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Thread: Counter-narratives and Info Ops: Debating Jihadi YouTube Videos

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    Default Counter-narratives and Info Ops: Debating Jihadi YouTube Videos

    As you have likely read, YouTube has pulled selected videos featuring Anwar al-Awlaki under pressure from the American and British governments. Pauline Neville-Jones, the British Minister of Security, argued that the material is a major component of recruitment and radicalization, providing an impetus for acts of terror and should be pulled. In response, Adam Rawnsley of Danger Room argues that removing the videos
    is a losing battle
    and that
    Britain and America would be better off addressing the content of jihadi media with similar urgency to its distribution.
    (Link in Post No. 3) Even if the material is made unavailable on YouTube, there will be other sources for distribution including sites dedicated to counterterrorism such as this one. Howard G. Clark of FREEradicals goes even further. In "10 Reasons Why Blocking Awlaki Youtube Speeches is Counter-Productive" (HT "Thoughts of a Technocrat"), he suggests that blocking the message adds credibility, prestige, and attention to individuals such as Awlaki. It is as if being blocked is itself a force multiplier. While I did not agree with all Clark's points, two struck me:

    6) Front page news will also make Awlaki seem like an ideological pinnacle to English speakers susceptible to radicalisation, when in fact his lectures—although slick, simple, and in easy-to-understand colloquial Americanized English—reek of academic slothfulness, lack of historical understanding, and a sophomoric education on Islam’s original texts.

    7) Over the past four years over two dozen terrorist attack plotters were found to have viewed Awlaki’s videos before their planned attacks. But not in one case is there proof that his speeches actually inspired these conspirators. It may be more logical that those already considering violent extremism would naturally watch his and other videos. Listening to Awlaki may be a symptom instead of driver of radicalisation.
    This made me wonder whether or not removing the videos was beneficial from the viewpoint of combating terrorism. In point 6, Clark implies that there an open space for constructing a counternarrative. By leaving the more radical Awlaki videos online, we can exploit the weaknesses in his argument and pose a viable alternative. In fact, simply removing the videos may sabotage our counternarrative from the beginning, giving radicals ammunition to say, "See, they talk about 'freedom' when all they really want to do is silence opposition [as they do in regime X, regime Y, etc.]" At the very least, we need to know what radicals are saying to combat their message. In point 7, he suggests that removing the videos constitutes a failure to address the underlying causes of Jihadi radicalization rather than a mere "symptom." From a COIN perspective, American interests may be better served in acknowledging and addressing select grievances in Awlaki's message rather than silencing the messenger. To me, removing the video seems to be the digital equivalent of counterterrorism without the COIN.

    Many may object that the U. S. should not cede the Internet to terrorists. Certainly, I do not advocate 'ceding' the Internet. Rather, we should engage an ideological contest rather than 'cat and mouse' technological battle with terrorists doing what is essentially a denial-of-service attack against sites that host their message via lawfare, government pressure, or offensive 'cyber' action. However, I wonder if this approach isn't one method to separate the population from insurgents in the 21st century. What, then, is the proper balance between denying terrorists a soap box and countering their message? What are your thoughts and concerns?

    Moderator's Note: title amended and cyber war removed. PM to author.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-07-2010 at 08:51 PM. Reason: Add Mod's note and (text). Use quote marks
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    I'm noticing the proliferation of the use of "cyber" the way "COIN" was the buzzword du jour a few years ago.

    This is not "cyberspace" we're talking about here. This is an information war. Whether IO is appropriately categorized as a cyberspace operation has yet to be settled. But what "IO" is certainly has more fidelity.

    What is described in post #1 is IO, not cyber. What is discussed does not involve defending or attacking virtual/computer networks or devices. (Ceding the Internet implies letting hackers have their way with US and other networks.)
    Blocking a site, while a network operations function, is a decision made regarding content, not network security.

