Two Sides of the Same COIN? Compare and Contrast British Political Warfare in Southern Arabia from 1959 to 1977

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis considers the role that political warfare played in British strategy in Southern Arabia between 1959 and 1977, through the examination of two case studies - Aden and Dhofar. It argues that a strategy of coordinated and synchronised, propaganda, psychological warfare/operations and special operations was a way that Britain thought it could counter Communism and Arab nationalism. The aim was to achieve strategic ends, whilst offsetting the deficit in Britain’s comparatively overstretched military and economic resources.

Having charted the origins of British political warfare, the objectives of British policy in the Middle East between 1945 and 59 will be examined. British strategy during the period 1959 to 1977 will then be analysed in relation to Aden and Dhofar and assessed in terms of the use of political warfare to support policy goals. How the ways and means of political warfare affected the strategic ends will be key to understanding why political warfare appeared to fail in one case and succeed in the other. Due to the release of new material from the Hanslope Park archive and previously classified files, there is the opportunity to interpret anew the circumstances in which political warfare was or was not applied in the two case studies.

This thesis will argue that the retreat from Aden and the intensification of the conflict in Dhofar resulted from muddled policy making as Britain reacted to changing circumstances, which culminated during the Labour Government of 1964-70. However, as the insurgency in Dhofar intensified from 1968 onwards, the British were presented with a crisis partially of their own making, potentially with consequences not only for their own interests but ramifications in the Cold War. In this campaign, far from pursuing the model counter-insurgency strategy as is often argued, Britain deliberately limited its involvement and supported largely conventional conflict. Rather than viewing the two campaigns in isolation, this thesis argues that they are linked because the decision to withdraw from the region in 1967 and 1968 directly affected the ways used in Dhofar. Both campaigns mark a turning point in Britain’s ends, ways and means in Southern Arabia, not because the British stopped engaging in the region but rather because the way they engaged changed.
Date of Award1 Jul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorMichael Goodman (Supervisor) & David Easter (Supervisor)

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