The Soviets called it “the shadow theatre”, i.e. the set of psychological warfare techniques of the time, in the Cold War world.
Maskirovka, in particular, e.g. everything is camouflage, deception, real psychological warfare, disinformation.
In fact, if we analyze the psywar techniques currently used, we realize that we are still at the Cretaceous period.
No sectoral influence operations, no action on subjects or public targets, little knowledge of the new discoveries of social psychology and biopsychic evolution.
The scenario of Western psywar operations is still not very brilliant.
Obviously, explaining to the Defense Ministers of Western countries what these operation are about is a very difficult mission that few people would be able to accomplish successfully.
Actually, nowadays the old maskirovka is not the cover, the shell of real operations, but its true essence.
Just as today’s industrial production is, above all, communication, induction of a certain behaviour, identification of a target of customers, development of a product that meets their psychological and symbolic needs, currently also war is above all maskirovka well before being military and destructive struggle.
Nobody cares where engines are produced, which are now all the same, but certainly the market is interested in the symbolism of goods, in its evocative potential and in the ability to define the status of those who buy them.
Furthermore, in an old CIA manual, the Soviet “active measures” were defined and classified as follows: a) the Center gives the green light for a strategic disinformation campaign; b) the news, which is never entirely true or entirely false, is prepared and packed; c) the dezinformatsja news is disseminated abroad so as to later check the results.
The results are eminently practical: the “Euromissile battle” narrated by Michel Tatu, the long end of the Vietnam war, the management of Soviet foreign policy after the Helsinki Treaty.
But that is not all: currently, the intelligence mainly consists of economic effects, which are continuous and complex. The shift from the Soviet “active measures” and from the political-military clash to the industrial one marks a large part of the post-Cold War period.
All true psychological warfare is active and proactive, but the whole Western warfare doctrine is defensive and passive, which means it does not exist.
Hence it is not necessary to wage war manumilitari, for the additional reason that the enemy’s enterprises and infrastructure will be good also for us. At a time when the value chains are now fully global, when cars are manufactured in Spain for the German market and in China for the Indian one – not to mention drugs, the active ingredients of which are produced in India for the French market and even in Mexico, but for the Canadian one.
All contemporary intelligence, however, is targeted to the economic and technological resources of the possible enemy and operates – 24 hours a day – on the Web and also in the traditional media machinery.
Hence, those who win are not those who have the best weapons or the best products, but those who creates the best and most convincing storytelling around them.
It is therefore useful to see how the old “shadow theatre” is being changed and perfected.
This is what is needed in a situation of actual integration of all large companies, not only global but also national ones.
In the field of social media, for example, the most widespread tactics are those of “selective censorship”, or the hacking of sensitive information, which becomes hegemonic in the common discourse, or even the manipulation of the Internet search algorithms, with a view to linking some content to other one, in a completely unreasonable way.
30-40% of the news that can be found online is designed to deceive at least some of the readers.
Deception: not to mention something and tell the truth about everything else or, instead, to create a storytelling in which real things appear surrounded by completely fake data.
By changing the perception of facts, or the news about the facts, with strong or weak adjectives and nouns, or with universal symbols, and even with references to people or things of great fame, either negative or positive.
15% is the average quota of experts taken out by the automated texts that can be found on the World Wide Web, while about 60% of all readers are usually put on the spot by the texts and news available on the Web.
The Canadian Services have provided this statistics.
The operating techniques are now known to everybody: a) the Bot, a software that automatically operates on the Web, by selecting the content; b) the countermessage, indeed a message that offers the “true” or “fake” version of what has been said previously; 3) the Denial of Service (DOS), the temporary disruption of the Web for a certain user, and the old Disinformation; 4) the Noise that covers the relevance of the data sequence useful for understanding a certain message; 5) the Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the optimization of the number of visitors to any website.
On the technical and ideological levels, there are other online practices that are used daily by the authors of Disinformation: a) the BOTs coordinated with each other, which create a series of cross-references that reinforce the (fake) news that is to be spread; b) the use of false Internet “domains” in which websites and content similar to those of the “enemy” are created; c) the use of e-mails or websites that are pirated and disseminate news opposite to those that the primary user would like to spread.
