Of all the posthumously published ideas the father of modern strategy left us, Carl von Clausewitz is best remembered for his immortal dictum: “war is the continuation of politics by other means.”[1] A phrase more often than not misinterpreted and misrepresented over the centuries since it was first penned, the good General's intention was most likely to simply emphasize the similarity between violent conflict and politics, as well as the fact that the use of force should serve the rational ends of the nation-state. Having witnessed the bloody reality that was the Napoleonic wars, von Clausewitz wished to rationalize the reasons for why a country would choose to subject its subjects to the vicissitudes of the battlefield.  Video: 2014 Al Qaeda's media arm as-Sahab released a new video teasing the launch of an English-language magazine called "Resurgence." The video used excerpts from a Malcolm X speech as well as ABC News footage of the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, an attack that may have been inspired by a previous al Qaeda magazine called "Inspire."

PIJ poster

Photo: Bethlehem, Israel 2007.  A poster for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement among other posters and graffiti on a door in the city of Bethlehem near the church of the Nativity.  The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine حركة الجهاد الإسلامي في فلسطين is a militant group whose objective is the total destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state. PIJ carries out suicide bombings and other attacks against Israel and is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, USA, EU, UK and others. http://www.flickr.com/photos/exothermic/1033421158/in/photostream/

Will and Force

In  trying subsequently to explain the nature of war his favorite analogy was to compare nation against nation conflict to a wrestling match between two men. Clausewitz meant war to be understood as less of a science and more of an art, since it involved at its most basic level a contest of wills, not a predictable activity subject to clinical and absolute laws such as physics or chemistry. He who has the greater will to win – and has the resources to match – will most often be victorious. It is therefore clear that the morale of “our” side is a clear expression of how much a country wishes to win a given war. Just as relevant, is the question of how strong the will of the enemy is. Do they have the determination to prevail at all costs? Is their political elite supported by the masses? Will their armed forces brave greater risks and more losses than ours?

The centrality of will to the successful application of force is most poetically expressed by the ancient strategist Sun Tzu's observation that the ultimate victory is one in which force never has to be used but in which the will of the enemy bends to our desires before violence has to be resorted to.[2] One way to achieve this violence-free victory is to apply propaganda.

 Terrorism Merely an Armed Political Campaign

Propaganda has been a tool used by many and various actors: empires, poets, democracies, dictatorships, terrorists groups and counter-terrorist forces. After first providing a definition we will therefore proceed by discussing the pre-history of propaganda, followed by its literary origins. Then we will proceed to briefly discuss its original function in the Western religious context before moving onto the less than salubrious 20th century of secular propaganda. The last section will describe the most famous terrorist practitioners of terrorism before finally surveying our understanding today of how to respond to the new threat of religiously informed terrorist propaganda. Throughout the discussion will be informed by the observation made by Dr. Thomas A. Marks, that terrorism can be most simply understood as an armed political campaign and that the successful terrorist becomes an insurgent. This is why propaganda - and the ideology that shapes it and gives it context - is so central to political violence. It the terrorist is to mobilize large numbers of supporters, what Mao called the mass-line, then kinetic events are no enough. The intangible and emotive must be deployed also.



[1] Carl von Clausewitz: On War, Paret, (Ed. And trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret), Princeton University Press, Princeton N.J., 1989

[2] Sun Tzu: The Art of War, (trans. Samuel B. Griffith), Oxford University Press, London, 1971

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