Information and War: Perception Management


Throughout the history each world order was characterized by problems and features that are inherent to it but all of them may be unified by one common feature: world-systems have been created to prevent wars since the Westphalian world order and were replaced by other systems when they failed to solve the assigned tasks. 

It seemed that the Yalta-Potsdam system managed to achieve the neutralization of the third, nuclear world war,and thefollowing Post-Cold war world order would have faced the challengeof strengthening the victory of the liberal democracy and ensuring the peaceful development of the world. But the collapse of the socialist camp showed that the emerging world order was not free from the danger of wars and that democratization of a state is not directly proportional to the reduction of wars. Though the reasons for wars and flare-ups of armed conflicts haven’t radically changed, their logic and strategy has considerably reshaped. If in the 20th century the guarantee of a victory was considered to be the fact of having the status of a nuclear state, modern information society has set new tasks for conceptual apparatus of military technologies and methodology. The spreading of mass media and the emergence of a huge information flow provided by the internet creates an uncontrollable field (or at least the illusion of it) as a result of which countries pay particular attention to the issues of the State information security. But it’s obvious that the information security has become vital for each society especially during emergency or military situations which resulted in the constitutional stipulation of limitations of freedom of the press in modern states. This analysis focused on the nature of work with information during military situations by presenting the tasks of the warring parties and their possible solutions. The study of the problem becomes actual and vital not only in terms of development of information security measures but often because of the necessity of waging “information attacking wars”. We encounter many problemsincluding the work with our own audience which on one hand must focus on protecting from the enemy’s disinformation, on the other hand on ejecting the unnecessary tension, aggression, panic and increasing legitimacy of the Armenian Army and its actions. There is also a problem of working indirectly with the enemy’s army and audience. It should be noted that these vital functions for our country are implemented quite efficiently unlike the over-propaganda of Azerbaijan

First of all, we should make reference to the concepts developed by the USA military that are cornerstones of the analysis.

Over the past decades when speaking about the Revolution of Military Affairs great importance has been attached to “the winning of the Information Warfare”. During this period the doctrine of the “Information Warfare” was formed which is very often called the conception of the “Information Operations”. The latter is defined by the Pentagon as “actions taken to affect adversary information and information systems while defending one’s own information and information systems.” At first the above-mentioned mainly referred to the provision of security of the information systems, but later effective mechanism of the information filter, the manipulation of the society, agitation and propaganda were also included, which allowed to have unnoticeable influence in the modern century of the “free press”. The first successful example of the “Information warfare” is considered to be the 2003 Iraq war. Though some fragments of the strategy of the “information warfare” have been used since ancient times, the majority of them carried characteristic features of misinformation and propaganda, like spreading false information in the enemy’s army about military operations.

In the book “War and anti-war” Alvin and Heidi Toffler distinguish 3 waves of a war, which are agrarian, industrial and information. The followings are the characteristic features of the “Information warfare”, which have replaced the industrial war since 1970.

  1. These kinds of wars don’t require mobilization of masses. The existence of the expert groups, ‘’the fighters of knowledge” and the usage of modern technologies is enough.
  2. Wars become shorter, quickly implemented military operations are practiced like “Operation Desert Storm” unlike the 8-year-long Iran-Iraqi war.
  3. The Information wars require flexibility of military actions, great readiness to respond quickly, which is connected with the increase of the speed of the information acquisition.
  4. The removal of citizens from direct military actions and the involvement in war through the media is observed. Though wars are unleashed on behalf of the people, now citizens get information about ongoing activities in their area not from their own experience, but from other sources, often from targeted representation of eventsof international press. It’s not an accident that national television channels and radio stations become the primary target of military actions, the control towards which allows to control population’s behavior. For example the radio and television of Serbia was the target of NATO during the Kosovo war. Later the International Criminal Tribunal of former Yugoslavia admitted in the report that the actions had beenaimed at eliminating the main means of Milosevic’s propaganda. Besides the above-mentioned, the allies in fact opened a field for reporting unilateral news to the Serbians based only on their own interests.

In Afghanistan Talibans was able to keep the power by terror but the everyday reporting of the specific information by the local radiofor the population helped them. It’s noteworthy that even the group guided by despotic methods realized the need of reporting the “true” information. In their turn the allies created the alternative source of information by which the population of Afghanistan was encouraged to stay calm because they would get free from the dictatorship of Taliban. Radio receivers were given to the population for spreading the message. Moreover, Taliban was also being threatened through messages emphasizing the power of the allies, in this way psychologically pressuring those who fought for Taliban.

It’s not accidental that the ISIS propaganda machine uses all means of the Western propaganda-from social media, Twitter and YouTube to numerous blogs. An example of this kind of propaganda was the creation and spreading of the journalists’ execution video by “Al Hayat Media Center”. Such activeness in cyberspace has 2 goals-to provoke the rival country and to recruit new members. Based on the success of ISIS we can assume that this much use of the information technology by the terrorist organization has results for the first time in history.

