue. Please do not screw up the Internet in the interests of your narrow ideology. The destruction of means of comminication is an act of vandalism, not patriotism.

Peace, Chas (I still don't know how to make links, so copy and paste)

M. Simon said...

But Chas,

Saddam didn't account for all the WMDs he claimed to have. In fact he didn't account for everything he was known to have.

The real intel failure is: where are the missing WMDs?

Explain how to dialog with folks who want to rule the world in the name of Islam and who believe that killing you for not being Islamic is a good idea:

Hizbollah and Hamas have constructed core ideologies based upon this Islamic theology of Jew hatred, which one can glean readily from their foundational documents, and subsequent pronouncements, made ad nauseum. Hamas further demonstrates openly its adherence to a central motif of Jew-hatred in Muslim eschatology—Article 7 of the Hamas Charter concludes with a verbatim reiteration of the apocalyptic hadith alluded to earlier:

“The Last Hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: `Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him’; but the tree Gharkad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6985).

Apocalyptic Muslim Jew-hatred

Chas said...

First point
revionist and delusional.
Second point
The whole thing about dialogue is that it is not easy. There is very little point in talking only to those that agree with you - that is why I am here! - but at the same time if the gulf is too great then attempts at dialogue will degenerate into abuse. (which can be fun, but achieves little)
So you try to rope people in from extreme positions to a moderate stance where dialogue becomes possible. Two surprising things I have noticed, people in emotionally charged situations need to vent, but after they have got over that, dialogue is possible and may even become constructive.
And (rem 6 degrees of seperation) you don't actually have to dialogue directly with the most extreme positions .. in fact they are not the most important people .. it is the ones, and they are many, who are just a few steps away from extremism, but who are accessible.
As a rule of thumb, people who are just angry are accessible, people who are hate-filled are not. I think the former are actually the vast majority.
What makes this approach really difficult is that you have to acknowledge the legitimate (as opposed to the propoganda) concerns of your "enemy" and you have to be aware of your own failings and be prepared to acknowledge them to those who would mock you for them.

So why bother? Bombs are definetly simpler!



C. Owen Johnson said...

M. Simon:

Good point about the citizen militia approach to IW. And in fact, I believe the administration is aware of that effect, though I'm not sure to what degree and happy to let it do it's thing, as it were. But this didn't fall within my definition of strategy, so I glossed over it. Perhaps my definition should have been wider.

But was my point was I'm not sure, and rather doubt, that we have a guy with a staff who is dedicated to IW as such and I didn't want to giv ethe impression that we did. IW is on the whol being handled much more organically and has deliberate and largely unconsious parts. That said, I think your post gives well deserved attention to an important point.

If "revionist and delusional" and refers to what I think it does, you muct have privileged sources not available to the rest of us. Would you care to elaborate? I know I have privileged sources on that very topic and I'm guessing they don't agree with yours. Shall we compare?

Also, why "revionist and delusional" as opposed to "based on the evidence I'm aware of I disagree"? I'm afraid you are tipping your hand here.

M. Simon said...


I don't know that you could actually have an effective IW bureau.

One day it is the Marines in Haditha, the next it is faked photos from Lebanon, another day Joe Wilson.

How do you get a bureau with enough personel, expertise, and contacts to deal with the flood? And how do you know on any given day how to apportion your manpower?

On top of that you have the problem with an identified leader: it taints the product.

What would I do about IW right now? Just watch. Collect facts. Timelines for responses to any major controversy. In other words look at what the blogs are doing. With whatever metrics seem useful.

Based on that I'd try and figure out how to assist the process, as opposed to controlling it.

Anonymous said...

> Based on that I'd try and
> figure out how to assist
> the process, as opposed
> to controlling it.

The gov is ill equiped to handle this sort of thing. Look at the propeganda efforts in Iraq.

We should assemble the 100 sexiest cheerleaders in America and send them on a world wide tour of Islamic countries. The Jihadi's heads will all explode and the war will be over.

Chas said...

"revionist and delusional" was rather dismissive, My apologies.
I was weary of a rather tired arguement and wanted to move on to something more constructive.
The fact is that I don't have any different sources, I just draw more reasonable conclusions from those widely available .. not alone btw.



