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PSYOP, CYBER & INFOWAR: Combating the New Age IED

Extremist ideology and the associated mass-casualty acts of both domestic and foreign terrorism remain a threat to the global community. Ideology is the manifestation of deeper beliefs based upon intensely held but rarely understood underlying assumptions. A bullet may kill an extremist but it will not kill extreme ideology; that is, “Bullets do not kill ideas. . . . A ‘hot’ war against an idea is destined to be a losing prospect.” Arguably, 9/11-like events in the form of large suicide bombs will be replaced by mass media exploitation, political chess, electoral manipulation, and cyber intrusion via social influence mediums. These events will likely occur just beneath the surface, more improvised explosive device (IED) than weapon of mass destruction (WMD).

The ubiquity of the internet and social networking involves the exponential growth of a globally connected culture. As a consequence, a comprehensive understanding of the web is critical for the defense of our nation. As a manifestation of Moore’s Law, technology has advanced at an exponential pace and the associated technological platforms have evolved at an even higher rate. These platforms need to be understood, as recognized in the creation of US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) in 2009. However, it is possible that the social network is the new daisy-chained IED, in that it may be the case that USCYBERCOM is not best positioned to be the assault force, quick reaction force (QRF), or explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) team. To address this possibility, this article examines the reasons why psychological operations (PSYOP) forces have distinct advantages in comparison to the cyber community regarding online influence efforts.

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