Contradiction, lie, defamation.
We are still at the old theme of the aria “La Calunnia” (“slander is a little breeze”) of the Barber of Seville, as well as the “flower duet” of Madama Butterfly, but all with a firepower that Rossini or Puccini could not even imagine.
There are two profound and conceptual limits to these operations. The first is that, in spite of all possible technological refinement, the basic psychological mechanisms are always the same: personal defamation by sexual or other means- just think of the “Tangentopoli” operation in Italy (the judiciary probe known as Bribesville) at the end of the Cold War and, finally, of the elites’ structural inability to separate wheat from chaff, news from disinformation.
If we do something to help a government and then it falls into the trap of dezinformatsja, everything is useless. And this has often happened.
Ministers who tell you that they read it in the newspaper “Corriere della Sera” (bravo!) or that it was whispered to them by some intelligence agents without any qualification – and hence you need to check whether, as Harlequin, they are Servants of two Masters. It has often happened.
Hence, in many cases, currently the maskirovka strikes back and negatively changes the decision-making of those who have carried it out. The ruling classes that know it can save themselves, while the others and their countries are bound to become “servant of two masters” and, in any case, irrelevant.
There are also the undesired effects.
For example, it happened that the reputation of a ruling class was tarnished by convincing citizens that all politicians were “dishonest and thieving” and later we needed to stabilize a country in disarray and adrift without a guide, possibly recovering some of those who had been dismissed as “thieves”, thus creating a cognitive dissonance with the previous message conveyed.
However, how can we optimally develop the possibility of an IT attack (but not necessarily this type of attack only) on the decision-making system and on the public of a target country?
The attack will be successful if, for example, there are no useful sources of good information.
Without a reserve of serious, objective and truthful news and interpretations, the whole public and private system of security and education will fail in the long run.
Another excellent condition to launch an attack is uncertainty: in a phase of financial, geopolitical, technological and even military insecurity, with terrorism any news – regardless of its importance -can generate innumerable domino effects.
Probably those who maintain uncertainty have a return – in this case mainly and economic and industrial one.
Nor should we neglect the fact that, if there is a lack of effective information available, the media channels can be bought and sold, infected by adverse agents and induced to acquire information only from certain sources, which are already compromised.
If the commercial goal is the target and above all the audience, everything becomes possible for a foreign operator with bad intentions.
No country, not even those which control the Web at best, is protected from similar operations.
With a view to keeping the situation under control – and this applies above all to those who deal with State Security – we need, at first, to ascertain who makes disinformation.
Very often an individual or a private organisation.
Then, obviously, the exact opposite must be done, but preferably using different mechanisms of action: a similar and possibly “fake” website in case of a Bot, or a personal attack if we are faced with a press campaign.
Hence never use the same usual means and mechanisms.
Generally, abstract and political motivations should not be overlooked: there are NGOs, States, political parties, and companies that usually keep on misinforming.
And often they are not even traced by the intelligence Services.
Obviously, there are also terrorists – but in this case we are talking about another communication system.
Who can say, for example, that German cars are better than Italian ones? Yet it is common sense, albeit wrong.
Nowadays all the environmental propaganda consists of behaviours that favour some countries and companies instead of others. But no one tells you so.
Indeed, this is the real news.
Fake news to be spread, of course, but also generic discontent and uncertainty.
A mass perception that a great Portuguese poet, Pessoa, would have defined as desassosego (disquiet and restlessness).
Obviously, it is even better to let all disinformation go on, with its parallel and unexpected processes, so as to see who makes it and what goals are pursued.
Usually such operations end quickly, but neither the perpetrator nor the victim knows their effects or duration.
Hence the primary goal of all dezinformacja techniques is the partial or complete alteration of the perception of reality.
It is therefore essential to understand the divisions within the opponent’s field.
Popular or elitist.
If we believe that all enemies are the same, we operate for their propaganda and any operation of “psychological warfare” is always inhibited to us.
An essential resource in this field is the conspiracy theory.
The field of others is segmented, but the absolute uniqueness of those who generated the content we do not like or that harm us is assumed.
