Monday, August 10, 2009

Tactics vs Strategy

Starbuck is generally the go-to guy for Military/Web 2.0 interface. He keeps his finger on the pulse of the military's adaptation of new and emergent information technology (for example, see his posts here and here)--although he seems to have a much harder time keeping his fingers on his ID card. Heh.
I thought that this article was more up Starbuck's lane to comment on, but figured I'd have a go at it. To wit, it seems as though the Air Force, which blocks its members from using social networking sites, also monitors these same sites to guage public opinion and then advise the supported Commander how best to "craft his message" in response (or maybe even proactively). I think that this is a viable technique, and that this sort of information mining cell could someday be more accurate and reliable than public opinion polling. In this particular instance, the monitors were deployed to observe, assess, report, and make recommendations to counter the negative publicity of this spring's Air Force 1 flyover of Manhattan. The consolidated conclusion of this crack cell of cyberslueths was "No positive spin is possible."
[Gee, do ya think? Maybe I should pitch some military department to set me up with a cush job guaging the public perception of future events with my incredible ESP.
-We are going to make an unannounced flyover of Manhattan Island with a jumbo jet and a couple of fighter jets, what do you think will happen, O Amazing Mongo?
-the public will have a raging case of the ass and you are retarded. Next question.]
I'm not real big on web-based social networking, probably because I'm not real big on social networking, probably because I'm not real social.
Personally, I have no issues with educating soldiers on "do's" and "don'ts" of social networking and then letting them have at it. But the debate over social networking, which is sort of a collateral information operation, kind of misses the point, in my opinion.
The point is that we suck at information operations.
Because The Brass is 1) making "perfect" the enemy of "good enough to accomplish the mission," 2) afraid to piss off anybody, anywhere with impolitic language or viewpoints, and 3) distrustful of their subordinates' ability to articulate the command approved message (or at least not torpedo it), we get our asses kicked worldwide when it comes to disseminating information in such a manner as to forward the national interest.
Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace are, if you will, tactical media that will be replaced by or evolved into something totally different in a few short years. The military departments will either adapt to the proliferation of social media and personal information technologies or not, but I sincerely doubt that they will adapt to the point that they can successfully leverage and exploit them; that's just the nature of bureaucracies. Even if there are some titanium stovepipes of excellence built--such as the Combat Information Cell at Tyndall-- that can leverage networking media to great effect, the capability will be diffused by the bureaucracy.
As I said, though, these media are tactical. What we truly lack is not only an information strategy, but an even higher ordinate set of organizing principles for information operations, information management, and information exploitation (doctrinally, you could probably roll all these into "Information Operations," but like our IO execution, our IO doctrine sucks).
While we fritter over Twitter, we are losing sight of the requirement to forward a national strategic message--and to influence those of our competitors and thwart those of our enemies.

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