If you were of my generation, you should instantly recognize the title for this post as a late sixty’s song by Buffalo Springfield – but for me it now brings something much different to mind. And this time around it has to do with today’s international political warfare. In my book “Creating Chaos”, I lay out and provide detailed examples of the levels of geopolitical warfare, from the most prevalent and benign activities right up to the point where it turns into active campaigns of regime change.
Actually, its normal for all governments to engage in “Shaping”, efforts to project positive images of themselves, to the establishment of economic and cultural bonds, and to the use of social networking to establish bonds with persons of influence who can influence relations between the nations.
But things start to go sour when there is a move to influence relationships via “Active Measures”, the collection of economic and military intelligence via covert activities, structured programs to penetrate target groups of decision makers using various types of leverage, and of course the cultivation of “fellow travelers” – individual motivated by shared ideological views or political agendas.
As an example of such a transition I review the sea change in Russian/American relations which began circa 2010. At that point a new round of Russian active measures were launched, taking advantage of the business relationships which had developed over the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union – in several instances involving Americans involved in both business and consulting activities within both Russia and Ukraine.
Those efforts were addressed in a series of FBI investigations which by 2015 culminated in actual court cases involving charges related to attempts to “infiltrate the upper levels of U.S. business and government”. Interestingly, a side effect of the FBI scrutiny was a renewed interest in the extent to which Russia was utilizing its diplomatic facilities for communications intelligence collections – at locations ranging from New York and Washington DC to San Francisco. That is a fascinating story in itself, having to do with the physical locations of the facilities and the covert installation of extensive communications intercept equipment.
There are other levels to the pursuit of political warfare, the next step up involving both efforts to fragment an adversary, making use of known social, racial and cultural issues and extending that to the destabilization of various institutions. At a minimum a move to that level reflects an intent to destabilize the targeted government, making it less able to respond to any international events – if successful it can effectively turn the target back in on itself, creating a number of opportunities for any international adversary.
When I wrote “Creating Chaos” a good bit of this – including actual examples from 2014 onward of Russian fragmentation efforts first targeting Western Europe and then the United States – was new and somewhat over the top. Now it has simply become a matter of contemporary American history.
All of which leads me to the point of this post and what appears to have become yet another of example of escalating political warfare, moving up to the point of “active measures”. This time the measures are a bit different though, based largely in the technology advantage of the adversary. As with the earlier FBI efforts against Russian active measures, which took years to culminate in actual charges, this appears to have been under investigation for years as well.
Due to the techniques being used, is seems less likely to end up with actual charges. It is however a strong warning that a new level of engagement bye yet another adversary has come into play – something is definitely happening, something new, something different and something inherently dangerous. To explore this new threat, check out the following link: