Noopolitik and American Strategy

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* Report: The Emergence of Noopolitik. Toward An American Information Strategy. by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt. Rand Corporation,



"Strategy, at its best, knits together ends and means, no matter how various and disparate, into a cohesive pattern. In the case of a U.S. information strategy, this requires balancing the need to guard and secure access to many informational capabilities and resources, with the opportunity to achieve national aims by fostering as much openness as practicable. The authors' term to represent such strategic balancing is __guarded openness__. They go on to describe  __noopolitik__ (nu-oh-poh-li-teek) — an emerging form of statecraft that emphasizes the importance of sharing ideas and values globally, principally through the exercise of persuasive soft power rather than traditional military hard power. This study discusses the opportunities that may be raised by the emergence of noopolitik—ranging from construction of a noosphere (a globe-spanning realm of the mind) to recommendations that, for example, the U.S. military should begin to develop its own noosphere (among and between the services, as well as with U.S. allies). In the area of international cooperation, the authors offer strategic approaches for improving the capacity of state and nonstate actors to work together to address transnational problems. In addition, the authors recommend specific doctrinal developments, implied by the emergence of information strategy—including the pressing need to deal with such ethical concerns as the first use of information weapons, concepts of proportional response, and the need to maintain the immunity of noncombatants. Ultimately, the authors call for an innovative turn of mind as policymakers and strategists rethink how best to adapt to the epochal transformations being wrought by the information revolution."


Reading Notes from Michel Bauwens, 2005:

Chapter 1: Whither Information Strategy

Infostrategies appear as a new dimension which also affects previous forms of power, i.e. military, political, and economic. Two aspects should be distinguished, i.e. cyberspace security based on computer code, but also the soft informational power based on persuasion through networks, i.e. technology but also content.

Most emphasis is given to the first pole of technology, most often in the context of worst-case scenarios, and usually, the 2 dimensions are kept separate. Against this, the authors will advice a noopolitik, a politics based on ethics and ideas, based on 'guarded openness', i.e. full support for the noosphere while maintaining defensive capabilities.

Chapter 2

Arquila and Ronfeldt start chapter 2 by reviwing the related definitions of cyberspace, infosphere, and noosphere. Cyberspace centers around computerized networks, mainly the internet; Infosphere expands it to all media; Noosphere encompasses the entire cultural life of mankind, interconneted and separate from the geosphere and biosphere.

A/R prefer to speak of the noosphere as the core concept, recognizing that is has technical (infrastructure), organizational, and ideational layers. Vis a vis information processing, they stress the equally important process of information structuring.

Rather than focusing on input-output, it allows focusing on goals, values, and practices; and to investigates how it matters for identity, meaning and purpose.

Chapter 3: The emergence of noopolitik

The two great trends after 1989: multipolarity and globalization, this puts strain on both the 'realists' and 'liberal internationalism'. How is the info-revolution influencing/impacting both these paradigms ? A/R argue that a third paradigm is needed, which is effectively emerging, which takes soft power seriously. That paradigm is 'noopolitik'.

Realpolitik is centered on state-centered calculations of raw power. It was the paradigm of modernity, much as the striving for a universal empire was the medieval paradigm. But it is not appropriate in the context of weakening nation-states.

Modernity was state centric, focused on hard power, and with low regard for ethics; Post-modernity is much more about global non-state actors, needs soft power where ethics matter because of the high transparency.

Liberal internationalism recognizes global interdependency, but its weakness is that it only stresses economic ties; Thus, though perhaps better than realpolitik in recognizing changes, it must be enfolded in noopolitik.

Five trends favour noopolitik:

   - 1) growing global interconnection
   - 2) the growing strength of civil society
   - 3) the rise of soft power
   - 4) the importance of 'cooperative advantages'
   - 5) the formation of the global noosphere

Chapter 4: International cooperation and conflict

- No notes available

Chapter 5: Moving Ahead

Trade openness depended on a benign hegemon who provided public goods, such as security of navigation by the British Empire. Similarly, noopolitik may need a 'hegemonic stability theory'.