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Narrative Led Operations


Thomas Elkjer Nissen, MA, Royal Danish Defence College2



The concept of a strategic narrative has begun to resonate in International relations,

communications and war studies, although with an emphasis on narratives role in Strate-
gic Communication. Most of the discussions are communication centric and discusses

narratives in the framework of Strategic Communication, Information Operations, Psycho-
logical Operations and to some extent Public Affairs (which mostly have been concerned

with politics and domestic public consent) to minimize the so called “say – do gap” and

winning the “Battle of Narratives”. Unfortunately on the premise that it is the communica-
tions that should be better planned, synchronized and coordinated in order to effectively

employ the narrative – not the other way around, that it is the operations in their entirety
that needs to be based on the narrative.

Little has therefore yet been discussed when it comes to the operationalization of nar-
ratives in military operations at the operational and tactical level and how a narrative can

inform, and even direct, the Operational Planning Process and the conduct of operations in
the future. The latter discussion must be at the heart of the issue for it to add any value to

current military operations heavily influenced by the “fourth operational factor”3 – informa-
tion – and the demands put on all operations to be transparent and legitimate in the eyes

of the media, domestic, international or in theatre based audiences - all actors that con-
tinuously scrutinize our actions and seek to make sense of them in the framework of nar-
ratives in the information environment. At the end of the day perception of our actions will

inform not just the domestic opinion but also potential protagonists and the undecided
population’s behaviour - and human behaviour is what contemporary conflicts are all

In a world where the use of the state’s or coalition ́s “instruments of power”, espe-
cially the military one, are subject to intense political, media and public near to real time

scrutiny there is an increased need for being able to continuously legitimise and compel-
lingly convey (communicate) the reasons for state ́s or coalition ́s actions. Furthermore in

a security environment, where more and more actions are conducted in ad hoc coalitions,
the need for creating and communicating a shared meaning is imperative – despite of the
political / diplomatic and military challenges. Words and deeds must match at all levels – 

from strategic to tactical. It is within this context both the political driven “Strategic Narra-
tive” and “Narrative Led Operations” must be seen. Particular attention must though be

paid to the fact that what is relevant to domestic audiences, and therefore politicians, are
not necessarily relevant to audiences in theatre of operations. A discrepancy between the
levels of warfare that also must be addressed when discussing strategic narratives and
Narrative Led Operations.

States or coalitions and their military forces do not, however, have a monopoly on cre-
ating and projecting narratives. Through the telling of interlinked stories that together

forms the strategic narrative, their opponents, local and domestic audiences, media and
for that matter their own soldiers all create and project narratives making the information
environment saturated with competing and conflicting narratives - a competition that have
been labelled the “Battle of Narratives”.

In recent years the “Battle of Narratives” has been used as a term referring to this ex-
tended competition. The “battle” is marked by efforts by competing nations, coalitions,

entities or ideologies to frame the context of a conflict in a manner that influences key

audiences to foster support for their actions and political objectives at all levels.5 The un-
derlying assumption is that complex warfare is fought not only in the physical dimension of

the battlefield but also in the cognitive, moral and for that matter legal dimension.6 And as
the dimensions are interlinked and mutually supportive when it comes to the creation of
perceptions, military operations have to be coherent with the strategic narrative in words
and deeds.
In a punch line: “What the population thinks, says and how it acts (behaviour) is more
important than how many tanks and airplanes they have”.7 Shaping the virtual battlefield
and subsequently affecting the physical battlefield and thereby diverse audiences ́ and

actors ́ decision-making processes is therefore of the outmost importance. By using nar-
rative analysis (identification and analysis of existing narratives) and strategic narratives at

the strategic level as an integral part of the strategy formulation process, therefore offers
an effective guidance to the military planning process.8 As the above quotation suggests,
the dominance of a particular narrative can shape the entire operating space and help
determine the outcome of the military engagement. But only if the military engagement is
coherent with the strategic narrative and directly supports it, as well as being sensitive to
and playing into local existing narratives.
In the “Battle of Narratives” the role of technology and media is essential; both as a
means to coordinate and mobilize otherwise dispersed groups of audiences and as an

effective way to gain domestic, international and in theatre attention and support for po-
litical goals and military objectives. By using new media technologies to include social

media to frame the context of the battle, as well as act and operate accordingly, actors can

present themselves as moral subjects with legitimate claims and thereby shape the per-
ceptions and behaviour of relevant audiences. This, and the fact that all tactical actions in

the contemporary operation environment potentially have strategic effects, leads to the
requirement for military forces to plan within the strategic narrative framework. The other 

way around strategic pronouncements – strategic narratives – now have direct and imme-
diate influence at the tactical level. E.g. what is said in capitals about long term commit-
ment to a mission has an immediate tactical impact on local perceptions of whether to

side with local or coalition forces or not.


