Dr. Rizwan Naseer
Strategic Security Analyst
Jimmy Carter delivering his Nobel Lecture in December 10, 2002 and said “War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn to live together in peace by killing each other’s children “.
War is a risky enterprise as it brings destruction, devastation and trauma to those who witness it. History tells numerous stories of war but also unfolds that whenever humans faced massive destruction, they vowed not to repeat it, but all in vain. Pacifists of international politics hold that “the peace after the war is the preparation for another war”. Disintegration of the Soviet Union as a consequence of Cold War and later on Russia’s annexation of Crimea and then Russia-Ukraine war are quite applicable in this context.
The real challenge for the contemporary global leaderships is that how to mitigate war? Some political pundits are still optimistic that war can be prevented but I, based on my entire learning can say that war can be mitigated but not prevented. Asymmetric conflicts are likely to increase in future as powerful states believe in their power and ultimately use that power to dominate over others. As the character of war is changing and war has become less deadly. But a deep ideological conflict still holds the potential to engage even two nuclear contenders.
The future war may be the interface of third-fourth and fifth generation warfare. Military thinkers are constantly debating dynamics of third and fourth generation warfare. Third generation is the war fought by traditional armies over territorial resources whereas fourth generation warfare is the conflict over ideas which John Robb calls as ad-hoc warriors.
This article underlines that transformation from traditional warfare has already taken place. Fifth generation warfare among states is being waged without much clamour. Some proponents also term it as hybrid warfare whereas others believe that “Social media has been weaponized, as state hackers and rogue terrorists have seized upon Twitter and Face book to create chaos and destruction”. The technological innovations certainly have an impact on the new tools and tactics of unconventional warfare. Warfare has been decentralized from battlefield to cyber-rooms and media outlets. Fifth generation warfare is the use of well planned and executed information operations. Information operations collect data and use that critical information against an adversary in pursuit of a competitive advantage.
Now information operations, without firing a single bullet can achieve strategic objectives. The difference between fifth generation war and conventional war is that the former is recurrently conducted even in peace times. But an effective diplomacy supported by fifth generation war, leaves opponents in quandary. The response from enemy, in that case is procrastinated and providing more time to plan and execute next move. In modern times taking leverage of social media platforms some countries have established private media entities whose primary objective is to amplify the diplomatic achievements of that very country and also undermine the image of other unfriendly or enemy states.
India’s massive propaganda campaign against Pakistan and China has been unearthed by the EU Disinfo lab( a Brussels-based organization) that how the Indian media outlets have been waging fifth generation warfare against Pakistan and China. The network had heinous designs to malign Pakistan’s image in 116 countries with the help of about 500 fake media outlets. This Indian campaign termed as ‘Indian Chronicles’ was a staggering network of misinformation against Pakistan and China’s investment in Pakistan. It also spread massive disinformation about law-and-order situation in Pakistan. The disinformation operations to malign democratic principles in Pakistan, questioning economic growth, portraying radicalization in society, anti-US and Anti-West sentiments, helped India achieve its strategic objectives. Despite making concrete reforms in economic and financial institutions Pakistan was not removed from the FATF grey list. Already developed infrastructure under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could not attract investment in the country as was expected. The Indian disinformation campaign not only maligned Pakistan and China but also floated pro-India narrative in the European Union and the United Nations.
Another example of fifth generation warfare is the Russian troll factories to disseminate disinformation through social media and cyber platforms.
Russian group of hackers reportedly spread massive trends on social media against Hillary Clinton and other election contestants. The content used on social media platforms has significant impact on changing minds of the voters.
Another significant trick was played to show Trump winning in most states that also created a wave effect among voters and Trump despite being a weak candidate won the Presidency. This has already been determined by the US intelligence community and evidences collected by Robert Mueller are reflective of fifth generation warfare. Imagine! a US president entering the Oval Office but has a complete backing of the Kremlin. There could be no bigger mockery of democracy than this in the world’s largest democracy. Classical realists of international politics who believe in power politics, might is right and vicious human ambitions still don’t accept this idea of fifth generation warfare. Though some agree to call it a sophisticated form of propaganda.
The power of social media was actualized in the wake of Arab Spring (2010) which helped youth gathering and staging protests against their respective governments. But it has become more powerful than that due to digital connectivity of the global arena.
Even due to the digitalization of global political environment, diplomacy has turned into Twiplomacy. Tweets have reduced time of response from various international actors, governments and head of the states etc. China is using Twitter for countering propaganda against China. China’s diplomats and state representative are alert to any misinformation campaign that undermines China’s image is rebutted instantly through either through a tweet or any social media video. Due to anti-China sentiments, there have been many videos and news circulated about so called concentration camps in China which was corrected by Chinese diplomats that those are reeducation centers where people with radical tendencies are taught and deradicalized. Some even stated that China does not have any Guantanamo that it needs to worry about.
As the technological advancements are taking place and digitalization of governments will leave this world more vulnerable to misinformation, disinformation and fake news. These fake news seem to be harmless but have a greater impact on human psychology. Human psychology has inbuilt glitch also known as ‘illusory truth effect’ that if some lie is told again and again, human start believing it as a truth. Such biases among policy makers seriously harm decision making process. Fifth generation warfare also instigates youth to rise and react to their own government policies on socio-economic and foreign affairs. This makes objectives of an adversary state easy to accomplish. Regulatory bodies of media are insufficient to control fake news. There must be a combined strategy by all stake holder to educate their citizens. A long term strategy supported by legal framework will be effective to rein fake news scourge.
# The author could be reached at [email protected]
# Dr. Rizwan’s opinions expressed here in the article are his own: Chief Ed. telegraphnepal.com
#Thanks the distinguished author Dr. Rizwan Naseer, Pakistan: Ed. Upadhyaya.
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