Does a National Political Warfare Center make sense?
Over at Rand there’s a new strategy document called “An American Way of Political Warfare”. The authors argue that despite overwhelming military victory in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere), U.S. political objectives for those conflicts remain unmet due to the inability to wage political war.
They also point out that today’s adversaries are engaged in political warfare against the United States, yet there’s been no adequate response to those threats.
“There is currently no U.S. government organization, U.S. nongovernmental organization, or U.S. academic institution that focuses on the full range of unconventional, irregular, political, informational, diplomatic, and economic threats and activities employed by adversary powers.”
I’m not here to state the case one way or the other, but I do want to explore some thoughts on what a National Political Warfare Center would look like nationally, regionally, and locally for our own internal culture war that’s being waged.
Regular readers know that I believe we’re already in a domestic conflict because today’s conditions exhibit most of the hallmarks of low intensity conflict. (Background: here and here) So, from my perspective, it stands to reason that we start thinking about the strategic and support infrastructure, for lack of a better term, to win the domestic conflict, even if it gets no more violent than what we’re already seeing.
Yesterday, four major tech companies de-platformed InfoWars within 12 hours, which is exemplary of the Left’s political warfare. (Background: here) Alex Jones and InfoWars undoubtedly played a role in the Trump revolt against the establishment, and Jones’s circulation is now gone from four major platforms conveniently three months ahead of the 2018 mid-terms. The flak is the thickest, as they say, when you’re over the target, and this was nothing short of a maneuver in political or information warfare.
But beyond just political maneuvering, it’s further indication of institutionalized action against the Right. This wasn’t a violation of terms of service; institutions — pillars, to varying degrees, of American culture: Facebook, Apple, Google, and Spotify — deliberately negated mainstream consumption of one of Trump’s and the Republicans’ culture warriors going into the mid-terms and, two years beyond that, the 2020 general election. That’s the correct lens through which to view what happened yesterday. Alex Jones is much more than conspiracy theories (several of which have proved to be true, by the way); Jones is and has always been a globalist watchdog. (Full disclosure: I was at dinner with Alex Jones several weeks ago. What he ‘portrays’ on the Alex Jones Show is how he is in real life — i.e., never a dull moment. After being introduced, he said that he’d heard of Forward Observer before. For the record, I’m an Alex Jones fan and while I don’t agree with everything he’s ever said, he’s right on target on a good many issues.)
And I want to point out that, until this point, the Right’s purchases of more guns and ammunition has done relatively little thus far in the culture war. Helicopter Twitter and the assorted flavors of Second Amendment groups have the rhetoric, but from my vantage point, the rhetoric has not communicated a credible threat of force; hence why purchasing guns and ammunition has had no effect in deterring the Left’s political, information, and economic war against the Right. In fact, it’s probably only accelerated it because, if Leftist Twitter is any indication, they know they’re relatively unarmed as compared to the Right. (And some eyes are rolling, but I generally view Twitter as a space where people say what they really think and feel, at least in the moment. Some of what’s said is particularly heinous. I was at first tempted to think these people use Twitter as a cathartic release — that they don’t mean what they tweet — but if their alleged desire to kill, maim, and otherwise ruin the lives of conservatives were able to be justified or rationalized, or became politically-protected activities, e.g., South Africa, then I have no reasonable doubt that some of them wouldn’t follow through.)
And here underscores another reason why Right wing elements arming themselves should re-consider some soft skills: just look at Iraq and Afghanistan. At one point in time, the kill ratio of Taliban fighters to U.S. soldiers was something like 30:1. It may even be higher. Yet we’re no closer to ‘winning’ in Afghanistan than we were during my first deployment there in 2006. Why? Because warfighters employing hard skills have a steep learning curve when it comes to employing soft skills: intelligence, information operations and propaganda (inform and influence), diplomacy, economic and political warfare, etc.
Right now, what does ‘political warfare’ look like on the Right? There’s grassroots, but everyone does grassroots. There are political action committees, but everyone does them, too. Think of this as the difference between regular, in-the-trenches political fighters and the unconventional, special operations forces employed around the world.
Who are the ‘special operators’ engaged in political warfare against the Left outside the trenches?
