Consciousness Campaigns in the New Era

New combat challenges are present not only on the battlefield, but also on the field of consciousness. About the revolution of consciousness and its impact on warfare in 2016

Consciousness Campaigns in the New Era

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The consciousness campaign element may be identified in every process a person goes through in a lifetime, as a person's way to achieve and implement his/her desires is, first and foremost, through his/her attempts to influence his/her fellow human beings and rally them to his/her cause. A person will operate in this way within his/her family, at his/her place of work and within the social environment where he/she lives. Like the individual, the state also employs consciousness campaigns in the context of its foreign policy as well as in its domestic policy in order to influence the target audiences and rally them to the advancement of the state's interests. Every person will consolidate, in the course of his/her life, a consciousness strategy made up of different methods of influence he/she will adapt to the relevant target audience. The methods and tools of influence a person employs vis-à-vis his wife will not be the same as those he employs vis-à-vis the boss at his place of work. The state, on the other hand, operates on a massive scale, through a diversified range of channels and naturally, using substantial resources, so the consciousness campaign should be regarded as a vocation to all intents and purposes, with regard to the build-up of its power as well as with regard to the actual employment of this power.

The Revolutions on the Way to the New Era

Three global-scale revolutions raised the importance of the consciousness campaign and positioned it as a primary element in the operational policy of states and various military and terrorist organizations around the world. The first revolution was the technological revolution, which made mobile communication devices accessible to anyone and provided the ability to convey information to almost any point around the globe in real time. The second revolution was the information revolution, which has been taking place pursuant to the first revolution, ensuring that information became fast, readily available and relevant while providing the ability to present it in an extensive range of textual, visual and aural content formats possessing the potential of influencing the consciousness of individuals and the general public. The third and last revolution was the military revolution which, pursuant to the technological progress, provided combat capabilities through the use of an extensive range of precision-guided munitions fitted with powerful warheads and carried by diversified launching platforms in the air, at sea and on land.

The Israel Defense Forces have been contributing their share to the third revolution since the early 1990s, while registering an exclusive and revolutionary patent on the strategy of stand-off warfare that does not include a decisive ground maneuver, followed by the adoption of the deterrence concept in place of the overbalance concept. This patent was adopted, for the first time ever, by the Obama administration in Operation Inherent Resolve, where the coalition forces have been fighting the Islamic State in Syria over the last two years. Incidentally, the codename chosen for this operation serves as a fine example of the desire to generate a positive consciousness influence and an image of success in the era of stand-off warfare and the difficulty in achieving real success on the military and political battlefield. In this era, wars are given such glorified codenames as "Inherent Resolve", "Protective Edge", "Cast Lead" and so forth, unlike the era of warfare that aspired for overbalance, when there was no need to "market", to the warfighters and to the public, the success image of the wars such as the Kadesh Campaign, the Six-Day War, the Yom-Kippur War and Operation Peace for Galilee.

The aforesaid revolutions led the decision-maker echelons at the political and defense levels, mainly in the "Western" world, to the realization that the consciousness campaign had evolved into a critical tool that complements the range of combat capabilities during military operations and wars and the periods between them. The State of Israel, which is more vulnerable than any other state to world criticism pertaining to its defense activities, is required to respond to controversial defense and security incidents of various types that are being disseminated on the World Wide Web and have an adverse consciousness effect on world public opinion.

How does a Consciousness Campaign come to Exist?

Firstly, the initiator of the consciousness campaign specifies the goals he/she aspires to accomplish. Two different examples come to mind in this context: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose interest was winning the elections for prime minister, and former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, whose interest was concluding Operation Protective Edge on an optimistic note and with a positive image.

Secondly, the initiator conducts an intelligence analysis and study of the other players in the theater, on the playground and mainly of the system of interests and constraints applied against the initiating player. Prime Minister Netanyahu operated on the Israeli playground where the primary players are the candidates running against him and the Israeli public in Israel and overseas. The former Chief of Staff operated on the Israeli, regional and international playgrounds where the primary players were IDF, the Israeli public, Hamas, Egypt and the USA. The intelligence study serves as the basis for the development of the operating strategy for the campaign and defines the players in it who constitute the "target audiences", the main objective to be accomplished and on which the entire weight of the campaign rests. Every consciousness campaign has several different "target audiences" whose common denominator is their position, their status, their function and the ability of each one of them to assist in the accomplishment of the interests of the initiating player.

