From OSS to SOS: How the Misunderstanding, Dismantling, and Decay of American Influence Operations has put U.S. National Security in Jeopardy

My apologies for not posting for some time. The title of this post is the working title for a long-term project I am currently engaged in. America used to place far more actual priority on conducting real influence operations from WWII through the Cold War. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the US does not really have the ability to implement the “I” in DIME when attempting to execute the elements of national power (whether overtly, covertly, or clandestinely). Terms used inside the DC beltway such as strategic communication are hollow. It is easier to kill an adversary with a lethal drone strike than it is to send him an email and hurt his feelings or engage our adversaries online in the information environment. The US Government seems far more willing to commit our national treasure (our young men and women) into harms way than execute a full range of influence operations that may help preclude a conflict in the first place. Additionally, it appears the US Government has forgotten lessons of decades past on how to deal with nation state threats, while these threats are rapidly increasing their sophisticated influence efforts against us. In short, America’s failure to maintain its focus and understanding on the importance of influence operations places us at a great disadvantage against our enemies, placing US national security at risk. More to follow…

What IS America’s Strategic Narrative?

6 April 2013 1 comment

As I sat this evening and read news stories from across the globe via conventional news sources and social media conduits, I started to question what is America’s Grand Strategy, really? Reality is, whether intentional or not, America does have a perceived National Strategic Narrative whether it has a Grand Strategy or not (to use a Clausewitzian context) based on our actual actions in comparisons with our national rhetoric. The question is, given the current domestic and global environment, what is it? Additionally, if we do not have a purposeful narrative, what should it be? The National Security Strategy is only one element in how the world perceives us. With the explosion of the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and the exponentially evolving information environment, America lives in a glass house that the rest of the world can see into in real time. Regardless of what we say, the world can see us for what we really are. The time has come for us to re-think what national strategy (or grand strategy) actually is, and what it should look like.  Wayne Porter and Mark Mykleby opened the discussion wide open in 2011 with their work entitled, “A National Strategic Narrative,” which can be found here. The introduction states:

A narrative is a story. A national strategic narrative must be a story that all Americans can understand and identify with in their own lives. America’s national story has always see-sawed between exceptionalism and universalism. We think that we are an exceptional nation, but a core part of that exceptionalism is a commitment to universal values – to the equality of all human beings not just within the borders of the United States, but around the world. We should thus embrace the rise of other nations when that rise is powered by expanded prosperity, opportunity, and dignity for their peoples. In such a world we do not need to see ourselves as the automatic leader of any bloc of nations. We should be prepared instead to earn our influence through our ability to compete with other nations, the evident prosperity and wellbeing of our people, and our ability to engage not just with states but with societies in all their richness and complexity. We do not want to be the sole superpower that billions of people around the world have learned to hate from fear of our military might. We seek instead to be the nation other nations listen to, rely on and emulate out of respect and admiration.

With this document being two years old and given the current state of the the US and global economies, the current state of Afghanistan, as well as  the issues across the entire African continent, the Levant, Iran, North Korea, etc. what is the current perceived American Strategic Narrative and what should our Strategic Narrative actually be? What would America have to do to actually create and sell a believable  narrative to the  world? Curious to hear your thoughts…

What do Various Recent U.S. Government Documents Say About the Future of Irregular Warfare for the United States?

2 December 2012 Leave a comment

The war in Afghanistan, a global recession, the winds of change in North Africa and the Middle East, combined with potential growing conventional and economic threats such as China paint an extremely complex and fluid security environment for the next few decades.  The now non-existent United States Joint Forces Command in its 2010 Joint Operating Environment document predicted an environment of “persistent conflict”[1] were “struggle predominates.”[2] Based on current events, such a prediction seems certainly plausible. A future environment of such potential high security risks with budgetary limitations will make National Security decisions more difficult in prioritizing money to achieve national objectives.  The United States will have to determine whether to prioritize resources against traditional, irregular, catastrophic, or disruptive threats.[3]  Consequently, in preparation for development of future Quadrennial Defense Reviews (QDR), analysis of recent government documents from various national security and defense policy and budgetary areas, along with items from the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS), indicate a prioritization of focus on irregular threats will be essential in ensuring victory for the United States in the future.

The 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS) provides the pivotal guidance for prioritization of efforts in combating future irregular threats.  The NSS as a document ultimately represents the input from agencies across all the elements of national power including the geographic combatant commands (GCC) and should reflect the consensus of these communities.  Additionally, the NSS is the foundation for subsequent security-related strategies (such as the National Defense and Military Strategies), policies, military capability development, and budget allocation.  In the 2010 NSS, President Obama declares the United States “must maintain our military’s conventional superiority, while enhancing its capacity to defeat [irregular] threats.” He goes on to state these types of irregular threats by their very nature will also increasingly pursue unique ways to exploit our reliance on space and cyberspace[4] through low-cost, high-payoff operations.  The use of the term enhance over maintain clearly gives precedence to irregular threats over traditional ones for the foreseeable future.  Additionally, the President goes on to explain that these threats are forcing us to “move beyond traditional distinctions between homeland and national security”[5] where historically the homeland was relatively safe and the only concern was against traditional threats.  This is no longer the case after the 9/11 attacks.  In addition to the NSS, there are several other documents which highlight the importance of focusing on irregular threats.

The 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill also highlights the growing importance of focusing on irregular threats by showcasing where defense monies are increasingly committed.  In December of 2008 as a portion to Department of Defense Directive 3000.07, the Secretary of Defense elevated irregular warfare to the level of traditional warfare in its strategic importance.[6]  Since then there has been a steady focus to increase funding of irregular warfare related programs and activities, but there are still significant budgeting shortfalls.[7]  For example, in 2010 the House Committee on Appropriations approved additional funds for irregular warfare training[8] and other asymmetric threat programs.[9]  Simultaneously, several traditional warfare programs received cuts such as those associated with the F-22 fighter aircraft program, but the Appropriations Committee states more budgetary prioritization needs to be done toward the Secretary of Defense’s 2008 declaration.[10]

Additionally, recent output documents from the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) and related processes point to the significance irregular threats and irregular warfare will play in the future security environment.  The first document is the Irregular Warfare Joint Operating Concept (IW JOC) published in May of 2010 which is the second iteration of the document since 2007.  It states in addition to historically defined irregular threats, even weaker state actors will resorts to irregular forms of warfare to challenge stronger, conventional military powers like the United States.[11]  The adaptive, protracted, and unique nature of irregular threats dictates they cannot be defeated with military force alone, can be even more powerful than traditional threats, and thus requires a synergistic, whole-of-government approach utilizing all facets of government power.[12]  This document also reiterates that irregular warfare should have equality if not primacy over traditional warfare, as expertise in irregular warfare would allow for an understanding of conventional warfare and other threats/operations.[13]  For example, historical case studies show successful insurgents and other practitioners of irregular warfare have to know enemy conventional/traditional warfare doctrine in order to survive as they are weaker and smaller.[14]

