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Geopolitics, DIME, and Information Power

Glen Edwards, January 2024

Information is an abstract concept that refers to that which has the power to inform. At the most fundamental level, information pertains to the interpretation of that which may be sensed, or their abstractions. Any natural process that is not completely random and any observable pattern in any medium can be said to convey some amount of information. Whereas digital signals and other data use discrete signs to convey information, other phenomena and artifacts such as analogue signals, poems, pictures, music or other sounds, and currents convey information in a more continuous form. (Wikipedia)

Introduction: the complexity of information

Information is a complex topic that is often oversimplified in ways that diminish its true function and value across many aspects of the world we live in. Information is a multifaceted concept that underpins and shapes our physical and intellectual landscape. As the linchpin of cognitive and digital pursuits, information transcends its conventional definitions, extending beyond the contextualisation of data to be a fundamental aspect of the universe influencing both our understanding of our existence and the trajectory of societal progress.

At its core, information operates as the indispensable currency of understanding, underpinning interactions, enabling predictions, driving innovations, and filling the collective narratives of societies. This conceptualisation goes beyond the traditional realms, acknowledging that information permeates various aspects of our existence, from the interaction of two subatomic particles to the sum of human knowledge. Information is woven into the fabric of our daily lives, from the subtleties of artistic expression to the dynamics of communication and the intricacies of natural phenomena (like electromagnetism).

Yet, in the ever-evolving landscape of the digital epoch, information takes on new dimensions. It underpins the nature of the cyber world, where analogue and digital domains converge in a seamless dance of information processing and transmission. In this cybernetic reality, our interactions, transactions, and even the minutiae of daily existence are entwined with the spiderweb of global information technology.

Embarking on this journey of exploration, the Information Power Institute of Australia navigates this complex terrain where the analogue and digital coalesce, recognizing the symbiotic relationship that characterizes our modern existence, and highlighting the benefits and risks presented to modern information ecosystems.

People and politics

To understand how information presents both societal benefits and risks, one must understand the dynamics of people and politics. In our daily lives, we all want things, and we aim to achieve certain goals. However, the challenge arises when our ambitions meet the reality of limited resources—humans tend to always want and do more.

When two or more individuals come together, a mix of desires and intentions surfaces. Each person has their own goals, and while collaboration can expand our potential resources, the fact remains that resources are still limited, and desires remain unlimited.

Enter politics—the way people try to influence others to align with their goals. This can involve working together for common objectives or competing to have one's interests take precedence.

Politics is not a straightforward affair; it's the arena where people strategize, form alliances, and resolve conflicts to navigate the overlap of desires. It involves compromise, negotiation, and sometimes even coercion. Within a nation we see the domestic politics of democracies and authoritarian states—different constructs for how political power is (or is not) shared across a society. Between nations we enter the realm of international relations and geopolitics.

DIME provides a lens for understanding geopolitical power

This interplay between people and politics at both national and international levels is the foundation of the cooperative and competitive dimensions shaping the dynamics of societal interaction. Enter the DIME framework—Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic—a framework for understanding how states employ power on the global stage as part of delivering upon their intent and desires.

Diplomacy: Cooperation in Action

Diplomacy serves as the cooperative avenue where states engage in sharing, persuading, and collaborating to align their intents and desires. In this realm, the power lies not in force, but in the ability to negotiate and build alignments, fostering an environment where common objectives can be pursued for mutual benefit.

Military: The Forceful Edge

Contrastingly, the military lever represents the forceful option in statecraft. Here, states use deterrence, threats, and coercion to protect their interests and influence the behaviour of others. It's the realm where military capabilities become instrumental in shaping the geopolitical landscape through military effects.

Economic: Creating Value

Economic power represents the value creation dimension. States utilize their resources to generate value and output, both for their own advancement and as a means of influencing others. Economic strength is not merely about domestic prosperity; it becomes a lever that can be wielded diplomatically or as a foundation for military mobilization. As states engage in economic activities such as trade and export, they intertwine their interests with the global economic fabric, supporting and being supported by the value creation of other nations.

