Russia organized 2 sides of a Texas protest and encouraged 'both sides to battle in the streets'

Russian actors organized both anti-Islam and pro-Islam protests in the same location at the same time on May 21, 2016, using separate Facebook pages operated from a so-called troll farm in St. Petersburg, the Senate Intelligence Committee disclosed on Wednesday.
"What neither side could have known was that Russian trolls were encouraging both sides to battle in the streets and create division between real Americans," Burr said on Wednesday during an open hearing with the general counsels of Facebook, Google, and Twitter.
Is subversion an act of war? If not, if we don't defend our liberal democracy, what do we really stand for? We love to say our intelligence services and military defend our freedom. A lot of our adventures overseas have little to do with defending our freedom. However, if an adversary uses subversion to target the core of who we are as a nation, a liberal democracy, and it isn't an act of war, then how to we categorize it? How do we respond beyond attacking each other to gain political points?

These types of activities can severely undermine a nation's strength, and for weak nations it cause them to collapse from within. This particular event may seem minor, but it when there are tens of these on a monthly basis over time it can cause a culmination effect where we either destroy ourselves or change our identity over time. Certainly not the same level of physical destruction and death that would be incurred in a major war, but none the less a war like objective achieved short of conventional war. It calls into question whether war is best described by the adversary's means (employ violence to achieve a political end) or his ends (destroy or weaken our nation, but not through the employment of military forces).

I heard of this particular incident on the radio while driving home tonight, and did a search to pull an article to start a discussion on the broader issues associated with this attack. The Congressman added that Russia created this protest for the equivalent of a mere $200.00. How much does one hellfire missile cost? What is its impact relative to a $200.00 troll operation?

Retaliation is complicated assuming we had the will to do so, because the use of decent tradecraft (using cut outs by employing proxies) makes attribution to the level desired to justify a legal response challenging. Additionally, now that the cat if out of the bag, other actors who want to target us, including non-state actors can and will do so using similar methods.

We can elevate this to the next level, which is cyber attacks. An adversary that attacks our power grid has conducted an act of war, but only if we can attribute the attack. What about an adversary, say a rogue state that uses cyber operations to rob banks? We're not exactly going to send the FBI or Marshals to arrest and then prosecute state cyber actors who may reside anywhere in the world, or even if we did, making a case with sufficient evidence would prove difficult, not to mention that nation probably has an army of hackers, so it would make any difference. We would actually have to conduct a significant attack on that country. Would the world condemn a country that conducted a lethal attack on another country, because that country's cyber actors conducted a cyber attack or robbed another country's bank?

Joint Doctrine recently added information as the 7th Joint Function. This is long overdue, but the paragraph that describes it is a bit lame.

The information function encompasses the management and application of information and its deliberate integration with other joint functions to influence relevant-actor perceptions, behavior, action or inaction, and support human and automated decision making. The information function helps commanders and staffs understand and leverage the pervasive nature of information, its military uses, and its application during all military operations. This function provides JFCs the ability to integrate the generation and preservation of friendly information while leveraging the inherent informational aspects of all military activities to achieve the commander’s objectives and attain the end state.”
It reads more like strategic communications or controlling the narrative from our COIN doctrine, than a needed more comprehensive view of information, information technologies, and how to leverage it to achieve tactical to strategic effects.