… Psychological operations or “psy-ops” of the 1950s have morphed into information warfare.
There have been uneasy debates about where the boundary line between this and the traditional press officer’s role should be, because, let’s face it, the media is an involuntary actor in this drama too.
However the new discipline of strategic communications seeks to go beyond information operations, press briefings and leaflet drops. It is, in the words of one alliance official, “an over-arching concept that seeks to put information at the very centre of policy planning.”
When you are fighting wars within communities in an effort to secure popular support for one side or another – the traditional struggle for hearts and minds – you can see how central the concerns of the new strategic information warriors have become.
In some ways, this is at the very core of modern counter-insurgency strategy. …
Many critics may remain unconvinced seeing the whole thing as a giant spin-machine intended to accentuate the positive and present one particular carefully-controlled narrative of events.
Because that, in a sense, is what is at stake – it is a battle for the narrative.
Whose interpretation of what is happening is going to prevail? This new focus raises uncomfortable questions for anyone involved in the information business. Perceptions matter in another way too.
There is unlikely to be a tidy end to the Afghan conflict. Nobody really can define what “victory” or “defeat” in the traditional sense might mean.
So if it is to be an untidy conclusion then what people think about it – how they judge the outcome – really does matter.
It used to be said that: “Britain won its wars on the playing fields of Eton.”
But now a new kind of warfare means that the information battle has to be fought on multiple fronts by multiple actors.
From the fields of Helmand to the small towns of Kansas; from the tribal areas of Pakistan to British cities where voters are girding themselves for a coming election, the news from the Afghan battle-front will shape perceptions – and these perceptions will inevitably shape future policy.
The words “lie,” “lies,” “lying” and “liars” do not appear in this article. Is my punctuation correct in that last sentence?