    BJP

    Moderator's Note: title amended and cyber war reference removed.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-07-2010 at 08:43 PM. Reason: Add Mod's note

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    Default Danger Room's points

    The Danger Room article cited by Erich is:http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010...rror-wannabes/

    This is worth citing:
    jihadi wannabes can still find such content on counterterrorism research sites. The most recent issue of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s America-focused Inspire magazine actually warned readers to stay away from jihadi websites and visit terrorist research sites such as the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and SITE Intelligence Group to find al-Qaeda material and avoid attracting the attention of intelligence agencies.

    YouTube stepping up enforcement of its policies against extremist content isn’t a bad thing. But policymakers in the United States and Britain should be clear about what this will achieve and what it won’t. Limiting videos from al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers on the most popular online video site simply means placing it just a few inches off prime shelf space — not taking it off the internet entirely.
    davidbfpo

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    Default A few late thoughts

    I am curious that this pressure on You Tube to remove some content took place now, even if the videos feature the feared cleric al-Awlaki.

    In neither the Home Secretary's in London or her junior Security Minister's speech in Washington DC, were the videos explicitly referred to (speeches:http://www.rusi.org/news/ref:N4CD17AFA05486/ and http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Fil...y_strategy.pdf

    Yes, the impact of such videos featured in the radicalisation of a woman who stabbed a MP:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-11682732

    An "easy win" and some helpful headlines I fear. Almost reminiscent of the action taken to stop Irish republican speakers during 'The Troubles', with their voices silenced and dubbed over. A policy that didn't last that long, long enough to be cited decades later.

    Maybe it is all politics; this article offers an explanation:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...terrorism-laws

    Where is the counter-offensive in Info Ops? Yes, some of it will be covert, IMHO not much sign of activity in the open. One drawback is that those who wish to view such material may already be far too far along the radicalisation process, or the "snakes & ladders" model (espoused by NYPD's study) to listen to the counter-narrative.

    Is the counter-offensive principally aimed at the vast "silent" majority, retaining their loyalty or at a minimum neutrality; the "vulnerable" to radicalisation even those already radicalised?

    Erich - there is an earlier thread 'Countering online radicalisation: Is government censorship effective?' and link:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=7528
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-07-2010 at 09:43 PM.
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    This is an interesting article about Zachary Adam Chesser.
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...g_the_watchers

    About the question if it is a good strategy to take down these videos instead of countering them with info-ops of ourselves, you should first determine the reason why these "facebook-terrorists" post them online and what effects they have.
    On another note this world of jihadi-websites and would-be internet terrorists, could provide an excellent opportunity to do psuedo-operations and locate would-be terrorists.

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    Default ne1 can see ur wrng

    If anyone has ever followed the quality of "debates" on YouTube, they'll see the immediate flaw with the notion that you could use it as a forum to counter jihadist propaganda...

    ...namely, that any intelligent counter-argument that one might frame and post would soon be lost in the deluge of marginally semi-literate racist anti-Muslim posts by other YouTube users. These, in turn, would only strengthen the jihadist narrative that we're in the midst of a civilizational war, with Islam pitted against a hostile (and rather moronic) West.

    YouTube political discussions probably rank among the stupidest, most depressing things on the planet. I sometimes want to shower after accidentally reading them.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    If anyone has ever followed the quality of "debates" on YouTube, they'll see the immediate flaw with the notion that you could use it as a forum to counter jihadist propaganda...

    ...namely, that any intelligent counter-argument that one might frame and post would soon be lost in the deluge of marginally semi-literate racist anti-Muslim posts by other YouTube users. These, in turn, would only strengthen the jihadist narrative that we're in the midst of a civilizational war, with Islam pitted against a hostile (and rather moronic) West.

    YouTube political discussions probably rank among the stupidest, most depressing things on the planet. I sometimes want to shower after accidentally reading them.
    We are also assuming that fanatical islamist will conduct a 'rational' debate on the 'flaws' in their argument with westerners.

