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Air University Student Research Paper 1997

Title: Information As A Weapon Reality Versus Promises

Subject: This thesis addresses the second theme and questions whether information is a weapon. It employs the theories and principles of Carl von Clausewitz as a theoretical underpinning for critical analysis.

Author(s): YULIN G. WHITEHEAD

DTIC Keywords:

Abstract: The concept of information warfare continues to gain visibility within US political and military arenas. Active discourse by individuals within the government and private circles regarding what constitutes the proper emphasis on and employment of information warfare indicates the entire subject is still shrouded in controversy. In the simplest terms, literature on the role of information war exists in two categories: first, as "information in warfare" and second, as "information warfare." The former discusses information in the more traditional notion of a support for decision making and combat operations. The latter, however, uses information as a "weapon" in and of itself in warfare. This thesis addresses the second theme and questions whether information is a weapon. It employs the theories and principles of Carl von Clausewitz as a theoretical underpinning for critical analysis. In this analysis, the paper investigates whether information as a weapon can achieve the purposes of war. Specifically, can the use of the "information weapon" diminish an adversary's will and capacity to fight. The results of the analysis indicate that while information may be considered a weapon, it is one that must be used with caution. The more enthusiastic proponents of the information weapon tend to overestimate its ability to diminish enemy will and capacity to fight. In fact, three characteristics of information warfare, as envisioned by its proponents, are particularly unconvincing. They describe the information weapon as a low cost weapon with high-payoff; a method to eliminate the fog and friction of war for friendly forces, yet enshroud the enemy in the same; and a tool to attain quick and bloodless victories to the point of being able to end wars before the first shot is ever fired. Several implications and cautions resulted from the analysis conducted in this thesis regarding the use of the information weapon. Information is not a weapon that is the technological "silver bullet," able to subdue the enemy without battle. Unlike other, more conventional weapons, the effects of the information weapon is not necessarily predictable because it often targets the human mind and emotions. Thus, in employing the information weapon, the military must not rely solely on its use to obtain political and military objectives. Rather, the strategists must prudently use the information weapon in conjunction with more traditional weapons of war or as a precursor to conventional attacks and operations.

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