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Information society and information warfare

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    Predrag TASEVSKI

Meaning of victory in conflict in the information age. What has changed? What has remained unchanged? How information society and information warfare influences achieving the victory?

The rapid development of information technology (IT) over the past three decades has led to many changes for example in military and defense circles, social society, and economy in the information age. Nowadays many scholars are in a process of developing theories and concept of affective influence of victory in conflicts in the information age. In this essay the main discussions are about the interchanges of victory in conflict in the information age in aspect of divers’ view of anatomy of information warfare; different views and approaches to information warfare/operation in a couple of countries, which will end with conclusion.

Today, much of the enthusiasm for the information-led revolution in military affairs (RMA) or military transformation (as the newly preferred term of art), specifically in Gulf War model of decisive action appeared to demonstrate how total victory could be achieved reliably in the future (Gray, April 2002, p. 30). RMA’s are immoderate, abrupt prose changes in paths of warfare waged and they are brought by development of technology and social changes. Therefore, in the end of Cold War development has formed the basis of RMA, where the present is usually defined as a transition to network-based/network-centric warfare (NCW), for instance: stealth technology, precision-guided munitions (PGM), computer technologies (Internet), etc. In addition the examples of implementing RMA are Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) war, where they started as traditional conflicts and transformed into insurgencies.

According to Carl von Clausewitz’s book On War, “War is an act of violence whose object is to compel the enemy to do our will”. Yet, 2000 years earlier Sun Tzu, established a benchmark for a mastery of war “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” Underlying those statements is an appreciation of the psychology of war. Indeed, by combining the statements Commander Randall G. Bowdish made a dissent statement of information age psychological operations “to compel the enemy to do our will without fighting. (Bowdish, December1998 – February 1999)”. Another view made by other commander remark “In war there can be no substitute for victory.” General Douglas MacArthur, 1951 (Gray, April 2002).

Nevertheless, the history of 20th century sufficesto remind us that there are many ways to win a war, but still various ways are not equivalent, and final victory does not necessarily belong to the side that dictates the conditions of peace. Which lends to viewpoint of how should we determine whether the victory is at hand, and define the time end of major battlefield to see if the post-war payoffs have been archived. Yet, there are moral considerations, archiving peace, e.g. humanitarian intervention, fair treatment may accelerate cessation of hostilities and surrender and law of armed conflict sets strict rules of behaviours by using weapon systems, treatment of prisoners, etc.

Therefore, in the past, before World War I, there are fewer clear victories, of 311 wars from 1480 to 1970; only 137 wars were concluded with a peace treaty. Specifically, after World War II, almost 50% of the wars have been followed by a renewed fighting after initial cessation of hostilities. But, since the end of Cold War acceptability of armed force have continued and even escalated, particularly in open political systems. Such as, globalization is a strong impediment waging a total war. Therefore, today in the era of democracy, wars are hard to start, but even harder to bring to an end.

Nowadays, the modern wars/information warfare consists on different vector of victory. Today is unacceptable to have extreme violence, such as losing small wars. Thus, victory today has changed drastically and vector consists of six aspects: informational(e.g. intelligence in internal and external sources, protection of information system with manipulation or disruption of its enemy), military (e.g. military security, action itself, enemy’s attack against the action and defense for the action against enemy’s attack), political (e.g. political stability, national interests, etc.) , economical (e.g. rebuilding of economical infrastructure, integration into the regional and global economy, trading of shares), social (e.g. ethnic, religious, nationalistic, social society violence to resolve in internal and external conflicts) and diplomatic (e.g. involving reliable approval and tangible support for the war outcome from the victory domestic public, foreign allies, international organizations and other observers) (Ahvenainen, January 2000).

As a consequence these changes mean decreased importance of nation states, increased importance of virtual reality, network organizations and dominance of economy, information, technical intelligence and other information and network based organizations (Ahvenainen, January 2000).

Another change in information age is terrorism. Information age terrorism may take on three distinct forms: conventional terrorism, technoterrorism, and cyberterrorism. The purpose weapons of the cyberterrorist are not designed to kill people or break physical objects. Rather, they exist exclusively to destroy or modify computer data. The weapons and the targets are the electrons moving within cyberspace. While it is possible to attack this data without any human interfaces, the human is usually the weakest link in a computer system (Littleton, December 1996).

To illustrate historically, there have been observed four waves of modern terrorism:1880-1920: anarchist terrorism (began in Russia), 1920-1960: terrorism in support of national liberation (IRA, Irgun, PLO), 1960-1980: neo-leftist terrorism (Action Directe, BrigateRosso, Rote ArmeeFraktion) and 1980-present: religious terrorism (Hamas, al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad) (Cronin & James , 2004).

On the other hand of information terrorism there is modern insurgency, likelihood counterinsurgency. Modern insurgency is supported by a wide variety of non-state actors from abroad and it consists of many foreign/local society fighters in addition to local population. They still need support of the local population, but as it does not aspire for straight military victory. Nowadays insurgency, could be weaker than previous generations (hence the use of terrorism) as there are no powerful states directly behind it and they disseminate information about its activities all over the world, which does not rely only on official mass-media, it also uses of effectively Internet (Hammes & T., July-August 2006).

Analogous to, strategic asymmetry in modern counterinsurgency (CI) and modern insurgency (I) are respectful goals. Like, (CI) victory means building up a stable state less than (I) getting rid of victorious state/coalition. As to win, (CI) needs “hearts and minds” of the majority of population, rather than (I) needs support of sufficient part of population. For instance, (CI) must deal successfully with tactical military activities to provide security, where (I) need to be successful only to a certain extent – inflicted casualties attack the will of (CI’s) strategic leadership. More (CI) must win, less (I) must persuade(CI) that winning is impossible. Due to winning state building takes time, whereas persuading could happen fast.

Therefore, evolution of insurgency in the information age is into persuasion/communication campaign which naturally increased resort to terrorism and relying on external support of non-state actors. Opposite to strategic victory of counterinsurgent arises from series of tactical victories and a state build-up, whereas only one tactical victory of insurgent might in the worst case lead to a strategic victory – withdrawal of the coalition.

Nowadays, we can see seven different species of information warfare: command and control warfare, C2W (or C4I – command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (Joint Publication 1-02, 8 November 2010)); intelligence-based warfare, IBW; electronic warfare, EW; psychological warfare, PSYOP; hacker warfare, HW; economical information warfare, ECOIW and netwar / cyberwar (Lubicki, 3 August 1995). Therefore, different types of IW, first add the power of conventional warfare, which create new means of victory and defeat. Next, more important are possibilities to change the entity of warfare in a way that tanks, airplanes and HF -radios changed the warfare between the world wars. Today the best aspect of IW is the American doctrine in military adaptation and Information Operations (IO) (Ahvenainen, January 2000), which is going to be discussed in the following lines, comparing with view aspects of IW in China.

Different countries, different approaches in process of implementation of IW, US, China and Russia, are intense examples. First US views in IO are to complementing traditional military means and allowing influencing enemy decision-making. More or less, Chinese views in IW are tool to compensate for their military inferiority and accelerate their economic development, which could enable the country to expert control over many developments in the world. Then US has series of offensive IO’s, but has been in trouble in accommodating to modern information society where the enemy can attack directly the will of state national leadership. Opposite, Chinese military in IW are focused on the person of enemy commander and strives to alter his decisions and perceptions.

Consequently, US strength in the IO fields is in its technical capabilities and weakness in seeking excessive control and understanding various cultures and capabilities to include EW , CNO and tradition PSYOPS, MILDEC , OPSEC . Where Chinese are attempting to mobilize its population in accordance with the concept of people’s war in capabilities in development in CNA, especially CNR , CND, which bring worries of the danger of globalization (Pufeng, Spring 1995), (Anderson, The first edition 2001), (Bowdish, December1998 – February 1999).

Nerveless, the IW for Soviet Union and subsequently to Russia its means ranging from controlling own society to demoralizing the enemy, gathering intelligence and attacking the enemy through CNO. There taking step further, where we had dealing with enemy with technology in US and thinking in China, Russia is trying to manipulate the biological parts of the enemy dealing with information (Liaropoulos, 2007).

As a result, the information age is creating or will create new means of influence and new ends to influence. This process will create new means of victory, new troops and added complexity. It is important, that these new things will add new possibilities between war and peace and it will increase possibilities to act before war and to avoid conventional warfare (Ahvenainen, January 2000).

Finally, to achieve victory in information warfare, the central issue is the control of information. Such as, Chinese approaches to use old tactics and strategies to win victory in information warfare and Russia is educating talented people and facilities to produce high quality cyber warriors for state, private business and crime.


Ahvenainen, S. (January 2000). ABOUT INFORMATION WARFARE. Finland: Finnish Defence Forces, Lt.Col (Ret.).

Anderson, R. (The first edition 2001). Chapter16: Electronic and Information Warfare. In R. Anderson, Security Engineering (p. Chapter16). Cambridge: University of Camrbidge.

(Apr-Jun 1999). Journal of the Signapore armed forces.

Bowdish, R. G. (December1998 – February 1999). Information-Age Psychological Operations. USA: US Navy.

Cronin, A., & James , M. (2004). Four Waves of Modern Terrorism. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press: Rapoport.

DJIM. (Volume 4 – Spring 2009). Information Warfare — Doing Battle in the 21st Century.

Gray, C. S. (April 2002). DEFINING AND ACHIEVING DECISIVE VICTORY. USA: Strategic Studies Institute.

Hammes, C., & T., X. (July-August 2006). Countering Evolved Insurgent Networks. Military Review.