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    Sorry to be slow to respond. I have been buried in traveling, my own research, and grading students' papers. Also, sorry I missed that previous thread. Apparently, my search terms were not thorough enough. However, I had read ICSR report previously and I am a big fan of Tim Stevens' work including his blog Ubiwar when it was still available.

    The reason why I posted this using terms that I did was as a kind of intellectual exercise. Recently, I had been re-reading Kilcullen's The Accidental Guerrilla and Counterinsurgency, and his notion of counterterrorism as a defensive strategy has been bouncing around my head. When I saw the previously-mentioned article on Danger Room, I began thinking about how pulling the YouTube video--whatever terms we apply to it--was an example of counterterrorism as defensive strategy. My questions for you all are these:

    Do you agree that blocking the content can be described as a defensive strategy of counterterrorism? Is it possible to take a more strategically offensive, COIN perspective on cyber operations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brett Patron View Post
    I'm noticing the proliferation of the use of "cyber" the way "COIN" was the buzzword du jour a few years ago.

    This is not "cyberspace" we're talking about here. This is an information war. Whether IO is appropriately categorized as a cyberspace operation has yet to be settled. But what "IO" is certainly has more fidelity.

    What is described in post #1 is IO, not cyber. What is discussed does not involve defending or attacking virtual/computer networks or devices. (Ceding the Internet implies letting hackers have their way with US and other networks.)
    Blocking a site, while a network operations function, is a decision made regarding content, not network security.

    BJP

    Moderator's Note: title amended and cyber war reference removed.
    Brett and others, I appreciate the correction on "IO" terminology. Perhaps, it is a better term. At least as it is laid out in US military doctrine, IO is not something I have not studied. However, I have spent a great deal of time studying securing and attacking computer networks. My argument is that no matter how you remove a video from YouTube or other site you are performing a denial-of-service on what is undeniably a network resource. I won't disagree that the term "cyber-" is overused, but it is the term that the U. S. national security community--including the DoD--has chosen to embrace.

    Let's think outside the box for a moment. Consider this an intellectual exercise to think of content control under a COIN vs. CT framework in that removing said content is an offensive tactic but a defensive strategy (to borrow an idea from Kilcullen). As such, I would contend blocking a site has everything to do with network security.

    YouTube is by no means unique in terms of hosting this type of content. For a moment, let's imagine al-Awlaki videos were not on YouTube but a YouTube clone hosted on a server located in a country unwilling to cooperate on issues of counterterrorism. Could we block the site from being viewed within the United States? With sufficient legal support and the cooperation of ISPs, we could. However, this is a fundamentally defensive act. This block is easily bypassed by any number of measures including but by no means limited to using Proxy Servers or Tor Hidden Services. Moreover, it would still be viewable outside the United States.

    Now, we could apply any number of diplomatic and legal pressures--a kind of lawfare, if you will--to the host country to have the content removed from that YouTube clone site. Even if we are successful, the content could easily reappear on another site in another country.

    If we are determined to "block" the content, we will have to take more extreme measures. I am not privy to USCYBERCOM's (or other departments/agencies') actual offensive 'cyber' capabilities, but let us assume they or some other group has a botnet capable of disrupting that server via DDoS attack. Sure, we have disrupted that server for the time being, but that will tie up resources that could be used in other capacities when the content could be moved to another server yet again.

    Let us assume that we are even more determined to ensure that content is never seen again. In this imaginary scenario, intelligence indicates that the individuals who maintain the software behind this YouTube clone site and the individuals who maintain the hardware that hosts the site will be on site at the server farm to perform a number of tasks. A MQ-9 Reaper has been assigned to confirm that all the individuals have arrived and kill the individuals, destroy the server, and emphatically remove content with a Hellfire missile.

