Drawing on the core precepts of classical strategic theory, it delineates three main areas that deserve further investigation. The first area concerns understanding the character of war through the exploration of emotional stimuli. The main purpose of strategy is to understand the character of war. That character is predominantly shaped by what people in a given war care about and emotional stimuli are, by definition, issues that people care about. Emotional stimuli are thus key to understanding the character of war.
The second area concerns the relationship between emotions and strategic choices. To a significant extent, military strategy is about choices — specifically, choices about whether to employ military power, how to sequence its application, and what exact tools to use for its application. Emotions function as a mechanism that enables the relevant actors to make these choices because they direct cognitive processes to what really matters in any given context. Without emotions, strategists would be unable to make prompt decisions about the application of military power. Understanding how emotions affect choices about the use of military power thus can help us to appraise the direction in which strategists seek to steer a war.
The third area concerns the relationship between emotional manipulation and the pursuit of victory. Victory — the imposition of one’s will upon an adversary — is the end-state that military strategy seeks to reach. Emotions are important for the achievement of victory because they enable the sustainment of the war effort at home and disrupt its sustainment for the adversary. As a result, the practice of military strategy can be conceived of as emotional manipulation on a large scale, conducted for the purpose of achieving victory. Altogether, a systematic exploration of these three areas can significantly improve our understanding of emotions and their role in military strategy.
The paper is structured in the following way: Section two characterizes emotions, discussing where they come from, how they work, and how they affect cognition and behavior. Section three draws on the precepts of strategic theory to delineate the three research areas described above. The following three sections explore the three prospective research areas in more depth. Finally, the conclusion discusses the implications of the argument for future research on emotions and strategy.