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UK Strategic Communications and the Libya Intervention

February 15, 2013

The news from Libya and north Africa is not so great at the moment but go back a year or so and the British government was congratulating itself on how well everything had gone.  Here’s three items that might be interesting to readers.

Firstly, we have the National Security Adviser’s Review of Central C0-Ordination and Lessons Learned.  This was the first major crisis that the UK was involved in since the National Security Council was created by the Coalition government after the 2010 election and this document reviews the performance of the new system. One of the seven issues addressed is the performance of the system for managing strategic communications across government and linking to the communications activities of other countries and international organizations.  His general view is that things went pretty well.  The document is worth a read because of the picture you get of the way in which foreign policy turns on the creation and mobilization of networks both inside and outside government.

Secondly, we have a presentation by the then head of Public Diplomacy at the FCO, Conrad Bird, on the Foreign Office view of Strategic communication and its application in the Libya intervention this picks up some of the issues from the first item in a little more detail.

Thirdly, in March 2012 there was a revised version of the Ministry of Defence Joint Doctrine Note on Strategic Communications that I’d blogged about here.  The revised version takes into account lessons learned from the activity in Libya.  It’s noticeable that some of the issues that I’d raised in my earlier post have been addressed.  This version has a clearer treatment of the relationship between strategic communications and strategic, operational and tactical levels of war.  It’s also much clearer that there are different forms of strategic communication with different objectives that will co-exist.  Both this document and the Bird presentation show signs of developing cross-government approach to strategic communication as a result of work in the National Security Council

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