The Contemporary Operational Environment
– and its Nature and Character


The statements might be interpreted a suggesting that kinetic forces is no longer neces-
sary if we just get the narrative right! That is not the case! The nature of warfare is still the

same. War is a messy thing basically about deterring or at the end of the day destroying

your opponent’s will and ability to wage warfare – directly (militarily) or indirectly (politi-
cally, economically or informational). The character of war is, however, ever changing

mostly with the developments in technology but also in regards to norms and legal issues
as well as the increasing power of information when it comes to shaping the outcome of
conflicts. Hence the contemporary debate on narratives. Trying to describe the character
of contemporary warfare and what influences it you therefore find that terms as legitimacy
and credibility and issues as media and domestic, international, regional and local public
opinion, attitude and behaviour are central. Or as Ben Zweibelson describes it: “Media

organisations are decidedly neutral in conflicts, yet their narratives help shape the out-
come of conflicts more than even the most powerful weapons are capable of.”9 The neu-
trality bit is though highly debatable as more and more news networks report events based

on sentiments that frame their coverage. Nevertheless, does this alone call for a re-think
of how we plan military operations? It is highly debated now, but in just a few years from
now it might very well be mainstream thinking!
At a recent symposium Chief of US Army Forces Command General David M. Rodriguez in
the Q&A after his key note address was asked the very simple question: “Sir, Should we
start teaching Narrative Led Operations”? – His just as simple answer came without any
hesitation – “Yes”.10
But why did he answer yes to this question related to a non-doctrinal and perhaps
quite controversial concept so quickly?

Looking at bit more at the context in which most contemporary operations are con-
ducted we find that the operational environment is increasingly complex. This complexity is

the result of a whole array of factors mostly associated with the globalization of informa-
tion and knowledge and more visible cultural differences. This also affords a wide range of

actors with the possibility to actively try to influence and participate in, or be influenced by,
armed conflicts and crisis. The military forces or units employed in crisis-management and
stability operations therefor have to work in a complex context with many actors such as
regular and irregular forces, asymmetric opponents, political actors, criminal organizations,
international and non-government organizations, Medias and civilian populations. Nearly
all the employments of military forces will be in populaces’ areas and it will increasingly be
the norm that military operations are conducted by smaller units – or even individuals - 

operating at the tactical level but with significant strategic implications.11 The technologi-
cal developments over the last decade and the speed with which information is shared

worldwide through the internet and social network medias compressing time and space
also have a huge impact on contemporary military operations. It also blurs the traditional
boundaries between strategic and tactical level more often than not elevating tactical
operations and events to strategic issues. The other way around tactical events is used by
media, politicians and opponents to characterize and frame the entire campaign either
positively or negatively to support a given narrative. These new security policy challenges
often characterized by local conflicts becoming global challenges have amongst other
things driven the development of the use of strategic narratives and highlighted their role
on all levels of warfare.12
But has this increased awareness of the importance of narratives and information in
crisis-management, counterinsurgency and other stability and security operations actually
made any difference to how we plan and execute military operations’? I would argue that it
has not. Most military planning still depart from a classical approach to warfare and do not
address the contemporary use of military force in the complex scenarios described above.
If military planning does take the narrative into account, which is done to some extent in
for an example Afghanistan, there is a tendency to phrase the narrative to fit what is going
on operationally and tactically rather than letting the narrative inform these operations.

Furthermore, when it comes to the military and the use of narratives it becomes chal-
lenging! As Ben Zweibelson points out; “For military organisations, `narrative ́ has become

one of the new buzz-words where most do not understand it or confusing it with `strategic

messaging ́, `commanders intent ́ and a wide host of other military processes that essen-
tially demonstrate our fixation with admiring problems with the latest lexicon”.13

But before we can talk more about Narrative Led Operations we must look at the concept
of narratives itself.




