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2 comments

Phil September 10, 2020 at 11:00

Tom’s words should resonate with many across the Army. After all, we spend much time deciding what effect we want to have on our target. And public opinion is just as much a target on which to have an effect as an enemy platoon or company. Sure, we should want a different effect on each but are we not also versed in manoeuvre warfare and the difference between the threat and the application of force?
I would tighten General Sexton’s quote. Public favourability is important for just two reasons – people and money. The Army needs both; it needs people to join it and it needs money to fund it. The trick comes in deciding where and when to deploy your limited resources to achieve your desired effect. And that’s nothing new for anyone planning military activities.
Tom emphasises the importance of arguments and narratives. In essence, influence comes from stories that people can understand. Monty told his staff officers in North Africa that he wanted to ‘hit jerry for six’ – a simple concept that doubtless resonated back then (but would it today?). Popular journalism often uses London buses to measure length – most people can picture a bus so it makes a handy guide. These are both examples of messages being tailored to their audiences.
The challenge comes when you’re responsible for the message but you’re not the target audience. As Tom notes, the recent recruiting campaign was successful; it appealed to its target audience. It was not designed with the sergeants’ mess in mind nor the queue at Andover’s coffee shop. Those designing the campaign knew their target audience. That’s the same as army officers knowing their enemy and planning operations accordingly.
If the Army wishes to influence public opinion, it needs to understand the public and understand the tools available – what they do and how they do it.

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davidbfpo September 13, 2020 at 15:49

It was obvious to many working closely with the general public that support for the British Armed Forces remained high in our last two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq. Wars that many, if not the majority opposed on a variety of grounds. There will always be those who oppose the use of military power, whether “hard” or “soft”; especially when they are wars faraway and probably involve allying ourselves with the USA. Nor should we forget the ability of the MoD and presumably others over the route taken from RAF Lyneham of those who fell in those wars; which some of the public recognised first and foremost. Yes, Royal Wootton Bassett. This distinction between those who fight for us AND the policy that placed them in harms way is THE important public policy issue to remember. None of what the author refers to will make a difference.

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