The second document that highlights the priority of irregular threats and irregular warfare is the Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report (QRM) from 2009.  This document analyzes changes the Department of Defense has made since the last QDR, and highlights the future direction for inclusion in subsequent security documents such as the National Defense Strategy, etc.[15]  This document specifically highlights irregular warfare and three other focus areas for analysis to highlight progress since the 2006 QDR and give recommendations on future efforts.  In order just to achieve balance between defensive, irregular, and conventional warfare capabilities, the study indicated there are still gaps in institutionalizing irregular warfare concepts and capabilities along with interagency integration into irregular warfare constructs.[16]  In all, the QRM highlights that prioritization of irregular threats and irregular warfare will still be critical in achieving national security objectives for the foreseeable future.[17]

Lastly, the 2010 Joint Operating Environment (JOE) relays the importance of prioritizing irregular threats for future conflicts.  The purpose of the JOE is to inform and assist in joint concept, policy, and procurement program development for achieving national objectives.  First, the document states that the United States as failed to “recognize and fully confront the irregular fight” it is in. Because of this, the United States would be ill advised to strip irregular warfare from its doctrine as was done after the Vietnam War; [18] the results in a future conflict would even more significant than what has occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Because of this, the United States must focus on truly understanding irregular warfare, collecting lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, and incorporating those lessons into future doctrine, policies, and capabilities.  Second, the JOE states that focusing on irregular warfare is crucial because although there will still be traditional warfare, the predominance of conflict the United States will see will be irregular and potentially more critical to American interests.[19]  Therefore, it is crucial the United States can dominate and win such conflicts.  Third, the skills necessary to succeed at irregular warfare can also create the capabilities to generate indicators and warnings to prevent catastrophic and disruptive threats.  For example, irregular warfare requires intensive human intelligence to be successful.  This same capability if successfully developed could also be used to generate sources to learn about adversarial weapons of mass destruction production and/or proliferation as well as other emerging unknown disruptive capabilities.[20]

For well over half a century America has been a military superpower which has had no equal on the conventional battlefield.  However, the last decade has shown the United States that it was ill prepared for a fight against irregular threats and the conduct of irregular warfare.  With the current recession plaguing the United States, money will quickly constrain future security budgets forcing the Department of Defense and other government agencies to establish the most efficient means in safeguarding America’s vital security interests and achieving national security strategy objectives in the future.  If irregular threats are the most common future peril to America, it only seems natural to invest in irregular warfare, making it as robust and lethal as our conventional/traditional warfare capability.

[1] United States Joint Forces Command, The Joint Operating Environment (JOE) 2010 (Suffolk, VA: United States Joint Forces Command, 2010), 4, (accessed January 15, 2011).

[2] Ibid., 6.

[3] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, The National Military Strategy of the United States of America 2004: A Strategy for Today; A Vision for Tomorrow (Washington D.C.: Department of Defense, 2004), 4, (accessed February 8, 2011).

[4] United States Government, 2010 National Security Strategy (Washington, D.C.: United States Government, 2010), 17, (accessed October 21, 2010).

[5] Ibid., 10.

[6] United States Department of Defense, Department of Defense Directive 3000.07 (December, 2008), 2, (accessed January 15, 2011).

[7] United States House of Representatives. Committee on Appropriations, Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, 2010, 111th Cong., 1st sess., 2009, 64, (accessed January 15, 2011).

[8] Ibid., 10.

[9] Ibid., 165.

[10] Ibid., 64.

[11] United States Department of Defense, Irregular Warfare: Countering Irregular Threats Joint Operating Concept (JOC) (May 17, 2010), 4, (accessed January 15, 2011).

[12] United States Department of Defense, Irregular Warfare: Countering Irregular Threats Joint Operating Concept (JOC), 14.

[13] Ibid., C-1-3.

[14] Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Al-Qaeda’s Guerrilla Chief Lays Out Strategy,” Asia TimesOctober 15, 2009, (accessed September 18, 2010).

[15] United States Department of Defense, Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report (QRM) (January, 2009), 1, (accessed January 15, 2011).

[16] Ibid., 11.

[17] United States Department of Defense, Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report, 9.

[18] United States Joint Forces Command, The Joint Operating Environment (JOE) 2010, 62.

[19] Ibid., 65.

[20] United States Joint Forces Command, The Joint Operating Environment (JOE) 2010, 67.

Hezbollah: Its Use of Synergistic Influence Operations and Potential Vulnerabilities

11 September 2011 Leave a comment

Since its emergence, Hezbollah has arguably become one of the model global guerrilla, terrorist, and insurgent organizations of the world.[1] Israel, Hezbollah’s main competitor, has been unable to destroy or effectively marginalize them.  Hezbollah solidified psychological warfare as an integral capability for the organization’s success, and synchronized it with classical terrorist kinetic operations to create an influence warfare methodology,[2] moving Hezbollah’s operations toward achieving its political-military goals to eliminate Israel, dominate Lebanon, and facilitate a Shia-based pan-Islamic Caliphate. Initially, Hezbollah emerged and survived through its nation state sponsors Iran and Syria. Today, Hezbollah is a global organization socially embedded not only in Lebanon and the greater Middle East, but also the Americas, Africa, and portions of Europe.[3]

Hezbollah simultaneously conducts operations at the tactical, operational, and strategic level to implement all facets of its lines of operations. Over the past 12 years, the terrorist organization has initiated an expansion of its ideological frame. It has successfully become the dominant socio-political-military organization in Lebanon, achieved transnational reach, and exists as the only military entity to have challenged Israel’s military power successfully in the past 40 years. Hezbollah’s successes are built on a foundation of effective and elaborate operations targeting domestic, foreign, and adversarial target audiences supported by a strategic form of influence warfare to overcome conventional political-military shortfalls,[4]  allowing Hezbollah to grow as a Shia group within Lebanon while attracting non-Shia audiences to align with them. Hezbollah has evolved from a simple terrorist organization into an internationally recognized nonstate actor, one that Israel has yet to marginalize and continues to grow over time.


Following Israel’s invasion in 1982 to eliminate PLO terrorist safe havens in Southern Lebanon, a militia of Shia supporters of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini were resourced, trained, and organized to form Hezbollah with the initial goal of forcing Israel to leave southern Lebanon.[5] The elements necessary for social mobilization were already present in Lebanon prior to the Israeli invasion of 1982.[6] Initially, the Sunni, Shia, and Christian populations in southern Lebanon welcomed Israel’s expulsion of the PLO, which was viewed as an opportunity to reclaim control over the south.[7] However, when Israel forged an alliance with the Maronite Christians, the Shia felt marginalized under Israel’s occupation and became resentful.[8] In one form or another, the formation of a political-military group to provide Lebanese Shia some form of socio-political-military representation was imminent. Israel’s invasion of southern Lebanon catapulted Hezbollah’s formation as the preeminent Shia militant organization, and more importantly, its legitimacy.[9]

