Academic journal article Military Review

Information-Age Psychological Operations

Academic journal article Military Review

Information-Age Psychological Operations

Article excerpt

THE MASTERS OF WAR understood the importance of psychological effects in warfare. According to Carl von Clausewitz's book On War, "War is an act of violence whose object is to compel the enemy to do our will." Sun Tzu, who wrote 2,000 years earlier, established a benchmark for the mastery of war with his observation that "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." Underlying these simple, yet provident statements, is an appreciation of the psychology of war. Ultimately, victory or defeat resides in the mind.

By combining Clausewitz's and Sun Tzu's ideologies, we can discern a goal for infomationage psychological operations (PS YOP "to compel the enemy to do our will without fighting." This goal is particularly relevant today in view ol`an increasing American intolerance for casualties. Information-age PSYOP, more than any other military instniment, may provide us with an increased capability to pursue our national interests without bloodshed.

Spectrum of Conflict

Modern warfare and diplomacy offer numerous ways for nations to resolve their differences. Figure 1 shows a sampling of military, diplomatic and economic alternatives that span the spectrum of conflict. The spectrum is further subdivided into peace, conflict and war options in acknowledgment that conflict is not simply a war or peace issue.

World powers continue to find peaceful solutions in the "not quite peace, not quite war" conflict region. For example, the use of economic sanctions has obtained mixed results. According to a study by the National Association of Manufacturers, unilateral sanctions were levied 70 times between 1993 and 1996. Unfortunately, the vast majority failed to change the behavior of targeted governments.1 Peacekeeping operations in Bosnia have been successful, but at great cost to the military-both in dollars and troop commitment.

Information warfare (IW) will only exacerbate the complexity of solutions required to resolve conflict peacefully, providing combinations and permutations to the plethora of conflict options. While definitions abound and continue to be refined, IW is currently defined in Joint Publication 3-13.1, Joint Doctrine for Command and Control Warfare (C^sup 2^W, as "actions taken to achieve information superiority by affecting adversary information, information-based processes, information systems, and computer-based networks while defending one's own information, informationbased processes, information systems and computerbased networks."2 IW spans across the conflict spectrum from peace to war, diplomatically, economically and militarily, as illustrated in Figure 2. Solutions will increasingly require a vertical integration of the three to resolve conflict peacefully.

The military is concerned with C^sup 2^W, an IW subset.3 As shown in Figure 3, C^sup 2^W also spans the conflict spectrum, but differently for its individual constituents. For example, military deception is a "trump card" played only when the stakes are highest-wartime-as it frequently requires misinformation from a reliable source that, once used in this fashion, becomes suspect. On the other hand, operations security (OPSEC) is routinely practiced by the military to deny potential adversaries critical information about friendly forces.


PSYOP are defined as "planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning and, ultimately, the behavior of foreign government, organizations, groups or individuals."4 Returning to Figure 2, we see that PSYOP not only span the full military spectrum of conflict, but also have applicability outside of the military arena-unique in this feature as an element of C^sup 2^W.(5)

PSYOP capabilities vary among the services, with the majority of the expertise residing in the Army Reserve Components (RC). Principally at the tactical level, Army equipment includes 10- and 50kW radio and TV broadcast transmitters, print systems, loudspeakers and mobile audiovisual vans. …

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