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Essay: Psychological operations (PSYOPs)

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  • Published: 21 September 2015*
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Psychological operation or PSYOPs are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to specific audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of governments, organizations, groups, and individual. It is also can be define as 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 .
The ability to manage and change the perceptions of a targeted audience is considered the fourth instrument of power available to a state, the other three being diplomatic, economic and military powers. This power has hard and soft aspects. The hard aspect relates to creating in the minds of people negative perceptions of their state, government, society etc in order to sow the seeds of alienation. The soft aspect refers to projecting before targeted audience attractive images of the state or group directing the operation in order to create a desire to follow its lead. Both this aspects have the ultimate objective of subverting the mind of the audience and influencing it to act unconsciously as desired by the state or group directing the operation .
According to Lerner, PSYOPs can be divided into three categories. Firstly is white, the combination of omissions and emphasis, means that the information was truthful and not strongly biased, where the source of information is acknowledged by the audience. Secondly is grey, the combination of omissions, emphasis and racial or ethnic or religious bias means it was largely truthful, containing no information that can be proven wrong, where the source may or may not be hidden by audience. Lastly is black, the commissions of falsification where it was intended to deceive the enemy .
However, through this assignment the purpose of PSYOPs will be describe to break the mystery of PSYOPs that always be used in war to achieved some of their objective. Besides that, we also can get more information about PSYOPs that have their own specialty in political and military aspects.
The Purpose of PSYOPs
Generally, the purpose of psychological operations or PSYOPs is to induce or reinforce attitudes and behaviour favourable to the originator’s objective . Means, when the audience heard or read about some information, it will influence their perception to believe the information without any suspicious about it. When this happened, originator will take an action with control the audience to achieve their objective. This operation may take weeks, months or even years to implement and achieve. The crucial difference between PSYOPs and most other military activities is that the resultant behaviour of the Target Audience is ultimately consensual. Thus, it has the potential to produce enduring results, particularly in the area of conflict prevention and resolution. Whilst coercion is definitely a psychological activity that may lead to short-term effect, once the coercion is removed protagonists might revert to their previous behaviour pattern. By contrast, successful of psychological operations is more subtle and leads to a change in perception, attitude or behaviour. When employed wisely, PSYOPs can lower enemy morale by creating doubts, dissidence and disaffection within its ranks or can provide the means to understand, communicate with and influence the Target Audience. Specifically targeted, psychological operations can weaken the will of the enemy, reinforce the support of the loyal and gain the support of the uncommitted .
However, this is not only the purpose of PSYOPs that we can explain from this part. There are many purposes of PSYOPs that we can identify from the previous war such as in Gulf War. In the Gulf War, the purpose of PSYOPs not only to reduce enemy morale and combat effectiveness, but it is also to promote dissension within and defections from enemy ranks; to support cover and deception operations; and to promote unity, cooperation and morale within their military and those of their allies. Besides that, it is also to provide meaningful domestic assistance to less fortunate groups and communities. From the effectiveness of PSYOP in Gulf War, Iraqi General stated that:
‘PSYOP’was a great threat to troop morale, second only the coalition bombing campaign .’
Besides that, PSYOPs were used extensively by all sides during World War II. The purpose of PSYOPs at that time was concern to passing of propaganda to the enemy by using of radio broadcast as a major means. This is because radio broadcast was the best and the most innovative ways to spread their propaganda to their allies. This was rather crude material, but it proved effective. It was concern to promote cooperation, unity and morale within friendly units and people as well as within resistance forces behind enemy lines .
In Vietnam, the United States conducted air attacks against military and military-related strategic targets partly for psychological effect. The principal psychological objective of these attacks was to persuade enemy leaders to negotiate an early end to the conflicts on terms acceptable to the United State . Furthermore, Alexander the Great was use PSYOPs as their instrument to scare their enemy with left behind their soldiers in each region that he had conquered to keep control of the newly conquered area. However, he just realized that his army is too thin so he instructed his armorers to make several oversized armor breastplates and helmets that would fit ‘giants’ men 7 to 8 feet tall to manipulate their enemy.
In terms of defensive PSYOPs, it entails the shielding and protecting of own forces against PSYOPs attack whether deliberate or accidental by chance and also identifying and diminishing our vulnerabilities. The purpose is to identify, predict and understand the enemy or adversary and other PSYOPs threats to identified target groups. Besides that, it is also to identify, know and understand the vulnerabilities of identified target groups to the enemy or adversary and other PSYOPs threats .
Furthermore, it is also proactively strengthen identified target groups in order to reduce the probable effect of enemy or adversary and other PSYOPs activities on them. Then, it is also proactively shield identified target groups from enemy or adversary and other PSYOPs activities by warding off and resisting these attacks or activities and it is also coordinate an appropriate response in order to counteract or neutralise the effect of enemy or adversary and other PSYOPs activities against identified target groups .
However, in terms of offensive PSYOPs entails the planning and execution of activities in order to create, induce or strengthen attitudes or behaviour detrimental to the enemy and favourable to own objectives. The required offensive PSYOPs capability will include the ability to identify, know and understand the vulnerabilities of identified target groups to be exploited by own and other PSYOPs. Besides that, it has ability to develop, provide, deploy and sustain systems to conduct offensive PSYOPs in all areas required and plan full spectrum. Last but not least, it also has ability to influence the perceptions, attitudes and behaviour of the enemy and other specified target groups in all areas required, by coordinating all ‘psychological activities’ to achieve the desired psychological effect .
Through Lerner, PSYOPs was divided into three categories that’s it white, grey, and black. In terms of white PSYOPs, the information was truthful and not strongly biased, where the source of information is acknowledged. The purpose is to get belief from the audience about them, so that people will trust them and give the information that will help them to achieve their objective. However, for the grey PSYOPs, it was included racial or religious bias in their operation. The information largely truthful, containing no information that can be proven wrong, where the source may or may not be hidden. Means, the purpose is to make sure that the audience misunderstanding about each other so that they will achieve their objective without any problem. Lastly black PSYOPs, where it intended to deceive the enemy. The purpose of black PSYOPs is to destroy the enemy so that they will achieve their objective in easy way.
In terms of concept of PSYOPs, in seeking to influence the perceptions of the hostile, is clearly an integral part of shattering the enemy’s overall cohesion and will to fight. However, its use as an influence weapon in manoeuvre warfare is known, but not well understood. Use imaginatively, and carefully coordinated and synchronised with other political and military activities, PSYOPs seek to gain advantage over the enemy in the moral and intellectual, rather than the physical arena. PSYOPs can also contribute to the protection of friendly cohesion and fighting spirit by maintaining the support of the sympathetic and gaining the support of the uncommitted. In shaping the battle-space, PSYOPs may be the Commander’s main means of shaping the moral and intellectual environment and may also be able to assist in shaping the physical battle-space .
PSYOPs aims to break down cohesion by undermining the moral and intellectual links between hostile leaders and their followers, leaving them unwilling to respond or fight effectively. Creating the perception in the adversary’s mind that the achievement of his end state is impossible, and attempts to do so will be costly, is fundamentally a psychological activity aimed at creating the perception of his own defeat .
So, for the conclusion is the purpose of PSYOPs is not only to induce or reinforce attitudes and behaviour favourable to the originator’s objective but it is also had many other purposes of PSYOPs that we can define. The use of PSYOPs in operation is not only to the enemy but it is also use at our allies to gain their morale and as a motivator to them to achieve their objective successfully. Besides that, it is also a strategic that will be use to destroy our enemy.

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