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Essay: Psychological Warfare (PsyWar)

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  • Published: 22 September 2015*
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‘Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds opinion is greater than who enacts law.’
President Abraham Lincoln
The history of Psychological Warfare (PsyWar) that very popular among British also known as Psychological Operations (PsyOps) by the American has started since the time of Alexander the Great of Macedonia. It also known with other different names which are Political Warfare and Information Warfare. This warfare has evolved throughout the history and been used widely by the politicians, policy makers and military leaders. For Modern PsyOps, it started during the World War One and being continued in World War 2, Cold War and until this contemporary time. The implementation method of PsyWar change directly proportional to time because of technological advancement as the time goes on. On top of that, the people also educated sophistically especially in urban area then the rural one. Psywar serve dual period which are during the peace time and also war time. In this essay, the writer will explain thoroughly pertaining Psywar based on these scopes : definition, concept, winning heart and mind and lastly is the purpose of PsyOps
Introduction and Definition
Given that the definition of PsyWar by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is: Planned psychological activities using methods of communications and other means directed to approved audiences in order to influence Perceptions, Attitudes and Behaviour, affecting the achievement of political and military objectives. By analysing the definition, it comprise of some important elements which are: method, target and objective. These elements will be explained in the conception of the PsyWar later. PsyWar is totally different with other kind of warfare since it targeting the mental part of human being which is the heart and mind rather than the physical one of approved audiences.
The Concept of PsyWar
The basic concept of PsyWar as been proposed earlier based on the three elements which are method, target and objective. First, the method of PsyWar being conducted is through the means of communications with the approved audiences and also using the other means. Some of the means was used previously but then still being used in the contemporary time and some of it very new due to advancement of technology. The means are: face to face communication, audio visual means, audio media, visual media and the internet as the most powerful means in this globalisation era. Face to face communication happen when some individuals went to targeted group and area for the purpose of influencing that group. For the audio visual means that consist of television or video tape and others, it is a good tool in disseminating information and propaganda towards the people. It creates a very clear illustration pertaining the disseminated information. Regarding the visual media, it consists of reading materials such as leaflets, newspapers, posters and many more. For the internet, the writer thinks that it is one of the most effective tools in disseminating information for propaganda. It encompasses the mentioned tools earlier.
The second element which is the target cover the second part of the definition: directed to approved audiences in order to influence Perceptions, Attitudes and Behaviour. The approved audiences may be the own, allied, neutral foreign forces, populations or the adversary group. Here the writer would like to include another important targeted group as being stated by the Library of Congress Washington “planned political, economic, military, and ideological activities directed toward foreign countries, organizations, and individuals in order to create emotions, attitudes, understandings, beliefs, or behavior favorable to the achievement of U.S. political and military objectives.’ In comparing both definition, the first definition tend to be used during the war time or in the Military Operation Other Than War (MOOTW) such as Humanitarian Operations, Disaster Relief, Counter-drug operations and Peace Support Operations whereas the second definition applied during the peace time especially in promoting and defending the domestic or foreign policy and also national interests.
Next, the third element of the PsyWar concept is the objective: affecting the achievement of political and military objectives. The utmost matter in PsyWar is the achievement of political and military objectives since it is the decisive factor whether the PsyWar success or fail. For example, winning heart and mind strategy (WHAM) are very important in counter insurgency warfare. WHAM actually is an expression that means gaining the trust of a population by gaining its respect, not by imposing values or a biased view, but by bringing them security and development. Winning minds means convincing a population that their lives and livelihoods are being protected, while deterring those who have not made up their minds from joining the insurgency. Winning hearts means meeting the needs of a community, it requires their belief that their expectations will be met by the success of the counter insurgency mission.
It is a strategy to win the heart and mind of population whereby there is a mix between the insurgent and the population. The population at the moment can be affected by two groups either the government or the insurgents. In this situation whereby the government want to achieve its political and military objective, it has to conduct this strategy carefully. The centre of gravity in counter insurgency warfare lies in the control of popular support. Both sides of war (PsyWar and Guerrilla Warfare) depend on the population for supplies, information, sanctuary, training grounds, membership, and legitimacy. When the insurgents are isolated from these privileges, their sources of power decrease. When the counterinsurgent gains these privileges, it has a higher chance of victory. Thus, the ideal counter insurgency warfare entail a great deal of efforts to win over the masses through collaboration with local leaders rather than killing the rebels or those who harbour them.
