Small Wars Journal

The Growing Need to Focus on Modern Political Warfare

The Growing Need to Focus on Modern Political Warfare by Linda Robinson, Todd C. Helmus, Raphael S. Cohen, Alireza Nader, Andrew Radin, Madeline Magnuson and Katya Migacheva – RAND Report

The United States faces a number of actors who use a wide range of political, informational, military, and economic measures to influence, coerce, intimidate, or undermine its interests or those of its friends and allies. This brief summarizes a study that provided a clearer view of these adversarial measures short of conventional warfare and derived implications and recommendations for the U.S. government and military. To this end, at the request of the sponsor, RAND Corporation researchers examined the historical and current practices that fall into this realm of conflict short of conventional war. The starting point was the term political warfare, as defined in 1948 at the outset of the Cold War by U.S. diplomat George Kennan: "Political warfare is the logical application of Clausewitz's doctrine in time of peace. In broadest definition, political warfare is the employment of all the means at a nation's command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives. Such operations are both overt and covert. They range from such overt actions as political alliances, economic measures (as . . . the Marshall Plan), and 'white' propaganda to such covert operations as clandestine support of 'friendly' foreign elements, 'black' psychological warfare and even encouragement of underground resistance in hostile states.”

Political warfare is a historical term, but current analogues, such as gray zone, are also used to describe this realm of conflict…

Read the entire report.