Over the past 40 years, Hezbollah has proven its lethal dedication to its cause through multiple terrorist attacks and support activities against the United States, France, Israel, Canada, Greece, Argentina, Spain, Thailand, UAE, Senegal, England, Panama, Paraguay, Brazil, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and many others. Hezbollah is responsible for bombing the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon in both 1983 and 1984, as well as killing 241 U.S. servicemen when they launched a suicide bomber attack against the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983. In 1985, Hezbollah ordered the hijacking of TWA flight 847, killing a U.S. Navy diver in the process.[10] Throughout the 1980s, Hezbollah conducted dozens of kidnappings against U.S. citizens and other westerners who were either used for ransom or killed outright.[11] In 1989, a 10-man Hezbollah terrorist cell was arrested in Spain while attempting to conduct an attack. Later that year, another Hezbollah cell bombed a French airliner in West Africa, killing another 171 people.[12] From 1992 through 1995, Hezbollah expanded its operations into South America where it bombed the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, and subsequently, established finance laundering hubs throughout Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela.[13] After Hezbollah’s 1996 attack against another U.S. barracks and the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah focused its overt terrorist activities against Israeli civilians and border security forces using suicide bombers, as well as rocket and mortar attacks.[14] At first glance, these events appear as unilateral military actions, but by analyzing their purpose, a more deviant and elaborate goal is visible. Hezbollah’s militant and civil activities directly support its ideological framework and goal to expand continuously while sustaining Hezbollah as an organization and international entity.


In order to achieve its goals, Hezbollah pulls members from across Lebanese and international social networks.  An analysis of individual, rational, systemic, and ideological causes helps highlight many of the grievances and political opportunities Hezbollah can exploit for recruitment and social mobilization. Fathali Moghaddam in his work “The Stairway to Terrorism” postulates individual causes for people to join terrorism, starting with how individuals begin with perceived injustice and can move up the “staircase” to actively conduct terrorist operations.[15] For the populace of southern Lebanon, conditions were ripe to generate the perceptions of relative deprivation which is the ground floor in Moghaddam’s model.[16]  Destruction of their homeland by Israeli invasions and perceived lack of support from the government created conditions where there were few viable options for local residents.  Such conditions are exactly what Hezbollah can use to move people to action.  Using robust propaganda methodologies layered with Islamic fervor targeting Israel as the scapegoat and focus of aggression (the second the third floors of the model)[17] while simultaneously combining social services to boost its legitimacy (the fourth floor),[18] Hezbollah crafts its narrative to propel individuals up the levels of Moghaddam’s staircase to action.

In addition to individual conditions which Hezbollah exploits to generate action, it also capitalizes on rational and systemic causes as well.  Lebanon has been the crossroads of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and political powers for millennia which has set the conditions for perceived disenfranchisement of the Shia populace of southern Lebanon as a group. Authors such as Samuel Huntington equate how recently, “the process of economic modernization and social change throughout the world are separating people from longstanding local identities.” Additionally he states the “revival of religion…provides a basis for identity and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.”[19] Hezbollah was well situated to bridge the conflict of maintaining/upholding local identity while establishing itself as the vanguard of Shia Islam in the Levant.[20] Likewise, Alan Krueger suggests that while systemic economic factors can contribute, this issue of group identity and grievances plays a larger role.  He states “most terrorists are not so desperately poor that they have nothing to live for,” but rather, “they are people who care so fervently about a cause that they are willing to die for it.”[21]  This seems to fit Hezbollah rather well as a study of 129 deceased Hezbollah shahids (martyrs) indicated the deceased had a lower poverty rate than the Lebanese population and had higher education rates as well.[22]

Overall, Hezbollah shows its greatest ability to generate action through its ideology and the ability to conduct frame alignment[23] of that ideology upon its selected target audiences. Wrapped in the cloak of the tenants of Islamic revolution, Hezbollah’s ideology is uniquely flexible, yet maintains strong elements of the notion of “Cosmic War”[24] as outlined by Mark Juergensmeyer. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Naim Qassem fully outlined Hezbollah’s ideology in his book Hizbullah: The Story From Within.[25]  A potent ideology should do five things: identify the problem; identify the enemy; offer a solution; justify the means to achieve that end state; put the struggle into larger context. Qassem, using cosmic war language, outlines that Israel is the enemy and Israeli occupation and influence is the problem.[26]  Furthermore, he goes on to state the solution is jihad and martyrdom operations, which are the highest calling in Islam.[27]  Lastly, he puts the struggle into context by stating:

The resistance is not merely an armed group that wishes to liberate a piece of land, nor is it a circumstantial tool whose role will end when the pretext for using it comes to an end. It is a vision and approach, not only a military reaction. Hizballah [sic] believes in the need to build a resistance society in Lebanon in order to strengthen the country and reinforce its independence and sovereignty in light of Israel’s expansionist project. The alternative is a weak state that will be dictated to by Israel. The resistance programme Hizballah [sic] proposes is sustainable. It must be discussed with the Lebanese people so that agreement can be reached on the steps forward that should be taken.[28]

The ideology painted by Qassem, although founded in cosmic Islamic rhetoric, still has a largely accommodating tone to non-Shia factions. In all, Hezbollah has a myriad of conditions inside Lebanon from the individual to systemic level that allow its ideology to resonate. However, where Hezbollah ultimately succeeds is how it exploits these vulnerabilities and operationalizes its ideology.


What is most fascinating about Hezbollah is not its conduct of bombings, attacks, or other typical terrorist operations, but rather how Hezbollah creates the conditions to motivate people to conduct and/or support its endeavors. To that end, influence warfare is Hezbollah’s preeminent method for challenging an adversary. It uses psychological warfare techniques combined with violent and nonviolent actions to destabilize the opponent’s socio-political support base while maintaining and growing its own. Hezbollah’s military strategy is unique and effective because of the way it combines unconventional and psychological warfare. In his writings on Hezbollah, Ron Schleifer states “when deciding on and planning an operation the [Hezbollah] would calculate its psychological impact on the enemy.”[29] Hezbollah has created an organizational structure that merges influence into all elements of its plans and activities. This structure not only maximizes the overall effect on targets and target audiences, but also enables the group to coordinate its messages and actions holistically across the spectrum of tactical, operational, and strategic operations.

Since the late 1990s, Hezbollah has liberalized its strict Shia religious governance to accommodate a more pluralist approach intended to foster a side-by-side coexistence with Lebanon’s other prominent social groups: the Sunnis, Christians, and Druze.[30] While the group continues to use religion as an ideological frame to align core supporters and their rank-and-file cognitively, Hezbollah is increasingly pragmatic with whom it aligns itself to further their political-military efforts. It bridges ideological frames to maintain and build support that ensures weapon proliferation, financial growth, and socio-political alliances.[31] The group’s ideological frame transformation and bridging has allowed it to assuage the risk of potential rivals, such as the Sunnis and Christians, and in turn, influence former opponents to align with Hezbollah under a nationalistic framework.