Thirdly, the contents of the messages intended for the "target audiences" are developed. The contents are a dish "seasoned" with a sequence of ideological messages reflected in the text, in the rhetoric and through visual devices, which are intended to generate the desired influence over the "target audiences". The "flavors" of the dish enter the hearts and minds of the "target audience" and generate the desired influence. In order for the ideological contents to dissolve in the stomach and permeate into the blood stream of the "target audience", they should possess such emotional connotation as alienation, familiarity, agreement, sympathy, intimidation and so forth. Netanyahu's contents for the Israeli public were a combination of strength messages ("I am the only leader strong enough to overpower our enemies") seasoned with intimidation messages ("The Arabs are rushing to the polling stations…").

The former Chief of Staff, on the other hand, served his contents to the Israeli public, the warfighters of IDF and the leaders of Hamas after having "seasoned" them with soothing messages of tranquility ("the fighting is over"), success ("IDF completed their missions and accomplished their objectives") and an attempt to instill a sense of security and strength ("Hamas has been deterred for many years").

Fourthly, mobilization of all of the infrastructures and resources serving as launching and dissemination platforms for the message contents, without which the "target audiences" will not be introduced to those contents. These resources are known as "agents of influence". The function of an "agent of influence" is to make the "contents" accessible to the "target audience" in the most absorbable format and in the most convincing manner. There are two main types of "agents of influence". One type of "agent" includes the various forms of the communication media, and especially the Internet websites and social media. The other type of "agent" is the person who whispers into the ear of the "target audience". Such a person may be a politician, a businessman, a relative, a lobbyist, an impostor and so forth. In our example, both players utilized the "agent of influence" of the media in diversified ways while placing the emphasis on this particular "agent".

There is one additional "agent of influence" – the "consciousness event". The special thing about this agent is the method of generating influence through an event (which may be a deception event) or a chain of events that take place on the ground, in full view of the relevant "target audience", thereby complementing the contents conveyed by the other "agents of influence" into a complete narrative that serves the agenda of the campaign initiator. One appropriate example that illustrates this method of operation is Operation Accountability (July 1993) in Lebanon, the first IDF operation of the stand-off warfare era that was, in fact, a consciousness campaign of sorts – the first one that included all of the necessary elements, albeit not intentionally. Firstly, the interests were defined – stop the launching of Katyusha rockets by Hezbollah into Israel and calm the escalation in the "security cordon". The Syrian President Hafez al-Assad was the primary "target audience" at whom the campaign had been aimed. On the way to him, as pressure levers, the Lebanese government and the inhabitants of southern Lebanon were also specified as "target audiences", with such "target audiences" as Hezbollah, the community of the region and the international community poised in the background. The highly diversified contents included messages and ideas fitting the cross-section of the various "target audiences". For example, the "target audience" of the inhabitants of southern Lebanon received a message according to which IDF did not intend to hurt them, so they were required to abandon the area and move toward the capital Beirut. The "agents of influence" were the media – radio and television, along with a direct "agent of influence" in the form of warning telephone calls. The consciousness event was a chain of events on the ground that were activated by heavy artillery fire delivered into the outskirts of the villages, preceded by the dropping of leaflets from the air, which listed the instructions the population in southern Lebanon had to follow. The consciousness campaign created a situation of combined pressure through thousands of homeless refugees, a collapsing Lebanese government crying for help and a regional and international community called upon to intervene.

This was the first confrontation during which the political-defense decision makers and IDF decided to "use" consciousness pressure on civilians on a large scale as a consciousness pressure lever applied to the government of Lebanon and to the President of Syria that would lead to an accomplishment in the fighting. For the first time, IDF chose to fight the enemy by employing stand-off fire and special operations deep inside enemy territory, and for the first time the overbalance concept was abandoned and the deterrence concept was adopted instead. These moves had paved the way for a string of consciousness campaigns that still continue to this day.

Col. (res.) Ronen Cohen had served as the Head of the Terrorism Branch at the IDF Intelligence Directorate. He is a partner in the Inspiration Company which specializes in the planning and production of influence campaigns for private clients, corporations, and government organizations worldwide.

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