    Even in this extreme scenario, al-Awlaki could still host the video somewhere else. Even if al-Awlaki was killed in that strike or a separate strike, there are thousands of other radicals to fill the vacuum and there are thousands of other outlets and media to give them a forum. Whether you use lawfare, offensive 'cyber' capabilities, or a Hellfire, you are performing a denial-of-service on what is undeniably a network resource. Furthermore, I say this is defensive because there will always be another al-Awlaki and another YouTube.

    All these points are in line with the ICSR paper and Tim Stevens' posts mentioned in the other thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    If anyone has ever followed the quality of "debates" on YouTube, they'll see the immediate flaw with the notion that you could use it as a forum to counter jihadist propaganda...

    ...namely, that any intelligent counter-argument that one might frame and post would soon be lost in the deluge of marginally semi-literate racist anti-Muslim posts by other YouTube users. These, in turn, would only strengthen the jihadist narrative that we're in the midst of a civilizational war, with Islam pitted against a hostile (and rather moronic) West.

    YouTube political discussions probably rank among the stupidest, most depressing things on the planet. I sometimes want to shower after accidentally reading them.
    Again, YouTube isn't the only site that people are using for radicalization/counter-radicalization. Are you going to concede any means to combat the message on the whole of the Internet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Taiko View Post
    We are also assuming that fanatical islamist will conduct a 'rational' debate on the 'flaws' in their argument with westerners.
    I, for one, am not arguing about creating a counter-narrative for radicalized Muslims. The target audience should range from fundamentalist (but not radicalized) to moderate (but not unsympathetic to global insurgency against the West) Muslims.

    So long story short, is there a way to take cyber operations or IO or way strategically offensive? Or do we just give up the Internet as a space where we can perform counterinsurgency-minded techniques?
    Last edited by Erich G. Simmers; 11-24-2010 at 09:12 PM.
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    Post Maybe just me,

    but it seems like the best counter-narrative is and always has been right in front of any and all who experience the supposed "great fight " by the islamic insurgents/freedom fighters. When rather then bringing about any of their supposedly better lives they instead turn life-givers into life takers.

    Look at the history,

    Somolia- where many of those countries who would give inordinate amounts of money and services to help them dig out of their miserable condition have instead become those who have to dedicate armed forces and military equipment to assist with fighting gangs and fighters who attack anyone they can in order to gain more control for themselves not the populace they live among.

    Naval ships from multiple countries where one can see them bearing food , medical assistance, etc to countries without those fighters but instead must come armed to the teeth to deal with the pirates in the Somali area . Where is that helping their country?

    Yemen - Same story these fighters will try to say they come wearing a badge of honor fighting a good fight yet the only thing they actually bring is the destruction which must ultimately come from the very actions they take.

    IRAQ - The SURGE very much exemplifies what happens when a populace realizes exactly what the fighters have to offer and instead chose to side with those who would help them to work for a better life in which they have a voice in their future. Not guaranteed to be perfect but undeniably better then anything AQ and/or others had to offer.

    Afghanistan- Much the same throughout their history the people have been in continual search for a path towards individual freedom as can be seen by the fact that they as a general rule will fight any and all they percieve to threaten their family/tribal structures- regardless of whether they can win or not. Herein lies the greatest difference between the past and current battle. They will all at some point recognize that the NATO/ISAF forces only seek to allow them the opportunity to choose their own future without the torture and violence crushing of dissent that the Taliban have historically shown they have to offer.

    The list could go on and on but hopefully it at least expresses the point I'm trying to make.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    but it seems like the best counter-narrative is and always has been right in front of any and all who experience the supposed "great fight " by the islamic insurgents/freedom fighters. When rather then bringing about any of their supposedly better lives they instead turn life-givers into life takers.
    First, I would urge some caution on framing this discussion in "Islamic insurgent" vs. would-be life-givers/sometimes life-takers. In all your examples, religion is secondary to actual political control. Insurgents may claim that it is a contest between "Islam" and "the West," but the actual realities are very different.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    Look at the history,

    Somolia- where many of those countries who would give inordinate amounts of money and services to help them dig out of their miserable condition have instead become those who have to dedicate armed forces and military equipment to assist with fighting gangs and fighters who attack anyone they can in order to gain more control for themselves not the populace they live among.

