Missing Time

Well actually what has been missing are new posts from me. That is explained by the fact that all my available time has been consumed with edits and corrections to my final work on the JFK assassination. Thankfully, after several weeks of that, the manuscript is with Rex Bradford and when time permits he will format it, and place it on the Mary Ferrell Foundation web site for access by all those interested.

Rex has proved a demanding, but excellent editor, and his efforts led to a variety of copy rewrites and expansions – as well as a much more structured work. Its hard to say how many pages it would be if it were being turned to a book, but its just shy of 200 pages in Word so it ended up as being a lot more than the simple monograph I first conceived (much like almost all my projects. The end notes, which involve extensive commentary in many areas, ended up at more than 300 citations.

If you have them and have not completed any of my previous JFK related works – Someone Would Have Talked, NEXUS, In Denial and the more recent Wheaton Lead Exploration (with David Boylan), you will want to bring those out and finish or revisit them before wading into this final work.

The Wheaton Lead paper can be found on the MFF site at:

https://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Main_Page.html

Also, if you do not routinely visit the Mary Ferrell Foundation site you really should, there is a rapidly expanding body of work there and if you pass it by in favor of JFK forums you really are missing some serious historical research.

Now, since I have been away, and before I jump into anything else – if you have questions or would like to see a particular topic addressed here in a blog post please post them here or drop me a note at larryjoe@westok.net

PS: I will be working with Debra Conway and JFK Lancer to develop a virtual JFK seminar for 2020, as well as an ongoing seminar series for 2021. These things are not easy to make happen, but we are giving it our best effort, and hopefully it will provide a new online venue for some of the best researchers. Wish us luck!

Presidents, Generals and Admirals

The American military command structure – with an elected civilian as Commander in Chief – is often challenging, especially when the president has no personal experience in the military and little understanding of its actual command structure. On occasion it is also complicated by presidents who also have no understanding of what constitute legal vs. illegal commands under U.S. legal codes, or the restrictions imposed on military personnel by the Unified Code of Military Justice.

At times situations have become tense on the military side, for example there were worries that President Nixon (who had actually attempted a “madman strategy” against the North Vietnamese) might become unbalanced enough during his impeachment to issue illegal orders related to the use of nuclear weapons. On other occasions, presidents have requested the military to conduct assassinations – only to be told that is not authorized and legally can only be done by the CIA. Unfortunately in more recent decades such niceties have faded away to a large extent, as Congress has abandoned its control over all areas of presidential military action – conventional, clandestine and covert – and the military has lost a good deal of its ability to push back against presidential directives.

Prior to such recent events, concerns over orders being obeyed tended to rest with the presidents – although circumstances sometimes protected “rogue” military commanders, at least for a time.  Perhaps the most classic example would be General Douglas McArthur.  It is a matter of historical record that McArthur disobeyed his standing war orders following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and even isolated himself from with the War Department in Washington, ignoring repeated attempts at communications.  His failure to immediately comply with the war plan, which would have sent American strategic bombers against Japanese targets, was a major factor in the total loss of American air power in the western Pacific and of the Philippine islands. Later, in Korea, McArthur also failed to respond to repeated warnings of the major Chinese incursion that overwhelmed his own troops, ultimately becoming so independent that President Truman was forced to remove him. 

Much that has been written about the Kennedy Administration and its relationship with the military focuses on Air Force General Curtis LeMay, well known for being fearless (given his personal leadership of bombing raids against Germany), extremely hawkish, and totally outspoken with his advice to civilian leaders including President Kennedy.  In fact, so outspoken during the Cuban missile crisis that the question is often raised as to why Kennedy did not remove him from the Joint Chiefs or otherwise discipline him.

What gets missed in that conversation is that JFK actually learned that no matter how strongly LeMay felt or how loudly he protested – he followed orders. And as that crisis taught Kennedy, no matter how strongly he might want to avoid a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets (JFK’s plan for dealing with the ongoing Berlin issue contained an escalation strategy leading up to the use of tactical nuclear weapons if the Russians moved either in Berlin or into West Germany) he could not simply forfeit the nuclear option, and the commanders who would have to execute that if it was ordered.

