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U.S. Governmental Information Operations and Strategic Communications: A Discredited Tool or User Failure? Implications for Future Conflict

Authored by Dr. Steve Tatham.

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Through the prism of operations in Afghanistan, the author examines how the U.S. Government’s Strategic Communication (SC) and, in particular, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Information Operations (IO) and Military Information Support to Operations (MISO) programs, have contributed to U.S. strategic and foreign policy objectives. It assesses whether current practice, which is largely predicated on ideas of positively shaping audiences perceptions and attitudes towards the United States, is actually fit for purpose. Indeed, it finds that the United States has for many years now been encouraged by large contractors to approach communications objectives through techniques heavily influenced by civilian advertising and marketing, which attempt to change hostile attitudes to the United States and its foreign policy in the belief that this will subsequently reduce hostile behavior. While an attitudinal approach may work in convincing U.S. citizens to buy consumer products, it does not easily translate to the conflict- and crisis-riven societies to which it has been routinely applied since September 11, 2001.

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