There are many definitions on what a narrative is and which elements it is comprised of. At

the very basic level it contains the elements “past, present and future” and can be de-
scribed as; the story about the rationale, intent and aims – the “why” – of an organisation

(or nation) that reflects the vision and strategy of the organisation (or nation), and, like a
script or score, guides its mission conduct – the “how” of its overall activity. Especially the
part about guiding the mission conduct is at the very heart of the issue. One definition we
find in NATOs policy for Information Operations, where it is stated that a narrative is: “The
translation of an organization's mandate and vision into a fundamental, persistent story of
who the organization is, what its guiding principles are, and what it aspires to achieve”.14
Narratives have also been described as “the foundation of all strategy, upon which all 

else— policy, rhetoric, and action—is built.”15 Finally narrative has been defined as; “A nar-
rative is a system of stories that share common themes, forms, events, and participants,

and create expectations for how those elements can be assembled to satisfy a desire that
is rooted on conflict”.16 The latter definition of a narrative indicated that a narrative is not
just a single story, but several stories that together make up the narrative, and that all
actions that make up an operation are “storied” and become part of a larger narrative that
has communicative effect. Furthermore that the interaction between these stories are

complex and can lead to unintended consequences that potentially can end up undermin-
ing the strategic narrative. To this comes the fact that antagonists and third parties also

tell stories – deploy narratives – that become a part of the narrative system, which further

complicates things and can erode the strategic narrative. Hence the emphasis on “narra-
tive analysis” as this interference is something that should be anticipated and integrated

in Narrative Led Operations: If we do “X”, what stories will this allow the antagonist and
others to tell, and which frames can our actions be put into, and how this might affect the
way we desire to portray the action?17
One thing that confuses the picture is though the seemingly interchangeable use of
“narrative” and “story”. The two are different according to most literature on narratives,
where the narrative is described as the overarching account and stories – or discourses –
are supporting and can change over time or tailored to specific audiences based on their
conditions, bias and current situation. There is therefore an important distinction to be
made between “strategic narratives” and “local narratives” in theatres of operations. The
two should be closely connected, but where the strategic narrative is politically driven, the
deployment of it by a military force - or other entity - in theatre is target audience analysis

and local narrative analysis driven. A key point here is also that it is imperative that a nar-
rative is simple. Too many western strategic narratives are fare to complex and framed in

equivocal diplomatic language. Unless the narrative is comprehensible by soldiers and
audiences, also in theatre, it will be ignored.18
The purpose of a narratives is therefore to foster a shared understanding of who we
(organisation or nation) are, what we do and why, where and when we operate and how we

execute our mission. Effective narratives therefore contain a plot (meaning), and is sup-
ported by audience tailored stories – or discourses – connected to a certain theme or logic

that ties the entire narrative together. Narratives also involve the use of metaphors as
humans naturally relate new information to something familiar in order to make sense of
it. Hence the different stories or discourses to different audiences to support the overall

narrative. In this respect it is also important to keep in mind that the narrative and its sup-
porting stories or discourses not only are about messages and images but to a high degree

also about what meaning our actions convey and thereby what perceptions they create.
There is no doubt that different political agendas, social and cultural conditions and a
variety of other factors generate a perceptual clash of narratives.19 The question is though
why audiences prefer one narrative over another even though they are about the same 

topic. It is fairly easy to differentiate between two competing actors‘ narratives, for an ex-
ample between NATOs and the Taliban ́s narratives which is used to frame specific events

in Afghanistan. It is, however, not so easy and much more complex when you also include
NATO member states and other troop contributing nations, international organisations,

international, regional and local media narratives as well as the narratives of local audi-
ences and for that matter own troops.

It is in these muddy waters of competing narratives where the overwhelming majority
of audiences and stakeholders are someone that we do not fight, but try to be in dialogue
with and influence, that a strategic narrative provides us with the overarching guidance to
achieve unity of effort.
The narrative helps provides the tone and guides the planning, decision-making,
communication, and actions of every single member of the organisation - from strategic to

tactical level. Every decision, operation, activity, and communication should first be com-
pared to the narrative to ensure it is consistent with the overarching tone and intent of the

strategic narrative.