In contrast to the focus on LeMay, we now know that during the missile crisis and the ensuing blockade JFK, RFK and even Defense Secretary McNamara were seriously concerned about the U.S. Navy acting beyond presidential directives and starting a full scale war. The reason for that concern has never been entirely clear, however my recent research work on In Denial revealed that there might indeed have been good reason for that concern – relating back to events in early 1961. 

It appears that at least some Navy Admirals demonstrated the types of concern (or distain) for JFK as a commander that is most frequently associated with General LeMay.  However rather than standing up and facing him in executive meetings, they engaged in activities – including some special relationships with the CIA – which were far less obvious and could indeed have moved the U.S. directly into war in Cuba, and a military confrontation with the Soviets.  

If you have read In Denial you will have noticed such activity being discussed in several places including the chapter on Hidden Measures. The questionable actions involved the Navy Guantanamo base in Cuba, Navy intelligence officers operating with the CIA, and beyond that to the apparent deployment of a very much unauthorized American super carrier group.  It’s a rather striking story which has not gotten much comment yet but it explains why a year after the disaster at the Bay of Pigs,  President Kennedy’s main military command concern might have been with the Navy, and the possibility of its excessive use of force in the Caribbean.

Actionable Intelligence

It was a big national security story only a few days ago, but like any news these days it simply disappeared within some 72 hours.  In case you missed it the essence was that the U.S. intelligence community had determined that Russian military intelligence (GRU) had been engaged with the Taliban to encourage attacks on American forces, and had even offered bounties for American deaths.

While the intelligence community was significantly in agreement to repeatedly put the possibility of Russian involvement with the Taliban in Presidential security briefs, no action at all had been taken in response to the intelligence over a period of several months.  Putting the matter into context, it appears President Trump and his national security advisors had made it so clear over time that president did not want to hear negative intelligence on Russia that there was no taste for pushing the report or forcing the issue of even a minimal response. Of course that in itself is not news by this point in time.

Even when the issue was forced by public exposure, the White House responded that there was going to be no response. The reasons given were diverse, including the fact that the intelligence was incomplete and that not all elements of the intelligence community were able to support it. Intelligence community sources suggested that the report had largely been based on human intelligence, and that while the CIA found them extremely credible, NSA was unable to confirm with technical intelligence.  That would not really be surprising given the nature of the Russian contacts with the Taliban.

What the White House did not comment on was that regardless of the “bounty” issue, the intelligence contained hard data including financial transactions which certainly confirmed that Russian military intelligence was in contact with and engaged with the Taliban – and not in a manner that contributed to the security or military activities of Americans in Afghanistan.

The White House also commented that there would be no response since the intelligence was “not actionable”.  That sounds like a formal term and perhaps it actually meant something – with that in mind a little context is necessary to judge the overall incident and the White House response.

First off, ”actionable intelligence” means only is that the intelligence is specific enough that a threat has been identified to the extent that the source is identifiable, its nature of the threat has been characterized, and plans can be made to deal with it in some fashion.  In this particular instance all of those criteria were clearly met.  

Secondly, threat intelligence is always less than one hundred percent certain and it’s not at all uncommon to find differences in levels of assessment from the various parts of the intelligence community.  That’s why there is a Director of National Intelligence and a staff that is built to be the most experienced and expert resource the nation has available – with the ability prepare the best overall judgement. In this instance that is exactly what was done and why this particular threat made it into the President’s daily security briefing.

