INFORMATION OPERATIONS: TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS

Maintaining public support and will is a critical component, in many cases the critical component, to successful military operations. Commanders can claim victory but it is the public who will determine if and when victory is achieved.

Crotts, 2006, p. 11

In the last twenty years, there have been significant developments in the nature of warfare. Since the development of the internet and the rise of asymmetric warfare, the battlespace has extended further into the information domain than most nations had anticipated. The concept and idea of Information Operations (IO) is not new; it is the umbrella term of the older paradigms of Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), Deception, Operations Security (OPSEC) and Electronic Warfare (EW) with the developing category of Computer Network Operations (CNO); there is a growing acceptance that Civil Military Operations (CIMIC), Public Affairs (PA) and Public Diplomacy (PD) fall within the IO stream.

With origins pre-dating World War I, the role and importance of Information Operations has grown with each major conflict. World War II proved the importance of PSYOPS, OPSEC and Deception and the conflict in Vietnam proved the importance that domestic perception and the media play in a government’s ability to effectively carry out military action against a foreign entity; and subsequently, how much influence the human population that surrounds the enemy has on his ability to conduct war.

This essay will analyse the future of Information Operations over the next ten years through discussing the drivers, trends and key events that have shaped IO. The essay will look at the events since the 2001 September 11 attacks against the United States, and how Information Operations has developed in twelve years of conflict, both civilian and military, throughout the world. The development of IO, implications and lessons learnt during this period are the key drivers in the future and the pathway IO will take over the next ten years.

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It was cold, and no matter how hard he pulled at the covers, there wasn’t enough to keep him warm. It wasn’t the first time he had woken at 4am, and it wouldn’t be the last. A cool chill covered his body as he stared at the ceiling; he took a deep breath as he contemplated the next two hours of lying awake, trying to ignore familiar thoughts as they attempted to penetrate his consciousness. Every morning his mind waged the same battle, and every morning he grew more weary as it took its toll.

The sun slowly started to rise and the darkness was no longer able to mask the confines of the room. Prisoners know what it feels like to be isolated by four tight walls, and on mornings like this, he knew the feeling intimately. After taking off his sweat drenched clothes, he adorned his green jumpsuit, just like every other inmate, and stepped outside into the glaring sun.

The morning was slightly different to most as he strolled past the others in the exercise yard; he felt different and something was amiss, though he couldn’t put his finger on it. He caught the eye of an amigo, who simply raised his head in acknowledgement. Some days words never needed to be said to convey a message, only the right look and nod.

The compound wasn’t big, so it was never far between cells. At least this one was shared between three during the day, but wasn’t much bigger. The walls were an off grey, there were no windows and the air was stale. Sitting at his desk he sighed as he proceeded to login, feeling the handcuffs tighten with every key pressed. This was how he was to spend his foreseeable future, confined and restricted. The days were a repetition involving two different cells, the exercise yard, the small confines of the compound and the same few faces – it was real isolation without needing to be locked up alone.

It was the afternoon and he realised he had been sitting there, staring into nothing, for half an hour; yet he couldn’t recall what he was thinking about. It occurred to him then and there, what was amiss. He no longer felt anything. He had become numb. He had boxed up his feelings for long enough that they ceased to exist. He had his reasons. He just didn’t want to feel the pain and sadness anymore – instead there was a void. He wasn’t sure what was worse, because the nothing he felt, the emptiness, was just a different kind of sadness.

Without thinking, he picked up the phone and instinctively dialed the number. His heart raced as it rang three times before the call was answered. He froze. His throat closed up, he searched for words, opening his mouth but no sound would come out. He started to panic as he felt his own heart thump against his chest. He swallowed as he searched for the courage to say hello, only to hear the sound of a closed connection. He had dialed someone who was once his best friend, someone he could have a conversation for hours with, yet was unable to even start one simply out of fear.

After regaining his posture, he stepped out into the yard for some fresh air. Everything had changed in the two months he had been here; everything he had left behind was gone. Everything he loved and held dear, everything he dreamed about, simply no longer existed. A significant part of his life was now left empty.

That night he had to go for a drive out of town to pick up some equipment. Once you get outside of the urbanised area, the roads become dangerous, especially at night. He hated driving into the mountains like this, the air became heavy, and soon it started to rain. Landslides were common in these areas, and driving was one of the most dangerous tasks.

His mind began to drift after a while, back on the days events – to the phone call. He wondered what he might have said if he had the courage to speak, but could not decide on anything worthy; he wanted to say everything, but he knew nothing would mean enough.

He focused back on the road knowing how dangerous it was to be distracted. The rain was getting heavier and it was almost impossible to see up the road. He tried to clean up the window, and in doing so, he saw a glint of a reflection. He peered out the window trying to make it out. His lights illuminated the object of reflection, a truck, traveling down the hill. It showed no signs of stopping. He honked. The truck didn’t stop. His heart sank. There barely enough room on the road for both of them. He sped up, aiming for a segment in the road that was wider than the rest, hoping to reach it at the same time as the truck.

Today just wasn’t his day. The truck was moving faster than he anticipated and shot past the wider section of road. He swerved to keep the car on the road but it was too slippery. He felt the loss of gravity as the car slid off the road, temporarily floating before meeting the slopped ground, rolling twice before resting at the base of a group of trees. He was lucky; the car could have kept rolling to the base of the hill.

He took a breath to calm his racing heart. He pulled out his phone and dialed the number. He listened as it continuously rang. He was almost ready to give up when it was answered. He kept it simply. “Hey. I miss you. I still love you”. The response was expected. “I know you do”.
“Keep Safe” he said.
“You Too”
He took a breath and hung up. He closed his eyes and tried to calm his beating heart. A tear formed in his eye, slowly rolling down his cheek. Closely followed by a second. He opened himself up to his feelings again. He looked at his hands and at the unmistakable red that now covered them. He stared into the empty distance and thought of the home that he had left behind, A home that no longer existed, and soon, neither did he.

What are you going to do?

Well, I’m going to get out of bed every morning, breathe in and out, then after a while I wont have to remind myself to get out of bed in the morning and breathe in and out. And then after a while, I wont have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while …

Sleepless in Seattle

In the absence of the mind, the slow death of the heart, the air grows perilously thin. Your lungs begin to shrink, your eyes grow weak and you begin to only hear silence. Time grows longer and days become weary. Measures of distance are amplified, becoming relative to meaning. A loneliness embodies your existence, borrowing what life you have left; never to give it back. You feel nothing, not even the darkness that resembles the remnants of the soul. Looking in the mirror, not recognizing the reflection, you tremble on weak legs. At night you lie awake, feeling vacant, alone and cold. Sometimes you feel part of what was once there. You can’t name it; but you know it’s there, eating away at what’s left. A ghost that never wanes …