You are here
The furore over Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election has brought information warfare to the forefront of political and military discourse. The ubiquity of social media has spawned a cottage industry of theorists, many of whom have made it fashionable to argue not just that information is a critical field of warfare, but that it is the most important. It is regularly suggested that prioritising the cognitive domain can enable small armies to dominate larger forces, sapping their will to fight, and turning the surrounding population hostile. The seizure of Mosul by Daesh (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) is seen as the defining case study.
While much is made of the #AllEyesOnISIS social media campaign employed by Daesh in the lead up to the capture of Mosul, it is vital to recognise that the terror Daesh inspired in the Iraqi army was the result of real and widespread atrocities. While small in number, Daesh fighters were well motivated, heavily armed, and highly aggressive. The hostility of Mosul’s population to the Iraqi army was the result of extensive corruption and heavy-handed treatment by the security forces. Nor was Daesh’s capture of Mosul something new in the annals of warfare. The Taliban’s seizure of Kandahar in 1994 was comparably fast and decisive, despite unpromising force ratios. The Battle of Santa Clara during the Cuban Revolution is another example of small but well-motivated and aggressive forces seizing urban centres.
Become A Member
To access the full text of this article and many other benefits, become a RUSI member.