Information Warfare: May 4, 2005

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Information War is a lot more important during peacekeeping operations. This was made clear to the U.S. Army during their Balkans peacekeeping missions in the 1990s. When troops are involved in a traditional battle with a well armed enemy, Information War is more about intelligence, passing information quickly, and screwing up the opponents communications. With peacekeeping, you are dealing with a local population that may, or may not, be on your side. The proper use of information can help get more of the local civilians, especially the armed ones, on your side. Lessons from the Balkans led to the establishment of Information War operations at the battalion and company level. In the past, this had been something that was handled by divisions, or maybe brigades in the past. 

Most of the Information War work is now done at the battalion level, where a staff officer (S39, the 3 for the usual operations officer, and the 9 to indicate civil affairs) specializes in it. The S39, and a small team, specializes in collecting detailed information on the local politics and other relationships. In Iraq, this often means genealogies, as family relationships mean a lot in this part of the world. This allows the battalion to use their dozen or so (usually less) Arabic interpreters to make the most of their time by concentrating on the right people. The S39 gathers information on who can be talked to, and who should be raided. In some ways, the S39 is a news director, deciding what information should be put out to the locals and how it should be packaged. The battalion can also do reconstruction work, or have teams brought in to do it. The S39 has to find out what the locals need the most, and work out who should be approached locally to help make it happen. The S39 also keeps in touch with the S39s of nearby battalions, and similar teams at higher levels (brigade, division and so on.) What it comes down to is giving the battalion commander a better view of the local battlefield. The combat battalions are often working in a hostile territory, but one that contains some friendly locals, and many more who could be friendly if the right moves are made. While some of the moves involved armed troops, others consist of information. The right information landed on the right target can cause an outbreak of peace and friendly relationships. 

 


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