The Narrative Muses of Jeff Kubiak

War Narratives and the American National Will in War

Dr. Jeffrey J. Kubiak is Director of the Advanced Strategic Planning and Policy Program, and Associate Professor of politics and strategy at the US Army School of Advanced Military Studies, Ft Leavenworth, KS. He holds a B.S. in Political Science from the US Air Force Academy, an MA in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Prior to coming to SAMS, Dr Kubiak taught joint operations at the Army Command and General Staff School. He has also taught strategy at the Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies and the Naval War College. Dr Kubiak’s first book, War Narratives and the American National Will in War, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in July 2014. His current research interests include the domestic context of US foreign policy, the role of narratives in politics, and strategy. He is a retired Air Force colonel having served more than 26 years on active duty.

What is the greatest influence on your narrative practice?

Actually, there are two. One is Lawrence Freedman’s little book, The Transformation of Strategic Affairs. The first time I read that I kind of understood this interaction of narrative and the role it plays in politics or the political interactions of actors. The other one is Deborah Stone’s piece, “Causal Stories and the Formation of Policy Agendas.” It is a small article but really powerful about how politics revolve around causal mechanisms. Basically, where cause lays is where political solutions are found. Political actors create stories or have stories move a certain way to have a certain policy outcome. Both of those two pieces because I was really interested in politics. At the end of the day, those two pieces gave me the most insight.

What book defines your narrative practice?

My narrative practice is in the realm of war. To this day, the most powerful book on war and how I have woven narrative into my understanding of war is still a Clausewitzian view that war is politics my other means. Politics is the womb in which the embryo of war grows. It is all about politics. Book 1, Chapter 1, of On War is still the most powerful book for me for understanding the role of narrative in politics.

What is the next horizon for narratives and conflict resolution?

The nexus between complex adaptive systems and our understanding of the role narrative plays in understanding those systems. When you take something that is complex and the causal mechanisms are opaque at best, if they are even knowable at all, and converting it into a narrative in your own understanding and communications, that fundamentally reductionist. The causal mechanisms are all laid out. There are still huge frontiers in discovering that magic — taking a complex adaptive system and converting it into a reductionist linear narrative. There is a lot more to be explored there on how to narrate through a complex adaptive system.

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