Below are excerpts from a seminal essay on the future significance of information warfare written by the now retired Lieutenant Colonel, Ralph Peters formerly assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence for the US Army War College journal, Parameters. Though the article was originally published in 1997, it was recently re-published in light of its continued relevance, and has since been quoted by Pepe Escobar in his article “”War Porn: the New Safe Sex”, with direct reference to the media war on Syria. Though unabashedly racist and classist in content and offensively triumphalist and jingoistic in tone, Peters’ essay provides a devastatingly honest account of the central role information warfare will continue to have in US military strategy. As if anticipating the current informational onslaught against the resistance axis, the article serves to confirm how the US media has become the most potent tool in its wider war on its “rejectionist” enemies. Excerpts from the 9 page article are below, with particularly interesting/offensive parts highlighted in upper-case.
"ONE OF THE DEFINING BIFURCATIONS OF THE FUTURE WILL BE THE CONFLICT BETWEEN INFORMATION MASTERS AND INFORMATION VICTIMS.
How can you counterattack the information others have turned upon you? There is no effective option other than competitive performance. For those individuals and cultures that cannot join or compete with our information empire, there is only inevitable failure (of note, the internet is to the techno-capable disaffected what the United Nations is to marginal states: it offers the illusion of empowerment and community). …. Information, from the internet to rock videos, will not be contained, and fundamentalism cannot control its children. Our victims volunteer.
These noncompetitive cultures, such as that of Arabo-Persian Islam or the rejectionist segment of our own population, are enraged. Their cultures are under assault; their cherished values have proven dysfunctional, and the successful move on without them.
THE LAID-OFF BLUE-COLLAR WORKER IN AMERICA AND THE TALIBAN MILITIAMAN IN AFGHANISTAN ARE BROTHERS IN SUFFERING.
These discarded citizens sense that their government is no longer about them, but only about the privileged.
The foreign twin is the Islamic, or sub-Saharan African, or Mexican university graduate who faces a teetering government, joblessness, exclusion from the profits of the corruption distorting his society, marriage in poverty or the impossibility of marriage, and a deluge of information telling him (exaggeratedly and dishonestly) how well the West lives….
Hollywood goes where Harvard never penetrated, and the foreigner, unable to touch the
reality of America, is touched by America’s irresponsible fantasies of itself; he sees a devilishly enchanting, bluntly sexual, terrifying world from which he is excluded, a world of wealth he can judge only in terms of his own poverty.
Most citizens of the globe are not economists; they perceive wealth as inelastic, its possession a zero-sum game. If decadent America (as seen on the screen) is so fabulously rich, it can only be because America has looted one’s own impoverished group or country or region. ….
This discarded foreigner’s desire may be to attack the “Great Satan America,” but America is far away (for now), so he acts violently in his own neighborhood. He will accept no personal guilt for his failure, nor can he bear the possibility that his culture “doesn’t work.” The blame lies ever elsewhere. The cult of victimization is becoming a universal phenomenon, and it is a
source of dynamic hatreds.
Contemporary American culture is the most powerful in history, and the most destructive of competitor cultures. ..The genius, the secret weapon, of American culture is the essence that the elites despise: ours is the first genuine people’s culture. It stresses comfort and convenience—ease—and it generates pleasure for the masses. WE ARE KARL MARX’S DREAM, AND HIS NIGHTMARE.
Secular and religious revolutionaries in our century have made the identical mistake, imagining that the workers of the world or the faithful just can’t wait to go home at night to study Marx or the Koran. Well, Joe Sixpack, Ivan Tipichni, and Ali Quat would rather “Baywatch.” America has figured it out, and we are brilliant at operationalizing our knowledge, and our cultural power will hinder even those cultures we do not undermine. There is no “peer competitor” in the cultural (or military) department. Our cultural empire has the addicted—men and women everywhere—clamoring for more. And they pay for the privilege of their disillusionment.
As more and more human beings are overwhelmed by information, or dispossessed by the effects of information-based technologies, there will be more violence. Information victims will often see no other resort. As work becomes more cerebral, those who fail to find a place will respond by rejecting reason.
THE DE FACTO ROLE OF THE US ARMED FORCES WILL BE TO KEEP THE WORLD SAFE FOR OUR ECONOMY AND OPEN TO OUR CULTURAL ASSAULT. TO THOSE ENDS, WE WILL DO A FAIR AMOUNT OF KILLING. WE ARE BUILDING AN INFORMATION-BASED MILITARY TO DO THAT KILLING. THERE WILL STILL BE PLENTY OF MUSCLE POWER REQUIRED, BUT MUCH OF OUR MILITARY ART WILL CONSIST IN KNOWING MORE ABOUT THE ENEMY THAN HE KNOWS ABOUT HIMSELF, MANIPULATING DATA FOR EFFECTIVENESS AND EFFICIENCY, AND DENYING SIMILAR ADVANTAGES TO OUR OPPONENTS. ..