A well-managed conspiracy manages to work well where few other maskirovka techniques do so.
Perfect for simplifying all matters, it immediately identifies the aim of each psywar: to find the enemy, either true or false.
Another procedure is usually to use entities that everybody deems “third parties” to spread messages against the enemy (once again the current ecologism is full of examples in this regard) and then reinforce their message through other information sources: truth comes from repetition and the mind learns not from a single fact or event, or from a single person, but always from what Fritj of Capra called the mental ecosystem.
The human brain is made in such a way that it tends to believe both in repetition, but also in similarity and homogeneity.
Our brain has evolved only among human groups already formed. It is not by chance that, unlike what happens to animals, our brain maturation must take place in a post-natal social, family and group context.
Otherwise – as Nietzsche said – to live alone, one must be either a beastor a god.
Another factor not to be overlooked is that, as in all Gestalt psychologies, what counts is not only what you see, but also what you do not see.
As in the Rorschach test, the inkblots can be perceived either as a glass or two butterflies, but it is the outline, not the inside of the image that can suggest one answer or the other.
However, how can we counteract such an operation? Denial is always the best answer.
But it is simple and repetitive, always prone to others’ psyops.
We can simply deny having received funding from a certain country.
Mere denial stops the game of cross-references and shadows that would develop if the victim of the operation were to dwell and go into explanations that 87% of the audience – on the Webor even in the old media, never follow. Those who justify themselves are always wrong.
Denial is used to make a quick fix, but it is certainly not a stable and definitive answer.
Another technique is to defame and attack those who make disinformation.
It works well, but once again it is a mechanism that does not last long.
A disinformation campaign is never opposed with temporary and limited makeshift interventions and stopgap measures.
Dezinformatsja is always a potentially endless flow, to which we must respond by creating a state of mind (not “news”, but a stable and possibly ungrounded mental state) that is always potentially and equally endless.
It should also be added that our intelligence Services know nothing about these things. We are still focused on the protection of redundant critical infrastructure and possibly even of selected military and information networks. Everything is even too obvious.
Nevertheless, how can we avoid the defamation of one of our most famous chocolate creams in China?
Furthermore no one will be able to tell you what happens when there is defamation against our production system, as well as against our political system, which is, in fact, also a critical infrastructure.
Goodness knows what happened to our rubber before Pirelli’s deal with ChemChina. And it was not China that took the first step.
If we also study the issue of the F-35 fighter that was not acquired by the German Armed Forces, you will also understand the resulting weakness of Chancellor Merkel and her “heir”, as well as the short-lived successes of the Right, which always remains under the threat of being dismissed as neo-Nazi.
The neo-Nazis, however, were still pasture land mainly for the Eastern and Russian intelligence Services.
Hence using the professional ignorance of our politicians to defame our intelligence Services – as is currently happening – is certainly a perfectly orchestrated defamation operation.
A cheap politician who uses the intelligence Services to protect himself is like the main character of the “Manuscript Found in Saragossa”, who files the silver ball he will put into the gun to commit suicide.
In a different way and with different effects, Italy is drifting to a condition very similar to Great Britain’s in the Brexit phase.
A slow and subtle Italian destabilization, with a terrible and useless fragmentation of the voters and the political classes.
Nowadays in Italy there is a sort of geopolitical strike: the country is on the sidelines and reluctant to understand the reality of power relations and national interests.
In the case of the operations carried out by China, however, we have a completely different picture.
It should be recalled that, as early as 2014, China established the Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatization, chaired directly by Xi Jinping, in addition to the Cyberspace Administration of China. The Chinese leaders’ central idea is to make national sovereignty possible in cyberspace.
This is not easy, but it can be achieved with technological hegemony and strategic wisdom.
Hence the importance of Huawei’s 5G global fight and the concrete possibility of “controlling world innovation”, as some Chinese leaders say.
Therefore, in the “war of shadows”, we currently have to deal with the great influence operations, which are actions of cognitive modification, i.e. actions to change the perceptions, behaviours and decisions of certain target groups, in the country to be influenced, which can be changed to the benefit of the acting Power.
