Stray Voltage: War in the Information Age / Edition 1

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"Wayne Michael Hall warns in the opening pages of this timely book that enemies of America who have no hope of competing with conventional U.S. military forces will instead seize upon the strategies, tactics, and tools of asymmetric warfare to win future conflicts. A retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army with thirty years of experience in intelligence, Hall has written this book primarily for the military community and civilians interested in, or responsible for, homeland security. He explains the notion of knowledge warfare as our adversaries' principal asymmetric strategy, and information operations as their tactic du jour. He then offers a wealth of ideas on how to deal aggressively with these threats in the twenty-first century." "Along with knowledge war and information operations, his book discusses deception, information superiority, and knowledge management and recommends that the country prepare for knowledge war by merging its brainpower and technology in Knowledge Advantage Centers, developing a joint information operations proving ground where leaders train their staffs in a cyberworld environment, and creating an internet replicator to prepare for conflict in cyberspace." This book is published in cooperation with the Association of the United States Army.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591143505
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 219
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1 The Setting 1
2 Knowledge War 14
3 Asymmetric Warfare 43
4 Information Superiority 56
5 Information Operations 97
6 The Art of Deception 119
7 Knowledge Management 132
8 Triumph in Knowledge War 158
9 Cyberwarriors 189
10 The Way Ahead 198
Notes 209
Index 213
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First Chapter

Stray Voltage

War in the Information Age
By Wayne Michael Hall


Copyright © 2003 Wayne Michael Hall
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1591143500

Chapter One

Since the dawn of time men have competed with each other-with clubs, crossbows, or cannon, dollars, ballots, and trading stamps. Much of mankind, of course, abhors competition, and these remain the acted upon, not the actors. Anyone who says there will be no competition in the future simply does not understand the nature of man ... men must compete.

Events of 11 September 2001 tell us much about the nature of future conflict. That one terrible day has highlighted the belief that the United States faces tough, ruthless, adaptive adversaries who hate America and all it stands for. These adversaries will sacrifice anything to further their cause and to win, including their lives. They will compete ferociously with the United States for triumph of their way of life and to reduce the pervasiveness of U.S. prestige, influence, and presence. Nonetheless, methods for future conflict in all realms of national security will be different than in the past.

In the future global security environment the struggle for usable, valuable information and knowledge dwarfs other efforts to coerce and compel opponents by engaging them using kinetic means (bullets, bombs, and missiles), thereby destroying their people, equipment, or cities in the traditional physical way. Instead, we are rapidly approaching the age in which struggles for winning, for achieving advantages, and for imposing our will on others directly center on the control and use of knowledge. Knowledge has the potential to empower people to make good decisions. The trick is to make better decisions faster than one's adversary is able to do so-and knowledge gives people that ability, given they and their organizations can make good, fast decisions themselves. Our nation's military has put forth its vision for the future in "Joint Vision 2020." The visionary document describes the future environment, adversaries, role of technology, and how U.S. military power will retain its advantages. The document clearly makes the case for knowledge-based operations as being decisive in any future battle space.

Our country's future adversaries will have goals and objectives quite different from those of people living in a Western democracy. The list of reasons for these differences is long and includes distinctions among people such as culture and cultural icons, religion, societal beliefs, and thinking and planning. People living in a well-established democracy often have a difficult time understanding why their adversaries hate them or, even more important, the rationale for the hatred.

The future adversaries I speak of possess capabilities and a formidability that demands our begrudging respect. They have lots of money, and they arm themselves with the latest information technology and high-tech weaponry. Increasingly these threats gather information and knowledge from the Internet and the media and learn from the mistakes of others. After the events of 11 September it should be self-evident to all people that our asymmetric foes readily learn, calculate, and change. They aggregate and migrate from a few individuals and loose groups into learning, adaptive organizations. Their hatred, at once profound and resilient, revolves around ideological differences, jealousy, competitive advantage, and what they consider a long-term struggle for cultural and religious domination. Their hatred seethes, and is manifested in actions antithetical to the interests of the United States-then boils into acts of terror and extreme violence against innocent civilians.