One of the major areas of progress in national intelligence over the decades has been to move on from one person decisions within individual agencies or military services. There a number of examples of how one person decisions have led to disasters. For example before Pearl Harbor FBI Director Hoover had been given considerable evidence indicating that Japan was actively collecting combat intelligence for a strike at Pearl Harbor, however Hoover did not endorse nor promote the information and it received no War Department consideration.  During the Korean War, General MacArthur was provided with intelligence pointing to a massive (and imminent) Chinese intervention, but he chose not to credit or endorse the information to the Joint Chiefs or to President Truman, and his forces were shattered by massive Chinese ground forces.

Over the time our intelligence community did evolve beyond that and there is now considerable information sharing, an intelligence group dynamic, and an overall position with the experience and expertise to weigh positions among the agencies and produce a balanced product – which goes to the president.  In earlier administrations that position was headed by the CIA Director, not it’s the Director of Nation Intelligence.  In both instances the intelligence and estimates are gated by the president’s own national security advisor, that is intended to enhance the process and in some cases it has – in other cases it has not.

Late in the Clinton administration a relatively vague but urgent threat emerged, from jihadists who were organizing to make major soft target attacks during the celebrations at the end of the century.  In that case the national security advisor responded and had the confidence of President Clinton and a series of “millennium” attacks were interdicted in both the U.S. and Canada. A year later, much more specific intelligence emerged about Al Qaeda plans to attack the U.S. – either overseas or domestically. In that case the national security advisor, reflecting President Bush’s priorities, gave no particular endorsement to the intelligence, carried out no actionable response and even with special efforts by the CIA to brief President Bush on the threat, no real initiative was launched to deal with it. After September 11 the explanation was given that the threat was too vague and not actionable.

It is fair to say that given the size and nature of the American intelligence community, as of this date no potential threat (whether to the nation, American citizens or its military forces) gets into the president’s daily brief without considerable endorsement to support it.  In particular, nothing about Russia is going to get into President Trump’s briefing papers without having a reasonably  solid level of support. And it’s not going to get there if there are not some sorts of actions that could be initiated to explore it, prioritize or even to reduce or neutralize it. In the end the excuse that Russian engagement with the Taliban in Afghanistan is going to simply be ignored because it is not “actionable” just does not wash – what it boils down to is yet another matter of personal (albeit executive) priorities as to whether action is taken. 

In this particular instance, the presidential decision not to respond in any fashion may be excused, supported or cursed, however one thing is certain –  it most certainly does provide a window into President Trump’s priorities.

JFK and the Bay of Pigs

It is only relatively recently that we have come to know that much of the most often repeated news stories (and the more formal histories) which treat President Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs are either woefully incomplete, or in some cases simply wrong. In terms of being incomplete they lack the information that we have come to know the President was not given about the effort when finally authorizing it. In terms of being wrong, they fail to note the extent to which he allowed deniability to be sacrificed by allowing military action which had originally been specifically forbidden.

My newest book, In Denial; Secret Wars with Air Strikes and Tanks, covers the Cuba Project and Bay of Pigs in great detail (as well deniable warfare following the Bay of Pigs and in contemporary times).   In doing so it examines the information JFK was not given – and the real time waivers which were given for American involvement in virtually everything short of open  engagement of Cuban forces by the American Navy (which would have been an act of war since the Cubans themselves had not attacked the American forces):

What President Kennedy was not told:

The project presented to JFK was not what President Eisenhower had approved in March 1960 – the first project had failed by the before the November elections of that year.

The project presented to JFK had not been reviewed or approved by President Eisenhower.  

The project presented by the CIA to JFK received only conditional endorsement by the American military, with written concerns about it being exposed to air attack, not logistically sustainable, and almost certain to fail unless an island wide uprising against the Castro regime immediately occurred to support it.

JFK was not told that the major anti-Castro resistance network inside Cuba had been compromised, its senior leaders captured and executed, and the majority of its members arrested and imprisoned weeks before the scheduled landings at the Bay of Pigs.

JFK was not told that there had been a series of efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro prior to the landings – and that they had all failed.

JFK was not told that the CIA had deployed none of its Cuban volunteers to the area of the landings in advance, and was in no communication with any resistance groups there.

