Shifting narratives for war legitimacy

Good article last week (12 Jan 2007) in the Fin Review by Ferdinand Mount.  He comments on the shifting narratives for the legitimacy of recent wars.  He notes the history of Asian wars in the latter half of the 20th century that failed to leave behind effective democracies (apart from Malaysia and South Korea).  “We have continued to plunge into proxy wars at regular intervals” as we forget the pain and agony of the last one. 

He makes an interesting comment about the need to effectively name a war and that the current war in Iraq lacks a legitimising name.  Iraq War, Second Gulf War, Long Gulf War, War on Terror are all used but “that there is at present no public narrative that will carry the weight of the second Saddam war”. 

This remonds me of the benefits of effectively naming or branding an initiative to help it gain traction.  Within our department, we have Improving Justice seminars and I was talking today with someone about having a Doing KM conference rather than just seeing a bunch of talking heads.  But then this requires a common and consistent purpose and for the current Iraw war, this was lacking as another article in the same Review section by James Bamford notes:  “The White House took our [intelligence] work and twisted it for its own ends and Tenet (then CIA Director) set a tone whereby people know what he and the White House wanted to hear.” 

Perhaps the intelligence community suffered from not heeding the old saying: “Never fight a story with a bunch of facts:  you have to fight it with another story”.  And that is almost impossible if the dominant narrative keeps shifting!


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