Center for Strategic Communication


narrating-exit-coverNarrating the Exit from Afghanistan

Edited by Steven R. Corman

With the United States and NATO set to withdraw all or most forces from Afghanistan in 2014, a key question is: How do we want to be remembered for our efforts there? The current narrative of the Afghanistan war is a mess. Yet the narrative of the war, as history tells it, will affect future domestic support for counterinsurgency operations and our credibility with local populations where conflicts take place. If the Taliban return to power, the war will be a failure in its own terms. But there is still time to repair the narrative of the Afghanistan war.

This book by experts in history and strategic communication provides guidance for that effort. Beginning chapters review lessons learned from Vietnam and the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, expose the Taliban effort to project an inevitable return to power and its key weaknesses, and explain how narratives are used in contests to define history. The last chapter assesses the narrative up to now and shortcomings of current plans for ending it, then draws on other ideas the book to make concrete suggestions for creating a fitting end.

Searching for a King: Muslim Non-Violence and the Future of Islam

Searching for a King:  Muslim Non-Violence and the Future of Islam

by Jeffry R. Halverson

At a time when violent images of the Muslim world dominate our headlines, Western audiences are growing increasingly interested in a different picture of Islam, specifically the idea of Muslim  nonviolence, and what it could mean for the world. But is nonviolence compatible with the teachings of Islam? Is it practical to suggest that Muslim societies must adopt nonviolence to thrive in today’s world? Where is the Muslim equivalent of a Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.? Searching for a King offers a comprehensive look into Islamic conceptions of nonviolence, its modern champions, and their readings of Islam’s sacred texts, including the Qur’an and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad.

Jeffry R. Halverson asserts that the foundation for nonviolence in Islam already exists. He points to the exemplary lives and teachings of modern Muslim champions of nonviolence, little known in the Western world. Using rich historical narratives and data from leading international agencies, he also makes the case that by eliminating the high costs of warfare, nonviolence opens the door to such important complementary initiatives as microfinancing and women’s education programs. Ultimately, Halverson endorses Muslim champions of nonviolence and argues for the formulation of a nonviolent version of jihad as an active mode of social transformation.

Narrative Landmines: Rumors, Islamist Extremism and the Struggle for Strategic InfluenceNarrative Landmines:  Rumors, Islamist Extremism and the Struggle for Strategic Influence

by: Daniel Leonard Bernardi, Pauline Hope Cheong, Chris Lundry and Scott W. Ruston

Islamist extremism is the dominant security concern of many contemporary governments, spanning the industrialized West to the developing world. Narrative Landmines explores how rumors fit into and extend narrative systems and ideologies, particularly in the context of terrorism, counter-terrorism, and extremist insurgencies. Its concern is to foster a more sophisticated understanding of how oral and digital cultures work alongside economic, diplomatic, and cultural factors that influence the struggles between states and non-state actors in the proverbial battle of hearts and minds. Beyond face-to-face communication, the authors also address the role of new and social media in the creation and spread of rumors.

As narrative forms, rumors are suitable to a wide range of political expression, from citizens, insurgents, and governments alike, and in places as distinct as Singapore, Iraq, and Indonesia—the case studies presented for analysis. The authors make a compelling argument for understanding rumors in these contexts as “narrative IEDs,” low-cost, low-tech weapons that can successfully counter such elaborate and expansive government initiatives as outreach campaigns or strategic communication efforts. While not exactly the same as the advanced technological systems or Improvised Explosive Devices to which they are metaphorically related, narrative IEDs nevertheless operate as weapons that can aid the extremist cause.

Master Narratives of Islamist ExtremismMaster Narratives of Islamist Extremism

by: Jeffry R. Halverson, H.L. Goodall, Jr. and Steven R. Corman

Master narratives are key elements of culture and civic life. They provide individuals and communities with explanations about who they are, where they came from, what they believe and why they believe it, and offer expectations for behavior and goals for leading a good, proper, just, honorable, or righteous life. Islamist extremists engage the master narratives of Muslim culture for their own purposes. They weave a vision of a world plagued by imposters who pretend to be believers but are poised to destroy the ummah from within. There are also barbarians at the gates who want to colonize and subjugate the Muslims, and who cooperate with the imposters in their nefarious plots. The only hope for defense is eternal vigilance and the heroism of champions and martyrs.

Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism allows those working against these narratives to better understand how extremists paint this picture and how to craft effective counter measures. This interdisciplinary collaboration appeals not only to strategic communication practitioners, but also to scholars interested in the history of religion, Muslim societies and cultures, and communication studies.

Theology and CreedTheology and Creed in Sunni Islam: The Muslim Brotherhood, Ash’arism and Political Sunnism

by: Jeffry R. Halverson

The history of Sunni theology is little known, but the impact of its demise has profoundly shaped modern Islam. This book explores the correlation between anti-theological thought and the rise of Islamism in the twentieth century by examining Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the leadership of Umar al-Tilmisani (d. 1986). The sociopolitical implications of anti-theological creedalism and its postcolonial intermarriage with the modern nation-state are also analyzed. Ultimately, this study seeks to know whether a revival of Sunni theology, as a rational discourse on religion, can dilute the absolutism of increasingly pervasive Islamist thought in the contemporary Muslim world.

Weaponsmass persuasionWeapons of Mass Persuasion:  Strategic Communication to Combat Violent Extremism

edited by: Steven R. Corman, Angela Trethewey and H.L. Goodall, Jr.

Complementing and extending scholarship in three areas-terrorism; the media, mediated representations, and propaganda in contemporary culture; and the political and diplomatic environment post-9/11-this book articulates the role of human communication in the “war of ideas.” Drawing on contemporary research from a variety of disciplines, this book offers analyses and recommendations for people to make use of informed, inspired, and ethical communication to counter ideological support for terrorism and to promote more effective public diplomacy.
This is the first book to apply human communication concepts and theories-and to offer potential solutions-to the communication problems encountered by nations, communities, and individuals, and in doing so moves beyond critiques of failed U.S. communication campaigns and strategies in the “war on terror.”