#18 The Human Mind as “New Domain of War”: NATO Plans for Cognitive Warfare

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

On October 5, 2021, the NATO Association of Canada (NAOC) sponsored a forum on what panelists described as the “weaponization of brain sciences” to exploit “vulnerabilities of the human brain” in service of more sophisticated forms of social engineering and control. As Ben Norton reported for the Grayzone, “with its development of cognitive warfare strategies,” NATO has added a new, sixth level to the five operational domains—air, land, sea, space, and cyber—that the alliances’ member nations have previously sought to control.

The NAOC panel discussion was part of NATO’s Fall 2021 Innovation Challenge, hosted by Canada, which sought to enlist the expertise of private entrepreneurs and academic researchers “to help develop new tactics and technologies for the military alliance,” Ben Norton reported. (The NAOC, he noted, is technically a nongovernmental organization, but “its mission is to promote NATO.”)

One panelist, Marie-Pierre Raymond, who represented the Canadian Armed Forces’ Innovation for Defense Excellence and Security Program, stated that “the rapid evolution of neurosciences as a tool of war” hinges on developments in artificial intelligence, big data, and social media. Raymond encouraged corporate interest in NATO’s Innovation Challenge by telling potential applicants that successful innovators would receive “national and international exposure,” cash prizes, and access “to a market of 30 nations.” Another panelist, Shekhar Gothi, a military officer who works with Canada’s Special Operations Force Command, assured corporate investors that “all innovators will maintain complete control of their intellectual property.” As Norton noted, panelists representing NATO interests sought to ensure corporations that their shareholders would “continue to profit” from NATO’s “imperial endeavors.”

The panel’s focus was guided by a 2020 NATO-sponsored study titled “Cognitive Warfare” and authored by François du Cluzel, who manages the NATO Innovation Hub and was one of the event’s featured speakers. According to du Cluzel’s report, the objectives of cognitive warfare are “to make everyone a weapon” and “to harm societies,” rather than simply targeting an enemy’s armed forces. Furthermore, cognitive warfare is “potentially endless since there can be no peace treaty or surrender for this type of conflict.” For these reasons, “the human mind is now being considered as a new domain of war.” Du Cluzel emphasized that militaries “must work more closely with academia to weaponize social sciences and human sciences and help the alliance develop its cognitive warfare capacities,” the Grayzone reported. The Grayzone’s article also noted that NATO’s desire to develop means of cognitive warfare came “at a time when member states’ military campaigns are targeting domestic populations on an unprecedented level.”

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the establishment press in the United States has published or broadcast hundreds of reports focused on NATO and the many contentious aspects of its role in that conflict. Many of these reports include explanations of NATO’s goals, organization, and history. However, as of this book’s publication, not one major US news outlet appears to have reported on NATO’s efforts to develop its member nations’ capacity for cognitive warfare, including the 2020 NATO study and the October 2021 NAOC panel.

Ben Norton, “Behind NATO’s ‘Cognitive Warfare’: ‘Battle for Your Brain’ Waged by Western Militaries,” The Grayzone, October 8, 2021.

Student Researcher: Cem Ismail Addemir (Illinois State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)