Conventional military dominance is still critical to the superpower status of the United States. But even in a military sense, it is no longer enough: if an American election can be controlled by an adversarial power, then stealth aircraft and special forces are not the answer. With lawmakers poised to authorize $160 million to counter Russian “fake news” and disinformation, and the CIA and the Congress examining meddling in the U.S. election and democracies around the world, it's time to see weaponized narrative for what it is: a deep threat to national security.
Weaponized narrative seeks to undermine an opponent's civilization, identity, and will by generating complexity, confusion, and political and social schisms. It can be used tactically, as part of explicit military or geopolitical conflict; or strategically, as a way to reduce, neutralize, and defeat a civilization, state, or organization. Done well, it limits or even eliminates the need for armed force to achieve political and military aims.
The efforts to muscle into the affairs of the American presidency, Brexit, the Ukraine, the Baltics, and NATO reflect a shift to a “post-factual” political and cultural environment that is vulnerable to weaponized narrative.