Or even very broad operations, which regard the whole political audience.
Conversely, the “influence campaigns” are operations carried out by an adverse and alien Power that tend to put together various small-scale and sectoral influence actions, which may have common goals or, in any case, not contradictory and opposed goals.
This means that through “influence operations”, we can influence the actions of the rulings class, as well as all or part of the public in a country, or the activities of an allied country.
Influence actions are always linked to strategic deception and the possibility of exploiting the enemy’s weaknesses, particularly those typical of moralism.
Currently moralism is a tool used by some countries against others.
Hence influence operations are certainly deception, but above all they mark a new Intention, or an Interference.
Nevertheless everything happens in the epistemic chain formed by single individuals, and then in the social or para-social sphere, characterized by the real relations among individuals, the real public sphere, the media, the elites, the “experts”, the scientific and technical system of a country.
Currently all Western media are ever weaker and often not very attentive to influence operations because they are subjected to a very fast change of technologies, as well as a quick commercial trend of the system. We are all market oriented in the short term, and currently all the influence operations made so far exploit above all the technological, legal and economic weaknesses of the various countries to reach their own aims.
The vulnerability of the public is yet another issue. Considering the new technologies, there is not only the possibility for each psywar operator to change the perception of others’ world, but also to do so in a covert way.
This applies to any Internet operator and any millennial kid.
And that is what counts. One hundred “denials”, however developed, are always news.
There is also a psychological problem.
The above mentioned evolution has not provided us with a brain that always seeks the objective truth of facts, but we have a cognitive system that finds an acceptable reality day by day.
Phylogenetically, the conformity to a group is more important than a subjective psychology that always seeks only truth, be it objective or linguistic.
In economics as in politics, free riders always have a hard life. And they are always those who define a new paradigm. Enzo Ferrari invented luxury sports cars against everything and everyone. Some pasta makers in Northern Italy discovered they could sell dried Italian pasta any where in the world.
Not to mention advanced technologies, where Italian companies were bought to be destroyed (Hewlett-Packard with Olivetti, for example) or to be put out of business, or the export of mass technologies, such as Piaggio in India.
Hence we often have to deal with the confirmation bias, i.e. the psychological tendency to ignore information that goes against accepted beliefs, or with the creation of a protective apparatus against threats to identity and team spirit.
Therefore we have to do with a series of mass influence actions that are now typical:
a) Terrorism. Creation of fear, an essential element of influence operations, but also of the radicalization of certain themes. A primitive, but very effective solution. In this respect, just consider the case of Italy in the 1970s and in the 80s. The sword jihad is a different story, but often not dissimilar to that of “red” terrorism in Europe.
b) The operations of para-State organizations, i.e. criminal structures and vast organized crime. Or do you really think that the international crime organizations have been created and have become powerful on their own, like the Baron Munchausen, who rescued himself from quicksand by pulling himself out at his own hair? All criminal organizations have always been influence instruments.
c) There are also hackers, who operate divided to strike together. Consciously or not, 78% of them are operators of the Powers that support their projects.
d) Not to mention hackers having only economic goals. After making money they, too, are not aware of the fact they have resold their data to some countries, but not always those they like.
Hence how can you create a “narrative” for influence operations?
Nowadays you can certainly create a consistent, long, credible and wide-ranging storytelling.
Conversely, “negative” techniques tend to disrupt the narrative over a long period of time.
There is also distraction, the creation of an external objective far from the themes discussed.
Therefore, we propose to create an Agency or a unit of it dealing with the disruption of influence operations which, before the end of the Cold War, Italy hosted like no other country in the world to later maintain its Kantian “minority status” in the following years.
An Agency that can really carry out influence operations – actively, with no curbs and restraints other than the operational and technical ones.
Therefore, in terms of protection of Italy’s industrial values, patents, as well as “reputation” of the country and its brands, even the less famous ones, we are now almost at death’s door.
Hence it will be good to quickly reverse the course.