The strategic narrative must be derived from and inform the theatre strategy devel-
oped at the political level and then be supported by the operations and actions on ground

in theatre. Especially as it to a high degree is the accumulated sum of tactical operations
and actions that make up the desired strategic outcome all these must be informed by and

support the strategic narrative. In order to achieve this, our operational as well as the sub-
sequent tactical level planning must happen within the narrative framework. The com-
mander’s intent and planning guidance to the staff and the staff’s development of the

Operational Design, selection of Course of Actions, Concept of Operation and Lines of Op-
erations must fit within the narrative framework. Likewise, the following execution of op-
erations on ground must provide proofe of the strategic narrative in a visual way. This,

thus, also means that our soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers must not only
be trained and educated to use the narrative in planning and operations, they must also
know and understand the strategic narrative and so to speak “live by it” in words and

deeds. The aim with this is that all our operational planning and our operations are in-
formed by and amplifies the strategic narrative giving us legitimacy and credibility and

thereby influence in an ever more complex operational environment. It is in this context
that that the concept of Narrative Led Operations must be seen.


Narrative Led Operations


Narrative Led Operations is about putting the narrative at the heart of the operational

planning process and letting it inform the planning of both the kinetic and non-kinetic ac-
tivities in order to support the strategic intent with the employment of military force as

articulated in the strategic narrative.
The operations and battles we plan on engaging in must thus support the strategic
narrative. The battles we are drawn into must during and after be framed to either support

our own narrative or to counter that of our opponents. Operations must therefore be con-
ducted within the narrative and not be allowed to contradict it even though a particular

tactical action or execution of a target of opportunity might be what wins the day. Narrative
Led Operations is therefore a question of linking what we say politically (theatre strategy)
and what we do militarily in the theatre of operations. Militarily it is a question of ensuring
that both operations and communications are planned and executed or framed within and
in support of the strategic narrative for the mission or theatre of operations. When this is
said, we must still be aware of the existence of situations where military necessity (i.e. 

force protection or the like) prescribes military actions that can be seen as contrary to the
strategic narrative. In such cases a plan for mitigation must be in place.
The term narrative is already being used in a series of handbooks and doctrines on

operational planning and operational design to amongst other things describe the opera-
tional environment. For an example in US Joint Staff ́s Planners Handbook for Operational

Design; “The operational environment narrative captures a more detailed understanding of
the relevant actors, their interactions, and relationships. When used in concert, a diagram

and narrative become powerful tools”.20 Narrative is also used in the Handbook as a defi-
nition of the problem to be solved and then the basis for developing the operational ap-
proach; “A narrative problem statement that includes the required timing to solve the prob-
lem”.21 The handbook finally describes a narrative as “A description of the operational

approach in form of a combination of a narrative and graphics that describe end-state,
objectives, desired conditions, and potential Lines of Operations and Lines of Efforts”.22
The handbook thereby describes three different narratives in the operational planning; the
operational environment narrative, the problem statement narrative and the operational
approach narrative, but not that the strategic narrative have any influence on the planning
from the beginning, or that the narrative frames the execution.

Looking at another planning publication, the US Army War College ́s Campaign Plan-
ning Handbook, you also find that it describes the operational environment narrative when

stating that; “The “product” of the analysis of the current Operational Environment is a set
of narratives that describe the important interests in the Operational Environment of the
key actors. Though the narrative may be PMESII-based,23 they go far beyond the baseline
PMESII analysis to describe the dynamics of relationships of the critical aspects of the
environment”.24 The publication also uses the term narrative to describe the operational
approach when it states: “The Design Concept should include graphical representations
and narrative descriptions of the logic behind the operational approach, and describe the
operational approach”.25 Furthermore the handbook mentions what is called a mission
narrative that it defines as; “Mission narrative that describes the “story” of the operational
approach. This narrative expresses to external stakeholders desired effects for the mission
to help shape their perceptions that are relevant to the campaign”.26 Finally the handbook
describes the Commanders Intent as a narrative; “The Commander’s Intent is a concise
narrative describing the key aspects of his understanding of the environment and the
problem and his visualization of how the campaign must progress to achieve the desired
end state”.27 Finally it describes how narratives can be used to describe Cause of Actions
and the output from the war-gaming.28.

Both the handbooks thereby describes several different narratives and how they can
be used to articulate different aspects of the planning process and the intent to internal
(both subordinates and superiors alike) as well as external stakeholder. The output from
the planning process therefore contains multiple narratives – not a single unifying one that
in itself can be used as direction and guidance for planning and execution of operations as
well internally as externally.

Furthermore, neither of the handbooks do describe how strategic narratives can in-
form the commanders intent and planning guidance and the subsequent planning process

to ensure the needed coherence between the strategic narrative and the operations on
So even though the term narrative is used in the two planning handbooks, as well as in
doctrines and field manuals on design and planning, the use is not consistent with the

evolving theory of the relation between narratives, strategy and operations or offer a co-
herent “mission narrative” as the output from the planning process.

