What is The “First Tool of 21st Century Warfare” and What Can We Do About It?

In recent years there has been much discussion about the “weaponization” of social media. This past week my friend, retired Special Forces colonel Dave Maxwell (who is now a Georgetown University professor), has weighed-in on this phenomena with several incisive observations. Most importantly, he offers something of a challenge to today’s youth as to what to do about it.

A little background: last week an article in Defense One (“Social Media is ‘First Tool’ of 21st-Century Warfare, US Lawmaker”) quotes Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va) as quipping that while America may have “the best 20th-century military that money can buy,” we are “increasingly in a world where cyber vulnerability, misinformation and disinformation may be the tools of conflict.” Warner adds that “What we may have seen are the first tools of 21st-century disinformation.”…

So what are Professor/Colonel Maxwell’s ideas about how to deal with this challenge, particularly in the security realm? He begins by cautioning that that social media “is just a tool” that can only be understood in the context of the “strategy that exploits it.” The task then becomes exposing and countering that strategy. He explains:

The open societies of the US and free and democratic nations are being subverted by active measures and propaganda to undermine political processes and sow cultural and political divisions to allow the closed societies of revisionist and revolutionary powers to dominate in international affairs.

The way to counter this effort is through a grass roots resistance movement that consists of an educated, activist, energetic, and empowered youth who seek to be part of something larger than themselves and validate their self-worth as disruptors of the status quo.

However, the closed societies are challenging their ability to disrupt because active measures and propaganda have taken away their initiative. A new grass roots movement, a cyber-underground, organized around special operations principles could create a nationwide and global network that will seek out, identify, understand, and expose active measures and propaganda from closed societies in order to protect free and open societies…


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