The most unconventional political warfare on the Right is probably employed by 4-Channers, who memed Donald Trump into reality, or James O’Keefe and Project Veritas whose ‘stings’ have cast considerable embarrassment on Leftist organizations. (O’Keefe got Obama’s ACORN defunded by Congress, for example.) There are some subversive street artists, like Sabo who targets the Left through high profile, satirical art projects. There are investigative and independent journalists who do a good job of shedding light on what mainstream outlets refuse to cover. If I ran a National Political Warfare Center, the first thing I’d do is work on creating more activists doing the work of O’Keefe and Sabo, but specifically targeting regional and local politics. (So many want to build a national platform or target national-level politics, but they’d make the greatest impact locally and regionally.) How many local elections could be swayed by the publicity garnered by an act of guerrilla street art targeting a candidate’s position on gun rights? Or a billboard or a flyer campaign exploiting a Leftist’s candidates comments on socialism?
The Right certainly needs more of these sorts of people and organizations across the country, but the effects only go so far. Getting a candidate elected or destroying a candidacy is one thing, but creating economic dislocation is a higher order of effect. The Left exploits outrage culture very well. A former Mozilla CEO was forced to resign over a private donation to a political cause. His private politics apparently couldn’t be separated from his professional career.
Another question: while the Left is very good at causing economic dislocation against conservative targets, what companies are firing their communist employees? Why aren’t communists, who killed exponentially more human beings in the 20th century than did fascists, also targeted for economic dislocation? (Maybe it’s because very few on the Right are serious about developing the political and economic warfare employed by the Left.) Meanwhile, many financial institutions have cut off their services to gun companies, right wing commentators and online celebrities have been de-platformed from crowdsourcing websites, and other conservative accounts on YouTube have been de-monetized or banned altogether. Beyond the occasional boycott of questionable effect, the Right isn’t making much use of its tools to create economic dislocation for the Left.
And there’s another flavor of political warfare that the Right doesn’t have in nearly enough quantities: activist CEOs and corporate zealots.
Google, Spotify, Apple, and Facebook are led by Leftist executives. How do we know? Their institutions’ political activities. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz said he didn’t want the business of conservatives. Camping World’s Marcus Lemonis (“don’t shop at my business”), Goldman Sach’s Lloyd Blankfein, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Apple’s Tim Cook, and a host of other activist CEOs have politicized their corporations, prioritized their personal politics over that of their corporations’ commercial interests, or otherwise used their commercial interests to push a Leftist agenda.
Would corporate right wing activism be financial suicide? Chick-fil-a is still around, although they ceded that political debates are best left up to the public and government (their profits rose by 12 percent following the boycott). The Right still has (ostensibly) Koch Industries, Walmart, and Sands casino mogul Sheldon Adelson; but corporate activism is heaviest on the Left. Encouraging politics over the interests of share holders is not a palatable consideration for most on the Right maybe because prioritizing politics above money is not (yet) part of the conservative culture.
More than anything, I want to bring this discussion back to the most critical element: that of local and state/regional politics. If you want to make an outsized impact, turn off the Fox News content and start creating some Fox News content. If you’re concerned about Leftist activism and the future they’re creating (or, alternatively, the future they’re stealing from you), start some political, economic, and information activism of your own. You don’t need permission to target local politics, and election season is coming up. (Be sure to check out Sabo’s work at Unsavory Agents.)
There may be those who caution against these ideas. After all, does the Right really want more politics in what should be non-political arenas? My response is two more questions: do you believe that the Left is going to peel back activism in corporate spaces? Or do you believe that the Left will continue to weaponize information and commerce for political gain? Because the answer is certainly trending towards the latter.
Always Out Front,
PS. If you’re concerned about where we’re headed as a country, whether on the near-end of the spectrum or the far end of the spectrum (social, political and economic instability; domestic conflict; or collapse of empire), and want to stay informed on what the headlines don’t cover, then I invite you to try us out. Our special operations and intelligence veterans track the day-to-day risk of global and domestic conflict. If you’re not happy within the first two weeks, I’ll refund your monthly or annual subscription cost – no questions asked. You can get access to our intelligence reporting and training area here.