The UK’s Ministry of Defence is looking to the behavioral sciences – “armed propaganda” – to win wars.
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Techniques such as deception and propaganda have been the mainstay of warfare for thousands of years, but there is a growing belief that the modern world has changed so fundamentally that war itself needs to be refigured. Confrontations between standing armies of large nation states are becoming rare while conflicts with guerrilla or terrorist groups, barely distinguishable from the local population, are increasingly common. In other words, overwhelming firepower no longer guarantees victory.
As a result, dissuading people from taking up arms is as much of a military objective as killing the people who actually engage your troops. To the insurgent, influence is crucial, owing to the impossibility of winning the conflict through the force of arms. Violence, then, becomes not an act of war, but an illustration of resistance.