The role of maritime power
The maritime environment is both a means of transport and a resource. The first aspect is obviously expressed through what is transported by ship: containers, oil, minerals, many objects and many resources of our daily life have passed through the sea before we use them. Data also crosses the sea, since submarine cables are the heart of the Internet, constituting the “real” face of the “virtual” world. For the second aspect, that of resources, it is either food, with mainly fishing, energy, fossil with oil and gas, or renewable with wind turbines and tide turbines, or minerals, starting from sand, whose exploitation is little known, but essential for many activities including construction.
It was from the fifteenth century, which corresponded to the beginning of the great discoveries, that the control of the seas became an important topic. At that time, the British Sir Walter Raleigh theorized its importance: “Whoever owns the sea holds the trade of the world; whoever holds the trade holds the wealth; whoever holds the wealth of the world owns the world itself ”. Gradually, the United Kingdom becomes the maritime superpower par excellence, supplanting a Spain and Portugal soon exhausted by the colonization of a South America too big for them and unable to compete with a France that is too terrestrial. At the end of the 19th century, Britain controlled major sea routes and her empire was vast, with the great outdoors of Australia and Canada and the British Indies.
But the entry into the twentieth century coincided with the arrival of a new actor in the oceans, the United States. The theorist in charge here is Alfred Mahan, who has updated Raleigh’s theory by specifying that control of the sea passes through that of sea routes and that in this matter everything is played at the level of the straits. The pivotal year in this sense is undoubtedly 1914: it corresponds to the inauguration of the Panama Canal, a maritime passage controlled by Uncle Sam, but also to the beginning of the First World War, which at the same time weakens the United Kingdom, due to of the energy spent in the conflict that does not compensate for territorial gains in Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific. The turning point that completes the transformation of the United States into the great maritime power of the second half of the 20th century is World War II. Europeans, including those belonging to the victorious camp, are too weakened to maintain their historical prerogatives, especially when colonial empires become complicated to maintain for political as well as demographic reasons.
The United States emerged from the war with a colossal military and merchant fleet (thanks, among other things, to the Liberty ships), and was able to reconstitute those of its new allies in the Western camp. Moreover, this aid does not prevent the Americans from making their own interests prevail over those of their allies, as with the Suez crisis where they countered the Franco-British intervention that had militarily managed to regain control of this strategic channel with diplomatic means. This domination of the seas was hardly contested by the Russians, reduced to an asymmetrical confrontation, symbolized by submarines. It is important to stress that Russia does not have direct access to the oceans, a resource of the United States.
In 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed, but a phantom threat already hovered over the almighty awakening of America, that of China. Under the impact of Deng Xiao Ping’s reforms, its economy was starting to become competitive and the country was using its huge pool of cheap labor to become “the factory of the world”. This economy is export-oriented and generates colossal shipping traffic, to which the Dragon is adding its touch: rapidly, Chinese shipping companies and shipbuilding are becoming key players in their respective sectors. From a military point of view, the Middle Kingdom had an almost insignificant navy in the late 1980s, but today it is second in the world behind the United States, even if the latter maintain a good advantage.
On land, the Chinese strategy consists first of all in controlling the space contained within a first chain of islands corresponding to the East China Sea and the South China Sea, even if in the latter it means not respecting the rights of other coastal states. or even intimidate Taiwan, the “rebel province”. The next step is to dominate the space within a second chain of islands located further offshore, which would put China in direct contact with US possessions, with the risk of confrontation that this entails. The so-called “pearl necklace” strategy, consisting in the development of Chinese infrastructures in the Indian Ocean, also connects the Middle Kingdom with another competitor, India, which wishes to assert its rights in this space that India considers its courtyard. Finally, China inaugurated its first overseas naval base in Djibouti in 2018, and others may follow in the years to come, such as Walvis Bay in Namibia. This expansion solidifies China’s rank as a world power, while Russia has lost most of its network of naval bases around the world with the collapse of the USSR.
The power of the sea is composite, made up of elements that multiply each other more than they add up. The first of these is access to the sea, without which nothing is possible. Therefore, the United Kingdom, an island country, is naturally predisposed to the projection of maritime power. The United States, bordered by two large maritime spaces, is also favored. For Russia, things are less obvious, as for China; in fact, the goal of the pearl necklace strategy is both to allow access to the sea from peripheral regions such as Xinjiang and to control sea routes. Moreover, in its time, Russia had tried to develop its access to the sea with “the race for warm seas”.