One means Hezbollah employs to bridge the ideological frames between Hezbollah and its rivals in Lebanon is its social service programs. The group operates medical and dental clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals for its fighters, supporters, and constituents. Mobile clinics are sent into Hezbollah controlled and periphery areas, especially to areas along the Israeli border, in an effort to solidify its influence and growth continually.[32] Hezbollah also supports more than 30 schools throughout southern Lebanon. Like all schools in Lebanon, Hezbollah-run schools are not free, but are provided at reduced rates that the poor and financially stricken can afford, which is in stark contrast to the Lebanese government’s deteriorating social systems and those of Hezbollah’s former rivals, such as Amal, the former IDF backed South Lebanese Army, and even the Syrians.[33] As Hezbollah increased its nationalist influence operation focus, the group ensured its sponsored schools adapted as well. Hezbollah limited the amount of religious instruction and increased the focus on math, sciences, and foreign languages, such as English and French.[34] Hezbollah’s social service program narratives emphasize the group’s commitment to aiding local communities and its “resistance” against Israeli oppression of the Lebanese.[35] This gradual shift from Hezbollah’s Khomeinist roots toward a more contemporary nationalist approach gained astounding momentum.[36] After 2006, Hezbollah began receiving increasing degrees of active and tacit support from Lebanese Sunni, Christian, and Druze populations.[37]

Although the Lebanese Shia remain the primary support base, Hezbollah’s benevolent approach to social and civil services (as described above) enables the group increasingly to affect populations across social divides. One method is the construction and operation of schools and education centers across Lebanon, such as the Imam Mehdi schools and the Education Centre of the Martyr Bojeji. The group’s educational centers are run by, or affiliated with, Hezbollah controlled companies and range from nursery age to secondary-level education programs. Hezbollah directly and indirectly affects well over 100,000 Lebanese children through its schools and education programs.[38] Many Lebanese consider the schools among the best in Lebanon and enroll their children in them rather than in Lebanese government sponsored schools.[39] The schools include indoctrination programs that incorporate Hezbollah ideology, so that it penetrates wider audiences and future generations alike. With their current nationalism focused operations, all Lebanese ethnicities and religious creeds are increasingly exposed to selected Hezbollah indoctrination and cognitive alignment processes. As one Lebanese father affiliated with UNIFIL and Amal noted:

Many of us are not Hezbollah, nor are we in the least affiliated with their ideologies or political views, but we cannot deny them their achievements and we realist that theirs schools are currently better than anything else in the area. Not only is my son getting a better standard of educations, but at a young age he was practically reading English alphabet on some of the English adverts and billboards as we drove past one afternoon. I could not believe it, but they place as much emphasis on the teaching of foreign languages as they do Arabic, despite all their rhetoric about the West.[40]

Children naturally propagate Hezbollah’s messages and promote its actions throughout social structures and networks, such as family and friendships. Talal Atrisi, an analyst studying Hezbollah at Lebanese University, cited schools as a “complete system” to prepare the next generation to ensure they are close to Hezbollah, propagate its messages and deeds, and proselytize its narrative within Lebanon and internationally.[41]

Hezbollah capitalizes on the aftermath of suicide operations through its Husseiniyas, which are centers for observing Hussein’s martyrdom.[42] Hezbollah promotes Hussein’s sister, Zainab, as an icon for women’s behavior.[43] Designed specifically for women, these centers build on the dynamic of women gathering separately from men. These centers are unique in that they specifically seek to develop women as promoters of Hezbollah who then return to their families and propagate Hezbollah’s messages. They also serve as communal gathering places to celebrate the martyrdom of locals, as well as provide additional education services, childcare, and medical services.[44] Since Lebanese women often yield immense power within families behind the scenes,[45] these centers facilitate the propagation of Hezbollah’s messages.

To overall galvanize its grassroots interpersonal approach to operations, Hezbollah’s media relations directorate is responsible for reviewing and managing media coverage of Hezbollah, whether it includes its newspapers, television, radio broadcasts, or directly controlled or sponsored websites.[46] This strictly controlled media empire is unrivaled by most nation states and designed to directly support all aspects and levels of Hezbollah’s political-military operations.[47] Its media empire includes disseminations platforms such as Al-Manar (a global satellite broadcast television station),[48] Radio Nur,[49] numerous Internet sites,[50] a theme park,[51] and several publishing houses[52] as just a few examples. A Hezbollah political statement in 2001 displays the group’s acknowledged role in using managed media messaging to solidify its bottom up grassroots influence efforts:

We feel that the media can be effective in creating a special climate in public opinion on the main issues of interest . . . We are heading toward a new sensitive security situation (in the region) which means we need to follow events very closely so that we can informatively help shape international and Arab public opinion . . . We believe that the media has an important role in the conflict, as important as the military wing.[53]

Hezbollah took its view of the media a step further during the 2006 war with Israelwhen it deployed video recording and camera teams with every Hezbollah unit to capture its operations.[54] After manipulating footage—such as deleting scenes or adding music and narration—the clips would then be broadcasted on Al-Manar or propagated through other media outlets. Video imagery was produced to show scenes selectively to present inflated Hezbollah achievements, even if its fighters were defeated by the IDF during the actual engagements.[55] During the conflict, messages which targeted international and Israeli audiences (focused on civilian losses and Hezbollah resistance) generated influence dominance as Israeli media, international media, and local channels increasingly adopted Hezbollah’s messages because of its numerous and powerful media outlets.[56] All these efforts created a massing of resonance across Hezbollah areas of influence and into areas of Hezbollah interest, such as the Lebanese political system and international opinion.


Over the last few decades, Israel has taken a variety of measures in dealing with threats in southern Lebanon, from occupation and kinetic military operations, to more subtle approaches. In total though, Israel’s actions have done little to curb the growth of Hezbollah. In some aspects, its actions have validated Hezbollah’s ideology and narrative, ultimately increasing local and international support. For example, Ehud Barak commented in July of 2006: “When we entered Lebanon…there was no Hezbollah. We were accepted with perfumed rice and flowers by the Shia in the south.  It was our presence that created Hezbollah.”[57] From 1982 to 2000, Israeli presence in Lebanon gave Hezbollah the direct enemy it needed to inflame passions for conduct of its operations. When Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah was able to garner even more support as it framed the withdrawal as a victory directly resulting from its diehard resistance to Israel’s occupation.[58] It then used this advantage to continue to taunt and conduct operations against Israeli interests in southern Lebanon and northern Israel as the vanguard and protector of Lebanese and Shia interests in the region.[59] As Hezbollah continued to grow, its growth and provocative actions inflamed Israeli security concerns, finally reaching critical mass in 2006.