Winning Heart and Mind in Malaya
The classic example of WHAM is when Malayan government publish its own propaganda by using the services of newspaper or magazine agency. In addition, there are also the emergence of newspaper called New Path News by Lam Swee and C. C. Too which are the specialist of PsyWar. This paper had a monthly circulation of 70,000. Most of these newspapers were circulated in coffee shops and other areas where Malayans gathered. Community centers were built in the new villages where government published propaganda could be circulated. In the beginning of 1955, the MCP shifted from offensive operations to a more defensive approach. Here, we can see that the British used strict policies to deter the Malayan populace from supporting the MCP while they integrated a WHAM approach to convince the local population that their standard of living could not be matched.
PsyOps Categories
In the wartime, basically PsyOps are divided into three categories: Tactical, Strategic and Consolidation. The definition of each one as following sentences:
Tactical PsyOps = Directed solely at the enemy armed forces or civilians located within the fighting zone, or in the area of projected tactical operations.
Strategic PsyOps = Directed at the total population both military and civilian in the area under enemy, neutral or friendly control.
Consolidation Psyops = Directed entirely at the civil population in both forward and rear areas with the aim of supporting military operations by influencing and gaining the cooperation of civilians in the rear of or adjacent to the fighting zones.
From the above definition, it shows that all categories aimed at the undermining the enemy’s capabilities and also to lower their morale. Other than that, it also aimed at the unity of effort within own forces and also population.
The Purpose of PsyOps
Another important aspect that has to be discussed is the purpose of PsyOps. The writer would like to relate terrorism, counter terrorism and PsyOps. Terrorism nowadays perceived as the major threat to international security since it is perceived as a shadowy world of faceless enemy. Basically, ‘Terrorism is a combination of strategies and violent tactics in which the victim (e.g., ordinary citizens) are a sub-element of a broader target (e.g., a government). These strategies and tactics are used by individuals or groups in pursuit of some types of objectives-typically of a political, social, criminal, economic and/or religious nature-and they perceive terrorism to be the most effective way to obtain the power needed to achieve those objectives.’ The most important issue that want to be highlighted by the writer is the psychological impact from the terrorist act. The incidents of terrorism will be displayed on television, newspapers or internet and will leave a very serious effect among citizens because of it randomness in choosing the target. The citizens will start thinking that the next target may be the individuals itself. The moment when the citizens start pressuring the government on certain policy, the terrorist considered as being success in their effort because they want to gain attention
In order to stabilise the condition, the government has to counter back the terrorism. Here, the use of PsyWar is very important. First, the government has to keep the citizen well-informed about the incident. Make sure that the family knows what happen to their beloved ones and keep updated about their condition. The government also has to apology pertaining the incident and ensure that important measure will be taken. This is very important because when the media dominate the issue, the government will be perceived as weak in handling an issue. It will become even worst when the citizen get informed earlier through media instead of statement from the government. All those actions are very important for the government in order to get a popular support from its citizen then the unity of effort among the government and the population will be realised. The citizens also has to be well educated regarding the terrorism as in defensive PsyOps whereby the government has to identify, predict and understand the adversary and other PSYOPs threats (which is terrorism and terrorist) to identified target groups (citizens). At the same time, the government also has conduct Offensive PsyOps which is identify, know and understand the vulnerabilities of identified target groups (i.e. terrorist) to be exploited and crushed. For the terrorism case, the state has to be allied with the other states because terrorist nowadays work and move across the boundary at any time and at any place. It is known as global terrorism.
In conclusion, an attempt has been made to explain thoroughly the given definition of PsyWar. The writer has started first with the emergence of PsyWar throughout the history whereby it changes by the time. The responsible party such as politicians, military leaders, policy makers and others has to identify the future trend of PsyWar. Currently, the international community are living in the globalisation era has to face the good and bad pertaining globalisation. One of the goodness matters is that it makes the world as a world village whereas the badness of the globalisation is terrorism. Terrorist group are unwanted product of globalisation which moves across the border freely instilling fear among people without any constraints. PsyWar is an onging process whereby it may take weeks, months or even years to be implemented and achieved. This is because it is a kind of warfare that attack whereby the mind as a target. Aristotle once said that human is a political animal. There is or may be are points in the mind that constraining people politically. It will affect the human perceptions, attitude and behaviour. Once the political warfare has conducted, these constraints will be break one by one as the time goes on. Therefore in this modern era, the outcome of certain pertaining issue could be decided on the approach of PsyOps being used to engage the issues.

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