Thursday 01 June 2017
The Italian politician Niccolò Machiavelli wrote: “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” National leaders need to be warry of their competitors use of deception, but they should also remember that it is an influential tool in international affairs. While it is true that fog, friction and chance make international relations confusing; it is also true that practitioners of strategy can employ deception in numerous ways to aid in the accomplishment of their goals; the resulting complexity will confound others and give our leaders advantages. Leaders of intellect and determination can create such advantages and stay ahead of their opponents using strategic deception effectively.
Effective security in our globalized age requires an ability to critically assess the mindset of one’s opponents, masking or even blurring one own intentions to others can provide crucial room for maneuver. So, every nation’s capacity to act deceptively, deliberately obscuring their goals or acting in ways meant to confuse opponents can deliver real advantages. Most people think of deception in a tactical sense, but it applied just as effectively at the strategic level. Tactical deception, through the use camouflage or concealment, can be modeled at the strategic level to obscure and protect national actions as well. One of the best examples of strategic deception was Operation Bodyguard employed by the Allies for the invasion of Europe in 1944.
The Bodyguard plan was intended to mislead the Germans as to the timing and direction of the Allied invasion. Planning for Bodyguard started in 1943 and was briefed to the Allied national leaders at the Tehran Conference in late November. The Germans knew the Allies would invade Europe – the key questions were where and when; the objective of Bodyguard was simply to convince the Germans that the invasion would come later and occur in the Pas de Calais in France, which was logical since it was the shortest crossing point on the English Channel and the quickest route into Germany, thus making it also the most likely choice for an invasion. To deceive Hitler the Allies used fictional organizations, phony operations, and misleading intelligence. They also deliberately conducted strategic bombing to reinforce the deception. The Germans were surprised and Bodyguard also persuaded Hitler to delay sending reinforcements from the Pas de Calais region for nearly seven weeks, allowing the Allies to strike sooner at the heart of Germany.
Sun Tzu wrote: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive.” What he intended was keeping the opponent off balance and therefore maintaining the initiative. Countering a strategy would be much simpler for any opponent if all facts were well known; therefore, all nations commonly use secrecy, deception and dissuasion to improve their odds of success. Given the recent actions by regional powers, the UAE must always look closely to sense the real national intent of other states to ascertain their actual goals.
The world order is growing even more dynamic over time; managing strategies against multiple potential threats will test even the best strategic leaders. Global power struggles will continue to adapt using new tools, but the UAE’s ability to address potential threats will continue to be successful if its leaders remain well-practiced in the power of deception. UAE leaders must continue to manage risk effectively, determine the true national interests of other nations and take every advantage available to best leverage their power and influence, certainly including deception, because its use is both pervasive and potent.