Israel’s war with Hezbollah in 2006, which was meant to eradicate the organization for good, ultimately had the opposite effect propelling Hezbollah higher in the ranks of the Lebanese political system and earning sympathy and praise from international audiences.[60] Under United Nation Resolutions 1701and 1702, Israel once again withdrew from Lebanon while Lebanese forces (many of which were sympathetic to Hezbollah) were deployed to southern Lebanon.  Additionally, Hezbollah was not required to disarm.[61]

In the aftermath of the 2006 conflict, the only apparent winner appeared to be Hezbollah. The organization received praise from Arabs and Muslims (both Shia and Sunni) from around the world, who donated monies to help rebuild Lebanon. At the same time, Hezbollah’s TV station Al-Manar became the sixth most popular channel in the Arab world.[62] Lastly, Hezbollah was able to use the aftermath of the conflict to exercise a level of power over Lebanese national politics that it had never achieved previously.[63]

Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s growing power and influence requires a different approach. Because of the powerful ideology, narratives, and support mechanisms Hezbollah has created to endear itself to many in the Lebanese population, Israel must revise its strategy in dealing with such a unique and adaptable threat. If conventional military methods only exacerbate the political grievances of the southern Lebanese and greater Arab community, Israel must look at other indirect approaches to dismantle Hezbollah’s ideology, social service programs, financial sources, as well as creative ways to emphasize Iran’s role in sponsoring Hezbollah.  For example, Hezbollah’s own words via Nassim Qassem reveal how one of the cornerstone of it ideology and narrative is resistance to Israeli occupation, and it refuses to answer what it would do if “resistance” was no longer required.[64] This is an element Israel has yet to exploit along with other opportunities, which shows Hezbollah does have exploitable vulnerabilities.


While this paper focuses on the sophistication and successes of Hezbollah’s operations methodology, many shortfalls and vulnerabilities do exist. Hezbollah’s current monopoly over its primary target audiences makes exploiting the group’s vulnerabilities challenging.[65] Hezbollah remains rooted in a radical, or fundamental, Islamist movement, but the group has also placed itself into the world of conventional politics with its nationalization and Lebanonization narratives and actions.[66] Any Hezbollah transformation away from ‘armed resistance’ is a potential challenge to its hegemony over the Lebanese Shia and emerging influence of the Christians, Sunni, and Druze.[67] In both instances, Hezbollah is vulnerable by its own political creation. Its Shia ties will be increasingly intolerable and threaten the group’s fragile influence over rival religious and social groups, thereby opening political and social gaps for third-party exploitation. As the group continues to dominate Lebanese politics, it risks becoming the ruling political machine for Lebanon. Doing so would place Hezbollah in the unenviable position of responsibility for all Lebanese, and place the group in a corner of responsibility readily exploitable with the correct methods and tools.

Historically, when contradictions and weaknesses in Hezbollah’s messages were exposed and exploited, the group responded with anger in emotion.[68] Although the group’s rivals such as Israel failed to exploit these contradictions in the past, the attempts expose potential avenues of approach to counter and subvert Hezbollah within its own sphere of influence. Israel is ill positioned to exploit Hezbollah’s influence vulnerabilities due to its perceived antagonistic role. However, a credible competitor and its heterogeneous growth within Lebanon remain Hezbollah’s largest vulnerabilities. A sustained investment through a perceived benevolent benefactor is required to subvert Hezbollah’s influence efforts against Lebanese target audiences.

Pushing Hezbollah’s nationalism narrative and political control beyond the group’s ability to manage and manipulate is potentially the most practical course of action. Forcing the group farther along the road of legitimacy, ownership, and political responsibility for Lebanon could stress present interpersonal, social, and religious friction points within the group and among its constituency. Internal struggles, social and political bias, greed, corruption, and third-party sponsors, such as Iran, are critical vulnerabilities and influence pressure points. The situation can be cultivated to employ influence efforts through unconventional and irregular warfare, but would require a comparable synchronization and investment to Hezbollah and its benefactors. Once Hezbollah is sufficiently embedded as an official political power holder responsible for the good, bad, and ugly of the nation, it can be canalized to become further benevolent or repressive. The latter places Hezbollah at risk for facilitation of competitive social movements to capitalize on the growing heterogeneity and political grievances generated through Hezbollah’s expansion. Through effective counter influence efforts using resonant framing of messages/deeds, and generation of counter voices within Hezbollah’s social networks, it may be possible to lessen Hezbollah’s influence over time.


[1] Edward Cody and Molly Moore, “The Best Guerrilla Force in the World,” The Washington Post,

[2] Hezbollah does not shy from acknowledging its use of psychological warfare. While the group does not maintain a truth-based standard as NATO PSYOP doctrine dictates, the closest comparison can be found in U.S. unconventional warfare doctrine, where deliberate kinetic and nonkinetic activities are married to psychologically impacting messaging; from Ron Schleifer, “Psychological Operations: A New Variation on an Age Old Art: Hezbollah Versus Israel,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 29, no. 1 (2006): 1–19,

[3] For more information on social embedding see Alex V. Simmons, Socially Embedded Insurgencies (Master’s thesis,NavalPostgraduateSchool, 2009),

[4] For a more detailed assessment of Hezbollah’s primary , secondary, and subordinate target audiences, see Reuven Erlich and Yoram Kahati, “Hezbollah as a Case Study of the Battle for Hearts and Minds,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Israel Intelligence, Heritage and Commemoration Center, June 2007,

[5] Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2007), 33; Douglas S. Philippone, “Hezbollah: The Network and its Support Systems, Can They Be Stopped?” (Master’s thesis,NavalPostgraduateSchool, 2008), 4,

[6] According to McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald, mobilizing structures are defined as “those collective vehicles, informal as well as formal, through which people mobilize and engage in collective action,” based upon some galvanizing event, grievance, necessity, and or belief; from Doug McAdam, J. D. McCarthy, and M. N. Zald, Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings, Cambridge University Press Cambridge, MA, 1996.

[7] Eyal Zisser, “Hizballah in Lebanon: At the Crossroads,” Middle East Review of International Affairs 1, no. 3 (September 1997): 4,

[8] Ibid., 4.

[9] Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History, 32–35.

[11] Philippone, “Hezbollah: The Network and its Support Systems, Can They Be Stopped?”, 4.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Robin Wright, Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam (New York: Touchstone, 2001).

[14] Jane’s Information Group, “Hizbullah.”

[15] Fathali M. Moghaddam, “The Staircase to Terrorism: A Psychological Exploration.” American Psychologist 60, no. 2 (2005), 162,

[16] Ibid., 163.

[17] Ibid., 164-165.

[18] Ibid., 165.

[19] Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72, (Summer, 1993), 26,

[20] Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History, 38.

[21] Alan B. Krueger, “What Makes a Terrorist?” The American (November/December, 2007), 5,

[22] Ibid., 3.

[23] David A. Snow and others, “Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization, and Movement Participation,” American Sociological Review 51, no. 4 (August, 1986), 464,467,

[24] Mark Juergensmeyer, “Does Religion Cause Terrorism?” National Policy Forum on Terrorism, Security and America’s Purpose, Washington DC, September 6-7, 2005, 7,

[25] Naim Qassem and Dalia Khalil, Hizbullah: The Story from Within (Saint Paul: Saqi Books, 2005), 67-123, 437-440.

[26] Ibid., 25.

[27] Ibid., 107.

[28] Ibid., 52.

[29] Schleifer, “Psychological Operations,” 8.

[30] Casey L. Addis and Christopher M. Blanchard, “Hezbollah: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, January 3, 2011, 9,

[31] Lisa M. Brennen, Hezbollah: Psychological Warfare Against Israel (Master’s thesis,NavalPostgraduateSchool, 2009), 39,

[32] Hala Jaber, Hezbollah: Born with a Vengeance (England: Columbia University Press, 1997), 158.