  1. Great attention is paid to the Perception Management, moreover, the separate groups of bothones’ own country and adversary one become the target including the population, military and political elite of the country. This is especially important in modern democratic countries: for political or military elite there is a need to prove to the citizens that the unleashing of war proceeds from the country’s interests in order to keeptheir legitimacy, get the support of the opposition, often that of the whole parliament and havea chance to use the country’s military force. In this respect, the relevant bodies of The USA and the UK work super efficiently. For example in 1990, before the 1991 Iraq invasion, the 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl’s stirring story in the USA Congress, which received wide publicity by the whole American media, was actually a false testimony but it helped to legitimate the actions of Bush’s administration by influencing the USA audience. In its turn the citizens that favored the 2003 Iraq invasion mistakenly thought that Saddam Hussein was connected with Al-Qaeda which they considered to be a sound reason for the Iraq invasion after September 11, 2001. It’s not an accident that at the beginning of the Iraq war the population supported Bush’s actions. As journalist Walter Lippmann mentions, people refuse to believe that what they consider to be a fact, has actually 2 sides. The active propaganda directed towards Iraq invasion by the US media and the unilateral presentation of information (for more details watch the video) was also dictated by the authorities.

At the beginning of the 21st century the “CNN effect” was much talked about because they didthe live streaming of military operations for the first time (for example during the Somali war) which was an effective means to influence the audience. Russia has also started to practice such technologies. If during the 2008 Russian-Georgian war the Russian side was obviously losing the “information battle”, during the Ukrainian crisis the Russian media worked quite efficiently. According to the “BBC” correspondent:“Russian state TV’s coverage of the conflict in Ukraine does not simply contain one-sided and often misleading propaganda. It also appears to employ techniques of psychological conditioning designed to excite extreme emotions of aggression and hatred in the viewer. All the indications are that it is having the desired effect”.

The next term is the “Psychological Operations’’, which was spoken about in the above-mentioned example. It is defined as “planned actions that aimedat transferring selected information and indicators to the foreign audience in order to influence their emotions, motives, objective arguments and, finally, the behavior of foreign powers, organizations, groups and individuals.” In this respect, old methods, like the spreading of flysheets with different calls directed towards the population like those during the 1991 Iraq and 1999 Kosovo wars, as well as secret technologies were used. The latter should be studied by Libya’s example.

The 2011 civil war in Libya, as a result of which the regime of Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, is a part of the events called “the Arabic spring” which have been spreading across the Arabic world, like a domino effect, started from Tunis revolution December 2010.  The interesting thing about the ongoing events of “the Arabic spring”, that are at the center of the whole world’s attention, is the fact that unlike the revolutionary movements of the 20th century, in this case the media plays anessential role. But it’s obvious that in all cases the opposing parties use the media to legitimate their own actions and to manipulate the public opinion. Sometimes the media becomes not only the agitation means but also a reason for one of the sides to take particular actions.

The Western media was initially a platformof propaganda against Gaddafi. Since March, The American media has started to publicize articles about Gaddafi and his family’s enormous fortune, speak out about corruption cases that happened a few years ago. It can be assumed that they tried to legitimize the adoption of the decree of military invasion into Libya by Obama’s regime, which caused discontent among the representatives of Republican Party, Congress and especially it gave rise to serious discussions in the House of Representatives. So the goal of the American media was to represent Gaddafi’s regime in a negative way and to show the contradiction between his and American values. Though there is no legal framework of implementation of legal control of media in the USA (“Federal Communication Commission” is an exception, it controls only broadcasted media) the monitoring of the leading American media shows that the reporting of events is preconceived, there in an impression that they follow the same mechanism, which is to select the kind of framework of reporting in order to form a negative attitude towards Gaddafi’s regime the US readers. In its turn the US Department of Defense provided the presence of journalists with the soldiers who departed for military mission. The same tactics was used during the previous missions like Iraq war, which provided the presentation of events from the US soldiers’ side: this created a sense of witnessing real process and events in the audience, it’s easier to form the desired attitude among the citizens by this way.

The revealing of personal stories based on individual journalistic researches has been widely used by the Western media which made wars more personalized and emotionally intelligible for the public by evoking the sense of compassion towards human destinies. For example the media reported about the mercenaries who fought for Gaddafi but this information was to be used to form anti-Gaddafian attitudes in the society, so journalistic investigations about individuals (usually from vulnerable groups) appeared, in which they represented how the supporters of Gaddafi used children, brought fraudulently girl-snipers and underage children from African republics to Libya, all of these represented with personalized stories of individuals. In order to increase the intolerance towards Gaddafi’s regime, his Comrades in Arms were being imputed unacceptable crimes for the audience, like testimonies about sexual abuse against the demonstrators, including women and children, which caused debated among UN diplomats, later the expression of concern from the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the US State Secretary about ordered mass rapes in Libya.

So, in war situations the execution of information must be done in the following directions:

  1. To increase the fighting spirit of one’sown military forces
  2. To psychologically  pressure the enemy’s armed forces
  3. To get the support of one’s own population
  4. To try to get the support of enemy’s population  by presenting oneself as a friend not as a foe
  5. To control the international media flows in order to represent a favorable position.

In the modern world such use of information is considered to be “a soft power”, which sometimes can be more effective in uncontrollable situations than economic or military mechanisms of influence. In its turn by combining the information manipulations with the traditional military force in the Post-Cold War period categories like “Humanitarian Intervention”, “Fight Against International Terrorism”, “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” have been formed, which make international law more mutable, the “free” press and people’s consciousness-more vulnerable.


  1. Joint Doctrine for Command and Control Warfare (C2W), February 7 1996
  2. The American Democracy, Tenth edition, Thomas E. Patterson, NY, 2011
  3. War and the Media, edited by DayaKishanThussu and Des Freedman, SAGE publications, 2003
  4. Information Warfare, An Introduction, Reto E. Haeni, The George Washington University, 1997

Author:  Victoria Aydinyan: © All rights are reserved

Tranleted by Tatevik Tumanyan