All posts by Dr Helene Lavoix

Dr Helene Lavoix (MFin Paris, MSc PhD Lond), Director and Senior Analyst, is the founder of The Red (team) Analysis Society and a political scientist (International Relations) specialised in Strategic Foresight and Warning (SF&W) for conventional and unconventional security issues. She is the author of “What makes foresight actionable: the cases of Singapore and Finland” (confidential commissioned report, US government, November 2010), “Enabling Security for the 21st Century: Intelligence & Strategic Foresight and Warning” RSIS Working Paper August 2010, “Constructing an Early Warning System,” in From Early Warning to Early Action, European Commission, ed. DG Relex, 2008, “Detailed chronology of mass violence – Cambodia (1945 – 1979),” Online Encyclopaedia of mass violence, 2008 and the editor of Strategic Foresight and Warning: Navigating the Unknown, ed. RSIS-CENS, February 2011; etc. More on academia.edu. Listed on the public list curated by LSEImpactBlog: @LSEImpactBlog/soc-sci-academic-tweeters.

The Islamic State Psyops – A Framework

(Updated 12 December to add Al-Itisam media in Sources). 

Since August 19 2014 and the broadcast of American James Foley murder at the hands of the Islamic State (Ackerman, 20 August 2014The Guardian), Western media regularly feature grim videos where the Islamic State beheads individuals belonging to the groups it perceives as enemies and opposing its Caliphate. The gruesome, ghastly and shocking character of the videos and of the Islamic State, is then regularly emphasized by both media and Western governments.

Meanwhile, as the executioners are chosen among the foreign fighters having joined the Islamic State (e.g. Walker, 20 August 2014The Independent; Botelho, 20 November 2014CNN), the departure of Western youth to join and fight for the Caliphate is emphasized, and the IS propaganda is denounced. Yet, new research and media interviews (e.g. Lowen, 6 November 2014, BBC News; Maher, 6 November 2014New Statesman), focusing on the reasons for which those young people join the IS do not particularly single out cruelty, wish to inflict pain, abhorrence of human rights or any violent feature as a cause for deciding to build a new life involving  combatting, thus killing and risking being killed.

flames of war,  Islamic State, Islamic State Psyops, propaganda
Still from the Islamic State video “Flames of War”, Al-Hayat Media Center – The subtitles read “But what is the enjoyment of worldly life compared to the Hereafter except but a [very] little.”

Could it thus be possible that there is more to the Islamic State’s propaganda than ghastly beheadings, and the core messages of fear and “calculated madness” pointed out by Brooking (21 August 2014CFR)? Could something else also infuse the Islamic State’s propaganda? Could its message tell us something we need to understand, if we are ever to want to be able to fight the Caliphate victoriously?

As we aim at understanding the Caliphate better in the framework of a strategic foresight and warning that must be actionable, we shall start here exploring the Islamic State’s propaganda. We shall begin by reviewing military concepts related to propaganda and wondering if and how they can be applied to what the Islamic State is doing. Then, we shall identify main products and channels for the Islamic State’s Psyops as well as sources. This will lay a the foundation for addressing, with the next post, themes and issues related to the content of the Islamic State’s strategic communication operations.

Propaganda, Psyops or Strategic Communication?

Besides the very often used “propaganda”, a wealth of terms is found in the specialized military literature: propaganda, strategic communication, psychological operations etc..* Thus, what are we talking about exactly? We should ideally use IS own terms, however, in the absence of such a body of documents, we shall notably use American material. The latter has first the advantage to be more or less used among allies, many of them part of the coalition against the Islamic State. Second, as the US-led coalition meets in the NATO headquarters, to discuss military strategy including how to counter the Islamic State’s propaganda and “to stem the flow of foreign fighters joining” IS (BBC News, 3 December 2014), developing from the starts a conceptual framework that can be directly understood by those fighting IS is crucial.