Knowledge War

"Knowledge war" will be the preeminent form of future conflict in the twenty-first century. Knowledge war can be defined as an intense competition for valuable information and knowledge that both sides need for making better decisions faster than their adversary. The goal in this type of conflict is to seek, find, and sustain decision dominance, which leads to an overall advantage in decision making and results in a triumph of will by one side or the other. (For our purposes here "will" is defined as the resolution, sacrifice, and perseverance of individuals and groups of people to win in a competitive struggle.) Decisions influence the all-important will. Without question will, the "center of gravity" for the twenty-first century, and the concomitant struggle for triumph of will most likely will occur in the homeland of the United States. This struggle for triumph of will, though, rests not with U.S. military forces and traditional military targets. Instead, the struggle for triumph of will rests within the minds of the populace writ large that comprises the body politic of the United States.

While knowledge war applies to all levels of war, the thoughts presented here will be focused primarily on operational and strategic levels of conflict. Thus, while it may be an interesting topic, the tactical sensor-to-shooter part of an action cycle will not be assessed. Instead, the focal point will be on leader decision cycles that turn knowledge into actions that create effects (outcomes). Consequently, the strange, man-machine symbiotic acts of decision making in cyberspace will be considered later.

In the world described here two sets of propositions underpin most intellectual reasoning. A first proposition is that, because of its influence on decision making and results, knowledge also forms the intellectual foundation for strategies guiding the conduct of activities in competitive struggles. Knowledge-based strategies have at their core knowledge, which is "familiarity, awareness, or comprehension acquired by experience or study." The core concept of a knowledge-based strategy primarily involves seeking, finding, creating, and using knowledge to make effective decisions and, secondarily, enabling people to improve their thinking capabilities. Knowledge-based operations derive from knowledge-based strategies. (Knowledge-based operations range from nonkinetic actions and activities that are guided by knowledge of a foe's decision cycle and thinking process, to the knowledge that guides munitions unleashed to create precise kinetic effects or outcomes.) A second proposition pertaining here is that a trail of logic exists that can explain how knowledge originates or becomes discovered; that is, data becomes information through the manipulation of machines and knowledge workers turn information into knowledge through thought, experience, intuition, and creativity. Knowledge also leads to understanding, which occurs when decision makers combine several pieces of related knowledge into an intelligible collage. With understanding comes the potential to make effective decisions.

Victory in future conflicts will go to the side whose leaders make the best use of knowledge to make the most effective and, in some cases, quickest decisions. Decisions lead to actions, which in turn create effects (outcomes) that influence the abstract but critically important concept known as will. While technology can help establish conditions for winning a struggle, those who make the best use of their collective intellects to create the most relevant knowledge faster than their adversaries will triumph. The stakes are high in these cerebrally oriented contests, since surely outcomes will affect the way citizens of the United States live and experience life.

Information operations (IO) will be one of the principal tools of asymmetric adversaries who engage in a knowledge war with the United States. IO involve the tangible and intangible activities that affect an adversary's decision making, combined with information technologies that support decision-making processes. IO also affect the thinking and planning that support decisions throughout all levels of command. When one considers the reasons for this shift-from conventional, kinetically oriented conflict to knowledge war-the rationale always seems to center on the invisible hand of the information revolution. The forces of the information revolution are complex and affect thinking, planning, decision making, and materiel development. The changes demanded by the information revolution are significant and touch virtually every aspect of the defense establishment. Thus, in a collective security sense all individuals and organizations dealing with future conflict have to accept the mantra that change is on the horizon of the United States security apparatus, and anyone connected to it must constantly respond innovatively and creatively, regardless of either the difficulty or the complexity of the situation.

While it is true that the United States does not face a true conventional peer, it nevertheless does face increasingly formidable adversaries armed with extremely cunning intellects and the latest technology that money can buy. These adversaries use the speed and pervasiveness of the Internet, an uncanny sense about the "soft spots" of the United States, and an increased base of knowledge and intellectual power that levels the playing field. The United States security apparatus must prepare to meet and defeat this new threat in any area of competition, whether on physical terrain or in cyberspace, or in the minds of the U.S. populace, in the minds of its trading partners and allies, and, of course, in the minds of its adversaries.

The age in which we reside is much different and potentially much more dangerous than anything human beings have experienced in the past. This danger has many faces, including the face of a conventional conflict. Therefore I am not arguing that conventional conflict is anachronistic. But an asymmetric conflict also looms. America's armed forces must prepare for two types of conflict: physical, kinetic, conventional, force-on-force; and the shadowy, nuance-laden, sometimes digital and largely invisible asymmetric warfare.

