Monday, December 12, 2005

Defeating the Enemy: War of Words

In the Beginning

Ft Leavenworth Combined Arms Center is sponsoring a writing competition: "Countering Insurgency"

The Combined Arms Center (CAC), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is pleased to announce its first annual Commanding General’s Special Topics Writing Competition. This year’s focus is counterinsurgency operations.
Anyone conducting serious research on issues related to counterinsurgency is invited to submit papers for consideration.

CAC will announce the competition results in May 2006, to coincide with graduation of summertime enrollees in the Command and General Staff College.

My plan is to do an informal research and writing project to coincide with this competition which gives a list of possible subjects. It does not specify "information war", but has some related topics listed such as:

4. Influence of military pundits on political and military decision making.
11. The role of political culture in counterinsurgency warfare.

My subject is "War of Words". This is unofficial, but I hope visitors here will feel welcome to add their thoughts or ideas on how the "war of words" impacts shaping the battle to come, the battle in play and the definition of the outcome. I believe that, as consumers of information, we are uniquely situated to take stock of the words we have heard, its effect on public opinion (both here and abroad), and how it will change how the war will be viewed in the future. Any thoughts on how the media has effected this message and ways that it can be combatted would be appropriate.

No idea at this point is too wild.

If you quote anyone, please provide a link or a book and author. It does not have to be military related links or books, but we do need to attribute the words.

My first topic under this subject will be:

"In the Beginning..."


Before war, there are words. No insurgency is born in a vacuum. Even insurgencies that are born in a post-Major Combat situation, begin with words. These words will not only define the five "W's" (who, what, when, where and why), but are meant to shape the battle field before battle has been engaged.

Choosing A Name

Organizations tend to choose a name very quickly to identify the group, their cause, their political or ideological beliefs or their association with other movements current or historical. These organizations may change their names through out the insurgency effort when they combine forces (Al Qaida in Iraq) or in order to attract more attention and supporters if their original name does not resonate. Some of the reasons that an organization chooses their name include:

  • The name of any political or military wing of an insurgency is meant to define the insurgency.
    • Who, What, When, Where, Why

  • It means to provide a legitimate cover, either politically or ideologically.

  • By choosing a name, the insurgency has said that there is more than one member, possibly many like minded members
    • Choosing a name is the first act of subterfuge.
    • Choosing a name such as "The Red Brigade", "brigade" conveying "many", when there are only three or six members

  • Names that include words like "army", "brigade, "world" are meant to instill fear in the opposition and confidence in their target supporters

  • Choosing a name to evoke emotion by referencing a person, place or an event:

  • Choosing a name that resonates with the people or their grievances and invokes the "many" to attract supporters

  • Choosing a name that invokes moral authority

    Defeat the Name

    The first act a power may invoke against an organization is destroying or "owning" the name of the organization. "Owning the name" means that the opposing force must consistently provide the loudest and most recognized "definition" of the name. Whenever the name is mentioned, people must associate the opposition (your) description with the name. Three ways this can be accomplished:

  • Take back the name literally - particularly if it is a name that refers to a shared historical experience or person
    • Name a government or military organization with the same or similar name
      • Example - Insurgency: The Army of Desert Lions for Jihad
      • Government/Military: Desert Lions Brigade

    • Insure the government/military entity is associated strongly with the government.
      • Military organization should appear at many ceremonies and be well publicized through the media
      • Military organization should be well equipped and strongly disciplined to provide a juxtoposition against the ill equipped and undisciplined insurgents
      • Every action and medal should be well publicized
      • The leader of the military organization should denounce publically any actions by the insurgents and publicize the actions of his own forces
        • Which should be public works or actions that are well associated with the government and benefit the citizens
        • Show the citizens who has the power behind the name to do works for them

    • Name a government or military place with the same or similar name
      • Example - Insurgency: The Martyrs' Brigade
      • Government: Build a mosque, church, building, street or monument, name it "Martyrs for Democracy" or "Monument to (fill in the country) Martyrs For Freedom"
      • Must be well publicized and continuously associated with the government by flying a government flag or emblazoned with a government flag
      • Must be well publicized in the media with regular government officials making statements or eulogies to impress upon people who the "real martyrs" are.
      • Routinely talk about or issue statements about the brave actions of these martyrs who: protected the citizens; built schools; served as election officials; etc

  • Make part or all of the name "illegitimate"
    • If the insurgency uses words like "army" or "world" or "people's", the government's language should indicate just the opposite
      • Army: They are not an army. Differentiate an "army" from the actions of the insurgents.
        • We have good information that the "Army of Jeda" is a very small group of people (size)
        • This is not an "army". An "army": does not runaway; is disciplined and the insurgents are not; does not target civilians but fights face to face with a realy army;

      • People's: They are not the "people's" anything. The "people's" army does not (provide list of activities harmful to the "people" that the insurgency claims to be fighting for) blow up bridges, destroy homes, randomly kill citizens, kill police or military that actually protect the citizens

    • If they claim "moral authority" by including the name "God" or any holy person, all of their acts must be labled immoral
      • An actual representative of the "moral" authority should make statements about the immorality of the insurgents acts
      • Reject their acts on behalf of the entire religion
      • Again, people tend to drift towards large groups for "protection" when expressing their views. Those that do not directly participate in or literally support the insurgency with funds, but may have some sympathy for their cause, need to know that the "larger" group rejects the insurgents. This will, at least, keep them from acting directly for the group if not help foster rejection.

  • "Branding" the insurgents
    • Replace their name with a derogatory, insulting or other descriptive word in all press releases, speeches, etc.
      • Anything that implies "bad" such as "terrorists", "killers", "mass murderers", "destroyers", "cowards", etc

    The most important step is to not let them own their name without challenging the message in the name or the name or shape the message regarding the legitimacy of the insurgency. All language should be appropriate to reach "the people" inside and out of the country. It is also important to insure that when approaching the name of a religious figure or an important event (particularly a shared event in the past lives of the people) that the message is not insulting or degrading.

    Please Add Your Ideas

    Please add any ideas or thoughts that you have regarding how and why organizations choose their names and what can be done to degrade the name.

    The next topic will be reviewing an insurgents "Declaration of Intent", what it means and how to combat it.

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