by rthieme on September 18, 2001

Islands in the Clickstream The mind of society – how it is shaped, how it is governed, how it is aimed – is both target and weapon in the new battlespace. As a consequence, spiritual warfare with all of its dimensions is fused more deeply than ever with the waging of war.I gave a speech last July for the Black Hat Briefings, the intelligence and corporate security forum sponsored by Def Con, the computer security/hacking convention, in which I said:

“The world is a theater and a chronic state of warfare is our current script. Some parts of society, however, know this more than others.”

Now we all know.

The September 11 attack was theater. The timing of the second hit to be visible to television cameras was impeccable. The terrorists counted on the networks to show those images again and again, reinforcing their impact in a way that turned the networks – filters for the mind of society – into implicit allies. They used the mind of society to aim terror at the mind of society.

The carnage was intended to be both real and symbolic. The Romans under Vespasian “slighted” Stonehenge, leaving it as a visible wound. The Nazis left French cathedrals damaged but standing. Stonehenge was a symbol of Druidic leadership, the cathedrals were symbols of French nationalism, and the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were symbols of America.

“The ideal war,” I said at Black Hat, “is one which no one realizes is being waged, which is mostly invisible, not because its actions are camouflaged, but because they look like something else.

“War need never be declared again,” I concluded, “because we are always at war.”

This is the war in which we are currently engaged.

“Martial arts teach us that anything can be a weapon,” said a friend with a long history as an intelligence analyst. “You see an ashtray, I see a blackjack. You see a natural gas pipeline, I see a weapon of mass destruction.”

The mind of society, he suggests, must learn to see itself from a different point of view. Just as the enemy studies our open society with its remarkable inclusiveness and generosity of spirit and uses its strengths as weaknesses, we must study the mind of the enemy and use asymmetric warfare right back at them.

“See them from their point of view,” he said. “Their humorless pride will destroy them. We need to deflate that false self.”

The manipulation of human perception is both preparation for war and the aim of war. Sun Tzu advised military leaders never to come to the battlefield unless the war had already been won in the mind of the enemy. Psychological operations, information attack, deception, and all the means of dissimulation available to attackers prior to military operations determine the outcome of battle.

In its largest sense, all war is cyberwar. Data, information, and belief are primary attack weapons.

At the Black Hat, I used “space war” as a metaphor for how war on the ground and in the air has been recontextualized by war in space which includes holographic image projection, cloaking devices, multispectral camouflage, and the creation of synthetic environments which the attacker believes to be real. Those are metaphors for how war is waged on earth as well.

Terrorism moves by stealth, pretending to be what it isn’t. Therefore learning to see the real patterns implicit in the movement of people, material, information and how they are linked by human motivation and intention are critical. But that is not the task of officialdom only. The task of every human being is to see clearly.

When society itself is the theater of battle, all citizens are engaged. Only clear seeing can precipitate right action. That’s why the battle for confidence, courage, and community is primary.

There are no guarantees, but this war has the potential so to redefine the global landscape which has gotten very blurred, what with its morphing borders and powerful trans-nationals, that a sense of identity and purpose beyond nationalism and borders can unite people committed to an open civil society.

I have been vocal in identifying ways we all collude with necessary evils to create a gray world. That world includes all sorts of behaviors that are less than ideal, but – and it is a huge but – none of them threaten the foundations of society itself. All of us participate in evil, in other words, but some are more evil than others. Down in the trenches of real life, it is all very murky, but nevertheless, certain kinds of evil are intolerable. The terrorists stepped over that line. If their way wins, society is no longer viable. It is the real difference between the United States with all its flaws and the world of the Taliban where women who commit adultery and homosexuals are murdered by the state.

Many people have written to tell me how our past actions contributed to the antagonisms of the present. Yes yes. We too are in a learning curve. But there is a time and a season for everything. The time will come for America to reflect on the consequences of its policies. But all of the historical and political analyses in the world do not explain away one essential fact: Evil in its purest manifestation is uncaused. It rejoices in chaos for its own sake and it must be challenged.

All of the good in humanity and all of the evil are going to show up. There are real rocks up ahead in the rapids, but as a friend once said, look at the rocks, you hit the rocks. Look at the water between the rocks, you go where the water goes.

Spiritual warfare transcends nationalities, religions, ideologies. It requires using all of our mental, emotional, and spiritual capabilities, all levels of awareness, all means of being conscious, to see the flow of the water so we can go where the water goes.

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