Small Wars Journal

‘We’re at War’: A Covert Social Media Campaign Aids Military Rulers

‘We’re at War’: A Covert Social Media Campaign Aids Military Rulers by Declan Walsh and Nada Rashwan – New York Times

Days after Sudanese soldiers massacred pro-democracy demonstrators in Khartoum in June, an obscure digital marketing company in Cairo began deploying keyboard warriors to a second front: a covert operation to praise Sudan’s military on social media.

The Egyptian company, run by a former military officer and self-described expert on “internet warfare,” paid new recruits $180 a month to write pro-military messages using fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram. Instructors provided hashtags and talking points.

Since the ouster of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April, new employees were told, protesters had sown chaos in Sudan. Their demands for democracy were premature and dangerous. Order had to be restored…

Read on.


First, from a somewhat recent article by the Atlantic Council:

"In the midst of uncertainty on the streets of Khartoum, the United States is entirely absent, ceding our diplomatic high ground to the Gulf Arab states who prefer a version of strongman rule they themselves have at home. Left unchecked, Sudan will be no more than a political and economic vassal to the anti-Iran, anti-political Islam forces that dominate the region.  

Since Bashir’s ouster, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have all heaped praise and credibility on the military generals in Khartoum who seized power in April—injecting at least $3 billion worth of new money and humanitarian assistance the junta can now use to build support and burnish their argument to remain in charge. Fortunately, the protesters know a buy-off when they see one, responding with a resounding “keep your money” to Gulf entreaties. But without Washington as a counterweight, the flood of outside influence is likely to drown out any lasting calls for change.

Next, from the Trump National Security Strategy re: Africa:

"Africa remains a continent of promise and enduring challenges. Africa contains many of the world’s fastest growing economies, which represent potential new markets for U.S. goods and services. Aspiring partners across the continent are eager to build market-based economies and enhance stability." ...

"The United States seeks sovereign African states that are integrated into the world economy, able to provide for their citizens’ needs, and capable of managing threats to peace and security. (See Page 52.)

Given the "new markets for U.S. goods and services" -- and the related "build market-based economies" and "integrate African states into the world economy" American goals and interests noted above --

(Which, indeed, might be characteristic of U.S. goals and interests re: ALL of the developing world?)

Given these such primary U.S. interests, then might we suggest that, today,

a.  The U.S. no longer sees such things as "democracy promotion" as the way to achieve our such goals and interests and that, accordingly,

b.  This explain why the U.S., now under President Trump, has moved more in the "sovereignty," "self-determination" and "authoritarianism is O.K." direction of late?

President Trump: 

"We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government, but we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.”

“Strong sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.”

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:


a.  If the democracy-demanding populations cannot provide us with such things as "new markets for U.S. goods and services," cannot "build market-based economies" and cannot provide, in a time-frame acceptable to the U.S., for "African states that are integrated into the world economy" (see the Trump NSS re: Africa above),

b.  Then maybe the "strongmen" can?

(Re: our such interests:  We bet on the democracy-demanding populations first and they failed us.  Now we have been forced to look to less-savory -- but possibly more-capable -- partners; who we believe CAN provide for our wants, needs, desires and interests -- and much as was the case in the Old Cold War?)