IN THE JOURNAL | COVER STORY
Maneuvering within Islam`s narrative space
January-March 2018
By: Brian L Steed

This construct is created to assist those who plan and execute policy to visualize obstacles and opportunities in the pursuit of that policy. By understanding the narrative space morphology, it is possible to develop greater influence with respect to opponents and partners. The development and delivery of influence is done within the narrative space which contains, like the physical battle space, key and decisive terrain that was and is shaped by identity, liminal narratives and transient narratives (see Figure 1.3 later in this essay). These narratives can be detracted or amplified by the “words-deeds-images” of any of the parties involved in the conflict. Maneuver in the narrative space is facilitated by the depth of appreciation of the narrative space terrain. Unlike the physical battle space, narrative space terrain can be readily altered by conflict participants to greater benefit or detriment.

Success in 21st-century conflict requires positive maneuver in the narrative space that includes the braided interaction of “words-deeds-images.” The emphasis is on establishing a narrative that drives the actions of all participants throughout all levels of interaction and operations – from the soldier on the ground to diplomatic personnel to national policy makers.

ISIS currently maneuvers in the narrative space through the use of ideology, supported with a strategic approach that includes engagement to develop resources and a focus on exhaustion of the opponent and, finally, violence. They base their actions and existence off statements and beliefs that, by their interpretation, represent the true performance of a global faith: they are the army of righteousness supporting a state led by the legitimate successor (or caliph) of the Prophet of God. Their actions are necessary and sanctioned by the caliph, regardless of how heinous they appear to outsiders. This narrative was not constructed overnight. It was built over years, generations and centuries.

Maneuver

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