In general, we are here interested in “influence”, i.e. “the inherent understanding that all Diplomatic, Information, Military & Economic (DIME) activities have the potential to influence the behaviors and attitudes of specific groups.” (Steve Tatham, 2013: 8). Needless to say, this definition fully includes all “new” available media, such as social media and networks available on the World-Wide Web, through mobile phone or other infrastructure, potentially communication taking place outside the web but using cell phone, or other communication using non technological means, as well as cyber-security.

Islamic State, Islamic State Psyops, propaganda, Dabiq
From Dabiq #3, p. 29 – Part 4 of the feature article “Hijrah from Hypocrisy to Sincerity”, where Hijrah is equated to “the path to Jihad”.

Coming back to our definition, in other words, when a groups tries to wield influence, it applies “specific activities to a target audience to influence behaviors and attitudes.” Using this rather large definition allows us first to bridge what could be a dangerous divide between different “influence actions”, if the information component were to forget what the diplomatic, military or economic realm did, as interestingly emphasised by Paul Kamolnick (June 2014) in his Countering radicalization and recruitment to Al-Qaeda: fighting the war of deeds.

This definition also allows us to overcome the increasingly inconvenient divide that is made across domains in the West between what is foreign and what is domestic and that is most probably irrelevant if used stricto sensu as far as the Islamic State is concerned. For example, Murphy (2012) shows in the case of American history, that this divide is not a fatality but may evolve according to needs. He recalls how the Committee on Public Information (CPI) in 1917 tried to influence American opinion to support the American engagement in World War I (pp. 164-165).

Tabaqah military airbase, Dabiq, Islamic State, Islamic State Psyops, propaganda, Dabiq
One of the pictures illustrating a report on “the conquest of the Tabaqah military airbase” in Dabiq #3 p.21. For a non-IS account of the fall of the Tabaqah airbase, read the excellent Joseph Adams, “Anatomy of a Massacre”, 3 December 2014, Syriadirect.org http://syriadirect.org/main/30-reports/1725-part-i-the-march

Then, more specifically, we are interested in the information element of this larger influence, i.e. “any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly” (Ibid: 162), where we would need to substitute “a polity’s” instead of national, to accommodate any political form.  According to Murphy (Ibid. fn 24), this definition was the definition of propaganda before the term propaganda increasingly perceived as pejorative became “any form of adversary communication, especially of a biased or misleading nature, designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly” (DOD Dictionary of Military Terms, Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2014). Propaganda now is thus mainly used against adversaries, while allies only practice “Strategic Communications”, i.e. “focused U.S. Government efforts to understand and engage key audiences to create, strengthen, or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of U.S. Government interests, policies, and objectives through the use of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and products synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power” (U.S. JP 1-02, Tatham 2013: 9). We may replace the U.S. government by any other to have a rather flexible and usable definition.

It is supported by Information Operations, i.e. “the integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.” A primary capability of IO is called Psychological Operations (Psyops) in Europe and NATO (Tatham, 2013: 8), except in the US where it has become Military Information Support Operations (MISO). Psyops or MISO are defined as “planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals in a manner favorable to the originator’s objectives” (US JP 3-13, Tatham, 2013: 8).

remaining and expanding, Islamic State, Islamic State Psyops, propaganda, Dabiq
Opening page of the long report “Remaining and Expanding” pp. 20- 33 in Dabiq #5.

Considering the war the Islamic State is waging to establish the Caliphate and that war, Jihad, is at the very core of the Caliphate raison d’être (see our “Monitoring the War against the Islamic State…“, 2014 and “Scenarios: an Islamic Al-Sham?“, 2013), then both IOs and Psyops should be applicable to the Islamic State, as would be the old and new definition of propaganda. The former definition is, however, more interesting because, by not assuming  the information transmitted is biased or untruthful, also it may be, it will wield much better understanding of the Caliphate and thus allows for better SF&W and ultimately better responses.

We shall nevertheless have to wrestle with the difficulty brought about by the differentiation between foreign and domestic. First, this distinction may only be kept in the case of IS, if we find something similar to it, but according to the IS own definition of what is foreign and what is domestic. Second, in terms this time of answer, if IS conducts Psyops on our own territory, which it is obviously doing, but that we forbid ourselves to do “counter-Psyops” because of obsolete administrative divisions, instead delegating the conduct of those operations to, for example, exclusively “social-humanitarian” programs detached from the military and political understanding and context, then new challenges, to say the least, are most likely to quickly emerge.

