Psychological Operations or PSYOP are tactics are used to convey selected propaganda and information to specific foreign audiences, especially an enemy front, to expedite the process of defeat of the enemy forces by destroying the will of the enemy to show resistance, undermining the credibility of enemy leadership, spurring civil unrest in enemy regions, persuading enemy forces to surrender, reducing the interference of civilians in military operations, opposing enemy propaganda and boosting up acceptance of friendly forces in occupied territory. The PSYOP propaganda is conveyed by a variety of mediums such as face-to-face communication, television, radio or loudspeaker, internet, leaflets, books, magazines, newspapers and even posters. The use of psychological operations during war has existed in the world from time immemorial with the Old Testament bearing plenty of examples of psychological warfare. This paper is meant to provide an all-encompassing information related to psychological operations, its mission, process, types of propaganda used with plenty of examples of PSYOP programs conducted by USA in various wars it has engaged in over the years.
Psychological Operations or PSYOP are tactics which involve conveying selected propaganda and information to specific foreign audiences especially an enemy front in a bid to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups and individuals (Campbell 2010). These operations are widely used by militaries all over the world to manipulate populations into behaving in a manner suitable for the fulfillment of the objective of the mission. The propaganda used by the military forces to coerce the unsuspecting populations of the enemy country is a product of extensive social research and psychological theory designed to reap favorable outcome for those who are conducting the PSYOP. The message conveyed through such psychological operations can evoke a profound personal and emotional response from its recipients. For instance, during World War II, the British and US troops combating in Italy and France received a slew of leaflets, disseminated by German forces, that carried psychologically manipulative messages describing the ineffectuality of their mission, encouraging the soldiers to accept the 'POW life insurance policy' with instructions to go back home to prevent Jewish businessmen from taking advantage of their girlfriends (Public Intelligence 2012). The success of PSYOP would ensure victory without physical violence. Psychological operations are force multipliers which employ non-violent techniques in the midst of crises to manipulate a situation in favor of the country conducting the operation. The PSYOP propaganda can be conveyed by a variety of means such as face-to-face communication, television, radio or loudspeaker, internet, leaflets, books, magazines, newspapers and even posters. The content of the propaganda is of utmost importance here as it all depends on the content of the message how the targeted audience will be affected. This paper will present a comprehensive report on the usage of psychological operations during war, its mission, process, propaganda and operational units in view of PSYOP programs conducted by USA.
An Old Concept
The use of psychological operations to manipulate the opponents during war is not a new concept. It has existed in the world in ancient time. The Old Testament of Bible bears plenty of examples of psychological manipulations. At a time before Israel was ruled by king, judges who were political and military leaders were considered as ruling leaders of people. Gideon was one of these judges who used the technique of psychological operation to defeat the enemy. With only three hundred men, Gideon defeated an army much larger in size than his own. Same way Genghis Khan, the famous Mongol leader also used psychological manipulation to defeat the will of his enemy. Before attacking a village or settlement, he used to demand tributes and honors submitted to him or else he would give threats of attack. Mongols also used to threaten their potential victims of utter annihilation if a single arrow is shot in resistance. When most of the initial kingdoms that Khan attacked and conquered refused to surrender, he used his army to slaughter the enemies mercilessly and used to let few people go alive intentionally so that the tale of horror could be spread in the next villages that he was planning to attack (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
Mission of Psychological Operations
The mission of psychological operations is to influence the behavior of foreign target audience in favor of the mission objectives of those conducting the PSYOP. Behavioral change forms the core of PSYOP mission. It is the noticeable modification in the behavior of the target audiences that determines the success of PSYOP mission. Psychological operations aim at augmenting the effects of military operations. The main purpose of psychological operations is to expedite the process of defeat of the enemy forces by destroying the will of the enemy to show resistance, undermining the credibility of enemy leadership, spurring civil unrest in enemy regions, persuading enemy forces to surrender, reducing the interference of civilians in military operations, opposing enemy propaganda and boosting up acceptance of friendly forces in occupied territory. PSYOP also assists foreign internal defense, counterterrorism, unconventional warfare and noncombatant evacuation operations (Bemis 2011). USA is one of the countries that frequently use psychological operations on its opponent force. These psychological operations are crucial to diplomatic, military, informational and economic activities of the US. In United States, psychological operations are of four types - strategic, tactical, operational and consolidation. Strategic PSYOP involves careful planning to influence a larger target audience. It is conducted on both global and regional basis. Tactical PSYOP is directed towards a particular military unit to manipulate them into carrying out specific instructed action that will influence the combat situations in favor of the country conducting the PSYOP. Operational PSYOP takes place in a defined geographic area in support of the campaigns and strategies of the joint force commander (JFC). These operations are carried out to reinforce US, allied or coalition capabilities to conduct military operations successfully during critical situations (The Airforce Doctrine Document). Consolidation PSYOP is focused on consolidating and strengthening US initiatives in a particular region where US forces are operating in the presence of a potential enemy population. This type operation is particularly useful during foreign internal defense operations.
