Information Warfare and Deterrence

Chapter 3. Using Information Warfare to Deter Foreign Governments

In large measure because the discussion on defending against information operations was so rich, but also to a certain extent because of the relatively low level of classification for the meeting, this topic was addressed more quickly and in less detail than the others.

Previous Efforts and Analyses

A workshop presentation reviewed the results of a U.S. Navy-sponsored war game on "Strategic Deterrence and Information Warfare," held at the Center for Naval Analyses in December 1993. The game explored deterrence and examined IW as it relates to deterrence.

Using a Middle East scenario, the game explored IW actions and their effects from several perspectives including world opinion, the adversary (Red), the U.S. National Command Authority (NCA), and the U.S. military Commander-in-Chief (CINC). The game progressed from peace to crisis to hostilities, and in each phase, the players examined possible IW actions and results.

The game produced several relevant conclusions. First, deterrence in any form is an integrated political, economic and military effort, and the military part is Joint. That is, no single service or agency is or should be designated as responsible for IW actions in isolation from others. At the national level, IW strategy is needed and it must have full interagency involvement. Possible unintended con-sequences need examination and resolution for each proposed course of action. In pre-hostilities, many desirable information actions may be cast as "acts of war," so there are additional requirements for high level coordination with allies and coalition partners. There is also a long lead time required for most IW applications. As a crisis moves closer to the brink of hostilities, more direct IW actions become more acceptable. Again, these must be shared with allies on a case by case basis.

One of the most significant game findings was that while IW can provide high leverage options, these options seldom can "stand alone." They work best with other deterrent measures such as presence, force movements (e.g., movement into theater; call up of reserves), and other direct deterrent actions that serve as a demonstration of will. There is a critical need to start IW actions early (in some scenarios this can be years), but this must be balanced by judicious restraint. That is, premature "bridge blowing" may limit future action or demonstrate a capability that can later be defended against by the adversary. Another similar dilemma is the need to balance an early preparation of the IW battlefield with the concern that such action could "poison the well" of a future ally. Given the nature of alliances and coalitions in the post Cold War era, a potential adversary could well become an ally.

As a result of the game play, the players developed a time-phased approach to deterrence which is illustrated in Figure 3. The information warfare actions shown illustrate the kinds and levels of actions that would progress from peace time through hostilities. As both time and the interactions progress towards hostilities, so does the type and intensity of information warfare. In the context of this Middle East "Desert Shield/Storm" type scenario, the IW actions and intensity levels were an integral part of the plan, commensurate with indicators and applied throughout the crisis and conflict. The presentation served as a starting point for the discussions of offensive IW actions. As noted earlier, these discussions were somewhat constrained by the workshop classification level.

Limits on U.S. Actions

The workshop also noted some significant limits on U.S. offensive activities. First, media manipulation that involves government personnel providing false information is neither politically wise nor consistent with U.S. policy and law. Second, information attacks are attacks and, therefore, are subject to international law. Violations of sovereignty and acts of war are no less real because they use the information domain than if they involved violations of air space. Like other sovereign governments, the United States is free to defend itself and may choose to engage in acts of war for sufficient cause, but should not believe that this arena is an exception to normal rules of behavior. Indeed, U.S. disregard for international law in this crucial arena could set precedents that are very dangerous, in part because the United States is the world's largest potential IW target.

Potential of Offensive IW to Deterrence

The limits having been noted, the workshop participants also recognized that the technical capacity to render an adversary "ignorant," poor, uncertain of the capability to control its own forces, unable to communicate with its population, or uncertain of the quality of its basic information could have a profound effect on its willingness to undertake a military adventure and thus potentially equate to a powerful deterrent.

Moreover, while barely unveiling the true potential of highly leveraged information and superior battlefield awareness, Desert Storm has provided the world with a demonstration of the potential advantage of differential information capacities. Finally, the workshop concluded that research and development into tools and techniques that can impact potential adversaries' knowledge of the battlefield, control of their own forces, resources necessary to support armed conflict and deliver services to their populations, or leverage uncertainty about their own information, should go forward. This will help to ensure that the U.S. advantage in commercial information systems is translated into the capacity to influence and deter potential aggressors. And should deterrence fail, it is needed to minimize casualties in future conflicts.

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