Blog Entry, 11 Aug 08, Georgia On My Mind
All of us have been watching the unfolding situation in Georgia. For some of us, we are reminded of untold exercises involving the Fulda Gap – or as I used to say “19 Russian Divisions - no waiting”. Russian forces have taken direct and violent action on the battlefield overwhelming their adversary.
They have also employed new weapons – Computer Network Attack (CNA). The UK based Telegraph reported that Russia is also conducting a “Cyber War” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/2539157/Georgia-Russia-conducting-cyber-war.html) where the target is official government websites.
I’d argue that it’s not really “Cyber War”, but a reasoned PSYACT designed more to show dominance rather than to orchestrate harm. Control of a government or individual’s ability to communicate is designed to invoke a feeling of helplessness on the part of the victim and to erode morale and will.
Attacking a government’s websites making them unavailable or redirecting the accessor to another website clearly under the control of the attacker would appear to be a good way to reduce confidence in the government. It would also seem to be a way to make the citizenry feel that their government is powerless.
The defender would have to turn to other means to counter this impression. This best alternative given the demographics would be TV. Government TV broadcasts could fill the void left by any Internet deficit, and employ visuals designed to bolster the confidence of the citizenry and unite them against the attacker.
Broadcasts of action on the front line could also be used as a means to induce other nations to come to the rescue of the victim by putting political pressure on the attacker, or perhaps even offering some military counter balance.
Interestingly enough this type of action was considered in the recently released National Defense Strategy as stated on page 4 of the strategic environment section: “All of these actions suggest a Russia exploring renewed influence, and seeking a greater international role.”
Given all the above, how confident are we that the USG could mount an effective response in this or a similar situation that would harness conventional military power, Computer Network Operations, PSYOP, PA, Department of State and other instruments of national power?
This most recent action should be a real wake up call. An efficient enemy such as the one posed by a totalitarian regime with strong and unchallenged leadership is a formidable foe. Especially since the USG lacks:
A cohesive and well thought out National Information Strategy.
A single designated Senior Government Leader in the Executive Branch to form and implement such a strategy across the USG.
Neither a strategy nor designated responsible individuals within the USG to mobilize or at least work with US civilian resources to assist in an information offensive.
It would seem that now is the time to finally put into place recommendations from the Defense Science Board’s 2007 Task Force on Strategic Communications, ideas from the IO Roadmap of 2003 and other moves designed to prepare the USG to more effectively deal with today’s environment and avoid disaster in tomorrow’s.
It also appears that DoD should increase its emphasis on NATO Doctrine to help insure smoother joint operations with NATO allies and would be NATO members should these be necessary in the future.