As we can apply Psyops and related concept to the Islamic State, while, as seen, making sure we do it in a way that adapts to IS rather than trying to force IS operations within existing concepts, we shall also be able to apply existing techniques of analysis. Here we shall start classically with the Source, Content, Audience, Media and Effects (SCAME) approach (U.S. FM 3-05.302, Appendix D, 10/28/2005), however adapting it to IS and to means. Notably, it seems more logical to identify first media or channels as well as the products used then sources, as those will give us both our material as well as a way to identify it and thus will frame the overall analytical endeavour. We shall turn to content, audience and effects in the future.

The Islamic State Psyops products and channels

This list is likely to expand as our work and research progress and as events unfolds. Updates will thus be published when possible and necessary. As far as could be so far observed and gathered, the main products and channels used by the Islamic State to target and influence specific audiences are as follows.

Online visual media such as videos and photos

The quality of the videos disseminated by the Islamic State is recognised by all as professional (e.g. Mauro, 21 September 2014The Clarion Project) and confirms a trend we had underlined as growing among the various Islamic groups fighting in Syria (Lavoix, “The rise of the Salafi-Nationalists“, January 2014), as also recently noted by Brooking (August 2014).

flames of war, Islamic State, Islamic State Psyops, propaganda, Dabiq
Still from the Islamic State video “Flames of War”, Al-Hayat Media Center

A famous example of such videos is the 55 minutes “Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun” released on 19 September 2014.

They are spread through twitter but also any other web-based support, from those specific to broadcasting videos to any website. It is necessary here to underline that despite the hunt after IS videos that is taking place on platforms such as Youtube or Vimeo, it is most likely that IS propaganda is here to perdure – short of extreme measures, assuming they are possible or desirable – as setting up a single page website where any file may be available has never been easier, and as the web counts more than 1,132,414,000 websites (2 December 2014 11:57 see Internet live stats for real-time count).

Audio and text messages

We find notably instances of audio messages for official statements, for example by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, accompanied by transcript and translation (see Pieter van Ostaeyen, 13 November 2014Pietervanostaeyen), or IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani ash-Shami, for example 17 April Audio and translated transcript Message (Pietervanostaeyen)  or “Indeed Your Lord Is Ever Watchful” September 2014 translated text message (Worldanalysis.net).

It is most likely that local radios exist on the ground, if we believe the excellent database of identifiers and logos maintained by Jihad Intel.

The monthly magazine Dabiq

Warning: some pages of Dabiq show graphic and psychologically hard to face images, including some related to executions. It is however impossible not to consider such a crucial material, and not to link to it if analysis is to be done.

Islamic State, Islamic State Psyops, propaganda, Dabiq
Cover page of Dabiq #4

Dabiq’s first issue was published in 1435 Ramadan, Hijri or Islamic calendar, knowing that the first day of the lunar month of Ramadan of the year 1435 was 29 June 2014, i.e. when the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) renamed itself as the Islamic State, and declared a Caliphate led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as his Caliph (Al Jazeera, 30 June 2014). It was actually released a few days later, on 5 July 2014 (Gambhir, August 2014). Among others, it is available through worldanalysis.net (see here for #1). Dabiq latest issue, #5 was published in 1436 Muharram or Oct-Nov 2014. According to Dabiq, it is thus named after an area,

“In the northern countryside of Halab (Aleppo) in Sham. This place was mentioned in a hadith describing some of the events of the Malahim (what is sometimes referred to as Armageddon in English). One of the greatest battles between the Muslims and the crusaders will take place near Dabiq.”

Follows then the text of the hadith, which is further explains in Dabiq #3. We find here clear eschatological (concerned with the end of time or end of the world, ‘eschatology‘, Merriam Webster) references, and more specifically Islamic eschatology references (see Furnish, 11 September 2014 in Counter-Jihad Report and MahdiWatchGambhir, Ibid.; Ryan, 1 August 2014, Jamestown Foundation).