A somewhat different perspective on narratives in operations is to be found in develop-
ing UK doctrine on both strategic communication and operational planning29. Here you find

that the “strategic narrative” and what is called “Information Effect” are the pivotal ele-
ments in the operational planning and in achieving the desired influence on events and

thereby change of conditions. Based on a comprehensive estimate a commander articu-
lates a “theory of change” guided by the strategic narrative. The theory of change outlines

the operational concept to include an assessment of risks as well as capabilities and the
sustainment of the forces ́ legitimacy. The latter is of cause of particular interest when it
comes to the strategic narrative.
Even though the quote below from the UK doctrine on Campaign Planning talks about
strategic communication and the top down direction that strategic narrative provides on

this it still clarifies a very important link between the strategic intent (words) and the ac-
tions on ground to tangible prove the strategic narrative. Thus, the strategic narrative di-
rects the deeds on ground. “Strategic communication is defined as advancing national

interests by using all Defence means of communication to influence the attitudes and
behaviours of people. It is primarily a philosophy, partly a capability and part process.

Philosophy is the key element since it underpins the alignment of words, images and ac-
tions to realise influence. The CDS [Chief of Defence Staff] Planning and Operational direc-
tives will articulate the desired information effect to the JFC [Joint Force Commander], who

will deliver the operational level military contribution as part of the wider cross-
government strategic communication for a campaign or operation. This should be articu-
lated through a strategic narrative, or where additional focus is required, a MOD [Ministry

of Defence] departmental narrative from which the JFC will derive his key themes and
messages. In this way the JFC ensures that the words of strategic communication are
matched by the deeds of the joint force”.

Furthermore the doctrine elaborates on the relation between the comprehensive esti-
mate, the “theory of change” and the direction provided by the strategic narrative. Implic-
itly the estimate must account for existing local narratives and take these into account in

formulating the theory of change.
“The estimate provides the intellectual underpinning to the commander’s insight and

vision. It allows both the commander and his staff to think creatively about the achieve-
ment of the objectives set. It is enabled by the collective skill, knowledge and experience 

of the commander and his staff to design and manage the campaign, and to employ mili-
tary forces. Command-led, the estimate supports the JFC in developing his theory of

change of how the operation will achieve the desired end-state and the information effect
that is specified in CDS’ Planning and Operational Directives. The theory of change is the
commander’s big idea of how the operation will change the current operational conditions
to the future desired conditions and will be guided by the strategic narrative”.31
Based on the different approaches to using narratives internally in the US planning

and design publications and the UK approach to taking direction from the strategic narra-
tive, the basis for Narrative Led Operations can be derived and lead us to a definition of

the concept.

Definition: “Narrative Led Operations are the purposeful strategic narrative led analy-
sis, planning and execution of operations for the purpose of creating a clear linkage be-
tween the strategic intent and the campaign design in order to ensure that the words of

the political level are matched by the deeds, images and words of the Joint Force”.
This emphasis on the strategic narrative and the influence on the subsequent planning
processes of course have some implications.


Implications for Operational Planning


Based on the premise that a commander receives not only a mission or task but also an
accompanying strategic narrative, Narrative Led Operations starts with the commander’s
intent which then again drives the operational planning process. To give the narrative the
primacy needed the commander’s intent and in the planning process the narrative must
be stated in the very beginning of higher levels planning directive, ideally right after the

mission statement, just as the commander in his intent should articulate not only in physi-
cal effects but also in informational effects to be achieved.

Prior to the commander stating his intent and planning guidance a comprehensive
PMESII based analysis of the operational and information environment must, however, be
conducted to inform the rest of the process. This includes an analysis of existing narratives
in the operational / information environment.32
Narrative Led Operations are command-led, but “mission command” must, however,
still apply.33 That the strategic narrative informs and guides the operational planning and

execution of operations and actions does not preclude the delegation of authority for de-
centralized execution. On the contrary! In order for the words (communication) and deeds

(operations/actions) to be convincing and intrinsically believable to all audiences they
must be contextualized and framed in local terms and play into local narratives, within a
context of a long-term view. This requires agility, empowerment and acceptance of risk.

