Information Operations Part I: Definition, Origin and Historical Context
By Dialogo July 19, 2012
Many attempts have been made to define the concept of Information Operations; they can be understood as the use of a series of tools to manage one’s own information and that of one’s adversary, with the objective of identifying and revealing the enemy’s stratagems. This is done with the aim of developing information strategies that can strengthen the institution’s image and using them to confront 4th Generation Warfare; in this scenario, they become a tool that can transform society’s perceptions and defeat the enemy internally, through an appropriate planning process.
In addition, Information Operations seek to strengthen the “interagency process,” better known in Colombia as “inter-institutional coordination,” with the aim of generating the necessary conditions for the state as a whole to provide the guarantees stipulated in the Constitution with regard to the population’s enjoyment of human rights. This inter-institutional coordination promotes community empowerment, thereby cutting the ties between the population and illegal groups, where they exist.
Origin of Information Operations
Their chief antecedent is the cyber war of the late 1970s; they have gradually undergone a process of transformation until becoming operations that acknowledge the significant role played by information as an element of power in times of peace, war, and conflict.
Undoubtedly, the era of globalization entailed an increase in risks to national security, due to the fact that they took on a non-traditional role. The situation became even more complicated after the September 11 attacks, which led to a significant shift in the worldwide fight against terrorism. This episode in humanity’s history revealed a cruel and degrading threat characterized by the absence of defined limits, strategies, or objectives.
The rise of threats of this non-traditional kind, which use information technology on a global scale in order to reach large populations en masse, falls under what is known as 4th Generation Warfare, defined by Thomas X. Hammes as “a complex arena of low-intensity conflict. (…) It encompasses the political, social, economic, and military spectrum and involves national, international, transnational, and subnational actors.”
Some military commanders hold the view that the dispersion of this kind of warfare in society entails a significant level of flexibility and maneuverability in military operations. A considerable number of men or a great deal of firepower could become disadvantages for operations. The implementation of agile forces in small groups is necessary in order to confront this adversary; in addition, the aim is not to defeat him physically, but rather in his internal dimension, in order to attenuate the support provided by the population and the enemy culture. In this final element, the correct identification of strategic centers of gravity is decisive, as well as interagency action with other state entities.
(To be continued…)