Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Translation - What Is Soft War, and Ways of Confronting It

Title: What Is Soft War, and Ways of Confronting It 
Date: NA
Source: The Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran Webpage (AJA)

By 1945, the prevailing form of war was 'hard war'. After that, due to the world's bipolarity between the East and West blocs, a new cycle of competition began, which was known as the 'Cold War'. The Cold War was a combination of hard and soft war, in which those two super-powers avoided a direct confrontation.

With the end of the USSR and the Cold War in 1991, warfare-experts in US [built on their] experience in two world wars and realized that their political and economic goals could be achieved with a smaller cost and without direct involvement in other countries, which became known in the political literature as Soft War.

Soft War:
This type of war began and continued through the [Cold War with the] USSR and is based on soft-threats, cultural and social soft-power. America has already been successful in changing several political regimes in the world through the use of this type of war. The Color Revolutions in several East-Bloc countries are an example of soft war. America, through the use of soft-power, was successful in changing the political regimes in the countries of Poland, Georgia, the Czech Republic, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Tajikistan. In all of these political transformations, the dominant political-regimes were de-legitimized without the use of violence and solely through soft-power, media tools, and by changing the country's values.

Soft war, in its different forms like the Velvet Revolution, the Color Revolutions (the Orange Revolution), psychological operations, media-warfare & tools (radio, TV, newspaper and so on), was able to change the political system in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia.

Defining Soft War:
The soft-war concept is the opposite of hard-war and does not have a single definition that is widely accepted.

John Collins, a theoretician at the National War College in America, considers soft-war: “the use of propaganda and related tools for the penetration/influence of an enemy's thought by appealing to ways that enhance national-security”.

The US Army defines it as: ...the precise use and design of propaganda and other actions for the primary purpose of influencing opinions, emotions, and behavior of an enemy, neutral , or friendly group in a way that is supportive of national objectives. The most famous definition is attributed to Joseph Nye, a prominent American researcher in the field of 'soft-power'. In 1990 he defined soft power in Foreign Policy Magazine as “the ability to shape the preferences of others”. The definition before that, [attributed] to Professor Hamid Mowlani in his 1986 book “Global Communications and Information; new frontiers in international relations”. However,the most important book in the soft-war field was released by Joseph Nye in 2004, under the title of “Soft Power; the means to success in world politics”.

Therefore, soft war can [be] any kind of social or media campaign in which the targeted population becomes passive and defeated without the use of force or coercion.

For many, soft-war is synonymous with military and political science. In military science, terms like 'psychological-war' or 'psychological-operations' are used, and in political science words like 'soft overthrow', 'soft threat', 'velvet revolution' and, more recently, 'color revolution' are used. In all of this terminology, the common goal is to impose the will of the group on the other group without the use of military means.

In the most complete definition, one can say that soft-war is a subversive and complex action composed of political, cultural, and information operations by the world's great powers for the creation of desired changes in the target countries.

Reasons for Soft War:
The famous article by Joseph Nye ... gave a new perspective in which the US, rather than use hard-power to launch a military coup-d-etat, focuses their efforts on changing the target countries by influencing their society.

Therefore, America could have, instead of investing billions of dollars in Star Wars, capitalized on Soviet society with a different way of thinking. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Joseph Nye published another article in 2004 for Foreign Policy under the title “The Use of Soft Power” that complements his previous [article] and is tailored to [the post-Soviet and post-9/11 world].

In the article, Joseph Nye proposed a perspective concerning [the use of] public diplomacy and the application of soft power to create changes in a target society. Later, his views became more complete and [included] instructions for the application of soft-power in American foreign policy. According to this theory, America uses public diplomacy and 'smart power' to help penetrate a target society. This perspective, which was prepared by American intelligence-experts such as Dr. Gene Sharp, became known as the 'soft revolution' concept in the mass media

Soft War, as one of the factors undermining national strength, resolve, ideals and polices of the political-system, could be the prelude to the collapse of the national political-security and structure. Joseph Nye considers soft power as an indirect way to achieve desired results without tangible threats or rewards. ... On this basis, a country can achieve their desired objectives in global politics because other countries will accept the [their] advanced ideals and are therefore willing to follow them. In this concept, leadership that others will follow is considered important. Therfore, soft war is the ability to obtain that which one wants through attraction, not through coercion or rewards (which shows the major difference between [it] and hard war)

Differences Between Soft and Hard War:

Differences between Hard and Soft War:

1) Soft threats are in the field of society, culture, and politics, whereas hard threats are in the security and military field.