Narrative Led Operations therefore means that traditional fires and manoeuvre opera-
tions must be designed to support the narrative, instead of vice versa. In other words the

given mission and subsequent the commanders mission statement, intent and operational 

design must be informed and guided by the narrative. Subordinate formations and units

must “live out” the narrative in the context in which they operate. Ultimately, the com-
mander at any given level determines the optimal way to execute his given task within the

restraint and constraints that the narrative set up.
To this end Narrative Led Operations have both an internal and an external function.

Internally it is a tool for the commander to communicate their assessment of the environ-
ment, the threats and opportunities it presents, key actions the force could take to exploit

those opportunities and payoff (benefits) and associated risks such key actions could

cause framed within the strategic narrative. It informs the development of Causes of Ac-
tion and Lines of Operations to include both physical fires and manoeuvres and supporting

Information Activities, e.g. Information Operations and Public Affairs. Furthermore it will
internally guide education and training, troop information and coordination instructions in
regards to own forces behaviour to ensure that PPP (Presents, Posture and Profile) is in
line with the narrative. Externally it informs and educates the various relevant partners and

stakeholders whose perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and subsequent behaviour are perti-
nent to the mission.

The bottom line is as the JFCOM study “The Joint Operating Environment 2010” (JOE)
states “Dominating the narrative of any operation, whether military or otherwise, pays
enormous dividends. Failure to do so undermines support for policies and operations, and
can actually damage a country ́s reputation and position in the world.”34 This quote is
underpinned by then commander of JFCOM general James Mattis ́s statement on future

approaches to operational design; ”The complex nature of current and projected chal-
lenges requires that commanders routinely integrate careful thinking, creativity, and fore-
sight. Commanders must address each situation on its own terms and in its political and

strategic context rather than attempting to fit the situation to a preferred template”.35 The

political and strategic context he refers to is in this context the strategic narrative. Fur-
thermore, the prerequisite for the JOE quote is articulate in a UK lesson identified state-
ment based on experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan; “We should empower all military

and civilian staff to compete, with discipline, in the information communication environ-
ment against those who oppose us; this approach will require leadership, less reference to

higher authority and changes in our education and training.”36




Given the current operational environment, and all its political and informational restraints

and constraints, there is a need for giving the psychological domain and especially narra-
tives – both the strategic and local existing ones – primacy in the operational planning

process. This means that an enhanced understanding of systems and actors in order to
create a shared understanding of the operational environment and its links to the strategic

framework is essential for the planning and execution of operations. In respect to execu-
tion of operations it is essential that all means are considered equal – both kinetic and

non-kinetic ones. This requires an emphasis on the analysis and appreciation of the opera-
tional and information environment before Courses of Action and Lines of Operation are

considered to ensure that they are in line with and support the strategic narrative and 

plays into the existing local narratives, to include using the narrative as a guiding parame-
ter in the war-gaming of plans.

This does, however, require acceptance of restraints and constraints on the opera-
tional planning put in place by strategic narrative – or basically political considerations –

and thereby also limitations on the operational and tactical commander’s freedom in de-
termining the operational approach. It also requires acceptance of planning parameters

that are not objective driven and that the execution of operations and actions requires
empowerment to the very lowest levels in order to “live out” the narrative and thereby
acceptance of risk. All, at the end of the day, to ensure that the operations we conduct are
in line with the strategic narrative.




1 The term Narrative Led Operations was first introduced in an article of the same name publiched in

Small Wars Journal on the 17th of October 2012. See: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/narra-

2 Thomas Elkjer Nissen, MA, has from 2001 worked at the Royal Danish Defence College (RDDC) as

a Subject Matter Expert responsible for Strategic Communication (StratCom), Information Operations
(Info Ops) and Psychological Operations (PsyOps). He conducts research, advises and teaches in the

fields of Info Ops, PsyOps, Media Operations (Public Affairs) and the military’s role in Strategic Com-
munications and Public/Defence Diplomacy.

The author would like to thank Brigadier Ian Harrison (UK Army), Professor Steven R. Corman (Ari-
zona State University), Colonel Jon Hazel (UK Army), Dr. Willian Mitchell (Royal Danish Defence Col-
lege), Commander (SG) Steve Tatham (Royal Navy), Lieutenant Colonel Rita LePage (Canadian Army),

Lieutenant Colonel Sean O`Gorman (UK Army) and Major Peer LaCour (Royal Danish Defence Col-
lege) for opinions, comments and input to earlier versions of this article.

