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Putting the Strategy Back into Strategic Communications

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

David James Betz, Vaughan Phillips

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-69
Number of pages28
JournalDefence Strategic Communications
VolumeVol. 3
Issue numberAutumn
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2017


King's Authors


Strategic communications has vaulted to the top of the agenda for governments in the West in the vain hope that it might solve a seemingly intractable conflict with jihadist groups, an adversary whose ideology seems to be an essential part of its life-force. However, these governments have failed to grasp why these groups are more adept at using stories to animate their adherents toward the achievement of strategic ends. Unlike Western governments, jihadists use communication to support their use of force. They treat strategic communications as an intrinsic element of war. Consequently, the internal coherence of their messages is greater and more persuasive. Moreover, their propaganda cadres are also nimbler; while they form a loose, decentralised network, they act in accordance with mission command principles, galvanised by a clear sense of the commander’s intent and a higher tolerance for risk. Indeed, the West’s failed use of strategic communications reveals a startling ignorance of several of Carl Von Clausewitz’s principles and arguments, not least the importance of understanding the kind of war upon which one embarks.

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