Dabiq is disseminated through all channels as for the other products.

Use of social networks

IS Psysops uses all social networks and notably twitter to spread its messages. A report realised by Recorded Future (Staffan, 3 September 2014) for Skynews found out that more than 60 000 pro-IS sympathisers twitter accounts existed or had existed between May 2014 (Cheshire, 5 September 2014Skynews) and August 2014 (the end period is not mentioned). Among those, only some are, most probably, “official” IS accounts. However, the pattern observed is indicative. An account is opened and spreads material or comments. If it is closed (manually as it is reported to Twitter), then, almost instantaneously, a near identical account is opened elsewhere, with a slightly different name. As noted above, we find a similar pattern for the use of various platforms such as videos and blogs or of single page websites.

Online fora and encrypted programs

Although being advertised on Dabiq, for example, see Issue 3 p. 41, fora using notably encryption program “Asrar El Moujahedeen” qualifies as a very specific form of Psyops. The target audience is obviously individuals who are either technologically aware or already enough influenced to be able to be guided through the initial steps by tech savvy Jihadis. Indeed, as explained in detail by Joseph Cox (January 2014Vice), finding then using those fora is not immediate. That said, as a result, the communication and exchanges, including recruitment, made on these fora may also be perceived as shrouded in secrecy and part of an initiation process, two elements that may well add an attractive aura of media restricted to a selected few.

The Islamic State Psyops sources: major “official” media centers and sympathizers

Al-Furqan Media Foundation

Note: as much as possible, no direct link will be provided to videos of murders and executions, however the reference given should allow researchers to find the related evidence.

al Furqan logo, Islamic State, Islamic State Psyops, propaganda,
Logo of Al-Furqan Media Foundation

The Al-Furqan media foundation has been the media arm of, initially, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and thus has operated since at least November 2006, if we use the collection of Al-Furqan videos maintained by SITE (for the change from ISI to the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS), see “War in Syria, State of Play III: The Jihadis“, last updated Feb 2014).

"Although the disbelievers dislike it", Islamic State, Islamic State Psyops, propaganda,
Still from The Islamic State “Although the disbelievers dislike it”, Al Furqan Media Foundation.

Since 29 June 2014, and thus the announcement of the creation of the Islamic State and the Caliphate, it is the media center that has been producing and spreading the ghastly videos of the murders and beheadings: US James Foley (19 August 2014; see logo on video “A Message to America” available on military.com video center – warning: the graphic video autoplays), US Steven Sotloff (2 September 2014, video “A Second Message to America”, e.g. Drury, 2 September 2014Daily Mail), UK David Haines (13 September 2014, see logo on still and video “”A Message to the Allies of America” available on Leaksource), UK Alan Henning (3 October 2014, see logo on still and video available on Leaksource), US Peter Kassig (16 November 2014, video “Although the disbelievers dislike it”, see still showing the Al-Furqan media logo).

It is also Al-Furqan that produces the tragic videos where John Cantlie is forced to speak, as shown by the logo (see still for example on a Tumblr blog, http://diary-of-a-muhajirah.tumblr.com/, that has not yet been stopped at the time of writing but will probably soon be).

Al-Hayat Media Center

al hayat logo, Islamic State, Islamic State Psyops, propaganda, Dabiq
Logo fo Al-Hayat Media Center

The other major producer affiliated with IS is Al-Hayat Media Center, which besides videos also produced the official document related to the birth of the Caliphate (for the English version, “This is the promise of Allah“), as well as the magazine Dabiq (see Dabiq #1). Al-Hayat previously produced the Islamic State Report (Jihadology.net for issues #1 to #3) and the Islamic State News (Jihadology.net for issues #1 to #3), which combined into Dabiq, as underlined by Gambhir (Ibid., p. 2). Al-Hayat productions also show scenes of executions and murders, as well as deaths of IS fighters, but obviously focus on a message that is different compared with Al-Furqan’s.

