Wars are fought by people. The best weaponry is rendered useless if nobody is willing to use it. Only 15% of soldiers ever fire directly at the enemy, explaining why the U.S. military expends 300,000 rounds of ammunition per insurgent killed. Humans are programmed to avoid killing fellow humans, which is why propaganda always seeks to dehumanise the enemy, so that soldiers are more willing to override their natural altruism. Regularly these attempts to override humanity fail, as we can see from the many stories of spontaneous outbreaks of friendship in the middle of war, such as German and British soldiers declaring an unapproved truce to share Christmas dinner in World War I. As well as motivating their own men to fight, military strategists use shock and awe tactics attempt to demoralize the enemy. As Sun Tzu said: "Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm”. We see this phenomenon in the animal kingdom with Aposematism: the use of coloration and other features to signal the animal isn’t worth attacking nor eating. If the signal is perceived as honest, the animal avoids costly attacks: an evolutionary advantage.
Wars are mostly decided by the will to fight. The Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars show that even the mighty U.S. military isn't willing to win at any cost. There’s a limit to what the troops, the leadership, and the general population will stomach. In every shock defeat we know of there’s the same common mistake: a misreading of the other side’s will to fight. The human aspect of war tends to get ignored, as it’s not easy to measure or model. Most military simulations assume the existence of super soldiers – that never flee battle, disobey orders, or purposefully miss the enemy – however RAND found when adding will to fight into their models, the odds of combat victory changed by at least 10%, and by as much as 1,100%. After each major conflict, military doctrine gets swiftly adapted to reflect the importance of ‘will to fight’, only for those painful lessons to fade as veterans retire and regulations and manuals get updated.
The old lesson being learned again from today’s ‘war on terror’ is the power of memes to affect the will to fight, except this time the battle ground is social media. “[Our enemy] has said that 50 percent of the current struggle is taking place in the arena of public information. That may be an understatement.” claims Rumsfeld, ex-Secretary of Defence. Jihadist terrorists have been winning the ‘war of ideas’ with memes, radicalising new recruits by posting on social accounts. The military began researching Memetics in 2001, though early campaigns were abject failures. Meme wars by their nature favor insurgencies because they weaken monopolies on narrative, empowering challenges to authority. Yet the U.S.A. won’t always be Goliath: where direct military intervention is off the table – for example where conventional warfare would risk nuclear annihilation – even vast advantages in conventional warfare are neutralised. Expect memetic warfare capability to catch up quickly.
6 Inspiring Tales of Friendship in the Middle of Brutal Wars
Academic journal "Defence Strategic Communications" Vol1
If You Miss the First Time, Try Firing Another 300,000 Rounds
Is America Prepared for Meme Warfare?
Killer Instinct; How Many Soldiers Actually Fired Their Weapons in Past Wars & How Has Simulation & Other Training Helped?
Presentation Military Memetics Tutorial 13 Dec 11.pdf
Shock and awe
Will to Fight