Battling Wikileaks And The Art Of War
from the tactics-101 dept
"The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors...These are The Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, The Commander, and the Method and discipline."According to Sun Tzu, these five factors are everything in battle. He goes on to describe what he means by each of these.
The Moral Law is the ability for a ruler or government to have the backing of its people in its actions. While certainly not definitive, polls such as this one by the New York Daily News, or this one by the CBC, or this one by Reuters all seem to suggest that, at best, our nation and the world are somewhat split on supporting Wikileaks and, in most cases, there is a definite leaning to supporting them. This would suggest that the US government does not have the advantage of Sun Tzu's first factor.
The second factor probably applies less in this particular case. The factor of Heaven deals with things like night and day, temperature, times, and seasons. However, one might note that the chief advantages of this factor are discussed later by Sun Tzu, particularly in advantages of secrecy and obfuscation, utilizing the cover of darkness or the glare of light. Relating this to a digital analogy, one notices that Wikileaks specifically operates based on a culture of openness, rather than secrecy. They utilize the "light" of factual information and have undone our government's attempts at secrecy and obfuscation. If anyone can be declared to have an advantage in Sun Tzu's second factor, it has to be Wikileaks.
For the Earth factor, we must take into account distances, danger and security, open ground and narrow passes, and terrain considerations. This is where the government begins to really have trouble. As has been covered previously, our leaders seem to be having trouble understanding how the digital world works. In this case, distances are mostly meaningless. The only terrain is the internet and it seems that, given how much trouble our government has had in achieving their goal of cutting off Wikileaks, Assange and his crew seem far more at home here. For all the saber-rattling, you can still get to the site. For all their firepower and supposed security, Wikileaks is operational and has received what has been deemed the largest leak of classified data in history. Clearly, Wikileaks has the advantage here.
The Commander factor considers a leader's wisdom, aptitude, sincerity, courage, and ability to inspire. Assange, whether you love him or hate him (and I'm taking no opinion in this post), is clearly someone standing up for what he believes in and acting with sincerity, courage and aptitude thus far. While some US leaders have had some sanity about Wikileaks, we've also seen several examples in which it appears our leadership doesn't really know what they're doing in this particular case. How can we listen to people in power, who supposedly should understand this stuff, do things like demand the "return" of the cables and ask toinvestigate the NY Times for publishing widely distributed information and believe that we hold any advantage in the Commander factor?
The final factor, Method and Discipline, concerns the proper prosecution of the "war". In this case, the methods and tactics of our government have been so ineffectual as to be laughable. They're trying to cut off access: failed. They're trying to stifle the flow of information: failed. They're trying to twist the law to charge him: failed. Why can't they make headway? Because they're fighting a digital battle with physical-world tactics. And, harkening back to the Moral Law factor, you'll notice that the allies springing to Wikileaks' defense are also far more at home on the internet battleground than many in our government appear to be.
The problem is that Wikileaks is inevitable. A smart adversary would recognize that and do as Sun Tzu concludes in his first chapter:
"One should modify one's plans...If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is of choleric temper, irritate him. Pretend to be weak, so that he may grow arrogant...Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected."It reminds me of the advice Mike has previously suggested to media companies suffering pre-release leaks of their works. All this saber-rattling is doing is clowning America around the world, including our businesses. What if the government had instead come out, acknowledged what they'd done that was wrong, suggested that some of the things seen in the cables could be understood better in context, and just buried the whole thing? Why are they tactically playing directly into Assange's hands?