Dawn of the Cognetic Age

Air Force Lt Col Bruce Johnson has written an interesting article for the Winter 2007 edition of the Air & Space Power Journal.

To grossly oversimplify, he’s proposing applying the principles of maneuver warfare to what is sometimes called “information operations” or more recently, “soft power.” He writes:

By means of cognetics, the United States can win ideological warfare by advancing truth, dispelling rumors, correcting misinformation, and combating enemy psychological operations and perception influence.

I have two comments, one minor but the other perhaps more substantial. The minor one concerns his definition of “maneuver warfare”:

Throughout military history, two distinct styles of warfare have existed: attrition, based on firepower, and maneuver, based on movement.

In fact, attrition warfare uses a lot of movement in order to shift firepower around the battlefield or to move away from the enemy’s. firepower. So movement alone cannot be the distinction. A few sentences later, though, he nails it:

Maneuver warfare focuses on the human (moral-psychological) element—the true center of gravity of any type of warfare—making it an excellent basis for cognetics.

The rest of the article exploits this insight, so this caveat must rate as minor. The major one is that he is concerned only with what he calls “militant Islam” and with which he declares that we are at war.

How a country fights a religion is beyond me. I thought that was the job of other religions. Also, if you compare the number of Americans that organized criminal gangs of people claiming to be Muslim have killed, the total (excepting Iraq, Afghanistan, and Beirut) is around 3,000. This is a terrible number, but it is about what we lose to traffic accidents in a month and fewer American troops than we’ve already lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. When you count in deaths directly or indirectly related to narcotics and their distribution, it’s hard to see why “militant Islam” is high on the things I need to worry about. And then there’s all that stuff Fabius blogs about.

None of this, however, detracts from Colonel Johnson’s point of applying the concepts underlying maneuver warfare to the exercise of soft power, and I recommend his article for that purpose.

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