Al-Itisam Media

According to Jihad Intel, “Al-Itisam Media is a media wing of the Islamic State, having produced many high-quality videos from Syria in particular entitled “Windows on the Land of Epic Battles.” Al-Itisam Media emerged in 2013 after the Islamic State of Iraq became the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.”

Al-Itisam also produced the first of the videos announcing the birth of the Caliphate on 29 June 2014: “Kasr al-Hudud ~ Breaking the Borders” (Pietervanostaeyen, 29 June 2014 – the second and third “This is the promise of Allah” were produced by Al-Hayat, for the third a translation is available in English, Russian, French and German produced by both Al-Hayat and Al-Furqan).

Sympathizers quasi-sources

Besides the two official media centers presented above, we also have many non official but pro-IS sources, which create products. For example, French hostage Hervé Gourdel execution was filmed and realeased in a video mirroring Al-Furqan’s ways (24 September 2014, video “”A Message with Blood to the French Government,” see Site Intel Group, 24 September 2014).

We may wonder if those could be considered as quasi-sources. Indeed, they may help spread IS messages, notably where IS sources are not present but they may also be uncontrollable elements.

With the next post of the series we shall turn to content.

———–

*Although it is not only very common, but also fashionable to believe that business-related activities such as marketing and products advertisement can be directly applied to political situations writ large, i.e. including wars and warfare, we shall not follow this trend, on the contrary, but walk in the footsteps of those who believe, such as Steve Tatham, that failing to understand the specificity of politics and war is one of the causes for many of the ills that beset Psyops in the Western world and in the U.S. in particular. As a result, we shall not use marketing sources.

Bibliography and sources

Featured image: Still from the video “Although the disbelievers dislike it” Al-Furqan Media Foundation.

Ackerman, Spencer, “Obama: murder of James Foley ‘shocks the conscience of the entire world'”, 20 August 2014, The Guardian.

Botelho, Greg, “French authorities back off claim against man in ISIS beheadings video”, 20 November 2014, CNN.

Brooking, Emerson, “The ISIS Propaganda Machine Is Horrifying and Effective. How Does It Work?”, August 21, 2014, Defense in Depth, CFR.

Furnish, Timothy R., “Obama on ISIS: Oft In Lies Truth Is Hidden” 11 September 2014, The Counter-Jihad Report.

Gambhir, Harleen K, “Dabiq: the Strategic Messaging of the Islamic State”, 15 August 2014, ISW.

Kamolnick, Paul, Countering radicalization and recruitment to Al-Qaeda: fighting the war of deeds, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, June 2014.

Lavoix, Helene, “War in Syria, State of Play III: The Jihadis”, 6 May 2013, last updated Feb 2014, The Red (Team) Analysis Society.

Lavoix, Helene,”The rise of the Salafi-Nationalists”, 27 January 2014, The Red (Team) Analysis Society.

Lavoix, Helene, “Monitoring the War against the Islamic State or against a Terrorist Group?”,29 September 2014, The Red (Team) Analysis Society.

Lavoix, Helene, “Scenarios: an Islamic al-Sham”, 27 May 2013, The Red (Team) Analysis Society.

Lowen, Mark, “Islamic State crisis: The 13-year-old on ‘righteous path'”, 6 November 2014, BBCNews.

Maher, Shiraz, “From Portsmouth to Kobane: the British jihadis fighting for Isis” 6 November 2014, New Statesman.

Mauro, Ryan, “ISIS Releases ‘Flames of War’ Feature Film to Intimidate West”, September 21, 2014, The Clarion Project.

Murphy, Dennis M. “Strategic Communications: Wielding the Information Element of Power”, in U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Issues – Volume I: Theory of War and Strategy, Edited by Dr. J. Boone Bartholomees Jr., Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, June 2012, 159-172.

Okamoto, Joel, “Eschatology and the Islamic State”, October 28, 2014, Concordia Theology.