3 There has traditional been three operational factors are; Time, Space and Forces. Now a fourth –
Information (to include cyber) – has been added.

4 See Andrew Mackay and Steve Tatham: Behavioural Conflict (2012).

5 David Sadowski, The Battle of Narratives – A Proposal. IOShere, December 2012.Page 4 – 9.

6 In respect to the legal dimension this is also known as “Lawfare”. See Charles Dunlap;
“Lawfare Today” (2008).

7 David Sadowski, The Battle of Narratives – A Proposal. IOShere, December 2012. Page 4 – 9.

8 Resent operations as NATO mission in Libya (Operation Unified Protector) in 2011 showed that

strategy followed after the commence of military operations and the narrative therefore was devel-
oped after the fact.

9 Ben Zweibelson, What is Your Narrative, and Why? – How the Media, the Military, and the World
Struggles with Telling the “Real Story” in Afghanistan. Small Wars Journal, October 15, 2011. Page.

10 17th International Command and Control Research and Technology Symposium (ICCRTS), spon-
sored by the Pentagons Command and Control Research Project (CCRP), Washington D.C., JUN 21,


11 See also Rupert Smith: The Utility of Force, and his discussion of “War Amongst People” (chapter
3). Individual actions that generate strategic effect are also known under the term “The Strategic

12 US Joint Forces Command; The Joint Operating Environment 2010, US JFCOM, FEB 18, 2010,
Page 4 – 12. And William J. Gregor: Military Planning Systems and Stability Operations, Prism 1, No.
3, JUN 2010, page 99 – 100.

13 Ben Zweibelson, What is Your Narrative, and Why? – How the Media, the Military, and the World
Struggles with Telling the “Real Story” in Afghanistan. Small Wars Journal, October

15 Michael Vlahos; Quoted in Amy Zalman: Narrative As An Influence Factor in Information Opera-
tions, IO Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 3, August 2010.

16 Jeffry R Halverson, H. L. Goodall and Steven R. Corman: Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism.

New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011.

17 Mail interview with Professor Steven R. Corman, Centre for Strategic Communication, Arizona
State University (6th of October 2012).

18 Mail interview with Brigadier Iain Harrison, UK Army (6th of October 2012).

19 Ben Zweibelson, What is Your Narrative, and Why? – How the Media, the Military, and the World
Struggles with Telling the “Real Story” in Afghanistan. Small Wars Journal, October 15, 2011. Page 1.

20 Joint Staff J-7: Planners Handbook on Operational Design, Joint Staff, J-7, Joint and Coalition
Suffolk, Virginia, 7 October 2011, page V-15.
21 Ibid, page VI-6.
22 Ibid, Page VI-6.
23 PMESII is a model to describe the operational environment covering the factors; Politics, Military,
Economics, Information and the associated infrastructure.
24 US Army War College: Campaign Planning Handbook, Academic Year 2012, United States Army
War College
Department of Military Strategy, Planning, and Operations, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, United
States. Page 31.
25 Ibid, page 39.
26 Ibid, page 39.
27 Ibid, page 66.
28 Ibid, page 90.

29 Respectively Joint Doctrine Note (JDN) 12/1 Strategic Communication and Joint Doctrine Publica-
tion (JDP) 5-00 Campaign Planning.

30 UK Joint Doctrine Publication (JDP) 5-00 Campaign Planning, paragraph 215

31 UK Joint Doctrine Publication (JDP) 5-00 Campaign Planning, paragraph 248

32 This though requires that a nation (government) or military has the resources and capacity to scan

the horizon for areas of likely conflicts - where the nation or government would likely bring its instru-
ments of power to bear – so that the analysis is credible and immediately available to inform opera-
tional planning!

33 Mission Command; “through mission command, commanders generate freedom of action for

subordinates to act purposefully when unforeseen developments arise, and exploit favourable oppor-
tunities”. (NATO Allied Joint Publication AJP-01(D), page 6-3 and 6-4). Mission Command is also

defined as: “The conduct of military operations through decentralized execution based on mission-
type orders” in the US DoD Dictionary of Military Terms.

34 US Joint Forces Command; The Joint Operating Environment 2010, US JFCOM, FEB 18, 2010,
Page 59.

35 General James Mattis, Commander of US Joint Forces Command, Memorandum; Vision for a Joint
Approach to Operational Design, October 6, 2009.

36 UK Doctrinal Note: “Study of Engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan”.