7.4.3   Force as a Source of Propaganda

Propaganda, the broadcasting of emotive stories, is a political tool which has been used for centuries.  There are several ways of influencing political opinion within a country, nowadays using mainstream or social media, as described earlier (  Propaganda is also a key component of soft power in a country’s foreign policy (  In this chapter, the use of Ungoverned Power, it has already been mentioned as a component of hybrid warfare (7.3.5) – but this section focuses on how the use of military force provides the raw material for propaganda and the effects of that on the conduct of a war. 

Using military force without UN agreement, to target people in another country, is illegal under international law (  It usually fails to meet the criteria of a ‘just war’ (, so it can also be condemned on that basis.  Civilian casualties are almost unavoidable.  Such attacks can therefore easily be criticised and can be used to create propaganda that becomes a component of the war, as examined in the following sub-sections:

·     Leaders of a country being attacked can call for unity in the face of aggression, to stiffen people’s resistance (

·     Harm to civilians damages the reputation of the attackers and generates international pressure against them, recruiting support from potential allies (

·     Attackers can commit war crimes so that the propaganda impact of their actions intimidates the population being attacked, in the hope of persuading it to surrender (, although this tactic can backfire badly.

All the above effects of propaganda were clearly visible in the conduct of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, providing illustrations of their impact on that war.

(This is an archived page: a later version than the one published in Patterns of Power Edition 3a.  The latest versions are at book contents).