U.S. FM 3-05.302, TACTICAL PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS TACTICS, TECHNIQUES, AND PROCEDURES (INCL C1), Appendix D, 10/28/2005. http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/Active_FM.html

Ryan, Michael W. S., “Dabiq: What Islamic State’s New Magazine Tells Us about Their Strategic Direction, Recruitment Patterns and Guerrilla Doctrine”, 1 August 2014, Jamestown Foundation.

Staffan, “ISIS Jumping from Account to Account, Twitter Trying to Keep Up”, 3 September 2014, Recorded Future blog.

Tatham, Steve, U.S. Governmental Information Operations and Strategic Communications: A Discredited Tool or User Failure? Implications for Future Conflict, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, December 2013.

Walker, Tim, “James Foley ‘beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent ‘execute US journalist’ – as hunt begins for killer”, 20 August 2014, The Independent.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 181 – The West’s “Ukraine Problem”

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section.

World (all matters related to war, international and national security) – An excellent article by Prof Anatol Lieven for BBC News on “How can the West solve its Ukraine problem?” addresses – at long last – most problems related to the Ukrainian crisis in a masterful, objective and constructive way, not shying away from the very difficult situation into which Ukraine now is.  The fact it is published by BBC News is positive and might signal that we could enter a healthier Continue reading The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 181 – The West’s “Ukraine Problem”

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 180 – Questioning the Content of Military Training for Allies

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section.

World (all matters related to war, international and national security) – Our featured article, this week, is Yinon Weiss “What if the Military Has Been Focusing on the Wrong Thing the Whole Time?” for Small Wars Journal. Weiss, who notably served as US Army Special Forces officer, training allies forces abroad, questions the current American (as well as NATO and anti-Islamic State coalition) policy that consists in training military allies to achieve victory, when, actually, “the other side [is] surviving and even thriving” without any training support.

This article is twice noteworthy because of the importance of the Continue reading The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 180 – Questioning the Content of Military Training for Allies

Portal to the Islamic State War

Caliphate, Khilafah, Islamic State, ISIS, Daesh, War, ISThe Islamic State is one of the contemporary most serious and novel threats to the transitioning (or not) current world order. The fact that war is part and parcel of the Islamic State and its Caliphate or Khilafah (خلافة) very existence is only one of the many challenges and novelties that most of the rest of the world must face.

The merging of different wars and issues is another mammoth challenge.  For example, should we now see the wars in Libya, Syria and Iraq as different theaters of operations for a theater of war itself limited to the Middle East and North African Region, or should we revise the way we apply those strategic concepts, or is the very concept of the theater of war, understood as an ideal-type of a defined quasi-independent system (Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, Book V, Ch 2) also in needs of revision because of the Caliphate and its use of the globalised networked world into which we live?

As far as the theaters of operations are concerned, who are those who define them? If we use the American definition of “theater” – “The geographical area for which a commander of a geographic combatant command has been assigned responsibility. (JP 1-02. SOURCE: JP 1)” – then, again, who defines the geographical area as well as determines when responsibility for command should be attributed? If there is no US or coalition theater, does that mean that there is indeed no theater, for now? But what about the future? Are concepts exclusively defined in geographical terms sufficient? Or might they enhance the probability that we would remain on the defensive, granting the initiative to the enemy?

Those are only samples of the many questions that should be asked before we can hope finding proper answers and strategies, not only militarily and across governments but also across societies and actors.

We shall here explore those concerns and work towards providing actionable strategic foresight and warning on the Islamic State or Caliphate war, building upon and looking for best ways to incorporate the more specific War in Syria, the War in Libya and other current and future issues (and related sections).

Daily monitoring of the Islamic State war across social media: The Caliphate War Sigils.

List of posts

Short pieces

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 179 – “I need more money and troops for today’s threats”

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section.

World (all matters related to war, international and national security) – An interesting statement by the US Army Chief of Staff sums up well the current situation for many countries: “I need more money and troops for today’s threats”. This points out the complete lack of foresight – and warning – that plague our societies as the now inadequate strategy and budget General Odierno refers too are dated 2012, which is only 2 years past.