Our informational advantage over every other country and culture will be so enormous that our greatest battlefield challenge will be harnessing its power. Our potential national weakness will be the failure to maintain the moral and raw physical strength to thrust that bayonet into an enemy’s heart. We will outcreate, outproduce and, when need be, outfight the rest of the world. We can out-think them, too. .. Our national appetite for information and our sophistication in handling it will enable us to outlast and outperform all hierarchical cultures, information-controlling societies, and rejectionist states. The skills necessary to this newest information age can be acquired only beginning in childhood and in complete immersion. Societies that fear or otherwise cannot manage the free flow of information simply will
not be competitive. THEY MIGHT MASTER THE TECHNOLOGICAL WHEREWITHAL TO WATCH THE VIDEOS, BUT WE WILL BE WRITING THE SCRIPTS, PRODUCING THEM, AND COLLECTING THE ROYALTIES. OUR CREATIVITY IS DEVASTATING.
It remains difficult, of course, for military leaders to conceive of warfare, informational or otherwise, in such broad terms. BUT HOLLYWOOD IS “PREPARING THE BATTLEFIELD,” and burgers precede bullets. The flag follows trade. Despite our declaration of defeat in the face of battlefield victory in Mogadishu, the image of US power and the US military around the world is not only a deterrent, but a psychological warfare tool that is constantly at work in the minds of real or potential opponents. Saddam swaggered, but the image of the US military crippled the Iraqi army in the field, doing more to soften them up for our ground assault than did tossing bombs into the sand. Everybody is afraid of us. They really believe we can do all the stuff in the movies. If the Trojans “saw” Athena guiding the Greeks in battle, then the Iraqis saw Luke Skywalker precede McCaffrey’s tanks. OUR UNCONSCIOUS ALLIANCE OF CULTURE WITH KILLING POWER IS A COMBAT MULTIPLIER NO GOVERNMENT, INCLUDING OUR OWN, COULD DESIGN OR AFFORD. WE ARE MAGIC. AND WE’RE GOING TO KEEP IT THAT WAY.”
Source: Ralph Peters, “Constant Conflict”, Winter 2010-11. pp. 126-134.
"Drapetomania", a pseudo-scientific term coined by the American physician, Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851, was a socially/politically-constructed mental illness which supposedly afflicted black slaves who fled captivity during the US’ slave era. While later dismissed as pseudo-science and "scientific racism”, imperialists today still adopt the same psychopathologizing discourse when referring to freedom-seeking, oppressed people who actively resist foreign domination. Thus for example, the US foreign policy concept of the “rogue” state (which at various times included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Afghanistan, Sudan)—first floated by Ronald Regan ”…the strangest collection of misfits, loony tunes, and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich” and later defined as the “recalcitrant and outlaw states that not only choose to remain outside the family [of democratic nations] but also assault its basic values,” by Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake.
In essence, all mental disorders are characterized by a detachment from reality and some degree of irrationality, hence the frequent depiction of Iran as an irrational political actor (see my blog entry here for a brief discussion of this tendency).This discourse can also be found in the pervasive labeling of anti-imperialist leaders like Bashar al-Assad as being “delusional”, “out of touch with reality” and suffering from various psychological disorders. Anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist intellectuals are similarly pathologized as lacking “emotional distance” and “objectivity” (ie. a an accurate reading of reality) and are summarily dismissed as stupefied “groupies”.
As with the psycho-pathologization of African slaves in the past, and American society in general today, the objective behind this psycho-political phenomenon is the need to control, manage and tame the “deviant” state or party which refuses to be enslaved to Empire. More on this later in that article on psycho-pathologizing the resistance axis.
Below are excerpts from Cartwright’s definition of the disorder:
"Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race," by Dr. Cartwright (in DeBow’s Review)
"DRAPETOMANIA, OR THE DISEASE CAUSING NEGROES TO RUN AWAY.
It is unknown to our medical authorities, although its diagnostic symptom, the absconding from service, is well known to our planters and overseers…
In noticing a disease not heretofore classed among the long list of maladies that man is subject to, it was necessary to have a new term to express it. The cause in the most of cases, that induces the negro to run away from service, is as much a disease of the mind as any other species of mental alienation, and much more curable, as a general rule. With the advantages of proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many negroes have of running away, can be almost entirely prevented, although the slaves be located on the borders of a free state, within a stone’s throw of the abolitionists.
