Sun Tzu, one of the most studied military philosophers, believed that subduing the enemy without ever firing a shot was the ultimate goal in warfare. He stressed the importance of deception, subtleness, and mystery, and even soundlessness– factors needed for executable covert influence.
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“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” (Sun Tzu)
Today, the United States faces serious issues. Arguably, we have become a nation consumed with political correctness. Some could argue that we are a nation split among the masses. And many can claim that we are a nation consumed with corruption.
Covert influence, influence that is not openly acknowledged or displayed, oftentimes occurs when those being influenced are actually unaware of their activities. Covert influence operations are time consuming–not hours, days, or weeks but months and often years. One of the many tactics behind covert influence stems in social conditioning. Persons actually unknowingly change their cognitive processing in believing the way their influencers desire.
Initiators in this covert espionage concept are rarely known. They are Mavens. To understand one of the processes which covert influence begins, think of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Tipping Point where he discusses Mavens, Connectors, and Salespersons.
Mavens are the brains with ideas to be executed. Mavens can be nation states. They can also be leaders of groups like terrorist organizations. Sometimes they are not leaders rather serve their masters as the brains behind the scenes. While Mavens are rarely known, they spread their ideas and memes to a few powerful persons known as Connectors.
Connectors, often construed as assets, have large networks of individuals who pitch these ideas and or memes onto the public. The Connectors are influential and tactically powerful. They have capabilities to persuade others. The others are their Salespersons.
Salespersons are normally everyday persons. They have access to local level individuals and capabilities to spread the social meme onto others with relative ease. In the intelligence world, Salespersons are often referred to as sources.
Recently, the small town of Quartzsite, AZ has declared a state of emergency. While this state of emergency is under investigation, many have openly came out declaring it was caused by corruption led by Police Chief Jeff Gilbert. If such statements are true, one must ask what or who truly initiated this state of corruption–Gilbert not being the Maven.
While covert influence may or may not be involved in the case of Quartzsite, investigators should not discount such activity. Sitting so close to the southern land border, numerous scenarios could have led to this calamity–to include a very unique covert influence operation.
Things to ponder must first begin with finding a possible Maven. Could Mexico have been involved in any of this, what about the narco’s, or maybe large scale street gangs? Another Maven within this scenario could be an influential donor. The Maven could be anyone and would be extremely difficult to identify.
Something easier to identify would be the connectors. If this scenario of covert influence were true, Chief Gilbert is likely not the Maven but rather one of a handful of connectors. He has incredible influence over the town and assumed to have his own army of police by his side.
Many police took a stand protesting the internal corruption of the Quartzsite Police Department. They broke free from being identified as connectors and even salespersons. Letters have been written and statements have been made. Corruption in the town has unleashed a national outcry.
No one is claiming the situation in Quartzsite has resulted due to covert influence. However, after observing the recent Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai political contribution fiasco, persons must start paying closer attention to possibilities of these types of activities–activities which promote rampant corruption.
As Sun Tzu had once written, “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” Subduing the enemy without fighting is the epitome of Covert Influence–something that needs greater attention today inside the United States–covert influence activities, if identified, could prevent rampant corruption.
Kerry Patton is the Co-Founder of the National Security Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organization pending 501c (3) status. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of “Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies” and the children’s book “American Patriotism.” You can follow him on Facebook.