Psychological operations can be conducted during both war time and peacetime. These operations can spur popular dissatisfaction with the opponent party's leadership by using a combination of persuasion and threats, diminish the opposition party's ability of military operations and disrupt the decision making process of the opposition leaders. If psychological operations are properly conducted, it can save lives of enemy forces by destroying the opponent's will to combat. By reducing the morale and efficiency of the enemy forces, PSYOP can manipulate them into surrender. For example, during the Gulf War in 1991, USA used tactical psychological operations to make Iraqi soldiers, who were unwilling to combat, surrender successfully. Radio, TV broadcasts, leaflets and loudspeakers were used to successfully conduct the PSYOP. Particularly leaflets were very effective in persuading the Iraqi soldiers to quit resistance. Over 29 million leaflets were distributed between 30 December 1990 and 28 February 1991 (The 4th Psychological Operations Group 1991).
Leaflets being dropped by US soldiers
One effective PSYOP involved dropping leaflets on a particular unit of Iraqi troops telling them that they would be subjected to lethal bombing by B-52 bombers the next day unless they surrender. A bombing was executed the next day but not in a manner to cause maximum casualties and another set of leaflets were dropped stating that the promise was kept and the surviving soldiers should surrender if they wanted to save their lives. Similar techniques were used on other units to coerce the soldiers into making surrender. This way due to successful manipulation of Iraqi soldiers into surrender, many lives were saved. Below is an example of a leaflet which was dropped during the Gulf War stating "Warningl this is only the beginning! This could have been a real bomb. We have no desire to harm innocent people, but Saddam is leading you to certain death and destruction. We want you to know the truth! Saddam is the cause. Yes, the Multi-National Forces have the ability to strike anywhere and at any time. Warning!" (The 4th Psychological Operations Group 1991).
Types of Propaganda for Psychological Operations
There are three types of propaganda used in psychological operations - white, gray and black. The type is defined on the basis of the methods used to spread the propaganda. White propaganda refers to overt psychological operations conducted by an acknowledged source. Grey propaganda involves the psychological operations in which the source of the propaganda is not revealed to the targeted audience. Black propaganda refers to covert psychological operations in which the purpose of the government conducting the PSYOP remains concealed and the government also doesn't acknowledge any responsibility. One typical example of black propaganda is when Japanese se forces dropped a leaflet on Filipinos during WW II conveying the message in such a way as if to imply that United States was spreading derogatory messages about Filipino women among US soldiers. The leaflet carried the information of Filipino women offering themselves to US soldiers for a meager amount of food and since Filipinos had no sense of hygiene, US soldiers were instructed to use protection like condoms and medicines or better enter sexual intercourse only with virgins, wives and women of clean character (Linebarger 123). The mission of this black propaganda issued by Japanese forces was to influence the Filipinos in giving support to the US soldiers.
Process of Psychological Operations
Like any other military operation, psychological operations too need a great deal of planning to accomplish the desired effect. PSYOP process involves seven steps. This seven step process is a "standardized, nonlinear framework by which PSYOP are planned and conducted in support of a broad range of missions" (Department of the Army).
Phase I is the planning phase which involves identifying PSYOP objectives (PO), supporting PSYOP objectives (SPO), potential target audiences, baseline data and initial evaluation criteria. The PO refers to the measurable response suggestive of the behavioral change of foreign target audiences. SPO refers to specific behavioral response of the targeted audience which helps accomplished the defined PO.
Phase II involves the analysis of targeted audience through PSYOP arguments to determine the recommended actions to be undertaken by the US military and its allied forces for influencing the behavior of the foreign targeted audience. During this phase, proper media to disseminate messages to the targeted audience is identified. Selection of the right media is important here as it determines that the message reaches the targeted audience.
