Together with Prof. Dr. Markus Bresinsky from OTH Regensburg and Dr. Tobias Strahl, we accepted the challenge, took an interdisciplinary perspective on the connection between those and published the insights and ideas in the latest CPM-Forum.
Culture is not only secular and sacral buildings. Culture requires special protection – also enhanced by AI and OSINT – especially in today’s environment where Hybrid Threats are commonplace and will increase.
Long before the extremely brutal wars in the former Yugoslav republics broke out in 1991, one could observe a remarkable phenomenon if you looked more closely: as early as in the 1970s, the course of the front between the later wartime opponents became visible in a kind of culture war that they waged against each other.
In retrospect, many interesting questions can be raised from these events: Would it have been possible, by intensively observing the increasingly radical discourse on culture and cultural objects in the former Yugoslavia from around the 1970s, to describe and forecast the course of events relatively accurately? Could one have seen that the cultural lines of conflict would become actual front lines? Was the correlation between the increasingly aggressive rhetoric on cultural objects and the willingness to let the situation escalate already reflected in analyzes before the first shot was fired? Would it have been possible to record, qualify and analyze this potential for conflict back then and finally derive predictions from it?
At a first superficial glance, the question can be answered in the affirmative: the former Yugoslavia is a grateful projection surface for reflections on culture and conflict – after all, a large number of ethnic groups of the largest religious denominations as well as numerous other less large densely lived there (and still live) together in a comparatively limited geographical area. But is the former Yugoslavia, is the Western Balkans really so specific that completely different rules and laws apply there than elsewhere? Aren’t cultural lines of conflict and politically stable or fragile, in some cases collapsing, political superstructures not general historical characteristics – despite their individually specific characteristics? Weren’t more aggressive discourses on culture and cultural objects reliable indicators of impending (armed) conflicts in other cases as well?
A final example: the destabilization operations and disinformation campaigns of the Putin administration in the states of the former Soviet Union, which are seeking greater independence from the Kremlin, but increasingly also in Europe and the USA, have been the subject of scientific investigations since 2014 at the latest. Since 2015, the EastStratCom Task Force has even existed as a separate department within the EU, which addresses and describes these operations and tries to neutralize them through clarification. Whether it’s the Kremlin’s support of European right-wing parties, interference in the US election campaign, or last but not least the war against Ukraine: Russian disinformation campaigns and destabilization operations always focus on cultural lines of conflict.
In addition to those listed here, a whole range of other examples justify the development of innovative questions within the framework of broad-based research cooperation involving universities, military, and civil-sector partners. The task and long-term goal is the development of conflict topographies of social groups at cultural lines of conflict, based on a critical discourse analysis supported by insights derived from Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT). Social media in particular often offer unbeatable accelerated access to public information.
The analysis of the conflicts of the 21st century can only be narrowed down to a regional level if the perspective is narrowed considerably. The advancing globalization of all spheres of life and the aim of looking at things as complex as possible point to the imperative need for a networked foreign and domestic policy approach. The outstanding relevance of conflict topographies of social groups becomes clear.
Military and Civilian Peacekeeping Missions in this conceivable broad spectrum, therefore, require not only a material, personnel, and logistical “Kaltstartfähigkeit”, but also a data, information, and knowledge-based immediate operational readiness for mission areas that may be unknown, new or of renewed explosive nature. The question arises to what extent today’s solutions, known from the Artificial Intelligence (AI) supported collection and processing of public information, can assist users in creating an up-to-date and forward-looking conflict topography.
The core of the task is the protection of culture in the broadest sense to stabilize social groups affected by conflict. The sub-tasks formulated here can only be mastered if an overwhelming mass of available data and information can be reduced to the relevant proportion. For this reason, we take a step back and outline how today’s OSINT systems, such as the Prometheus AI system, use state-of-the-art AI to implement the necessary data reduction on the one hand, but also to enable digital reconnaissance on the other.
Our approach will be discussed in an interdisciplinary manner by the authors in the further part of the CPM-Forum 3/2022 article. It must be emphasized that further intensive research is necessary – both empirical-case-based and cultural-theoretical, as well as in the field of processing individual data in the context of artificial intelligence. Research in this area promises great synergetic potential with regard to others – such as propaganda awareness or crisis detection.
Dr. Dirk Kolb (*1983) received his doctorate in 2012 at the FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg in the Pattern Recognition Lab with a dissertation entitled “Efficient and trainable detection and classification of radio signals”. From 2008 to 2018 he was employed at MEDAV GmbH and Saab Medav Technologies GmbH and most recently headed the “Information Fusion” department. In 2019 he founded the company Traversals Analytics and Intelligence GmbH, which specializes in the fusion of open and non-open information for public clients and industrial customers.
Philipp Starz (*1984) studied political science and international relations in Regensburg, Istanbul, and Dresden as well as civil-military interaction at HSU Hamburg. As an Foreign Area Specialist for the Bundeswehr, Philipp Starz was on several foreign missions in Kosovo and Iraq. Philipp Starz is a lieutenant colonel in the Bundeswehr reserve. He is currently completing an additional master’s degree in history at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg.
Dr. Tobias Strahl (*1978) has been researching the connection between cultural destruction and genocide for a decade and a half. In 2016 he received his doctorate from the TU Dresden with a thesis on the destruction of culture in the wars in Yugoslavia and received an award for his work from the Philosophical Faculty of the TU Dresden. Tobias Strahl is a member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and an officer in the reserve of the Bundeswehr with the rank of major. Between 1999 and 2011, Tobias Strahl was a non-commissioned officer and officer on four foreign missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan for the German Armed Forces. Tobias Strahl has been living and working permanently in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2017.
Prof. Dr. Markus Bresinsky (*1970) is a Professor of International Politics and Social Sciences at the East Bavarian Technical University of Regensburg since 2010. Before that, he worked as a human factors program manager for Industrieanlagen und Betriebsgesellschaft mbH (IABG), where he was responsible for interdisciplinary studies and analyzes in the field of intelligence gathering and reconnaissance. In application-oriented research, Markus Bresinsky deals with methods and competencies of analysis as well as their training and implementation.
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