|hearts and minds|
We've clearly seen in the past few generations that the availability of resources necessary to carry on armed conflict can be dependent to varying degrees on the cooperation of many non-combatants. The degree that these non-combatants engage (or fail to engage) can have a significant impact on the quality and quantity of resources that are made available to the belligerents.
In the short term, the greater a belligerent's independently controlled resources, the larger the operation that can be conducted w/o requiring the cooperation of non-combatants. Conversely, the smaller the operation, the smaller the need for the resources of outside individuals and groups.
In theory, because the ultimate original source of all resources for all belligerents and potential belligerents is derived from non-combatants in one way or another, no belligerent can ignore the costs to gain the cooperation of various non-combatants over the long term. For a democratic country, the costs of cooperation are, in part, whatever it takes for pro-war candidates to remain in power so they may continue to allocate tax dollars. Very simplistically, if the non-combatant populace is insufficiently inspired, as it is stereotyped to have been the case in th FSU, the costs of conflict and preparing for conflict that can be met by the non-combatants will be smaller. Conversely and just as simplistically, with the support of a sufficiently inspired non-combatant populace, vast new pools of resources can become available - think of the stereotypical portrayal of the US in WWII.
Supposedly, with non-state actors, the cooperation (and at times merely the lack of interference) of non-combatants is even more crucial than it is for states. This would primarily be due to the disproportionately greater resources available to states vs the resources available to non-state groups.
The US et al can wack-a-mole hunt down terrorists ad infinitum; however, as SECDEF Rumsfeld noted, "The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions." While we may potentially have the enormous resources necessary to carry on this way for an indefinite period, it has to be asked if there's a way reduce or dilute the effects of our enemies' thousandfold resource multiplier.
As important of a threat as the various terrorist organizations are, they're not the sole threat that the US has to contend with. The more efficiently we allocate our resources, the more resources we have available to face other challenges current and future, predicted and unforeseen.
While it's important to hunt down committed terrorists, the war for the "hearts and minds" is essential to these types of conflicts as it serves to dry up the terrorists' pools of potential new recruits and cooperative non-combatants. This necessarily limits the operational capacity of the belligerent groups. As noted above, non-combatants more or less are the bottom of the resource food chain. They call it a chain because there're all linked- if there's a problem at the bottom of a food chain, then there's a problem at the top. As a belligerent carries out operations it consumes resources. When the resources available to it are reduced, a belligerent is forced to choose between scaling back its operations to meet the reduced availability of resources or burning its resources at the same of greater rate in hopes of turning its fortunes.
Successfully reducing the availability of a belligerent's resources, over the long term means that the activities a belligerent is capable of carrying out are correspondingly reduced. Because the resource pools of non-state actors are smaller relatively small disruptions can have a comparatively large impacts. The cooperation of non-combatants and recruitment are resources that are more crucial to smaller organizations where there's less redundancy and where each individual constitutes a large percentage of the whole.
A significant portion of the GWoT and associated conflicts takes place in the public arena. "Hearts and minds" translates to manpower, various fungibles, equipment and supplies. Because non-state actors almost by definition have fewer and lesser resources than states, the translation is more direct, more vulnerable and more crucial for them than it is for a state or group of states.
Of course none of this is really new.
Here're a few further discussions if you're interested:
Pentagon Funds Diplomacy Effort
"What's changing is the realization that in this so-called war on terrorism, [Information Operations are] ... might be the thing that wins the whole thing for you," said Dan Kuehl, a specialist in information warfare at the National Defense University. "This gets to the importance of the war of ideas. There are a billion-plus Muslims that are undecided. How do we move them over to being more supportive of us? If we can do that, we can make progress and improve security."
Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
Washington, D.C. 20301-3140
The DSB task force on strategic communication has completed its work and a final report is attached The report emphasizes the ability of the US to credibly communicate to populations throughout the world is critical for achieving our national objectives the topic of strategic communication was previously examined by the DSP in October 2001 the recommendations of the current study are in harmony with the previous efforts and are even more relevant today.
Something much, much, much more nuts and bolts
Information Operations in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom – What Went Wrong?
Major Joseph L. Cox
School of Advanced Military Studies
United States Army Command and General Staff College
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
This monograph examines the integration of Information Operations (IO) during Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF). As a rule, most commanders considered IO ineffective because IO was unable to respond to the complex environments of Afghanistan and Iraq. This monograph examines how the Army prepared commanders to integrate IO into operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both theaters offer good examples of how commanders integrated IO effectively and how commanders failed to integrate IO effectively.