    Naval ships from multiple countries where one can see them bearing food , medical assistance, etc to countries without those fighters but instead must come armed to the teeth to deal with the pirates in the Somali area . Where is that helping their country?
    This example isn't so much about message as it is control of the country. Aid isn't being applied, because the government is very weak. Al-Shabaab with support from Hizb al Islam owns most of Mogadishu and has strengthened its positions since Ethiopia's withdrawal. Much of the 'public discourse'--if it can be called that--is happening between "Islamist" factions as they jockey for control of the country. I put scare quotes around "Islamist," because the religious issues are at the very least secondary concerns in what is a contest for political control of the country. They aren't choosing between life-giving and life-taking; they are fighting to be in charge--in this case, between "Islamist" factions. Refusal, misuse, etc. of aid is not because they aren't getting a message but because control is not established. Given this environment, the only thing unreasonable is that anyone should expect aid to be effective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    Yemen - Same story these fighters will try to say they come wearing a badge of honor fighting a good fight yet the only thing they actually bring is the destruction which must ultimately come from the very actions they take.
    There are other factors besides religion that make this a ripe place for radicalization: extremely poverty, limited resources including water, and ethnic divisions. Plus, there are safe havens for radical groups.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    IRAQ - The SURGE very much exemplifies what happens when a populace realizes exactly what the fighters have to offer and instead chose to side with those who would help them to work for a better life in which they have a voice in their future. Not guaranteed to be perfect but undeniably better then anything AQ and/or others had to offer.
    Again, I would say this has more to do with local choosing between governance rather than any Islamic vs. Western life-giver/taker divide.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    Afghanistan- Much the same throughout their history the people have been in continual search for a path towards individual freedom as can be seen by the fact that they as a general rule will fight any and all they percieve to threaten their family/tribal structures- regardless of whether they can win or not. Herein lies the greatest difference between the past and current battle. They will all at some point recognize that the NATO/ISAF forces only seek to allow them the opportunity to choose their own future without the torture and violence crushing of dissent that the Taliban have historically shown they have to offer.
    Whatever the Taliban represent, Afghans are making a choice between two sides offering their brand of law and order. At the recent MCA Dinner, David Kilcullen laid this out very well. I won't recount the whole talk, but the Taliban have been able to deliver a message that they are less corrupt and offer a swift if brutal justice. Again, that message is enabled because ISAF and the Afghan government need to do a better job delivering on the promise of good governance than the Taliban is doing. Again, religion--in my view--is secondary.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    The list could go on and on but hopefully it at least expresses the point I'm trying to make.
    The global discourse on US involvement in the world will go on no matter whether we are engaged in military invention or not. The US will be presented as a bogey-man, and there will be legitimate grievances against the US. Choosing to not address them is dangerous in my view.

    What I want to debate is how to go about counteracting that message. If that means disengagement in favor of local actors debating and/or fighting it out among themselves, that is a valid option. However, there is no denying we have interests in these regions and, as such, have a stake in the local political discourse. Do we cut our losses?

    More important than the local discourse are the global networks of insurgent groups that use media such as YouTube to support the political aspect of their missions. How do we go about disrupting that flow of information? Do we take a "CT"-esque approach using lawfare and denial of service to close down these sites as they pop up? Or do we engage in the discourse? Personally, I think we should acknowledge the limitations of the former and do much more of the latter in terms of trusted local partners.
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    Smile I plan on responding in more depth

    But for starters I agree with pretty much everything you stated. And Had I not "Framed" my statements the way I did would you have had the opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak, in pointing out that in all of the examples religion is a secondary if not tertiary problem.