Anonymous said...

official sanction of this sort of activity tends to backfire, as here.

M. Simon said...


A lot of people drew more reasonable conclusions about the rantings of the Austrian corporal in the 1930s and prevented a war. Good for them.

For all their troubles they got a whopper of a war in the 1940s. Bad for everybody.

There are some people who you can't reason with. Negotiating with some folks is folly.

People who start negotiations with "God says" generally do not permanently compromise. All compromise with them is tactical. No agreement is permanent. In fact our Islamic friends have a name for such agreements. It is called a "hudna" which means we agree because we are weak. When we are stronger the deal is off.

Trying to make deals with hungry alligators is folly.

C. Owen Johnson said...

M. Simon:
If one considers IW in the broad sense I discussed it, you are quite right that it is not really possible to have an agency in charge of it unless one wants create a national propaganda agency, which has been tried in a number of countries, mostly totalitarian ones, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

But I made the distinction because when I worked in IW/IO in the 90s — they changed the name officially to “information operations” because “information war” was too provocative and they wanted to emphasize its subsidiary role — who was going to be responsible for IW/IO strategy, scope, planning etc. at the national level was a big deal. I mean IW/IO here in the limited sense of the official definition, not the wider sense. So there was in fact supposed to be, and in name there sort of was, a national agency who had the official responsibility for IW/IO within its portfolio. Practically I don’t think it ever worked out.

There’s also the question that Russian military theorists explicitly state that their defeat in the Cold War was a direct result of orchestrated US IW. Interestingly, they are closer to being right then many might suppose, but being Russians they tend to read way to much into many things. That is, at least to me, a fascinating story and I hope someone get around to telling it some day.

But those were the factors I had in the back of my mind when I made the distinction.

M. Simon said...


What the Russians never got was that our best IW was a byproduct.

Our current enemies being of a socialist bent believe that what we do is specifically directed at them. A plot.

However, as in the Soviet case it is just a byproduct.

C. Owen Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
C. Owen Johnson said...

I understand being weary of that argument, I’ve become tired of it myself and would at this point be content to let history sort it out. You are certainly correct that you are not alone and indeed the position you have drawn from the publicly available data is not in itself unreasonable, although I think many do hold to it in ways, and do things to it, that are. The problem is not the conclusions so much as the contradiction in the data itself. Before the invasion, there was a wide international consensus on the Iraq WMD issue based on classified and open-source data that I was personally familiar with and that I contributed to. After the invasion, that data appeared to be contradicted and there was a gap of about a year in between . That contradiction was seized upon by various groups and often distorted for political and ideological reasons.

Even Hans Blix in his public statement about his final report to the UN chose to misrepresent the tenor of his findings, leaving out mention important findings — described as such in the written report — because they pointed in only one conceivable direction and he did not want to be seen as sounding a call to war. So he temporized to the point of being misleading, handed over the report and so other could read his conclusions, make up their minds, and take the responsibility. {Which they did though no solely on the basis of his report.] Blix’s action was far from courageous but understandable and in his position, probably reasonable. The problem was that the public statement was seized upon and widely read, but the report itself was not. Very much the same thing happened to the ISG report. Further, both Blix’s investigation and the ISG were themselves flawed and potentially compromised, making neither fully reliable as the last word. The ISG in particular used a flawed methodology. Under the circumstances it seemed reasonable, but the underlying premise turned out to be faulty and unfortunately, politics and bureaucracy acted to make the problems worse.

So the actual contradiction was nowhere near as great as it was subsequently portrayed. But it does exist and people have resolved it according to their predilections. Many theories thus abound — some plausible, some widely conspiratorial — and all pretty much unprovable given what information is available. But there remains a considerable information that, remaining classified, is not widely known, and as I have been involved with it since the 80s, I draw my conclusions on a different basis than most people. Our government has not chosen to make these facts public in order to try to resolve the debate in their favor, choosing to accept the political damage instead. They have their reasons and I suspect I know what some of them are, and if I am right, they probably made the right choice. Right or wrong, it is certainly a reasonable choice. But then, as think the foregoing makes clear, reasonable and right are not at all the same thing.

PS: I first attempt to post this comment mangled it somewhat, hence the deleted comment above.