Mustansar Siam (MS): Can you provide a brief and concise overview of the concept of “propaganda of the deed” as it has traditionally been understood in academic analyses?
Victor Ofosu (VO): From the academic perspective, propaganda of the deed is defined as the use of violence to subvert government policies, forcing a targeted audience to act favourably. This is in the context of non-combatant activities.
MS: How does your research challenge the traditional linear interpretation of “propaganda of the deed”? What potential benefits do you see in expanding its application in different academic fields?
VO: The definition of propaganda of the deed has two elements. The first element is violent action. The second element is the message. The time interval between the action and the transmitted message is also crucial. Academia agrees with both elements of propaganda of the deed.
Nevertheless, I am saying in my definition that propaganda of the deed has a psychological underpinning. Moreover, the psychological underpinning I connect to Pavlov’s classical conditioning. I argue that there has to be a conditional approach to using propaganda of the deed since it is used to change people’s cognitive behaviour. I argue that propaganda of the deed uses violent deeds to condition a population or a target audience to act favourably. This is the difference between my and academic definition.
Propaganda of the deed can be traced back to the 1800s; during its inception, the term applied to non-state actors’ use of violent action against the state. These non-state actors at that period were anarchists. Currently, the term defines terrorist use of violence against a population. However, I argue that the current definition offers a linear approach to the concept. Hence, we need to look at the non-linear approach of its application. That is a shift from the traditional analysis to a new way of thinking, arguing that the states can also employ propaganda of the deed as a war termination strategy. Thus, propaganda of the deed should be deployed as a battlefield strategy. As a war termination strategy, violent deeds can change soldiers’ aggressive behaviour on the battlefield.
A general without courage will reduce the soldiers’ morale. Therefore, emotions are relevant. Employing propaganda of the deed adversely impacts the population’s passion for war; moreover, it eliminates the general’s courage
MS: Can you provide an example of a state using propaganda of the deed as a war termination strategy in recent conflicts?
VO: If you look at the case of Japan during the Second World War, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombing is an example of propaganda of the deed. One may argue that using nuclear weapons is an act of terror by a state. However, as the bombing was a violent deed that was proceeded by the message, I argue that the message transmitted fear, which caused the government to terminate the war. Here, fear affected the soldiers’ beliefs and influenced their behaviour, demoralising them from fighting the war. Also, The Doolittle Raid in 1945 serves as an example.
During the Vietnam War, the United States employed the approach to force the Vietnamese to negotiate to end the war. These are some of its applications in history.
MS: How do emotional events on the battlefield affect war termination?
VO: Emotions on the battlefield affect war termination. When you are talking about war, you must talk about the body, the mind and the soul. Moreover, the soul is connected with the spirit. The mind is concerned with feelings, anger and endurance exhibited by soldiers. In war, you have the people (soldiers and the general population) the state and the generals. A general without courage will reduce the soldiers’ morale. Therefore, emotions are relevant.
Employing propaganda of the deed adversely impacts the population’s passion for war; moreover, it eliminates the general’s courage, demoralizing the soldiers. Feelings consist of pride, that is, pride associated with victory. Accordingly, applying my conception of propaganda of the deed eliminates the soldier’s pride and ability to win a war or conceptualize his capability to achieve a victory for his country. The impact of the deed, coupled with the message, will force the belligerent army to enter into a war termination agreement.
MS: How do you see the role of propaganda of the deed evolving in modern warfare?
VO: I will answer this question using India and Pakistan as case studies. In a war scenario, we appreciate that India has a bigger population when compared with Pakistan. Both countries exist in a hostile international system. Furthermore, within this system, competition, disagreement and hostilities exist between different countries.
The United States might force Pakistan to enter into NPT or other agreements or completely reverse its nuclear position. Nevertheless, if Pakistan feels threatened by India’s aggression, it will violate the agreement
Pakistan understands that its human resources and technology are less advanced. Therefore, they will need to apply propaganda of the deed, exert fear into the population and force the population to seek a negotiation to terminate the war. I insist that using nuclear power strategically can effect fear in the population, which will influence their behaviour. I argue that according to my analysis, the population will begin to act favourably, terminating the war.
MS: My last question is about your book The Demise of Arms Control; the effectiveness of arms control agreements has been debated. What key arguments do you discuss regarding the criticisms of arms control agreements in your book, and how do you address them in your analysis?
VO: The book employs Von Stein and Simmons’ analysis of constraints and compliance to treaties; in the book, I apply domestic, security and economic models in arms control. I examine the Six-Party Talk with North Korea as a case study in my book. I argue that North Korea will not reverse its nuclear posture. I maintain that a nuclear reversal will affect the state’s security. A nuclear reversal will contribute to the United States seeking a regime change, which is not in North Korea’s interest.
Nevertheless, I also argued that certain states will enter into negotiations and sign agreements not to use nuclear weapons or to reverse their nuclear posture, but that will depend on achieving international prestige, credibility and reputation on the international stage. However, changes in the international stages will force states to breach their agreement.
Using Pakistan and India as examples, the United States might force Pakistan to enter into NPT or other agreements or completely reverse its nuclear position. Nevertheless, if Pakistan feels threatened by India’s aggression, it will violate the agreement. A state will breach a treaty or agreement when there is a security risk.
Another aspect of the book examined the various effects contributing to war termination, I argue that the states, state actors and the population are key in war termination. Moreover, the book maintains that pressure from the population and loss of political position can cause the states to enter a war termination agreement. Moreover, international prestige and loss of credibility may force a state to terminate a war. These are some of the central arguments in the book.