This also underlines the conundrum of neo-liberal societies. First, to briefly summarize, they tend to believe that trade and globalisation has ended all wars, if not history, while state spending must be cut. As a result, as with all ideologies as they become biases, proper analysis, proper foresight and proper decisions become impossible. Second, there is the never-ending or returning grinding crisis (see economy section below) that stops growth and thus the automatic increase of resources available to societies to face threats.

These two features combine to make societies unable to stop threats in a timely and proper manner – when they do not contribute to create threats when none previously existed. As other ideologies (read, for example Chris Zappone “A new Cold War ideology…“) and biases, as well as inefficiencies to say nothing about the promotion of mediocrity and incompetency among elite groups (see, for an explanation, material and ideological stakes in an outdated worldview) amalgamate, the threats, in turn, swell. Then, one day or another, resources must imperatively be found, when they are even less available than previously. What are the ways forward? Probably, for a while, the downward spiral will continue, until the system is forced to change to be able to face and answer the new threats, with a hope to win… except that having changed it will have disappeared anyway. But is it not how societies have changed and evolved throughout time?

Technology and armaments – Among others, check the articles about IARPA’s speech recognition challenge, 2014 Defense One Summit and EPA’s key priorities of the revised Capability Development Plan.

Energy and environment security – Besides “Germany plans to withdraw from binding 2020 climate targets”, which signals (again) the lack of real concern of various governments for seriously tackling anthropogenic climate change, and many articles on renewable energies, a rarer reminder about the crucial importance of biodiversity and more specifically bees for food security, as 70 of the 100 crop species that provide 90% food are pollinated by bees.

Science  – A very interesting on using the metrics of resilience, contrasting first the resilience and the risk assessment approaches and then exploring how military doctrine and military-science-based research can help defining proper resilience metrics, that could then be applied across government (and organizations).

Economy (look here for issues related to economic crises, monetary policy, inequality, or budget deficit for example) – Many articles this week are about the bad data for Japan – which were to be expected, considering, notably, the amazing amount of its public deficit, even if the when remained a mystery – as well as the slow down in China. This is most likely to mean a return of the grinding global crisis, assuming it has ever stopped.

Ebola – The good news this week is that the outbreak seems to be stabilizing in Liberia, considering the heavy inflow of means. The continuing absence of contagion outside the region is also positive. The potentially bad news, beyond an absence of improvement notably in Sierra Leone,  and cases in Mali, is the death of a repatriated patient in the US, despite the use of Zdam.  According to the WHO latest situation report, we now have “a total of 15113 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of EVD and 5406 deaths …reported up to the end of 16 November 2014.”

Read the 20 November scan →

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Conflict in Ukraine – The Far-Right (3): Parties and Battalions

After we focused, in our series on the far-right in Ukraine, first on ultra-nationalism then on the new People’s Front ultra-nationalist outlook and related potential impacts, notably regarding war in Eastern Ukraine, this last post will deal with the remaining far-right groups.

We shall first look at the way the war in Eastern Ukraine further legitimized not only far-right and nationalist groups but also their paramilitary branches. Then, after presenting a map of the ultra-nationalist and far-right actors on the Ukrainian scene, we shall introduce more in detail those right-wing groups that are both represented in parliament and certified by their participation in the war, before to turn to those that have no parliamentary representation but nevertheless remain legitimized by the war.

Continue reading Conflict in Ukraine – The Far-Right (3): Parties and Battalions

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 178 – Fighting Wars of Narratives, from AQ to IS, Ukraine and Russia

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section.

World (all matters related to war, international and national security) –  Note a very interesting and excellent article, part of a “series on strategic communications, narrative, and the Islamic State” for The Bridge by Lieutenant Colonel Dean Case, a United States Army Information Operations Officer, and Mikhail Grinberg, which, using lessons learned from Iraq makes the case for a strategy to win the “battle of legitimacy” against the Islamic State. Considering this aspect may be all the more important considering the Caliphate “expansion”, in Libya and Egypt.

Notably, Lt Col Case underlines that “One critical element of all of Continue reading The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 178 – Fighting Wars of Narratives, from AQ to IS, Ukraine and Russia

Conflict in Ukraine – The Far-Right (2): Demise or Metamorphosis?

