Social Media at War

Not really a large collection of new thoughts, but certainly some interesting reminders (and a few new perspectives). The CCW seminar by went through some of the obvious facts about the growth of Social Media and trends in its use by security forces and in a military context. Quite a few of the people attending were a little skeptical of whether social media would really change the way wars were fought on the ground.

The Bin-Laden raid live tweeted (from turnstyle)

I can’t say I know much in that respect, but one fo the more salient ideas was the ability for competing narratives and messages from both sides of the conflict to engage on a more immediate basis to seek to influence the conversation. I have doubts over whether this has an impact more broadly speaking, but in terms of shoring up existing supporters I can certainly see how it might work. Of course, the powerful thing about social media is the ability to instantly and continuously tailor the message depending on the feedback and sentiment that are gauged over the social network.

There was some discussion in the presentation about the psychological aspect of social media, and how social media engaged with the more emotive and spontaneous side of our minds than, say, the cognitive side of things. I would hope that doesn’t mean my ability to be rational is diminished, but I guess the point was more that social media could better influence and connect on an emotional level whereas traditional filtered media was more cognitive.

For me, perhaps the biggest point to take away was social media’s capacity to build groups and coalitions that are limited to intersections over unions. So while old forms of coalitions and groups had greater inertia, perhaps from how they are constructed, and thus are better conditioned to creating a union of interests amongst people, social media allows people to move around with greater flexibility, leading to the creation of coalitions or movements that can at times be stronger, but are also more likely to b based on the intersection of interests rather than a union of them. Which is better? I’m not sure.

5th February 2013

Libyian Hostilities?

I’m no constitutional lawyer, not even a lawyer at all, but it seems quite clear that the involvement of the US in ‘supporting’ NATO’s military action in Libya qualifies as ‘hostilities’. Short of news articles explaining Obama’s decisions and his legal argument to justify the US’s involvement as not being hostilities, I have failed to see a single commentary that suggests otherwise.

I can understand why it may be politically expedient for Obama to classify the involvement as not being hostilities, thereby removing the need to get approval from Congress. It certainly makes life a lot easier for Obama and removes any fear that the US will not be able to fulfill it’s commitment and be forced to stop it’s involvement.

That said, I think Obama ought nevertheless to go through the normal procedures with Congress. Certainly, there are dissenting voices in both the House and Senate that oppose the war, but I don’t see any real likelihood that he would loose the vote or funding. As it stands, Congress and the media seem more riled up about Congress being circumnavigated than by the US’s involvement in the conflict itself. So it seems unlikely that Congress would vote to significantly defund the operation. At the same time, it removes a purely (so far) political issue that makes Obama look more and more like Bush and less and less like the candidate he once was.

Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale, takes on the legal aspect of the issue quite nicely in his Op-ed for the New York Times. I think it’s worth the read: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/21/opinion/21Ackerman.html