If there is one single lesson that has been learnt from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it is that we have not understood people; people we have fought amongst; people we have fought against; people we have fought alongside. Very often we have looked at people’s behaviours through the lens of our own cultures and history; a culture and history very different from ‘theirs’. Because of that we have been confused and puzzled by ‘their’ behaviours, often describing ‘their’ actions as irrational. Yet that irrationality probably exists only in our world – to ‘them’ their actions are probably perfectly sensible responses to chaotic environments and difficult personal circumstances. Alongside fighting the enemy we have attempted to win over the hearts and minds of the uncommitted; to gain the consent of the population. However our efforts, like our understanding, have been anchored not in Iraqi or Afghan values but in western ones. And so we have attempted to use marketing and advertising techniques from the western, commercial, world to encourage, persuade and inform audiences’ attitudes for whom such techniques are utterly alien.  In so doing western militaries lost the ability to Influence, to Shape and to properly understand the conflict eco-system they too were a part of. Policy makers in respective capitol cities approached policymaking from the wrong direction and were surprised when their policies did not work out.

Behavioural Conflict is the work of two seasoned military officers who have spent the majority of their careers dealing with the aftermath of 9/11. In this now seminal work Mackay and Tatham lay bare the failures of western militaries attempts to understand and communicate. They weave together real operational anecdotes with communication theory, behavioural and social science. Not only do they lay bare the misguided and ineffective attempts of western militaries to communicate effectively but they provide real insight into the science of understanding and how audiences can be influenced to moderate or change their behaviours – making mission success far more likely - even if their attitudes, which for so long have been the sole focus of coalition attention, remain enduringly hostile. Based upon a paper - Behavioural Conflict: From General to Strategic Corporal: Complexity, Adaptation and Influence - originally written in 2009 the book includes a chapter by the former director of the behavioural studies programme at Oxford University's Psychology department, behavioural scientist Dr Lee Rowlands. Author and BBC Radio 4 'More or Less' presenter Tim Harford provides an Introduction and the Foreword is by former ISAF commander General (ret.) Stanley McChrystal.

 

 

 

 

 

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