Once you have mastered access to the sea, it is necessary to be able to move, thanks to the sea routes and more particularly to the strategic passages. Today, the Americans retain control of it, although the Middle Kingdom tries to weave its web. For example, instead of wanting to get its hands on the Panama Canal, China is supporting a competing canal project in Nicaragua, even if the latter is stopped for the moment. Traffic also requires a merchant fleet, and China is among the champions of shipping and also shipbuilding, where Americans are largely left behind, held back by a protectionist Jones Act that maintains a significant merchant fleet, but marginalized in the globalization.
In general, where terrestrial space is largely controlled by our human societies, the sea escapes this phenomenon much more, to the point that it is still a space to be conquered in many ways. The polar regions, especially the icy Arctic Ocean, but also the seas surrounding the Antarctic continent, constitute a new frontier for humans. The seabed and its mineral resources are also often less known than terrestrial space.
Finally, one last consideration: the Italy – with the exception of the maritime republics – has not been able to exploit its projection of maritime power. And this is one of the reasons, certainly not the only one, that has prevented – and prevents – Italy from having a credible, authoritative foreign policy and above all capable of stopping Turkish hegemonic ambitions.
Indian Chronicle: Exposing the Indian Hybrid warfare against Pakistan
In recent years Indian hybrid warfare against Pakistan has intensified manifold to malign Pakistan Internationally through disinformation and propaganda tactics. Hybrid warfare has mainly been described as achieving war-like objectives with the help of fake news, disinformation, and propaganda. The Objectives of Hybrid warfare are mostly to secure long term victory against the opponent. Similarly, India has launched massive hybrid warfare against Pakistan, which was uncovered by EU DisinfoLab in its report called “Indian Chronicle”.
EU DisinfoLab is an independent organization working to expose and tackle disinformation campaigns targeting the European Union and its member states. The organization has claimed that the disinformation campaign against Pakistan has been active since 2005, “a massive online and offline 15-year ongoing influence operation supporting Indian interests and discrediting Pakistan internationally”.
In a recent investigation EU DisinfoLab has exposed a malicious Indian campaign against Pakistan. In the report, “Indian Chronicle” EU DisinfoLab has exposed the dubious use of media outlets, NGOs, and fake personnel by India to malign Pakistan. The disinformation campaign mainly targeted the United Nations and the European Union through more than 750 fake media outlets and 10 fake NGOs. According to the report, “uncovered an entire network of coordinated UN-accredited NGOs promoting Indian interests and criticizing Pakistan repeatedly. We could tie at least 10 of them directly to the Srivastava family, with several other dubious NGOs pushing the same messages.”
According to the report the disinformation campaign is supported by the Srivastava group. The Srivastava group has helped in “resurrected dead NGOs” to spread fake news. The report says that “Our investigation led to the finding of 10 UN-accredited NGOs directly controlled by the Srivastava Group, which our full report introduces at length. Their common trait? The fact that they all rose from the ashes of real NGOs. Indian Chronicles effectively benefited from the track record of these organizations while pursuing their agenda: discrediting Pakistan and promoting Indian interests at UN conferences and hearings,”.
Moreover, Asian News International (ANI), a major news agency in India has provided a platform for suck fake news campaigns. The aim of the Srivastava group and ANI media outlet is “to reinforce pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan (and anti-Chinese) feelings” in India, and “internationally, to consolidate the power and improve the perception of India, to damage the reputation of other countries and ultimately benefit from more support from international institutions such as the EU and the UN”.
The report claim that the organizations funded by the Srivastava group-sponsored trips for European Parliament members to Kashmir. “The organizations created by the Srivastava Group in Brussels organized trips for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Kashmir, Bangladesh, and the Maldives. Some of these trips led to much institutional controversy, as the delegations of MEPs were often presented as official EU delegations when they were in fact not traveling on behalf of the Parliament,”. Such sponsored trips aimed to build a positive image of India, while spreading disinformation about the alleged claims of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir.