These two types of conflict differ dramatically. The first, kinetically oriented warfare, involves dropping bombs and shooting bullets and artillery rounds. It requires traditional troop movements, maneuvers, attrition, command and control and the occupation and control of physical terrain. Its principal focus lies in using kinetic energy to compel and defeat an adversary through death, destruction, and the psychological and physical effects arising from attrition. The mind-set of people waging kinetic war orients on killing people and breaking things, and thereby causes an enemy to submit once a particular threshold of pain arrives. The principal theories for waging this type of conflict can be found in the works of Carl von Clausewitz, the German philosopher of war. Kinetic warfare soldiers are humans moving at the speed of the fastest available purveyor of transportation.

In contrast, asymmetric warfare involves more emphasis on the non-kinetic aspect of a conflict. It may include the use of kinetic mechanisms to create the actions that lead to effects that influence behavior and, ultimately, influence will. But, instead of focusing on attrition as the principal means to compel, asymmetric warfare orients more toward an opponent's knowledge, derision-making processes, and perceptions. The principal theoretician for this type of war was Sun Tzu, the Chinese philosopher of war. For example, when waging a knowledge war, victory may come with only minimal casualties. This way of waging future conflict includes both visible and invisible realms. Its terrain lies in the minds of human beings, in the souls of terrorists and their human targets, inside fiber-optic cables, inside databases, in computer software code, and along radio and satellite frequencies. Asymmetric warfare soldiers may be terrorists who sacrifice anything and everything to further their cause. We know they are increasingly clever in their planning, targeting, and execution. Eventually our adversaries will have another ally: "cyberbots," the sophisticated software programs that operate in cyberspace, that learn with experience, and that perform complex tasks such as intelligence collection, communications, attacks on computer servers, and deception, all at the speed of light. These cyberbots will move and maneuver at machine speed.

Asymmetric warfare deals with the maneuver of knowledge and the manipulation of psyches (individual and aggregate); it concentrates on effective decision making for success. Opponents' use of asymmetric warfare and the strategies of a knowledge war can and will impede a country's ability to engage in a kinetic, conventional, force-on-force conflict. The ascension of asymmetric warfare and the likelihood of a knowledge war suggest the need for the adaptation of a strategy that combines kinetic energy with direct and indirect attacks or manipulations on an adversary's psyche, knowledge, decision cycle, and perceptions.

It should come as no surprise that the demands of preparing for a kinetic, conventional war do not necessarily prepare combatants for planning and waging an asymmetric war, particularly knowledge war. The requirements for thinking, training and education, organization development, materiel acquisition, and reliable leadership are dramatically different when preparing for asymmetric warfare than when preparing for force-on-force operations. Asymmetric warfare is intellectually more challenging and its activities are characterized by seeking, finding, and understanding relationships; it involves a nuance and subtlety that is often invisible and difficult to measure (since it resides in the minds of an adversary). In addition, in "cyberwar" (a tool of asymmetric strategy) the actions of attacking, surveilling, reconnoitering, and protecting most often are executed by cyberbots moving and acting invisibly at the speed of light, watched over by human controllers thousands of miles from the scene of the digital fray. The philosophy of preparing for the worst case and then working lesser problem sets simply does not work when the worst case is a kinetically oriented conventional conflict and the lesser problem set is an asymmetric one. With the passage of time our asymmetric foes will become smarter, more adaptive, and technically capable. They will learn to use decentralized decision making and they will synchronize activities over the Internet and modern telephony to create massive perturbations in decision making and in the will of the collective mind of the U.S. populace. Thus we have to prepare for a very long struggle against a capable, determined foe. Preparing for this scenario is much different than preparing for its antithesis.

Before proceeding further, a quick review of what has changed and what has remained the same in the security environment seems appropriate. First, the American people have always faced formidable enemies.


Excerpted from Stray Voltage by Wayne Michael Hall Copyright © 2003 by Wayne Michael Hall
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2003

    Spawning Ground for novels

    Difficult to read. However, this book will probably spawn twenty or so a la Tom Clancy type novels. Reading this book makes it easier to sleep at night knowing the military is proactive in cyberspace.

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