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The U.S. Department of Defense defines psychological warfare (PSYWAR) as:

"The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives."

History of psychological warfare

Although not always accredited as the first practitioner of psychological warfare, Alexander the Great of Macedon undoubtedly showed to be effective in swaying the mindsets of the populaces that were expropriated in his campaigns. In order to keep the new Macedonian states from revolting against their leader, Alexander would leave a number of his men behind in each city to introduce Greek [culture and interbreed. Since this method of persuasion did indeed influence loyalist and separatist opinions alike, and directly altered the psyches of the occupied people to conform, it could be considered a form of psychological warfare.

The Mongols

Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongols in the 13th century, AD, united his people to eventually conquer more territory than any other leader in human history. This was indeed an exceptional accomplishment, but would have been impossible to achieve had it not been for the use of psychological warfare. Next to mobility, defeating the will of the enemy was the greatest weapon for the Mongols. Before attacking a settlement, the Mongol general would demand tribute and submission to the Khan or otherwise threaten to attack. The Mongols would threaten a village with complete destruction should a single arrow be fired. Most of the initial nations to be conquered, such as the nations of Kiev and Khwarizm, refused to surrender. Consequently, the Mongol general would engage his cavalry in a series of brilliant maneuvers that periodically left most of the enemy thoroughly slaughtered. He would spare a few, however, allowing them to take their tales of the encroaching horde to the next villages. This created an aura of insecurity with the resistance, eventually supplanting the will of the villagers. Often times, this in itself procured the Mongol victory. Another tactic employed by Genghis Khan was the nocturnal use of fire to create an illusion of numbers. He ordered each soldier to light three torches at dusk in order to deceive and intimidate enemy scouts. In one infamous incident, the Mongol leader Tamerlane built a pyramid of 90,000 human heads before the walls of Delhi, to convince them to surrender. 8===============D

Propaganda warfare

Most of the events throughout history involving psychological warfare utilized tactics that instilled fear or a sense of awe towards the enemy. But as humanity continued into the 19th century, advances in communications technology acted as a catalyst for mass propagandizing.

One of the first leaders to inexorably gain fanatical support through the use of microphone technology was Adolf Hitler. By first creating a speaking environment, designed by Josef Goebbels, that exaggerated his presence to make him seem almost god-like, Hitler then coupled this with the resonating projections of his orations through a microphone. This was a form of psychological warfare, because the image that he created for himself greatly influenced and swayed the German people to eventually follow him to what would become their own destruction. Churchill made similar use of radio for propaganda.

During World War II, psychological warfare was used effectively by the military as well. The enormous success that the invasion of Normandy displayed was a fusion of psychological warfare with military deception. Before D-Day, Operation Quicksilver created a fictional "First United States Army Group" (FUSAG) commanded by General George Patton that supposedly would invade France at the Pas-de-Calais. American troops used false signals, decoy installations and phony equipment to deceive German observation aircraft and radio intercept operators. This had the desired effect of misleading the German High Command as to the location of the primary invasion, and of keeping reserves away from the actual landings. Erwin Rommel was the primary target of the psychological aspects of this operation. Convinced that Patton would lead the invasion, as he was clearly the best Allied armour commander, Rommel was caught off-guard and unable to react strongly to the Normandy invasion, since Patton's illusionary FUSAG had not "yet" landed. Confidence in his own intelligence and judgement was also reduced enough that the German response to the beachhead was simply not decisive. Had Rommel reacted strongly with all he had to the initial invasion, it might have subsequently failed. The edge provided by his hesitation and uncertainty was pivotal in the overall war effort and outcome.

Postwar military and political methods

The Cold War raised psychological techniques to a high art and merged them with economic warfare, character assassination and brainwashing. Some techniques that were used:

  • Broadcasting of white noise to convince eavesdroppers that encryption was in use — and to waste vast sums trying to decrypt it.
  • Capturing of enemy spies and brainwashing them into filmed/taped confessions that would embarrass and demoralize their side and their families.[citation needed]
  • Recruiting particularly innocent-appearing individuals to be spies or saboteurs so that, when revealed or captured, doubt would be cast on many more individuals.
  • Various methods to ensure that any captured agent implicated as many innocent others as possible, for instance, maximizing the number of questionable contacts.

"Information age"

As these techniques impinged on the civilian realm, the threat grew, and the paranoia eventually emerged that the government could wage psychological warfare on its own people through the censorship of information. This inadvertently influenced several anti-government/anti-establishment social revolutions in the 1960s and 1970s, including counter-culture and anarchism. The Yippies in particular were among the first to exploit culture jamming.

The so-called "information age" that began in the 1980s was arguably a simple extension of the psychological warfare mindset and principles throughout all civilian activities of developed nations, but especially the English-speaking countries. Growing exponentially through the rise of radio, broadcast television, satellite television, and cable television, and finally manifesting itself on the Internet, the power of those who framed facts about the world steadily grew during the postwar period. A failed UNESCO effort to put countries in more control of reporting about themselves was evidence that many in the developing world saw the extreme danger of most of their citizens learning about their own country from Western news sources.

By the end of the 20th century, however, good factual information on almost anything was not so difficult to attain, even for poor working people. Though this has been thought to be one of the greatest achievements in human history, the susceptibility for deep framing of information to control people and nations on a grand scale became apparent to many intellectual figures as the century closed: Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, Neil Postman, George Lakoff and others argued that the new data-rich environment greatly increased the power of those who were trusted to report and sort it out.

This power was hardly restricted to military use of information. The rise of Microsoft based on its control of operating system technology for most personal computers in the 1980s and 1990s proved that control of the most basic information elements of a system could yield a great deal of power to interfere with competitors and rivals. The term ontological warfare came into use to describe, for instance, Microsoft's methods of modifying APIs to ensure that competitors could not ever fully exploit the operating system itself. Doubt that competitors could do so caused a great many companies not to be funded or invest in competing efforts, according to a United States Federal Court finding of fact against the company. See a separate article on that subject.

Recent military psychological warfare methods

However, most use of the term psychological warfare refers to military methods, such as those used recently by the United States especially:

  • Distributing pamphlets, e.g. in the Gulf War, encouraging desertion
  • Propaganda radio stations, such as Lord Haw-Haw in World War II on the Germany calling station
  • Renaming cities and other places when captured, such as Baghdad airport
  • Shock and awe military strategy
  • Terrorism (as asymmetric warfare)
  • Projecting repetitive and annoying sounds and music for long periods at high volume towards groups under siege
  • The use of Humveess and other vehicles to create mobile broadcasting stations, allowing the US military to verbally harass and agitate Taliban fighters in Afghanistan so that they emerge from hiding places and engage US troops.

See also


External links

de:Operative Information]]
he:לוחמה פסיכולוגית
pt:Guerra psicológica
sv:Psykologisk krigföring
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