Moreover, India has been actively involved in portraying Pakistan as a terrorist-sponsored state through its disinformation and fake news technique. For instance, India is lobbying strongly at FATF to put Pakistan on the blacklist.
India has also supported and sponsored Baloch separatist leaders and spread disinformation through their fake media outlets as mentioned in the EU DisinfoLab report.“These UN-accredited NGOs work in coordination with non-accredited think-tanks and minority-rights NGOs in Brussels and Geneva. Several of them – like the European Organization for Pakistani Minorities (EOPM), Baluchistan House, and the South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) – were directly but opaquely created by the Srivastava group,”one of the examples is Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian spy who was captured in Pakistan.
The Indian Chronicle report has exposed the dubious face of India and the administrative structure of the United Nations and the European Union. Indian involvement in the spread of disinformation and resurrection of dead people and NGOs has exposed its long-standing for Human rights and democracy. Meanwhile, the reports have also exposed the administrative structure of the UN and EU, as they failed to notice the activities of fake UN-accredited NGOs and spread of disinformation through their affiliated NGOs.
Hybrid Warfare: Threats to Pakistani Security
‘Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war’-Giulio Douhet
Hybrid threats are becoming a norm in Pakistan and if we want to move forward in this age of technological advancements, cybercrimes, and the use of social media, we must have a wholesome response mechanism.
Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that employs not only conventional forms of warfare but irregular with it as well. It involves propaganda, cyber-attacks, state-sponsored terrorism, electoral intervention, and many more means of multi-dimensional approaches towards war which are used by militarized non-state actors. The term ‘Hybrid’ came into use around 2005-2006 due to the Israel-Hezbollah war (“Lessons from Lebanon: Hezbollah and Hybrid Wars – Foreign Policy Research Institute” 2016) and became a hot-topic in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea. Using non-confrontational means can lead to internal struggles and crumbling of the target. What direct force won’t get you can be easily achieved by infiltration and multi-faceted resources. It’s neither character of war nor its outcome that defines it as a hybrid war, but the changing tactics (“State and Non-State Hybrid Warfare” 2018). In a world where everyone, from wealthy states to those caught in throes of hunger, is armed to the teeth, there are ways to achieve socio-political objectives through the use of violent and non-violent non-state actors.
Pakistan – A Target
Pakistan has risen to incredible heights despite it being a relatively young nation and this is only proved further by the interest international players have in its internal workings. Several factors contribute to the important stature Pakistan holds in the international community such as the Pak-China alliance, its geostrategic location, military aptitude, Russian interests in the Indian Ocean, Deep Sea Gwadar Port (One Belt One Road Project), neighbor to Afghanistan (a country existing as a battleground for proxies), etc. All these reasons make sure to keep Pakistan on the radar.
Though it may be secure militarily, Pakistan is still vulnerable to hybrid threats due to internal dynamics, numerous conflicting interests of nations in state-affairs, and increasing non-state actors. South Asian nuclearization has all but guaranteed that a full-fledged war between Pakistan and India is unlikely therefore the latter uses hybrid warfare to weaken Pakistan from within.
Evolutionary Nature of War
There was truth to Heraclites’s words when he claimed that change is the only constant in our world. The social theory of evolutionary change tells us that individuals, communities, societies, and states are always in a state of motion, continuously evolving according to the era. War is born from man, it is only fair that if a man changes, so shall war. It has become more complex; the stakes have raised from territorial boundaries to the maintenance of world order and preservation of state sovereignty. Wars are no longer fought on the borders, skirmishes aside, the real destruction takes place within. Due to the paradigm shift after the Cold War (Ball 2018), there rose a need for legal, economical, socio-political, and informational means of warfare. It is used as a way to undermine other nation-states in pursuit of national power; the international system is not only a race but also a way to tear others down.
Threats to Pakistani Security
To secure Pakistan from all sides, we must first analyze the threats it faces from all sides. Conventional Warfare used to be seen as one dimensional and it only perceived assault to be done through the land, air, or sea channels. However, now it is fought in various intangible zones.