The president had directed that all landing activity should be conducted at night with all transport ships and craft at sea outside Cuban waters by dawn – he was not advised that the operations plan, which included landing American Army tanks, armored trucks and massive amounts of ammunition and fuel, could not possibly have been executed prior to sunrise.

The president was not advised that the advance airstrikes had destroyed only half the Cuban air force, and that the failure to destroy the rest placed the landing in extreme jeopardy from air attack.

JFK had ordered plans to be made to extract the Cuban volunteers if the landing faced strong opposition and was told that in that event the force could proceed into the mountains and conduct themselves as guerillas.  He was not told that the force had received only standard infantry training, that its equipment – including heavy weapons – and its supplies were not appropriate for guerilla action and that the unit’s leaders had not been briefed (or agreed to) guerilla action on evacuation plans (there were none).

When JFK ordered a follow on air strike the morning of the landing canceled over – concern for deniability – senior CIA officers did not advise JFK that the Brigade ships and landing were at major risk from the surviving Cuban combat aircraft.

Military actions which were authorized as the Brigade came under increasing attack (and no uprising or significant resistance activity occurred):

Following the landings Cuban pilots flew a series of night strikes against Cuban airfields (unsuccessful)

American pilots were authorized to fly Brigade aircraft in ground attacks against Cuban troops attacking the landing beaches (successful)

Cuban pilots flew supply drops over the beachhead on the first night after the landing (successful)

A major resupply by Brigade ships was ordered for the first night (unsuccessful)

American Air Force transports and Brigade transports were ordered to fly a major aerial resupply mission the second night of the landings (unsuccessful)

American Navy jets were ordered to provide air cover over the beachhead in support of ground strikes by Brigade fighter bombers flown by American pilots (unsuccessful)

The Navy was ordered to evacuate the Brigade from the beachhead and American destroyers were deployed off the beaches (unsuccessful)

If you have read In Denial I’d love to chat with you about these gaps in the histories regarding JFK and the Bay of Pigs, either here or by email.  Beyond that, the publisher and I have a problem – unlike most of my earlier works of military history and national security, In Denial did not get reviewed by the Library Journal or Publishers Weekly (yes, poor timing with it appearing the middle of a global pandemic…sigh).

That means the book is simply not going to make it into many libraries, at present its not showing up on the global library catalog (Worldcat) at all.  So, if you read it and like it please try to persuade your local library or your University library to carry it – or offer to purchase a copy and donate it (we did try to keep the price down).  If you can help with a library effort it would be most appreciated!

“Little Green Planes”

Recent news confirms that the Russian Federation, at its president’s direction, is further escalating the “privatization” of military action in support of its efforts to establish a new  Russian “sphere of influence” – something that its leadership has been talking about for some six years now.  But before discussing that, I need to attribute the “little green planes” reference as a creation of Taylor Rogoway, contributor and editor of The War Zone, one of the best military blogs on the internet.

The term “little green men” first came into play in the Crimea, when Putin deployed his military to seize that Ukrainian territory. He first denied those forces, only to much later admit that they were a combination of regular Russian military and volunteers.  The volunteers went on to help trigger fighting in what became break away segments of Eastern Ukraine – over the years their initial efforts were supported both by deployment of regular Russian combat units and by private Russian military contractors.

I’ve covered that strategy in both Creating Chaos and In Denial and noted Russian involvement in Africa as a significant new Russian activity, significantly improving its economic reach based on the activities of private Russian “security contractors” .

The current escalation of its intervention in Libya involves the deployment of a considerable number of Russian fighter and fighter bomber aircraft to Libya, to support a strong man who is attempting to take over the Libyan government.  Those aircraft will support a considerable number of Russian “contract” military personnel already in combat within Libya.  Details can be found at these links:

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33698/russia-now-has-at-least-14-combat-jets-in-libya-as-satellite-images-reveal-new-details

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33666/mig-29-fighters-were-at-russias-air-base-in-syria-just-before-showing-up-in-libya

Beyond access to Libyan energy, the question arises as to why Russia would involve itself in combat against a legitimate government, especially when it could pit its forces directly against Turkish units which are supporting the legal government.