Information: understanding and influence

The fourth pillar — Information —relates to the acquisition and utilization of information shape the dynamics of state power at both societal and governmental levels. It permeates the other three pillars and creates concepts like diplomatic influence, information warfare, and economic innovation and finance.

Information Power: a force beyond borders

In the realm of modern international relations, information power emerges as a formidable lever, transcending physical boundaries and reshaping the dynamics of statecraft. Information power is particularly able to operate in the intangible, the realm of data, knowledge, narratives, and influence.

At its core, information power is the strategic ability of a state to acquire, control, and leverage information to advance its interests. It involves not only creating and possessing information but also skilfully employing it to drive innovation, shape perceptions, build narratives, and influence and outmanoeuvre other states and non-state actors.

Information power encompasses a diverse set of tools, ranging from intelligence gathering and cyber capabilities to the subtle art of public diplomacy and media influence. In the 21st century, states adept in information power must navigate the digital landscape, utilizing technology to collect, use, protect, and disseminate information strategically.

Crucially, information power can be used to shape narratives and influence perceptions. States with a strong information power arsenal can mould how events are interpreted on the global stage, influencing public opinion, policymakers, and international organizations.

In the contemporary digital age, information power has gained unprecedented significance. The rapid dissemination of information through social media, the internet, and other digital systems provides states with new avenues to collect data and intelligence, conduct cyber campaigns, and engage in strategic messaging.

States wielding information power can achieve diplomatic goals, enhance military capabilities, and strengthen economic positions. It is a force multiplier that operates synergistically with the other elements of the DIME framework, reinforcing a state's overall strategic posture.

In the intricate tapestry of statecraft, information power emerges as a dynamic force that requires agility, technological prowess, and a nuanced understanding human cognition and psychology. As we navigate the complexities of international relations, understanding the role and implications of information power becomes integral to comprehending the modern dynamics of statecraft.

Information Warfare

At the nexus of information power and military operations Information Warfare has emerged as a critical domain, reshaping the nature of conflict and redefining the strategies nations employ to secure their interests. This multifaceted arena encompasses the protection of military communication systems, intelligence and decision support activities, and the strategic use of information for tactical, operational, and strategic effects.

At the bedrock of Information Warfare lies the imperative to safeguard the military's Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems. These systems, vital for orchestrating military operations, are susceptible to information threats, making information security and assurance a paramount concern. Protection against unauthorised access, data breaches, and disruption of communication networks becomes central to maintaining operational integrity. A military cannot hope to leverage information and generate information effects if it does not have a functional, secure, and trusted information ecosystem.

Intelligence and situational understanding stand as a cornerstones of information advantage, involving the systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of information to ensure military decision-making outperforms that of adversaries. In the digital era, this extends beyond traditional reconnaissance and espionage to encompass electromagnetic and cyber activities, where militaries seek to gain insights into the dispositions, capabilities, intentions, and vulnerabilities of potential adversaries.

Information Warfare then extends beyond defensive measures and decision superiority; it involves the strategic use of information to achieve military objectives. This includes (but is not limited to) influencing perceptions, military deception, cyberattacks, electronic warfare, and conducting psychological operations. The ability to affect information systems, influence adversary decision making, and shape the narrative across all military domains becomes a potent tool in achieving military objectives.

As military operations—and society as a whole—become increasingly digitized, the virtual and electronic layer of the information environment becomes a contested space where Information Warfare unfolds. States invest in offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt enemy systems and leverage defensive measures to protect their own. Propaganda and disinformation make a return as states use our digital platforms and ecosystems to try and influence and divide societies. The blurred lines between traditional warfare and grey zone (harmful actions below the threshold of war) operations underscore the need for a comprehensive understanding of Information Warfare as an integral component of contemporary military and geopolitical strategy.

Crucially, Information Warfare is not compartmentalized; it intersects with diplomatic, economic, and military dimensions, reinforcing the interconnected nature of state power. It becomes imperative for states seeking to maintain a strategic advantage to understand information in an era where it is a precious resource, weapon, and a vulnerability.
The Information Power Institute of Australia seeks to navigate the complexities of modern conflict and geopolitics, helping Australia to understand and effectively leverage Information Power and Information Warfare. 

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