The Alliance faces a range of challenges in emerging domains of conflict. These domains can arise from the introduction of new and disruptive technologies. The domains of space and cyber, for example, came out of developments in rocket, satellite, computing, telecommunications, and internetworking technologies. The increasingly widespread use of social media, social networking, social messaging, and mobile device technologies is now enabling a new domain: cognitive warfare.
In cognitive warfare, the human mind becomes the battlefield. The aim is to change not only what people think, but how they think and act. Waged successfully, it shapes and influences individual and group beliefs and behaviours to favour an aggressor’s tactical or strategic objectives. In its extreme form, it has the potential to fracture and fragment an entire society, so that it no longer has the collective will to resist an adversary’s intentions. An opponent could conceivably subdue a society without resorting to outright force or coercion.
The aims of cognitive warfare can be limited, with short time horizons. Or they can be strategic, with campaigns launched over the course of decades. A single campaign could focus on the limited aim of preventing a military manoeuver from taking place as planned, or to force the alteration of a specific public policy. Several successive campaigns could be launched with the long-term objective of disrupting entire societies or alliances, by seeding doubts about governance, subverting democratic processes, triggering civil disturbances, or instigating separatist movements.