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Phsycological Warfare Essay

2283 words - 9 pages

     
Psychological Warfare in the United States military

The use of psychology in war is as old as war itself. In ancient Greece, Thermistocles sent his men ashore to carve messages urging the Ionians not to fight against the Athenians (Pease 3). Known as psychological warfare, it is the attempt by one nation to gain an advantage over another by exploiting fear, mistrust, suspicion, rumor, prejudice, and uncertainty to influence international opinion and/or the frame of mind of the opposing soldiers. Psychological warfare is designed to affect the enemy's mind, influencing him to take an action, even against his conscious will, favorable to his opponent (Pease xiii). The United States government employs psychological warfare, known as Psychological Operations (PSYOP), to secure national objectives in times of conflict as well as peace. They are a vital part of the broad range of U.S. political, military, economic, and ideological activities. The ultimate objective of United States military psychological operations is to convince enemy, neutral, and friendly nations and forces to take actions favorable to the United States and its interests. This is accomplished, with varied effectiveness, through several methods and techniques, both on the strategic and tactical levels (Payne). Psychological warfare is also utilized by the United States on civilians and the general population of liberated territories. This branch of psychological operations is known as consolidation (Pease 9).

Strategic, Tactical, and Consolidation Psychological Operations
     On the strategic level, psychological operations are utilized to accomplish long-term objectives. Employed on a global scale, strategic psychological operations are directed at a much wider audience, or a few "key communicators (Hunter)." Strategic operations may also be used on a somewhat smaller scale, known as the operational scale. Here, psychological operations are employed by theater commanders, aiming at a specific group within the theater of operations. The long term goal of strategic psychological operations may vary widely however, from gaining support for American operations to preparing a battlefield for combat. This is accomplished through several means: propaganda, deliberate lies, or stretching the truth to prejudice minds and international opinion against the opponent (Pease 6).
     Tactical psychological operations are based on an even smaller scale. Tactical psychological operations are much more limited in audience, serve to accomplish substantially shorter-term goals, and are multitudinous, especially in time of conflict. In this environment, psychological warfare aims to lower the morale and efficiency of enemy forces (Hunter). Psychological warfare is a bloodless, inexpensive, sometimes unethical and ineffective means of "wounding" the enemy (Pease xiii). It is accomplished through the...

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