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Control from the ground up

Embedding influence activities in the conduct of war

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Control from the ground up

Embedding influence activities in the conduct of war

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Samenvatting

Modern conflicts, while being fought locally, might have a far wider and even
global impact. Typically, the contemporary conflict environment, or ‘
conflict
ecosystem’, consists of a wide variety of (internationally) interconnected
actors and spill-over effects such as displaced persons and refugees.1 Fall
simply used the overarching term ‘doctrine’ for the variegated ideology,
religion, belief, socioeconomic, political or other notions these wars are
fought for.2 What stands out in all these matters is the centrality of humans
and their convictions, attitudes, beliefs, aspirations, norms, emotions and –
most importantly – their behaviour. Despite the impact of innovations in areas
such as technology and artificial intelligence, modern conflict dynamics
will largely evolve as a consequence of actions undertaken
in the human
domain. Mitigating today’s sophisticated threats, thus, requires
us to look
beyond the traditional military realm and inherently involves concepts
focused
on relevant populations.3 Kilcullen, in this regard, devised a theory
of competitive control. Based on insights from the fields of counterinsurgency
and rebel governance, he argues that when armed actors vie
for control over a populace, the actor ‘best able to establish a predictable,
consistent, and wide-spectrum normative system of control’ will prevail.4
This chapter explores this argument and proposes multiple alterations for
embedding it in modern warfare. While underlining the relevance of a local
perspective and human behaviour, we aim to broaden the scope of targeted
actors and argue that targeting groups is more relevant than targeting individuals.
For this purpose, we adopt the fundamental proposition that a
competition for control can be won by altering an existing normative system
instead of establishing a new system. This will enable us to build a comprehensive
framework for designing influence activities rooted in actual human
behaviour – contrary to focusing on attitudes, preferences, or legitimacy.5
Thus, this chapter not only aims to provide an academic analysis of
the utility of the theory of competitive control in modern warfare but
also presents
a guideline for actually operationalising this population-centric
approach in the conduct of war. Whereas the first decade of the
21st century saw a return of counterinsurgency and affiliated influence
activities during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, interest in this approach
quickly faded away during the 2010s. This was the consequence not
only of the lack of success in both wars but also of the renewed emergence
of big power competition which acted as a catalyst for a reorientation toward
conventional warfare. Yet, as aforementioned, the human domain
remained central to the conflicts that were fought over the last decade.
State actors like Russia or Iran actively exploited social cleavages in neighbouring
countries, while non-state actors such as the Islamic State, Boko
Haram and Al Shabab successfully established influence and control over
relevant populations. Embedding influence activities in the conduct of
war, therefore, is not only highly relevant for modern warfare but also
essential for winning the competition for control over the local population
in a conflict ecosystem. For this purpose, we will elaborate upon the
theory of competitive control and subsequently develop a framework for
influence activities. Doing so, however, first requires us to explore the most
fundamental
aspects of human behaviour and the relevance of the local
level under conflict conditions.

Toon meer
OrganisatieNederlandse Defensie Academie
AfdelingFaculteit Militaire Wetenschappen
LectoraatKrijgswetenschappen
Gepubliceerd inThe Conduct of War in the 21st Century : Kinetic, Connected and Synthetic
Jaar2021
TypeBoekdeel
ISBN978-1-003-05426-9
TaalEngels

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