As latest events lead us to wonder if the peace process is defunct and the war in Eastern Ukraine will start again, we are continuing our analysis of the actors, focusing now on the “far-right” in Ukraine. We do not deal here with the “pro-Russian/Slavic ultra-nationalist”, to use Shekhovtsov (2013) categorization. Having addressed with the previous article the content of Ukrainian nationalism and ultra-nationalism, we shall now turn to the representative power those groups hold, or not, as demonstrated through the 26 October 2014 parliamentary election. We shall also point out a novel, potentially escalating fact: the integration of armed volunteer battalions in political parties. The last and next post of the series on the far-right will deal with the remaining far-right groups, be they directly represented within regime institutions or not.

Understanding the power of nationalist and ultra-nationalist parties in Ukraine, as well as the content of their nationalism, is crucial because both contribute to determine the answers that are given by the Ukrainian political authorities to various events, from the way they deal with the separatists in the Donbass to their relationships with other international actors. The more powerful the Continue reading Conflict in Ukraine – The Far-Right (2): Demise or Metamorphosis?

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 177 – The Islamic State’s “Ripple”?!

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section.

World (all matters related to war, international and national security) –  This week, the Israel Defence Forces warns – unsurprisingly – about the inevitability of war in Lebanon, while previous suspicions of linkages between Al-Qaeda and Indian Mujahideen seem to be resurfacing, after having been first denied as alarmist. Meanwhile, one article in the New York Times – the start of a new trend or an isolated article? – seems to be trying to develop a new thesis according to which “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds” because, actually, the Islamic State is not that dangerous and that it is soon to be vanquished, even if it has not only suffered setback, to hardly caricature the argument. Considering the situation on the ground, as relayed by so many articles, we may wonder if this is not plain wishful thinking, or, more worrying, a sign of the incapacity of our (Western) societies to think seriously about war, and the change it will bring.

Ebola – One of the most important indicators to monitor right now is the progress of vaccine and there are so far some good news regarding the ongoing testing in Mali. Also a very interesting – albeit potentially pessimistic – article applying complexity theory to some of the current scientific understanding on quarantine, for example… with interesting implications in terms of policy.

Technology and armaments – The fascinating test of a drone equipped with AI (Artifical Intelligence), developed by DARPA-funded researchers, brings us closer to future types of warfare. Meanwhile in intelligence, UK GCHQ Chief, asks for more support from social networks in fighting notably the Islamic State, which begs very interesting questions in terms of focus on means rather than on causes, on technology and capabilities rather than on intention (or both), on the adaptation of the states and its agencies to contemporary means of communication and, of course, on liberalism during wartimes, among others.

Energy and environment security – Read notably another article questioning the possibility of a continuing US oil boom, notably under conditions of relatively low energy prices. A question that can be applied to all shale projects, notably, for example, in Ukraine.

Science  – Among others, an interesting novel process found by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to form, as well as blend, nanoparticles.

Economy (look here for issues related to economic crises, monetary policy, inequality, or budget deficit for example) – Note a very interesting note on a research article published by the PNAS showing the impact of increased pollution on Indian crops. Grains yields could have been reduced by half and easy mitigations policies should be implemented.

Read the 6 November scan →

The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues. It was started as an experiment with Paper.li as a way to collect ideas, notably through Twitter. Its success and its usefulness led to its continuation.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilizing problems and issues.

If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.

Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 176 – Europe Unexpected Power Waiting to be Used

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below the most interesting or relevant features for each section.

World (all matters related to war, international and national security) –  This week, we can point out, besides many other signals and articles, a must read article on “Putin’s Great Gamble” by Pr Nikolas K. Gvosdev, which not only enlightens understanding of current relations but also is crucial to foresee next moves.

The way the war against the Islamic State impacts Turkey and its relationships to other players, including the U.S., is also of utmost importance for the way the war will be waged in the future by the different actors.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace policy recommendations for a EU Foreign Policy strongly committed to

Continue reading The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 176 – Europe Unexpected Power Waiting to be Used