[33] Ibid., 163.

[34] Matthew Coburn’s discussion with Ziad Hashem, a Lebanese Army Officer in Matthew Coburn, Irregular Techniques for Controlling Under-Governed Space (Master’s thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, 2007), 39,

[35] Schleifer, “Psychological Operations,” 10.

[36] Addis and Blanchard, “Hezbollah: Background and Issues for Congress,” 9.

[37] Schleifer, “Psychological Operations,” 13–14.

[38] Catherine Le Thomas, “Socialization Agencies and Party Dynamics: Functions and Uses of Hizballah Schools in Lebanon,” Returning to Political Parties? 2010,

[39] Jaber, Hezbollah: Born with a Vengeance, 164.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Tony Badran, “Hezbollah’s Agenda in Lebanon,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 8 (2009), 60,

[42] Huessein, son of Ali (the cousin of Muhammad and believed to be the rightful successor to Muhammad by Shia Muslims), was killed in the battle of Karbala and became a powerful symbol for the cause of and promotion of martyrdom in Shia Islam.

[43] Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History, 56–57.

[44] Hezbollah views anyone who dies in its fight against Israel (not limited to suicide bombers or fighters) as martyrs. Husseiniyas become emotionally charged locations where Hezbollah can capitalize on the grief of the participating women. For a complete view on Hezbollah and use of martyrdom, see Qassem and Khalil, Hizbullah: The Story from Within, 100–109.

[45] Joseph Suad and Susan Slyomovics, Women and Power in the Middle East (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), 3, 36.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Hezbollah’s mediums serve to support, reinforce, and introduce new influence operations and their effects simultaneously across the spectrum of tactical, operational, and strategic political-military operations.

[48] Reuven Erlich and Yoram Kahati, “Hezbollah as a Case Study of the Battle for Hearts and Minds,” 41-45.

[49] Ibid., 59.

[50] Gabriel Weimann, “Hezbollah Dot Com: Hezbollah’s Online Campaign,” New Media and Innovative Technologies, 2008, 17,

[51] Alistair Lyon, “Devoted Crowds Throng Hezbollah’s Lebanon Theme Park,” Reuters,

[52] Erlich and Kahati, “Hezbollah as a Case Study of the Battle for Hearts and Minds,” 60.

[53] Nicholas Blanford, “Hizbullah Steps Up Psychological Warfare: Party Believes that the Media Plays Critical Role in Palestinian Uprising,” Daily Star, September 8, 2001.

[54] Schleifer, “Psychological Operations,” 6.

[55] Ibid.

[56] After the war, Hezbollah launched an extensive propaganda campaign to inculcate target audiences with the perception of their “divine victory.” From Adam Elkus, “The Hezbollah Myth and Asymmetric Warfare,” Small Wars Journal (August 15, 2010): 4,

[57] Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History, 33.

[58] Ibid., 91.

[59] Ibid., 93.

[60] Ibid., 140.

[61] Ibid., 142.

[62] Ibid., 149-151.

[63] Ibid., 155-157.

[64] Qassem and Khalil, Hizbullah: The Story from Within, 433.

[65] For example, Hezbollah lost legitimacy in the mid-1980s when it attempted to enforce Islamic order and practice the Sharia within its controlled areas. Hezbollah banned the sale of alcohol in shops and restaurants and prohibited parties, dancing, and offensive music. These actions facilitated economic distress in southern Lebanon as tourism and commerce rapidly dwindled. Hassan Nasrallah would capitalize on these lesson learned by Muhammed Fadlallah to create more advanced influence efforts (both subtle and overt). From Judith Miller, “Faces of Fundamentalism: Hassan Al-Turabi and Muhammed Fadlallah,” Foreign Affairs 73, no. 6 (1994): 129–131,

[66] Mona Harb and Reinoud Leenders, “Know Thy Enemy: Hizbullah, ‘Terrorism’ and the Politics of Perception,” Third World Quarterly 26, no. 1 (2005): 185,

[67] Ibid.

[68] Erlich and Kahati, “Hezbollah as a Case Study of the Battle for Hearts and Minds,” 32.

Coming Soon….What is Wrong with the United States’ Approach to Strategic Communications: A Structural Approach Using Mintzberg’s Organizational Forms

I’ve decided to take a break from AQ for awhile and focus on other elements.  In one of my next posts, I am going to use Henry Mintzberg’s organizational forms to show that the current problem with Strategic Communications (SC) in the United States is not in the concept and utility of SC, but in the way the government organizes to execute this important communication task. When the global information environment was less complex and more stable (as was such during much of the Cold War), a bureaucratic organizational approach to planning, executing, and managing  SC was feasible.  Comparatively, the current information environmental factors alone are complex and unstable (much less the complexity and instability of the international political and economic arenas), thus making a governmental, bureaucratic organizational approach to executing strategic communications completely ineffective when analyzed though Mintzberg’s organizational theory lens.  Given the complexity and instability of the environment, Mintzberg’s theory would state to execute effective SC, the United States should structure its SC organization(s) into something more closely aligned with an adhocracy which allows for a high degree of mutual adjustment critical to effective interaction with a potentially chaotic environment…..more to follow.

Updated – Inspire 6 from Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP): More of the Same

This week AQAP released its 6th edition of its English Magazine.  Because some of the articles deal with recipes for homemade explosives, I will not be posting the edition in full, any portions, or any commentary until I can ensure all facets of the bomb recipes have been sanitized from the edition to ensure public safety. UPDATE (27 AUG 2011): After careful consideration I have decided not to comment on this version of Inspire due to the sensitive nature of the bomb recipes contained within. If future editions of Inspire have content worthy of critical analysis without concern for public safety, I will post the edition and comments on content.

Logos, Pathos, Ethos: Synergy of Reason and Passion as a Catalyst for Insurgent Mobilization and Breakout

The birth of revolution is a dangerous and dynamic endeavor.  More interestingly though is how insurgent movements attempt to persuade average citizens to risk their lives in such an endeavor against a state power, attempting to grow in numbers and strength until such point the insurgency is a potent threat against the state.   However, insurgent movements face a dilemma achieving this goal.  While many average citizens may agree rationally with the insurgency because of their frustration with the state, many times the benefits of joining the insurgent cause are not worth the possible loss of their own lives.[1]  Because of this cost-benefit analysis dilemma, effective insurgencies will generate appeals to the populace and actions that are not only rationally based, but equally, if not more, emotionally based to overcome this problem.[2]  Using the framework of the concepts of logos, pathos, and ethos[3] with examples from current events, history, and modern marketing practices, effective insurgencies methodically synergize and calculate the use of reason, passion/emotion, and credibility to influence, persuade, and manipulate the populace to actively join and/or support their cause.  Continuing along this line, it is possible to create a qualitative, abstract mathematical model showing that to the degree an insurgency is effective at synergizing logos, pathos, and ethos in its messages and actions on the populace, the state, and its own members, it can have a catalytic effect on insurgent mobilization and eventual breakout against the state.