    If your narratives don't tell it like you see it your not really giving your audience a chance to make that same determination for themselves in correcting your mistatements

    Once they (audience) start telling you Thats not what its about then you'll know your on the right track
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    It's a very good idea I think to frame this issue in terms of IO. Technical woo-woo about disrupting computers aside, this is very much an issue of information dissemination.

    I think it's a very good idea to remove this information whenever possible, wherever it is found. It's not that the material will somehow cease to exist, but containing it within a narrative that explains what's wrong with it is an important contextual difference. In this instance the truth is poison to these people & their process. Real knowledge is a counter-weapon to their goals. It's not that the people seeking answers and solutions to their problems are somehow overly biased against alternatives that don't involve logically deficient fantasies about death & virgins. They really are not, but if they mistakenly see that as their only alternative because it's the only one given then they will be vulnerable to the exploitation being attempted by people seeking to weaponize their vulnerabilities.

    Disrupting the activities of extremists helps to marginalize both their abilities and the acceptability of their message. This is an enemy that lives to create strife, and efforts to reduce those abilities are worth taking.

    I think it's a mistake to wrap online stuff up in it's own special context, these are really all just ways of communicating information. I can talk at length about making computers do bad things, but once you get past the button pushing you must look at the goals and the reasons for these things. From what I've seen, that's when you start talking about information, knowledge, and life offline.

    I concur with a lot of what Mr. Simmers has said. I also don't think it's very easy to make this type of information just go away. However between chasing these people down online & offline (I consider the latter more important too), using their propaganda against them becomes important.

    In a historical context it's simply ludicrous for them to expect a triumph of their bad ideas. That just doesn't happen, and at best increases in the dissemination of knowledge and information all about how broken they are can serve to accelerate their failure much better than it can be used to enable any victories.

    These people are enraptured with violence, utterly stuck ideologically, & don't know what to do with themselves even when they do manage short term wins. Iran is a great example of the revolutionary immobilization that goes with jihad. Thirty years down the road from their revolution, and what do they have to show for it? Well not very much as it turns out. That's in large part because outside of blazing guns to effectively put themselves in power they're inept. This is a rather common failing of revolutionaries, jihadist or otherwise.

    It's important to differentiate between making computers do bad things (that which they were not designed, or intended to do), and using them to do bad things. The former activity in many ways has the exact sort of limitations that have been noted in the conversation so far. The latter I think of as literally everything else. That because it's about the doing of other activities. When building a house, pretty rapidly you're going to get tired of talking about what drill to use, & will want to talk about the house itself. The whole `cyber' thing is like that drill, it's just a tool. Granted I may be able to unplug it from across the world, but there needs to be some reason for that before it becomes worth bothering to do. The drill is also not an end unto itself, but the house sure is. COIN cares about the house, cyber is just another power tool.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    But for starters I agree with pretty much everything you stated. And Had I not "Framed" my statements the way I did would you have had the opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak, in pointing out that in all of the examples religion is a secondary if not tertiary problem.

    If your narratives don't tell it like you see it your not really giving your audience a chance to make that same determination for themselves in correcting your mistatements

    Once they (audience) start telling you Thats not what its about then you'll know your on the right track
    Thank you for your thoughts. I suspect we are not far apart in terms of ideas about controlling information, IO, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by anonamatic View Post
    It's a very good idea I think to frame this issue in terms of IO. Technical woo-woo about disrupting computers aside, this is very much an issue of information dissemination.

    I think it's a very good idea to remove this information whenever possible, wherever it is found. It's not that the material will somehow cease to exist, but containing it within a narrative that explains what's wrong with it is an important contextual difference. In this instance the truth is poison to these people & their process. Real knowledge is a counter-weapon to their goals. It's not that the people seeking answers and solutions to their problems are somehow overly biased against alternatives that don't involve logically deficient fantasies about death & virgins. They really are not, but if they mistakenly see that as their only alternative because it's the only one given then they will be vulnerable to the exploitation being attempted by people seeking to weaponize their vulnerabilities.

