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A Message Not Yet Sent: Using Strategic Communications to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction Threats

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The invasion and occupation of Iraq was a strong message sent by the United States to the world. The message was this We can take down your country for just about any reason we want to. And if you purport to have weapons of mass destruction, thats a pretty good reason. The United States may never know precisely how effective this message was. It may have convinced some nations, like Libya, to stop their weapons of mass destruction WMD programs. But the United States may never know which states or organizations decided to drop or not start a clandestine program as a result of its actions. These actions, by themselves, probably had a good effect in places like Libya, but an optimal strategic communications campaign would have used both words and actions effectively. A strategic communications campaign, while it benefits from a demonstration of the will to back up words with force, should be well-articulated and needs to be repeated over a period of time. Many critics have made the case that the U.S. invasion of Iraq, along with the virtual collapse of international support for the United States prior to the invasion, and some questionable actions by U.S. occupiers, have badly tarnished the image of the United States abroad, especially in the Arab world. The United States turned heads with its message of willingness to use force, but failed utterly in communicating the righteousness of its cause. The critical element missing was a coherent message -- using precise and planned words, together with other instruments of influence, to explain to the world why the United States was worthy of being followed -- and if not followed, at least understood. What was missing was a coherent strategic communications campaign for the United States -- a campaign that needed to be in place long before any invasion. This paper addresses the need for a strategic communications campaign to combat threats of weapons of mass destruction.

Subject Categories:

  • Information Science
  • Psychology
  • Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare
  • Unconventional Warfare

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