While most insurgencies fail, the successful ones are able to mobilize people in overcoming their natural, logical fears of opposing a sitting regime through the effective manipulation of perceptions.  The use of propaganda and persuasion (which includes the use of words and actions to instigate behavioral change) is quintessential to this effort.  Effective propaganda and persuasion utilizes rational, emotional, and credible appeals.[4]  For the purpose of this paper, a simple framework to use in conveying this concept is Aristotle’s concept of Logos (appeals using reason/logic), Pathos (appeals using emotion), and Ethos (appeals using the credibility of the speaker).  The ability to manipulate and persuade is a function of the effective and synergistic use of all three.[5]  The intent of this paper is not to analyze Aristotle’s concept of rhetoric, but use it as a framework to convey that the calculating and effective use of logos, pathos, and ethos together in words and actions by an insurgency can have tremendous positive effects on insurgent growth and power.

In order for individuals or groups to join or support an insurgency, they should know what the insurgency stands for.  The use of reason, or logos, is highly suitable for this explanation.  In its purest form, logos is the use of information (objective and/or subjective) and reason without emotion to convey an argument.  Insurgencies use many different techniques in conveying its ideology to the populace using reason and logic.  For example, the Taliban incorporate things such as “night letters” posted in villages and hold shura councils with village leaders to convey information or threats.  In addition, the Taliban use audio cassettes and the internet websites stating their intent and espousing their goals.[6]  Similarly, Mao Tse-Tung used propaganda teams to generate weekly wall newspapers for placement in the villages called the “Current Affairs Bulletin,” which consisted of educational material and information about the status of the struggle and the Red Army.[7]  Better known is Mao’s use of formal, systematic education and indoctrination programs that encompassed locals as well as newly recruited insurgents used to teach them the goals of the revolution and drive the populace toward that end state.[8]

However, reason alone may not be enough to persuade an individual that the benefits of joining an insurgency outweigh the potential overwhelming costs.  The use of pathos, or emotional appeal, helps overcome this hurdle.  Civilian marketing and advertising agencies use pathos everyday to persuade individuals and groups to purchase items they logically know they do not need, generating billions of dollars in profits for the companies these agencies represent.  Marc Gobé explains it is important to “understand the formidable and undefined emotional power that ultimately sways everybody’s decision making.”[9]  Relating to insurgency, Chalmers Johnson, is his book Revolutionary Change, states a revolutionary ideology “will supply intellectually and emotionally satisfying explanations of what is wrong with the old order.”[10] In a related manner, Ted Gurr in his book Why Men Rebel relates that an insurgency must generate “aggression-releasing cues” to move a group to violence since just being “discontent alone is not enough.”[11]  This implies the need for an emotional draw to bring individuals to action even when they are disenfranchised and logically believe in the cause.  Additionally, the use of pathos is critically important in persuading the uneducated toward an insurgent ideology that may be too complex for the average individual to understand.[12]  An insurgency can also use pathos to enflame anger from the state to incite repression to help move the populace closer to its agenda.[13]  Adolf Hitler, outlining his persuasion and propaganda principles in Mein Kampf which were ultimately followed by Joseph Goebbels, gave preeminence to pathos.[14]  Even today, authors such as Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, suggest pathos is so strong, its effectual use can be highly contagious and even viral.[15]  There are many examples of the successful use of pathos by an insurgency in the Chinese Revolution and modern day Afghanistan.

The propaganda of Mao Tse-Tung shows an adept use of pathos.  Mao realized the value of subtlety and indirectly communicating a message through emotionally-connected mediums, which over time would make the populace more open to direct, logos oriented forms.  One technique Mao incorporated was the use of symbols.  Mao believed, just as modern advertisers do today, that the representative nature of symbols evokes an emotional response.[16]  Mao also believed “the slogan [would] mobilize the people, who [would] then have to do the work to attain the objective that excited them in the first place.”[17]  This indicates Mao realized the power of emotional appeals.  Using this concept to further sow the seeds of revolution, Mao incorporated the use of art, poetry, music, dance, plays,[18] and operas at the local village level along with many other types of mediums to generate an emotional connection with the populace and his recruits.[19]  He would continue these techniques later in the Cultural Revolution on a national scale.[20]

In the same manner, the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan/Pakistan are also very proficient in the use and understanding of the power of pathos.  The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has devoted an entire project to images and visual motifs used by insurgents in Afghanistan and other Islamic extremist organizations around the world.[21]  These visual motifs serve the same purpose to evoke emotion in a similar manner as Mao’s techniques. It breaks down the use of colors and specific symbols, and what emotions these are meant to evoke. The Taliban also incorporate the use of timeliness with these motifs (especially if they are graphic images tied to an event) to further increase and capitalize on the emotional response.[22] They also use poetry, songs, and chants along with various forms of graphic imagery.[23]  Given the religious nature of their ideology, the Taliban have even used such techniques as providing ornate, colorful, and official-looking martyr certificates to the families of suicide bombers or slain fighters as a means to capitalize on the emotions generated by the loss.[24]  Tying in with pathos and logos, effective insurgencies also work on increasing their credibility with the populace.

Effective insurgencies also incorporate the use of ethos as means of persuading the populace.  An easy way an insurgency can increase its credibility is by actions themselves.  Actions could include such things as a successful attack against a government target or food provided for a local village that has been ignored by the government.  Mao believed “action would provide its own justification,” and he showed it by creating local shadow governments and organizations so that the local population could tangibly see the work and results of the insurgency and its ideology.[25] As part of this, physical presence of insurgents or presence of insurgent propaganda (marking territory) is important to reinforce this concept so the populace is reminded of the action and who was responsible.[26]  Essentially, it can be a reminder of the insurgency’s success or the failure of the government, which may also increase the ethos of the insurgency.

Ethos is also directly related to logos and pathos in many ways.  To the degree an insurgency is effective at logos and pathos, it will build ethos.  This increase in ethos will enable more responsiveness to an insurgency’s logos and pathos lines of persuasions on subsequent interactions with the populace.  If successfully persuading more individuals to join, the insurgency can conduct more and/or larger operations, potentially increasing the strength of it logos, pathos, and ethos persuasion.  This concept brings out the importance of the synergy of logos, pathos, and ethos.

Successful synergy of logos, pathos, and ethos can be a catalyst for insurgent growth.  Therefore, the key to success is careful planning of a comprehensive program that creatively links logos, pathos, and ethos into a unified endeavor.  An insurgency that carefully studies the populace and methodically crafts how every word, picture, and action will link together and its effect on the populace will have success.  Robert Gurr suggests the greater number, density, and creativity of media forms will assist in generating popular violence.[27]  The Chinese Revolution is an excellent example of such synergy.