    Disrupting the activities of extremists helps to marginalize both their abilities and the acceptability of their message. This is an enemy that lives to create strife, and efforts to reduce those abilities are worth taking.

    I think it's a mistake to wrap online stuff up in it's own special context, these are really all just ways of communicating information. I can talk at length about making computers do bad things, but once you get past the button pushing you must look at the goals and the reasons for these things. From what I've seen, that's when you start talking about information, knowledge, and life offline.

    I concur with a lot of what Mr. Simmers has said. I also don't think it's very easy to make this type of information just go away. However between chasing these people down online & offline (I consider the latter more important too), using their propaganda against them becomes important.

    In a historical context it's simply ludicrous for them to expect a triumph of their bad ideas. That just doesn't happen, and at best increases in the dissemination of knowledge and information all about how broken they are can serve to accelerate their failure much better than it can be used to enable any victories.

    These people are enraptured with violence, utterly stuck ideologically, & don't know what to do with themselves even when they do manage short term wins. Iran is a great example of the revolutionary immobilization that goes with jihad. Thirty years down the road from their revolution, and what do they have to show for it? Well not very much as it turns out. That's in large part because outside of blazing guns to effectively put themselves in power they're inept. This is a rather common failing of revolutionaries, jihadist or otherwise.

    It's important to differentiate between making computers do bad things (that which they were not designed, or intended to do), and using them to do bad things. The former activity in many ways has the exact sort of limitations that have been noted in the conversation so far. The latter I think of as literally everything else. That because it's about the doing of other activities. When building a house, pretty rapidly you're going to get tired of talking about what drill to use, & will want to talk about the house itself. The whole `cyber' thing is like that drill, it's just a tool. Granted I may be able to unplug it from across the world, but there needs to be some reason for that before it becomes worth bothering to do. The drill is also not an end unto itself, but the house sure is. COIN cares about the house, cyber is just another power tool.
    "Erich," please.

    I am a little torn myself on this distinction. I will admit that everyone has a tendency to see incremental change as something radical new. However, globalization (in particular the Internet) has enabled "superempowered" individuals (see John Robb, et. al.).

    For example, consider that Dove World Outreach Church that planned to burn the Qu'ran, which was set to happen literally down the road from my office at University of Florida. The cost to entry was very little: YouTube, Facebook, etc. From that little church, they reached millions and were able threatened our position in Afghanistan and the Muslim world significantly enough to warrant comment from GEN Petraeus and the highest levels of the Obama administration. Outrage and threats of violence came from all over the world, and some of my students were frightened enough to talk about leaving Gainesville.

    A single bad actor can match, if not exceed, the "information operations" capability of the United States. Look at Julian Assange. He is not some unique individual; thousands upon thousands have his skills. All the law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the world combined lack the resources to monitor everyone who could replace him should he go to jail. More importantly, these people are amateurs.

    This fact is exactly why it is a mistake to say "this is just IO, same as always." Whatever overlap in theory and doctrine, there needs to be a different mindset acknowledging that globalization has enabled bad actors in ways that very few have a full understanding.
    Erich G. Simmers
    www.weaponizedculture.org

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erich G. Simmers View Post

    More important than the local discourse are the global networks of insurgent groups that use media such as YouTube to support the political aspect of their missions. How do we go about disrupting that flow of information? Do we take a "CT"-esque approach using lawfare and denial of service to close down these sites as they pop up? Or do we engage in the discourse? Personally, I think we should acknowledge the limitations of the former and do much more of the latter in terms of trusted local partners.
    Why discourse? This isn't a debate. You don't have a discourse with drug dealers do you?

    Why not just do what harms them most within the constraints of the policy? Break their will. Make their life misery. Harass them.