India is a budding regional hegemon due to its political and economic growth including hidden agendas. Pakistan is perceived to be a direct threat to India especially after the launch of the CPEC project, perceived to be undermining its hold over the region, which is why it is employing stratagems of hybrid warfare to internally weaken Pakistan. Till now India has used State-Sponsored terrorism, funded insurgencies, operated terror cells, and even sent fighter jets into Pakistani Airspace as an attempt to ruin its reputation in the international community.
There has been growing instability in Afghanistan which has led to mass migrations across the porous border into Pakistan, with around 1.4 million registered Afghans (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2018) and 1 million unregistered (“Amnesty International” 2019). India has its claws in Afghan matters as well and will use it to exploit Pakistan’s weaknesses even after US forces leave the arena. Afghan Government’s poor administrative capability especially after the return of DAESH (Tribune 2020) and Tehrik-e-Taliban Afghanistan are threats to Pakistan as well as regional peace and are a major cause of lawlessness in the country and has a spillover effect for its neighbors.
Ideologically speaking, Iran is a sectarian threat to Pakistan and its Port Chahbahar stands to lose active traffic once CPEC is fully functional which means it stands as an instigator of hybrid warfare and it would be a risk to overlook it based on past good relations.
Even after the Cold War, strategic rivalry and animosity between the powers including Russia, America, and China still exist. The emergence of China as an economic superpower is perceived as a threat to the US due to which there is a major shift in its defensive posture towards the region.
The US has shown significant interest in Pakistan due to its geo-strategic location but not all interest has yielded positive results. They carried out a surgical strike for the capture and assassination of Osama-Bin-Laden. Such a breach of sovereignty and security is a hybrid threat.
There are several lobbies in Pakistan all vying for their own cause. The Iranian lobby has sectarian undercurrents. Sectarianism has always been one of the leading factors of the divide in the Muslim civilization and is the rising trend of terrorism.Such conflict itself is volatile and is deepening the rift between different sects(Shia-Sunni) of Pakistan, causing unrest.
Rising prices of commodities such as flour and sugar can lead to social unrest and discord. Such industries and their stocks are under the thumb of a select few, the elites. With the right bribes and conditions, even they would agree to sell out society.
Non-state actors are groups or organizations that have influence in the state but work independently and have their socio-political agendas (“Towards a Typology of Non-State Actors in ‘Hybrid Warfare’: Proxy, Auxiliary, Surrogate and Affiliated Forces” 2019). They work on political opportunities and mobilized grievances. Groups like BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army), TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan), and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are some of the major actors. Pakistan needs to focus on curbing Jihadist Terrorism as it is keeping it from leaving the grey list of FATF.
It refers to the spread of miscommunication. Propaganda and circulation of false news through social media are a relatively common way to cause turmoil in a community. Once a rumor is circling, there is no way to erase it. India claims that Pakistan is spreading the false narrative of ‘Islam being in danger’ to justify its actions, although untrue, is something that the Indians fully believe now. That Pakistani Intelligentsia is made solely to create narratives under which to attack India. Such beliefs further antagonize the states against each other.
Indian Chronicles are a prime example of information warfare being waged against Pakistan.
Channels such as Cyber-Jihad and Dark Web come under the purview of cyber warfare and are a threat to the fabric of society and its security in Pakistan.
Given the above discussed bleak prevailing internal security situation, Pakistan needs to formulate a short to mid and long-term response that curbs all external and internal parties alongside proxies from infiltrating and influencing the working of the state and affecting the masses.
For a full-spectrum approach, all domains should be covered such as diplomacy, defense, internal and external security, economic, informational, cyber, and media security.
There are steps to be followed through for active and effective quelling of hybrid threats. First, a strategy must be put for, then tactical action should be taken and lastly, the implementation process should be supervised and fully followed through.
The main focus of the state should be on deterrence towards, protection from, and prevention of hybrid threats to the state.
One must not forget that Hybrid war is a mix of both unconventional and conventional warfare, therefore a nation-wide response should include the intertwined operational capabilities of armed forces alongside political actors. Pakistan sees its security being threatened both by internal factors and external hostile/proxy elements. This is hampering state development. State-building and nation-building must go hand in hand if counter and deter such threats effectively.
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