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An Ever-Expanding War: Legal Aspects of Online Strategic Communication

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Journal article

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Senior US leadership is redefining the war on terrorism as a global counterinsurgency effort, one that requires smart power collaboration by agencies. Although the requirement for interagency cooperation is a near-truism of US national security policy, finding the appropriate role for the Department of Defense DOD remains a challenge. This article examines one aspect of activities that potentially overlap with other government departments, DODs growing involvement in the battle of ideas. Consternation exists in the foreign policy community regarding DODs expansion into missions traditionally performed by civilians. A critical example of this growth involves DODs efforts to use the Internet to craft a positive perception abroad, while attacking the ideological underpinnings of terrorism. Mid2007, DOD issued policies authorizing commanders to engage foreign audiences via online interactive methods. The guidance was in response to complaints from the Combatant Commanders that a terrorist could post videos of extremist propaganda, unhindered, while US commanders had to navigate legal hurdles to get psychological operations PSYOP approved. A key issue is DODs communication activities are increasingly separated from a kinetic mission are directed at broad, cross-regional audiences and appear more like a public diplomacy campaign than a military program. DODs expansion into the field of interactive communication is troubling on two counts. First, once the DOD no longer labels its communication measures as PSYOP, it potentially subverts its own statutory authorities to conduct such programs. Second, DOD may be encroaching upon the Department of States mission to engage foreign audiences. DODs mission is one of influence the State Departments is relationship-building and dialogue. The amalgamation of these tasks potentially undermines the State Departments efforts it forces one to ask exactly where does DODs mission end.

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  • Information Science
  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Unconventional Warfare

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