    Are they worth it and can you can change the law to allow it is another question.
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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Why discourse? This isn't a debate. You don't have a discourse with drug dealers do you?
    No, but we do have discourse with the drug users that keep the drug dealers in business: a fair bit of effort (mostly ineffectual but still there) goes into education and persuasion aimed at getting people not to start using drugs and to persuade users to stop. Similarly we aim information at potential insurgents and insurgent supporters in an effort to get them to withdraw support and leave the insurgent exposed. Not an answer in itself, but useful as one tactic among many, and though we've done it badly often enough that's no reason not to try and do it better.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Similarly we aim information at potential insurgents and insurgent supporters in an effort to get them to withdraw support and leave the insurgent exposed. Not an answer in itself, but useful as one tactic among many, and though we've done it badly often enough that's no reason not to try and do it better.
    Concur, but that is part of the normal political dialogue within any society, the same way as "don't smoke" is part of normal health education. Part of a normal political dialogue is the denigration of violence, as part of the political process.

    You are not aiming to furnish them with information on which to make "informed choices". You are saying "cross the line and we'll f**k you up!" - so "sell drugs and we'll lock you away." I see this as no more than simply and clearly stating a policy.
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    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Concur, but that is part of the normal political dialogue within any society, the same way as "don't smoke" is part of normal health education. Part of a normal political dialogue is the denigration of violence, as part of the political process.
    Of course it's part of the normal political process... not just the denigration of violence but pointing out the advantages of non-violent options for achieving the same goals (assuming any exist, though in many insurgent-affected societies they don't). Why should we remove normal parts of the political process from our toolbox?

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    You are not aiming to furnish them with information on which to make "informed choices". You are saying "cross the line and we'll f**k you up!" - so "sell drugs and we'll lock you away." I see this as no more than simply and clearly stating a policy.
    Then the insurgent slides up and whispers in their ear "see, all they can do is threaten you, we understand your problems and your grievances and we can help you snuff those arrogant threatening A-holes". Threats can be seen as a challenge, and sometimes people aren't intimidated. You might recall an old saying about how you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar...

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Of course it's part of the normal political process... not just the denigration of violence but pointing out the advantages of non-violent options for achieving the same goals (assuming any exist, though in many insurgent-affected societies they don't). Why should we remove normal parts of the political process from our toolbox?
    I would not. As you say it's "normal." I'd just do nothing. Normal is already there.
    Then the insurgent slides up and whispers in their ear "see, all they can do is threaten you, we understand your problems and your grievances and we can help you snuff those arrogant threatening A-holes". Threats can be seen as a challenge, and sometimes people aren't intimidated.
    ..but that assumes that the insurgent has the bones of a legitimate grievance. In the case of the UK, if some young Muslim thinks the UK should leave Afghanistan, nothing the UK Government can say will stop him opting for violence, if he wishes, except the concept of sanction and/or retribution.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I would not. As you say it's "normal." I'd just do nothing. Normal is already there.
    If the situation was "normal" you wouldn't be there, no? I'm assuming that your objective is to return an abnormal situation to something approaching normality.

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    ..but that assumes that the insurgent has the bones of a legitimate grievance. In the case of the UK, if some young Muslim thinks the UK should leave Afghanistan, nothing the UK Government can say will stop him opting for violence, if he wishes, except the concept of sanction and/or retribution.
    You're not only targeting the committed insurgent who has already make up his mind. If there's doubt in the mind of an insurgent or an insurgent supporter, you want that doubt to grow. If someone is considering joining or supporting, you want to provide reasons not to. Lot of people out there who are, to one extent or another, on the fence.

    Of course in any given situation you need to know who you're targeting and what kind of information might have an impact on their decision-making process. Generalized "we're good they're bad" stuff is not likely to be effective, neither is coming off like a used car salesman.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    If someone is considering joining or supporting, you want to provide reasons not to. Lot of people out there who are, to one extent or another, on the fence.
    OK, but that assumes the person you are engaging with will make a rational choice, based on facts or argument. My experience is that folks almost never do that
    ....which is why I see very little utility in debating issues that people are trying to settle via violence.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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