Phase III is the development of series which is a complex and collaborative process to create synergy among various products and actions to acquire the desired behavioral change in the targeted audience. This step involves consolidating an array of messages and products to accomplish a single SPO. Normally more than a single message or product is required to bring modifications in the behavior of a single targeted audience.
Phase IV is the stage of product development and design. It is at this stage that propaganda is developed using information from phases I to III. During the development of propaganda, every available information, knowledge and material should be used to express the message using words, symbols, artwork, texts, actions and manuscripts.
Phase V involves the process of approval. It is at this stage that the PSYOP series go through pretesting to have its probable effect on the TA or targeted audience measured. After pretesting, appropriate changes and modifications, if required, are incorporated in the product and then it is sent to the internal review board to be approved by the official authority.
Phase VI involves production and dissemination of the developed products. It is at this stage that the developed products are transformed into various media forms that the foreign nationals are accustomed to for receiving information and disseminated among the targeted audience. Post-testing after dissemination of the products takes place to help the PSYOP analysts figure out which products in the PSYOP series are reaching out to the TA and leaving a desired impact on them. If any product seems to be in need of modifications or fails to make desired effect on the TA, it is revoked from the series.
Phase VII involves the assessment of the overall impact of PSYOP series on the behavior of the targeted audience and the achievement of SPOs.
Before this seven step process for PSYOP is undertaken, the intelligence analysts should make a comprehensive analysis of the potential target. They must gather information related to their culture, ethnic origin, languages, attitudes, tensions, problems, perceptions, strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, likes, dislikes and motivations. Only after making a thorough investigation on the targeted audience, the PSYOP should be created or else the PSYOP product can fail to produce the desired impact. For instance, during Gulf War Iraq used a woman messenger called 'Baghdad Betty' to carry out broadcasting of PSYOP propaganda in order to deter the US army. But they did a sheer mistake during the development of PSYOP program by not taking help of qualified clinical psychologists who are cognizant about the customs and values of different cultures. This expertise is crucial to the development of culturally appropriate and persuasive content which is the core of the PSYOP propaganda. This mistake led to Baghdad Betty warning the US soldiers that while they were fighting in the Saudi Arabian deserts, their girlfriends and wives were being taken advantage of by Tom Cruise, Bart Simpson and Tom Selleck. It is preposterous to think that the ordinary women of US soldiers are being seduced by two Hollywood super heroes and therefore, the PSYOP propaganda conveyed by Baghdad Betty failed to make any credible impact on the targeted audience (Rouse).
Psychological Operation Units
In the USA, all the psychological units and soldiers associated with PSYOP are prohibited by the current US law from making any PSYOP experimentation on US citizens. This prohibition is founded on the assumption that since PSYOP propaganda is usually a fabrication or misleading half-truth used to manipulate opponents psychologically, the government should not use the same strategy to manipulate its own citizens towards wrong direction.
In the US, a large portion of psychological operation units are there in the Army. USACAPOC (A) consisted of over 70 Army Reserve units in 29 states and Puerto Rico is entrusted with the responsibility of supporting the national objectives by organizing, training and resourcing Army Reserve Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations forces to provide worldwide support to theater commanders and other agencies (Army Reserve). All the PSYOP soldiers need to finish a nine weeks long basic combat training and afterwards 13 weeks long AIT or PSYOP Advanced Individual Training course. Upon completion of AIT training, PSYOP soldiers need to complete airborne training. They also need to spend more than a year to get qualifications in foreign language training. US Army has four PSYOP units: 4th Military Information Support Group (Airborne), 2nd Psychological Operations Group, 7th Psychological Operations Group and 8th Military Information Support Group (Airborne).
- Air Force
In the US Air Force, PSYOP programs are supported by the Air National Guard which employs an aircraft named COMMANDO SOLO to perform the psychological operations. COMMANDO SOLO gives an aerial platform to the broadcast media to disseminate information to the targeted audience through television and radio (Lamb 2005). The Commando Solo is the only high-altitude aircraft used for PSYOP programs to spread information to remote areas.
US Navy supports PSYOP programs by providing broadcast platforms with the help of VHF frequencies and shortwaves to help dissemination of PSYOP products. Using the dispenser unit or leaflet bomb, leaflets are dropped on the targeted audience. Navy works in collaboration with the Army to support PSYOP programs as Army handles a large portion of PSYOP assets. The US Navy is well-equipped to produce audiovisual PSYOP products.
- Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency is assigned with the responsibility of performing white and black propaganda or overt and covert actions as part of the US psychological operation program.
History of Psychological Operations Conducted by the US
Since the inception of the US Army and the government of the US in 1775 and 1776 respectively, US has been using psychological operation strategies to influence the populations around the world in order to change the behavior of the targeted audience in favor of US objectives. Starting from WWI to WWII, from Vietnam War to recent Afghan war US has been largely using PSYOP programs to deter the enemy and break their morale. During World War II US used psychological operations extensively. There were many operations targeted to different South American nations during 1940 to 1945. During that time US intelligence forces along with the British troops created a series of white and black propaganda to influence the Latin American emotions away from the Nazi and communist forces. Office of strategic services was responsible for strategic psychological operations and military commanders were responsible for tactical and operational matters. During that time US engineers created sounds of vast tanks and motor vehicles and reproduced and transmitted to mislead German army and reduce the morale of the enemy. Also US military used to drop leaflets from the sky and also artillery shells to provide misleading information to enemy forces.
During Korean War, US strategic operations as well as military became much more sophisticated in terms of running psychological operations. Improvement in technology also helped devise newer techniques for psychological operations. During 1950, US tried the same leaflet and loudspeaker technique which they successfully used during World War II but this time it failed. This is partly because the war was mandated by UN and this created a lot of political sensitivity during the operation. The US was not able to fully utilize the psychological operation power as there were several other nations involved in that warfare. However, as the war went on, the US refined its leaflet strategy. It distributed almost 2.5 billion leaflets and started differentiating between tactical and strategic leaflets. It dropped tactical leaflets in the war frontlines and strategic ones delivered further away. This worked and many soldiers from North Korea started surrendering and later said that they were influenced by the leaflets. The operations successfully ended the war with fewer casualties as lot of POW surrendered exactly following the radio broadcasts or leaflet instructions that were used as part of the psychological operation.
In the next decade US successfully used grey and black psychological covert operations to re-instate Shah in Iran and then overthrow a popular government in Guatemala. These two successful operations made a strong case for psychological operations in US government and military forces. However, the same cannot be said about the Vietnam War. During Vietnam War US used leaflet tactics extensively like they have used successfully during World War II and Korean War. This time it failed as they could not understand the pulse of the people and so the messages conveyed in those leaflets could not influence the public and the military. In more recent years US has used psychological operations in Sweden, Panama, and Grenada and during Gulf War. One of the very well-known psychological operations organized by US was toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein and thousands of people cheering around that statue. This was carried out to send the message to the Iraqis that how even a common Iraqi hated Saddam Hussein. However, that tactic did not work as soon it was revealed that it was a staged operation by US military who forced Iraqi people cheering around the statue.
Psychological Operations or PSYOP refer to techniques used during war or peacetime to convey selected propaganda and information to specific foreign targeted audiences in order to influence their emotions and break their morale in favor of the objectives of the country conducting the PSYOP. The concept of psychological operation is not a new concept, having mentions of psychological warfare in biblical documents. The purpose of this paper was to present a comprehensive report on the usage of psychological operations during war, its mission, process, propaganda and operational units in view of PSYOP programs conducted by USA. Psychological operations aim at amplifying the effects of military operations and expedite the process of defeat of the enemy forces by destroying the will of the enemy to show resistance and persuading them to surrender. USA is one of the countries that frequently use psychological operations on its opponent force. USA uses three types of propaganda for psychological operations - white, gray and black. PSYOP process in USA involves seven steps which involve planning, analysis of targeted audience, development of PSYOP series, designing and product development, approval, production and dissemination and evaluation of the overall impact of the operations. US law prohibits all the psychological units including Army, Air Force, Navy and CIA from using PSYOP propaganda on US citizens. The US has been extensively carrying out psychological operations over the years on enemy forces. World War I and II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War bear plenty of examples of PSYOP programs conducted by US to break the enemy morale. Though in few wars such as Korean War, Gulf War and World War II, the psychological operations of US were successful in getting the desired outcome, in Vietnam War US failed to achieve the desired result. This shows that though psychological operation is an effective means to break the enemy forces psychologically and bring them to surrender, there is no guarantee that it would always be successful because its success depends a lot on the psychology of the targeted audience and the overall situations and therefore, proper investigation on the mindsets of the targeted audience and the operational region must be carried out extensively to ensure a successful result.
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