The answer is simply “sphere of influence”.  Putin has made it clear that he seeks to restore the geopolitical sphere of economic and security influence that the Soviet Union (and the Russian Empire) exercised well beyond current Russian borders – in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East and at times around the Mediterranean.  His strategy of supporting strong men has given Russia key military bases in Syria (used to stage the new aircraft deployment to Libya) and access to airfields in Libya. 

If he is successful in Libya he will be able to project Russian geopolitical influence across the entire Mediterranean, backed by military force – as shown with the shadowing of American surveillance and intelligence collections aircraft.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33688/armed-russian-fighters-fly-dangerously-close-to-u-s-navy-patrol-plane-in-the-mediterranean

As I’ve mentioned before, Putin is highly focused and tactically brilliant – his privatization strategy is an example of that and he is simply advancing that step by step.  In turn the American political leadership has turned inwards to the extent that while our military is clearly aware of what Russia is doing. it is receiving little or no strategic support in confronting it.

It is hard not to conclude that “little green men” and “little green jets” are literally taking advantage of a lack of any American counter geopolitical strategy. Whether this is a temporary anomaly or a new “America First” reality remains to be seen.  

…….I thought I should update this; the major press is a few weeks late but its catching up with some coverage of the Libyan situation:

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/09/world/russia-libya-military-intervention-intl/index.html

Private Armies

There have always been mercenaries, and even mercenary forces. During the Cold War various types of deniable, surrogate military units were created for covert operations, primarily by the United States. The transition to more professional, heavily equipped private armies (more comfortingly described as “security forces”) began to occur during the American involvement in Iran and then Afghanistan.

As events proved, there were some negative consequences associated with such units, especially in Iran. In fact “Blackwater” accumulated sufficient baggage that the whole concept of such security forces came into disrepute. As an example Libya refused to accept American associated private security forces. That became a contributing factor in the fiasco at the American embassy in Benghazi. While the CIA employed private contractors in Benghazi, they had to be kept low profile since the Libyan government refused to accept them. Even when deployed under diplomatic cover as security for the CIA station (physically distant from the embassy), they could not be stationed directly at the embassy for its own security facility security.

Despite a questionable history, private armies (security forces) have grown substantially and I suspect most readers will be surprised by both their size and military capabilities – described in these links (if the links don’t load for you a search for “private security contractors” will give you current information:

One of the newer trends is the growth of private military contractors is with private air forces. These days some of the largest, most technically advanced, and capable modern forces are actually privately owned.  Any single one of them could defeat many nations in aerial action – and it remains to be seen (as it does with private security contractors) what legal constraints if any affect them?:

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/30557/air-force-hires-seven-companies-in-long-awaited-mega-adversary-air-support-contract

https://www.defensenews.com/air/2020/01/13/red-air-providers-prep-for-a-big-year/

For that matter, I suspect that most would be surprised at the scale of “private” military combat still going on by Russian surrogate forces against the government of the Ukraine. While that conflict as a whole is more in the nature of the surrogate force efforts of the United States during the Cold War, the use of private Russian military contractors is much more line with what is evolving in terms of private armies in the 21st Century. :

https://euobserver.com/foreign/147507

That trend is something I elaborate on at some length in my new book “In Denial: Secret Wars with Air Strikes and Tanks”. 

Deniable warfare circa 2020 is taking a variety of forms, China and Iran are approaching it in a much different fashion than Russia and President Putin.

However given the scope of what Russian is doing with its private military contractors, it’s pretty amazing how little media coverage it receives in the United States.  Of course given the combination of how America has turned inwards combined with the pandemic perhaps that is understandable.  These days our major media outlets have very little left of the foreign correspondent news force they used to field, and do virtually no international news reporting of any depth presently.

