Military Persuasion in War and Policy: The Power of Soft

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

1

Military Persuasion: The Idea and Some Examples

Military persuasion is the threat or use of armed force in order to obtain desired political or military goals. It is basically a psychological strategy intended to influence the decisions of other parties without necessarily having to destroy their armed forces or societies. When some people hear the language “military persuasion” or “armed coercion” they think of sloppiness in strategy or timidity in the waging of war. Bad strategy can be a result of failed efforts in military persuasion, but nothing inherent in the concept or practice of armed persuasion prevents competence in strategy from being achieved. Because simple destruction is something that people inherently understand and military persuasion is harder to grasp, the nuances of persuasion are sometimes its worst enemies. In an Internet-driven era of sound-bite solutions to complex problems, military persuasion invites detraction and confusion.

Military persuasion is nothing new. War has always been both mental and physical, involving the use of brain power and brute force. Great military theorists from Sun Tzu to Basil Liddell Hart have advocated some aspects of military persuasion. Modern writers in the social science disciplines and in history have discussed other aspects of it. The purpose of this study is to clarify what military persuasion actually is and to explain why militaries and their political masters ought to pay more attention to military persuasion in the future.

The first great military theorist to emphasize the significance of military persuasion was the ancient Chinese philosopher of war, Sun Tzu.

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