Influence and deception are age-old techniques to mislead an opponent, techniques that were often applied without the threat or use of force. The application of operations such as 1943 Operation Mincemeat was limited due to the labour-intensive preparation and planning, and the capabilities at hand (paper, radio) restricted the impact. Cyberspace proved to be a catalyst to unlock the information environment, taking away restrictions in means and making influence operations via Internet and social media available for all sort of (non-state) actors. Paradoxically enough, while the emergence of cyberspace has increased the possibilities of influence operations, states – especially Western European states – are ever more reticent to use them. In the past, capabilities were the limiting factor, while the willingness (intent) and governance (including the legal frame) to use influence operations were not.
Nowadays, taking the Netherlands as a case study, the capabilities are near-limitless, but governance appears to be the (self-inflicted) limiting factor. What’s worse, while these limitations apply to the Netherlands they do not to others, be it foes or friends in cyberspace. As this paper by Peter B.M.J. Pijpers (Netherlands Defence Academy) and Paul A.L. Ducheine (Netherlands Defence Academy and University of Amsterdam) highlights the question is, however, whether the current cyberspace-induced manipulative influence operations truly differ from the old-school deceptive and misleading operations.
The military application of information has a long history in influencing the outcome of war and conflict on the battlefield. Be it by deceiving the opponent, maintaining troop confidence, or shaping public opinion. These tactics are placed under the banner of influencing human behaviour. Behavioural influencing is the act of meaningfully trying to affect the behaviour of an individual by targeting people’s knowledge, beliefs and emotions. Within the Dutch armed forces these tactics fall under title of Information Manoeuvre. With the ever-larger and more evasive employment of information-based capabilities to target human cognition, the boundaries of the physical and cognitive battlefield have begun to fade.
For this paper series scholars, experts and policymakers submitted their papers on the employment of information-related capabilities to influence human behaviour in the military context. From the perspective of an individual European or NATO country’s perspective.
The Information-based behavioural influencing and Western practice paper series is edited by Arthur Laudrain, Laura Jasper and Michel Rademaker.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this paper are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, policy or opinion of HCSS.