Mao Tse-Tung’s calculated and comprehensive synergy of logos, pathos, and ethos shows how their creative use can mobilize a population against a state.  He purposefully ensured the elements of his education program were reflected in the symbols, arts, music, etc. and vice versa.  Simultaneously, he ensured actions taken reinforced teachings and desired emotions. Mao referred to this as “putting into the mold” as part of shaping the whole man toward revolutionary goals.[28]   In addition to combining logos, pathos, and ethos on a large-scale, Mao also ensured synergy of all three on the small scale as well.  For example, after capturing a government soldier (in very selected cases), Mao would ensure one of his most intelligent insurgents would question/interrogate the soldier.  Using exceptional logic, the insurgent would debate the soldier about the government (logos).  Over time, the soldier would realize he was unable to argue, feeling guilty and humiliated about the actions he had taken (pathos).  This in turn generated credibility (ethos) for the insurgent and reinforced the insurgency’s logos and pathos.  Eventually, the soldier would be released, generating gratitude for the insurgency (additional pathos).  This converted soldier would tell others of what had happened (a great platform of ethos for the insurgency), thus increasing the overall level of logos, pathos, and ethos of the insurgency, helping recruit more people to Mao’s cause.[29]  As this example demonstrates, calculated, successful synergy can breed success, which in turn can breed more success.

From this concept, to the degree an insurgency is able to carefully plan, synergize, and execute a persuasion/propaganda program using the aspects of logos, pathos, and ethos, the program can have a catalytic effect on increasing insurgent mobilization and growth.  The purpose of an insurgency persuasion program is to instruct or explain to the populace about the insurgency as well as shape, reinforce, or change the behavior of the populace in line with insurgent goals.[30]  The insurgency conducts persuasion through the use of media, whether conventional or unconventional, and actions such as the types discussed earlier for the purpose mentioned above. In this process, the insurgency will target the population to affect its cost benefit calculations relating to supporting the insurgency or the government.  A comprehensive, synergized persuasion program will contain all three elements of logos, pathos, and ethos and have elements that address all facets of the populace’s cost benefit calculation.  It is possible to build an abstract, qualitative model of this concept.

Figure 1 shows a rough, qualitative, abstract mathematical model adapted from Dr. Gordon McCormick’s model of conditional mobilization.[31]


FIGURE 1. Persuasion as a Catalyst on the Expected Value of Supporting the Insurgency.

This qualitative mathematical model shows to the degree an insurgency is successful at its elements of persuasion P (which is a function of the synergy of logos, pathos, and ethos) across the cost-benefit expectations of the populace, the insurgency can increase the expected value of the population supporting and joining the insurgency.  An insurgency can increase the expected benefits of supporting the insurgency while lowering the associated costs, while also potentially lowering the benefits of supporting the government while increasing the costs.  Essentially, all things being equal, if each element of persuasion is successful, the net effect is a positive increase in expected value in supporting the insurgency, or an increase in expected value of supporting the government if insurgent propaganda is unsuccessful.  The reason each cost and benefit has its own persuasion variable associated with it corresponds to the concept a successful persuasion program will be running multiple targets, medias, and themes at the same time. For instance, some may be coercive, while others may be unifying depending on the target and the goal.  The model also allows that some portions of the persuasion program may fail where others succeed.

The model in Figure 1 also suggests how an insurgency may overcome the “rational paradox” during the initial growth of an insurgency as they attempt to influence individuals to join, even though the initial costs seem to greatly outweigh the benefits.[32]  To the degree an insurgency is successful and remains successful at its persuasion program, it can conceivably increase its growth/support base rapidly, and lower the insurrection point, thus creating stable, steady growth.[33]  Studied, planned, and executed effectively, an insurgency’s creative use of synergistic persuasion could turn the idea of revolution into reality.

However, history shows most insurgencies are not carefully planned and executed.  In fact, most insurgencies end in failure.  The few that have been successful have common themes.  One of those themes is mastery of the manipulation and persuasion of the populace toward its cause.  Successful revolutionaries such as Mao Tse-Tung have shown the use and synergy of logic, emotion, and credibility through multiple forms of media and action can have tremendous effect.  Even today, groups such as the Taliban and even modern day marketing incorporate these tactics with great benefit.  The successful mastery, planning, and synergy of the use of logos, pathos and ethos by an insurgency can greatly increase the population’s willingness to support with an almost catalytic effect on their cost-benefit calculation.  Only by respecting, understanding, and ultimately using the power of this synergy as well, can a government work to retain the support of the populace over an insurgency.

[1] Gordon H. McCormick and Frank Giordano, “Things Come Together: Symbolic Violence and Guerrilla Mobilisation,” Third World Quarterly 28, no. 2 (2007), 295, (accessed August 26, 2010).

[2] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes [Propagandes], trans. Konrad Kellen and Jean Lerner (New York: Vintage Books, 1973), 11.

[3] Garth Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion, 4th ed. (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2006), 40.

[4] Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 4.

[5] Ken O’Quinn, “The Elements of Persuasion: Three Principles that Will Strengthen any Appeal,” Public Relations Tactics 16, no. 2 (2009), 20, (accessed September 1, 2010).

[6] Oleg Svet, “Fighting for a Narrative: A Campaign Assessment of the US-Led Coalition’s Psychological and Information Operations in Afghanistan,” Small Wars Journal (September 12, 2010), 2, (accessed September 12, 2010).

[7] Mao Tse-tung and Stuart R. Schram, Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912-1949 (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1992), 218.

[8] Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 304.

[9] Marc Gobé, Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People (New York: Allworth Press, 2009), 108.

[10] Chalmers A. Johnson, Revolutionary Change, 2nd ed. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1982), 86.

[11] Ted Robert Gurr, Why Men Rebel, 1st Princeton Paperback ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971), 199.

[12] Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 79, 108-109.

[13] Gurr, Why Men Rebel, 213.

[14] Jowett and O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion, 230.

[15] Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, 1st Back Bay Paperback ed. (New York: Back Bay Books/Little, Brown, and Company, 2002), 85.

[16] Gobé, Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People, 126.

[17] Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 305.

[18] Sandra Eminov, “Folklore and Nationalism in Modern China,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 12, no. 2/3 (1975), 268-269, (accessed September 1, 2010).

[19] Mao and Schram, Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912-1949, 217-224.

[20] B. Mittler, “Popular Propaganda? Art and Culture in Revolutionary China,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 152, no. 4 (Dec, 2008), 478, (accessed August 23, 2010).

[21] Combating Terrorism Center, The Islamic Imagery Project: Visual Motifs in Jihadi Internet Propaganda (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 2006), 132,–%20Islamic%20Imagery%20Project.pdf (accessed August 26, 2010).

[22] Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 43-44.

[23] Svet, “Fighting for a Narrative: A Campaign Assessment of the US-Led Coalition’s Psychological and Information Operations in Afghanistan,” 2.

[24] “Martyr Certificate by Taliban,” The Pak Factor, (accessed September 12, 2010).

[25] Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 306.

[26] Mao and Schram, Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912-1949, 293.

[27] Gurr, Why Men Rebel, 224.

[28] Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 79.

[29] Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 312.

[30] Jowett and O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion, 29.

[31] McCormick and Giordano, Things Come Together: Symbolic Violence and Guerrilla Mobilisation, 301-302.

[32] McCormick and Giordano, Things Come Together: Symbolic Violence and Guerrilla Mobilisation, 296.

[33] McCormick and Giordano, Things Come Together: Symbolic Violence and Guerrilla Mobilisation, 304.


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