“Strategic Narratives, Public Opinion, and War”

Venus in arms has already addressed the interesting topic of narratives and counter-narratives in previous posts (here on Afghanistan, here on the F-35).

Today we recommend a brand new book on narratives, just published for Routledge “Strategic Narratives, Public Opinion and War. Winning domestic support for the Afghan War” edited by Beatrice de Graaf, George Dimitriu and Jens Ringsmose.

The manuscript aims at providing a detailed and comprehensive analysis on strategic narratives, adopting a comparative perspective to examine the case of the military operation in Afghanistan. The preface is by the former Secretary General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Several scholars have contributed to the book. Here you’ll find all the contents of and the authors (among many others: Lawrence Freedman, David Betz, Alister Miskimmon, Ben O’Loughlin, Laura Roselle, Tim Groeling and Matthew A. Baum)

Also the case of Italy has been analyzed, thanks to Venus in Arms‘s Fabrizio Coticchia and his chapter (with Carolina De Simone): “The winter of our consent? Framing Italy’s ‘peace mission’ in Afghanistan”. 

As illustrated in the website of the book:

This volume explores the way governments endeavoured to build and maintain public support for the war in Afghanistan, combining new insights on the effects of strategic narratives with an exhaustive series of case studies.  In contemporary wars, with public opinion impacting heavily on outcomes, strategic narratives provide a grid for interpreting the why, what and how of the conflict. This book asks how public support for the deployment of military troops to Afghanistan was garnered, sustained or lost in thirteen contributing nations. Public attitudes in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe towards the use of military force were greatly shaped by the cohesiveness and content of the strategic narratives employed by national policy-makers. Assessing the ability of countries to craft a successful strategic narrative, the book addresses the following key areas: 1) how governments employ strategic narratives to gain public support; 2) how strategic narratives develop during the course of the conflict; 3) how these narratives are disseminated, framed and perceived through various media outlets; 4) how domestic audiences respond to strategic narratives; 5) how this interplay is conditioned by both events on the ground, in Afghanistan, and by structural elements of the domestic political systems. This book will be of much interest to students of international intervention, foreign policy, political communication, international security, strategic studies and IR in general.

Finally, here below some reviews of the manuscript:

‘This volume is a must-read to understand 21st century conflict. In today’s supercharged world of social networks, instantaneous communications, and suddenly constructed narratives, national leaders must bring their publics along. The long, difficult, and still unfinished NATO campaign in Afghanistan offers many lessons — both good and bad – for how to approach to aspect of creating security in a highly complex world.’ — Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander at NATO 2009-13 and Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, USA

‘How states explain their participation in conflict is not a passive reflection of a policy position, but actively shapes the scope of the conflict itself, and frames how actions are understood by the enemy, one’s own side, and other audiences. So strategic narrative matters. This admirable book, focused primarily on strategic narrative and domestic audiences, serves as a guide for policymakers and students of contemporary conflict.’ —Emile Simpson, Harvard University, USA

‘How do Western governments persuade their publics of the necessity for fighting “wars of choice”? This fascinating volume explores the importance and effectiveness of different national strategic narratives for the war in Afghanistan and, in so doing, explains why some Western states were more successful than others in sustaining public support for this long and costly war.’ — Theo Farrell, King’s College London, UK

Some events will be organized soon (also in Italy) to present the book. So, stay tuned.

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