For those who have not been following what Russia and Russian oligarchs are doing with private armies I would offer the following news links:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/russian-military-group-deployed-1200-people-libya-report-200507113646940.html

https://www.theafricareport.com/16511/russias-murky-business-dealings-in-the-central-african-republic/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/25/venezuela-maduro-russia-private-security-contractors

While Russian security contractors are well organized and clearly directed as part of Putin’s global influence strategy, it would be hard to say the same thing for their American counterparts. In that regard it’s also pretty amazing that a security contractor that services President Trump’s political events could have stepped into the following mess in Venezuela in the fashion described in this article.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33322/breaking-down-the-absolutely-batshit-botched-coup-attempt-against-venezuelas-maduro

About the only thing that weighs in against this being part of some American strategy is the utter dysfunction of the operation. On the other hand it provides an interesting contrast between the private armies integrated into Russian strategies and the activities of American security contractors.

The Wheaton Lead

A few days ago, my friend David Boylan and I posted a lengthy research paper at the Mary Ferrell Foundation.  It is the culmination of at several years’ work on a JFK assassination lead which was confidentially taken to the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) back in 1994.

At the time the ARRB chose not to pursue it, possibly because it did not relate to documents, but rather to a source who was felt to hold special information about the assassination. However, even if the ARRB had been interested, it would have been quite difficult to vet the individuals disclosed in the lead or to understand their significance.

Over the last decade, new CIA records releases and particularl ground breaking work on translating CIA crypts and pseudonyms have allowed us to establish the context for the names offered in the Wheaton lead – and to interpret the contextual information Wheaton provided at a level never before possible.

The timing of this research is especially relevant in that it actually deals with many of the same names and Cuba Project activities that appear in my new book, In Denial / Secret Wars with Air Strikes and Tanks?

Of you are reading or plan to read that book, be sure to take a look at our Wheaton Lead Exploration paper, available for a free read at the Mary Ferrell Foundation.

https://www.maryferrell.org/pages/Main_Page.html

And if you have questions, as always feel free to post them here or email me directly.

Exploring “In Denial”

In Denial is essentially three books in one.  At its broadest level it is an examination of the conduct and the effectiveness of secret warfare both historically by the United States during the Cold War, and in the 21st Century by the Russian Federation, China and Iran.

In order to fully explore the temptation and issues of secret warfare – and why it so often fails – a good part of the book digs deeply into the Cuba Project under both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. It then proceeds into the disastrous effort to insert the Cuban Expeditionary Brigade on the beaches at the Bay of Pigs. That portion of the book deconstructs several popular history themes regarding the Bay of Pigs landings – exposing the most fundamental mistakes in planning, logistics and command and control. It also reveals several critical last minute, highly secret measures which were put into play – and their failures. Those actions were known to the CIA project leadership and senior navy offices, but not briefed to or approved by President Kennedy.

Going beyond the Bay of Pigs, the book explores the official investigations of that disaster and the well documented lessons that were learned, lessons that were implemented by President Kennedy over the next two years.  But lessons which were almost immediately abandoned by his successors.

For a fuller introduction to In Denial, you may wish to listen to these two recent interviews.  The first – which is the shorter – introduces the full scope of the book:

The second interview, over some two hours in length, digs into the Cuba Project and the Bay of Pigs and even then only scratches the surface from an operational standpoint. An examination of the two landing plans – Trinidad and Zapata –  the Navy’s actual role in the effort, and the events of the three days and nights on the beaches that will be addressed in a follow up interview.

“In Denial” now Available

In Denial joins Shadow Warfare (with Stu Wexler) and Creating Chaoso complete a three part study of covert warfare in both the 20th and 21st Centuries. 

Shadow Warfare dug deeply into why and how the United States carried out covert action – the tactics, tools, covers, practices and oversight (or lack thereof).  It also exposed the personal and legal risks involved for the personnel involved as well as the consequences for everyone, from collateral damage to the impact on American governance – especially in regard to relationship between the Commander in Chief and Congress. 

