Much hype has been placed on a certain term recently, “Narrative Led Operations”. It seems that information operations have come to the fore front with the burst of social media and interconnectivity. The need to tell the story or to sell the narrative seems to be more important than the “kinetic” forces. Questions have also been asked if the solider on the ground is able to act in the new environment where the “strategic corporal” is required to make decisions that affects levels beyond his pay grade.
Information Ops is, in fact, an old trade. Vietnam war has been termed a failure on the US side, when the US failed to engage their population and lost the war on the home front. However, there are numerous instances prior and after that where the leaders of the warring nations effectively told their stories and sold the necessities and just cause of the war to their people. The attack of Pearl Harbour, a pre-emptive strike by the Japanese, was not totally unexpected by the Americans (according to some sources). The American leaders needed to convinced its people to bring their nation into the 2nd Great War and the attack of Peral Harbour provided that story. The sinking of USS Arizona and the death of the 1,177 personnel onboard gave the leaders the narrative to bring the nation into a conflict beyond their shores. The two Gulf Wars were not without their stories as well. Ops Desert Storm was the war to free Kuwait and Ops Desert Shield was to remove WMD from the hands of Saddam.
What makes Narrative Led Operations so different then?
Narrative or Info Ops should be and has been part of the entirety to campaign planning. To make Narrative Led the military operations on ground may be too presumptuous as there are simply too many levels of effect for the tactical commanders and his men to consider. Rather than Narrative Led Operations, it would be better off as Clear Communication of Intent.
Another point to consider : Contrary to some academics, we do not stop thinking when we become officers. Rather, we learnt that leading by example and actions speak louder than words. Simply narratives without action to back up the words would lose their meaning with repetition. Words may speak louder at times, but a bullet will prove the loudest in war.