If the white man attempts to oppose the Deity’s will, by trying to make the negro anything else than “the submissive knee-bender,” (which the Almighty declared he should be,) by trying to raise him to a level with himself, or by putting himself on an equality with the negro; or if he abuses the power which God has given him over his fellow-man, by being cruel to him, or punishing him in anger, or by neglecting to protect him from the wanton abuses of his fellow-servants and all others, or by denying him the usual comforts and necessaries of life, the negro will run away; but if he keeps him in the position that we learn from the Scriptures he was intended to occupy, that is, the position of submission; and if his master or overseer be kind and gracious in his hearing towards him, without condescension, and at the sane time ministers to his physical wants, and protects him from abuses, the negro is spell-bound, and cannot run away.
According to my experience, the “genu flexit”—the awe and reverence, must be exacted from them, or they will despise their masters, become rude and ungovernable, and run away. On Mason and Dixon’s line, two classes of persons were apt to lose their negroes: those who made themselves too familiar with them, treating them as equals, and making little or no distinction in regard to color; and, on the other hand, those who treated them cruelly, denied them the common necessaries of life, neglected to protect them against the abuses of others, or frightened them by a blustering manner of approach, when about to punish them for misdemeanors. Before the negroes run away, unless they are frightened or panic-struck, they become sulky and dissatisfied. The cause of this sulkiness and dissatisfaction should be inquired into and removed, or they are apt to run away or fall into the negro consumption. When sulky and dissatisfied without cause, the experience of those on the line and elsewhere, was decidedly in favor of whipping them out of it, as a preventive measure against absconding, or other bad conduct. It was called whipping the devil out of them.
If treated kindly, well fed and clothed, with fuel enough to keep a small fire burning all night—separated into families, each family having its own house—not permitted to run about at night to visit their neighbors, to receive visits or use intoxicating liquors, and not overworked or exposed too much to the weather, they are very easily governed—more so than any other people in the world. When all this is done, if any one of more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good require that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which it was intended for them to occupy in all after-time, when their progenitor received the name of Canaan or “submissive knee-bender.” They have only to be kept in that state and treated like children, with care, kindness, attention and humanity, to prevent and cure them from running away.”
Just finished reading the full transcript to Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Ehud Barak here . While we have become somewhat desensitized to Israeli racism, it’s always unsettling to view it through the lens of unquestioning mainstream western media. Take for example Barak’s reference to the Shi’ite doctrine of “taqiyya” (dissimulation) instituted in the wake of Imam Hussein’s martyrdom: “Have you heard the term atakia (ph), which means in Islam, especially in the Shia, a kind of permission from heaven to the leader to lie and mislead”. Aside from Barak’s confusion between the original term and Bashar al-Assad’s summer home in Latakia—which I am starting to believe reflects a general Israeli tendency to deliberately mispronounce the Arabic language—the ability of a public official to mock a central religious tenet with such impunity is indicative of Euro-American media’s increased tolerance for the defamation of Islam.
But more insidious still, is this old/new trend of psychopathologizing USrael’s enemies in the resistance axis as “irrational” or, to put it more euphemistically, as not being rational in the Western sense of the term. Airing footage from a CBS interview, Meir Dagan, former Mossad chief, answers an interviewer’s question about Ahmadinejad’s rationality: ”The answer is yes. Not exactly our rational. But I think that he is rational….No doubt that the Iranian regime is maybe not exactly rational based on what I call Western-thinking, but no doubt they are considering all the implications of their actions." Dagan therefore categorizes Israel as belonging to the "western" type of logic, which Iran departs from even if does adopt a similar mean-ends type rationality characterized by its own unique internal consistency between beliefs/desires/expectations and actions. But ultimately, they remain irrational vis-a-vis western criteria for rationality, and hence the very otherness of this rationality is necessarily inferior. But one need not deconstruct Dagan’s response to arrive at this conclusion, given that the interviewer, Lesley Stahl, deemed it perfectly normal, and within the bounds of politically correct liberal discourse, to ask it in the first place.
An even more flagrant example of how such a neo-Orientalist notion has become normalized and mainstreamed in public discourse, is the following question Fareed Zakaria’s posed to General Martin Dempsey, Chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff: ”When you observe Iranian behavior, does it strike you as highly irrational? Does it strike you as sort of unpredictable? Or do they seem to follow their national interests in a fairly calculating way?” To which Dempsey enthusiastically responds “That is a great question,” effectively undermining his subsequent assertion that Iran is a rational actor.
Needless to say, the idea of questioning the inherent rationality or logic of any Western country or Israel on mainstream American media is inconceivable, let alone the notion of an Arab or Muslim statesman using such media as a platform from which to blaspheme Jewish doctrinal practices.
There are numerous other instances of such psychopathologization, not only of Iran but of Assad, Hizbullah and Palestinian militants too, but I am saving them for an article I will publishing on the issue (and re-posting here) in the not too distant future. Stay tuned.