Creating Chaos is a study of political warfare, from the basics of political action through propaganda and disinformation and into full blown efforts to fragment and undermine targeted regimes. It examines the historical practices and then extends them through American and Soviet political warfare during the Cold War and into more contemporary political warfare of the Russian Federation, in Europe and against the United States. In doing so it details how age old practices have become dramatically more effective in an age of global interconnection, and in particular with global access to advanced targeting capabilities against social networks.

I approached In Denial as a similar study of covert action, comparing its practices in both the 20th and 21st Century.  In one sense it is an exploration of a simple question – why do regimes and political leaders consistently turn to secret warfare when it can be shown to almost always fruitless in the long run, with extremely negative political consequences and collateral damages.

However in doing that study, it quickly became apparent that the most highly visible and well documented example of secret warfare gone wrong was the Cuba Project / Bay of Pigs effort as conducted under the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. And in examining the huge amount of detail, including from a number of new sources, that story emerged into what can only be considered a rebuttal of much of the popular history of that effort – in particular as regards to the Bay of Pigs. As it turns out much of the popular history and media coverage is based in both outright lies and intentionally planted misinformation.

As one reader commented, In Denial is the most heavily cited book I’ve ever written.  And that’s true, when you decide to joust with popular history  you need to be ready for the engagement – and both engagement and detail are what readers will find in the book.  Hopefully they will think it worth the read.

Political Warfare

True political warfare is a good deal deeper and far nastier than what you see in campaigns, debates or contemporary White House briefings – hard to believe, but true.  It’s not about a single seat, a party or platform or a single election. It is takes place between nations and regimes and is intended to create dysfunction at a level which either compromises a nation’s ability to compete with its adversary (economically or militarily) or reinforces the targets own internal economic or social problems.  At its dirtiest it actually breeds and exacerbates those same internal conflicts.

I write about true political warfare in Creating Chaos and I’ll be discussing it at length on Chuck Ochelli’s internet show this coming Thursday. Knowing Chuck it’s bound to be lively, and I’ll be stressing the point that political warfare between regimes and nations involves covert disinformation campaigns more than simple propaganda.  Contrary to popular opinion, because propaganda is more public and more obvious it is primarily used not again an adversary but internally or with neutrals.  

We have a couple of very good examples of very effective propaganda being used by Russian and China in respect to the current global pandemic. Their aid campaigns to American are being aggressively promoted to their own public and to the global community in an example of strategic geopolitical messaging. Those efforts can be found in the following links:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-latam-china-featur/with-u-s-hit-by-virus-china-courts-latin-america-with-medical-diplomacy-idUSKBN21D346

Both Russia and China promoted the American aid extensively within their own media as well as to their respective target markets in Europe and Latin America. Russia is vitally interested in undermining American influence in Europe in an effort to recover its own position in energy sales while China is on a major mission to open markets and ensure resources, including those in Latin America. Both efforts that are well supported in this sort of propaganda.

In contrast, much more subtle and covert political warfare goes far deeper than such open media efforts, employing well crafted and destructive disinformation (which has some factual context) messages placed within the target nation’s own media – often using very convoluted routes.  In last week’s show with Chuck we discussed to such historical campaigns, both Russian, in which well-designed disinformation was first planted in a neutral nation’s press (India), then picked up by western press outlets (British) and finally appeared in the American press.  Planting information in the foreign press has been a constant for decades, reaching new levels of sophistication during the Cold War.

Unfortunately in more recent years the internet and social media have provided a venue for disinformation warfare that could hardly have been imagined.  I addressed that sea change in Creating Chaos so there is no need to belabor it here. , Chuck and I will be discussing that on Thursday, as well as one on newest tactics being used so effectively – the retweeting of disinformation and fake news by senior political figures in American politics. Sadly it continues to be a wonderful time to be pursuing a career in information warfare.