War by Other Means: Building Complete and Balanced Capabilities for Counterinsurgency

By David C. Gompert; John Gordon IV | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
Perception and Cognition

Influencing Opinion

Recall the observation made early in this report that, as one moves from the territorial, structural, and physical levels of capabilities through the informational level to the cognitive level, Type III insurgents tend to become stronger while those trying to counter them, including the U.S. government, become weaker. The preceding chapter offers recommendations to make COIN more competitive on the information battlefield. This chapter considers how COIN can outperform insurgents on the ultimate level: how humans think and what they perceive.1

In the struggle for legitimacy, both performance and perception matter—government performance in serving the public, and public perception that its future lies with the government. The influencing of perceptions with information—formerly “propaganda,” now “public diplomacy,” “strategic communications,” or “information operations” (IO)—the term we will use here—is an especially important aspect of COIN against an adversary sophisticated in precisely that function. After all, it is not the organizational structure, physical capabilities, or communications equipment of global-local insurgents that have defied COIN, it is their ability to influence perceptions, stir passions, and

1 This analysis is drawn in part from ongoing RAND work on how to use information warfare to weaken the enemy (Farhana Ali, The Power of the Message: How to Use Information Warfare to Weaken the Enemy, Santa Monica: Calif.: RAND Corporation, unpublished manuscript).

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