In 2014, the city of Mosul fell to a battalion sized group of fighters in six days. ISIS used engagement, social media, YouTube videos, and grievances of Sunni disempowerment to fuel this amazing success. In the same year, the Russians seized the Crimean Peninsula with little green men and began an assault on the Eastern portions of the Ukraine initiated by gangs and thugs. These are examples of narrative war – conflict in which narrative use and manipulation is the decisive operation and organized conventional military violence is a shaping operation. Such is the present and near future of war.
An understanding of ISIS provides an excellent framework for understanding narrative war. Who and what is ISIS? When and why did it form? And, how does it use maneuver in the narrative space to effectively achieve conflict success against significantly more powerful opponents? Understanding ISIS is only a tool to developing essential understanding for present and future opponents whether they be non-state, sub-state, post-state, or peer or whether the conflict be counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, or large-scale combat operations.