2) Soft threats are complex and a product of elite-thinking, and are therefor difficult to measure, whereas hard threats are concrete, real, and tangible, and can be measured to some degree.

3) Hard threats are applied through the use of force and coercion, whereas soft threats are [applied] through the use of persuasion. [The objective of hard threats] is the occupation of land, whereas in soft threats, the objective is to influence elections and behavior, and to strip away cultural identity.

4) The concept of security in soft approaches includes value-security, identity-security, and community-security, whereas in hard approaches ... [unclear]

5) Hard threats are tangible and [therefore] provokes a response, whereas soft threats – due to their non-concrete nature – often lacks a response.

6) In the domain of hard threats, the main authority is the government, whereas in soft threats the environments are intra-national and trans-national.

7) The use of hard threats in the new security-environment is largely synonymous with the collapse of an opponent's political-security system, whereas the use of soft threats [are used] against an opponent's political system, or are synonymous with building cultures & institutions within the liberal-democratic context.

Soft war, like hard war, has various objectives, and, presumably, the ultimate objective of each is the complete change of the political-system of a country, which, of course, is accomplished through narrower objectives. In fact, soft-war and hard-war follow a common objective, which ... is to either apply pressure to change the behavior and identity of the system, or to change the system itself

Objectives of Soft War:

1) Cultural transformation, in order to have a severe effect on public opinion, targets and and controls [the population] through the means of news and information, which the 'hegemonic system' [aka the U.S] has always used for their purposes.

2) Political transformation, in order to show the ineffectiveness of the system, targets, destroys and slanders the pillars of the system.

3) Creation of fear around issues like poverty, war, or an oppressive foreign power, and then spreading rumors to create an atmosphere of mistrust and insecurity.

4) Divisions among the people and discord between the country's military and political leadership in order to [produce] the political disintegration of the country.

5) Promoting of a spirit of hopelessness rather than societal and emotional joy from the country's advances.

6) Youth indifferent to the country's important issues

7) Reducing the morale and efficiency among the military, and the creation of differences between different branches of military and security-[forces]

8) Creating differences in the country's [C2] systems

9) Black propaganda (with the objective of overthrow and chaos) through the use of rumors, spread of pornography, spread of night-letters [i.e. clandestine threats], etc

10) Strengthening religious, ethnic, political and social discontent with their government so that the country will disintegrate during these critical situations of discontent.

11) Efforts to portary the country's situation through incorrect and exagerated news and analysis.

Soft war requires tools and capabilities that … [unclear]

Tools of Soft War:

Soft War is undertaken with soft power. Therefore, all of the tools of soft power must be considered as tools of soft war. All of the tools that are transmitted have a specific objective. In the age of communication, we have a variety of tools for transmitting messages from one point to another. The tools [that are a part of] soft war include media, [such as] radio, TV, the press, areas of the arts including movies, theater, painting, graphics and music, a variety of NGOs and human-networks, are all among the tools of soft war.

Given that different tools are used in soft war, it can also be said that different groups are targeted.

What individuals and organizations are the target of soft war?

All of society can [play] a certain part in the launch of soft war. The social-classes desired by the soft-war-sponsors depends on their objective … [unclear] … but generally one can say that the groups targeted in soft war [include] the leadership, elites, and the popular-masses. Elites form the middle-forces and they can be considered the government decision-makers. Mentally confused intellectual-elites, like party-leaders etc, can transfer their fear to the population, terrorizing and breaking the national spirit.

In some cases, to achieve their goals, specific people and groups are targeted and used to achieve their [i.e the soft war sponsor's] objectives, like with the use of ethnicity, or elite-culture. Since soft war uses media, cultural, and academic tools, coverage of different groups [is generally emphasized].

Soft War Tactics:

[to be continued]


  1. Good read.

    One can put forward the argument that Germany employed soft power in its highly successful incorporation of Austria into the Reich in 1938. Many more pre-'39 examples can be cited, as well.

    1. Salam, nice one can research and go to the point of it.