45 – Is World War III Already Here?

January 13, 2022

Would you say that the US is in war-time or peace-time? How do you know? 

The truth is, the nature of warfare has changed so fundamentally, that we're currently in a war we don't even recognize. It's the war that Russia, China, and other hostile foreign actors are fighting against us — weaponizing social media to undermine our faith in each other, our government, and democracy itself. 

World War III is here, it's in cyberspace, and the US is unprepared — and largely unaware. 

This week on Your Undivided Attention, we're fortunate to be speaking with Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster. General McMaster was the United States National Security Advisor from 2017 to 2018. He has examined the most critical foreign policy and national security challenges that face the United States, and is devoted to preserving America's standing and security.


Guests

H. R. McMaster is a retired United States Army lieutenant general, who served as a commissioned officer for 34 years and was the 26th National Security Advisor of the United States. He holds a PhD in military history and is the author of two books: "Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam," and most recently, "Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World." General McMaster is currently a Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and lecturer in management at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. He hosts the podcast Battlegrounds: International Perspectives on Crucial Challenges to Security and Prosperity.

Episode Highlights

Major Takeaways


  • The nature of warfare has changed so fundamentally, that we're currently in a war we don't even recognize. It's the psychological war that Russia, China, and other hostile foreign actors are fighting us using social media, with the objective to undermine our faith in each other, our government, and democracy itself. In the face of this war, the U.S. is unprepared — and even unaware. 
  • Russia doesn’t care who wins U.S. elections. It uses its influence to divide us on issues of race, make us doubt the legitimacy of our institutions, and ultimately demoralize us. 
  • The Chinese Communist Party finds Western voices that say positive things about the Chinese government on TikTok and YouTube, and amplifies them.  This is an ongoing campaign called Borrowing Mouths to Speak. 
  • Countries like Russia and China are weaponizing social media in concert with campaigns of physical aggression, such as those towards Taiwan and Ukraine.  
  • The U.S. security establishment has a number of blind spots when it comes to recognizing the psychological war being waged against us. For example, there’s a generational gap between military leaders and those who understand how social media is infiltrating us from within.
  • Digital Closed Societies like China are using digital technology to strengthen autocratic control. Meanwhile, most Western democracies like the US are not using digital technology to strengthen democracy — i.e. to become Digital Open Societies.
  • According to H. R. McMaster, the best tool we have to fight polarization, and disinformation is: education. Convening groups of citizens to talk face-to-face is the core way to find common ground and rekindle the fellowship at the heart of democracy.

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