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PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE- A WEAPON OF


WAR IN 21ST CENTURY

INTRODUCTION

1. Warfare has been mankind’s most persistent pastime, from


prehistoric past to the present. From the early days of prehistoric man,
combat warfare, under the influence of ever evolving technology has
undergone a sea change. It has changed the art, method, tactics and
techniques with invention of newer weapons of mass destruction. Earlier,
war was limited to individuals and small groups, the principle of war being
killing for a kill. Bloodshed was mandatory for the attainment of the aim.
However, with the weapons of mass destruction, the battle/ killing zone is
no longer limited to the warring individuals and groups. It now
encompasses entire countries threatening even global destruction.

2. Psychological warfare (Psy War) is not a modern invention. The


Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, in his treatise on war, laid down “Ping
Ta’, the basic principal of this warfare, in the second half of sixth century
BC. His principle thesis propounded that highest art of warfare lies in
breaking enemy’s resistance even before he has been brought to battle.
Adolf Hitler enunciated that, ’propaganda has to be popular so as to adapt
its spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those towards
whom it intends to direct itself’.

3. Psy war is a proven winner in combat and in peacetime and is one


of the oldest weapons in the arsenal of man. It is an important force
multiplier and a nonlethal yet extremely effective weapon system. It is
defined broadly as, ‘the planned use of communication and propaganda to
influence the behaviour, emotions and attitudes of the target groups for the
attainment of own national objectives’. Puzzlement, bafflement, confusion,
delusion, bewilderment, misjudgment are only few of the effects that a
deliberate propaganda and disinformation campaign can achieve. The
form of communication of propaganda and disinformation can be as simple
as spreading information covertly by word of mouth or as sophisticated as
through any means of multimedia. A psy war campaign is a war of the
mind wherein the primary weapons are sight and sound. The weapon is
not how it is sent/delivered, but the message it carries and how that
message affects the recipient. It has a great impact in almost all spheres of
human activity particularly in the field of international affairs. It is a vital
weapon for several agencies of the Government including the military. It is
therefore pertinent to analyse and assimilate the complexity and nature of
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these vital operational instruments, to establish their linkages,


interdependence and complementary nature for successful
accomplishment of any psywar campaign.

AIM

4. To understand, evolve and apply the concept of psychological


warfare, as a weapon in the 21st century.

INSTRUMENTS OF PSYWAR

5. General. Psywar is the planned use of propaganda and


psychological actions with the primary purpose of influencing opinions,
emotions, attitude or behavior of target audience in such a way so as to
support the achievement of own national objectives. The main components
of psy war are propaganda and psychological actions besides subversion,
diplomatic neutralization, image building and even selective application of
force.

6. Psy Ops. It encompasses all political, military, economic and


ideological actions, planned and conducted against hostile, neutral or
friendly foreign groups, to affect their emotions, attitudes or behaviour for
favourable accomplishment of own national objective. These may also be
carried out towards own nationals within own territory to channelise their
attitude and thought process to meet the projected Government policies.
These as such are planned operations to convey selected information and
indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective
reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of organizations, groups and
individuals. Used in all aspects of war, it is a weapon whose effectiveness
is limited only by the ingenuity of the commander using it.

7. Propaganda. Propaganda has been defined as any information,


doctrine or special appeal, disseminated to influence the opinions,
emotions, attitudes or behaviour of any specific group to benefit the
sponsor either directly or indirectly. When we speak of propaganda we do
not mean the ordinary method of advertising but the highly organized
systems of mass persuasion. Militarily, propaganda is typified based on the
situation to include the physical distance between the propagandist and
the target in which it is employed as well as on the identification of
sources. Based on the situation in which it is employed, it is classified as
strategic, tactical or consolidation propaganda, where as based on the
identification of the source, it is classified as White, Black & Grey
Propaganda.
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8. Disinformation. It is false information intended to mislead.


Disinformation can be used for military deception. Propaganda though not
exactly ‘false information’, is intended to evoke responses similar to those
caused by deception and it is intended to create favourable working
circumstances for the initiators.

9. Deception. It is the term applied to all forms of strategies, guile and


cunning by which an enemy is misled, deceived outwitted, mystified,
bewildered or terrorized. ’Maskirova’ the art of deception, is an important
tenet in Russian strategic thinking. It encompasses the art of concealment
(Skrytie), the use of dummies & decoys (imitatsiia), disinformation
(disinformasia) and demonstration maneuvers (demonstrativry maneury).

10. Perception Management. These are actions to convey and/


deny selected information and indicators to target audiences, intelligence
systems & leaders at all levels, with a view to influence their motives,
objective reasoning as well as their official estimates, ultimately resulting in
their behaviours and official actions to be favourable to the originators
objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth
projection, operations security, cover, deception and psy ops. It has also
been defined as “overt, covert or clandestine employment of deception,
controlled disclosures, military demonstrations, psy ops war, psychotropic
biological and chemical agents and other special operations, to influence
and exploit the emotions, thoughts and motives of targeted governments,
groups and individuals in ways that help users’ objectives”.

11. Propaganda causes Disinformation. Propaganda means to


propagate. As generally understood, propaganda is opinion expressed for
the purpose of influencing actions of individuals or groups. Propaganda
thus differs fundamentally from scientific analysis. Science flourishes on
criticism. Dangerous propaganda crumbles before it. However for
propaganda to prove effective for any meaningful disinformation, it must be
based on an element of truth and credibility. Thus, disinformation must
appear to be information and be disseminated with tact using diplomatic
jugglery.

12. Propaganda often manipulates emotion more readily than reason,


and that hatred is most easily aroused when propagandist sow their seeds
in soil already fertilized with ingrained prejudice. For e.g. the Germans in
America after WW-II, because of their distinct speech and group feeling
were different from their neighbours, and became an easily recognizable
“ out group”. And if many Americans mistrusted German “Foreigners”, it
was a relatively small step for propaganda to persuade them that,
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“the Hun”- racially distinct and distinctly inferior-was capable of a appalling


brutality. Once people were inclined to believe the worst of the Germans,
the actual veracity and provenance of individual atrocity stories became
insignificant.

DISINFORMATION CAUSES DECEPTION

13. Cover and deception operations are complex and intricate affairs,
invariably involving many talents, techniques and resources. Perhaps the
most ambitious and spectacular cover and deception operation of modern
era was the effort of the Allies to convince the German high command that
the up coming Allied invasion of Europe would occur across the beaches
of Pas De Calais., rather than the narrow sand strips and cliffs of
Normandy nearly hundred miles away.

14. The ability of disinformation to cause strategic, operational and


tactical deception is its primary advantage. It is as such possible to induce
the enemy to execute actions under unfavourable circumstances,
prematurely, dissipating his resources and also achieving own security of
operations.

15. It would therefore be prudent to define Psy ops in this context.


These are the activities carried out in social, political, economic, military,
diplomatic and ideological fields with a view to influence the opinions,
emotions, attitudes or behaviour of the target group. These activities may
include implied threats or selective application of force, economic
sanctions, civic actions, blockage of aid / treaties and other humanitarian
activities. While psy Ops is primarily to project own viewpoint to influence
the selected target audience and ought to be credible, it can be used with
guile to attain disinformation.

PSY WAR – A WEAPON OF WAR

16. The chief weapon of psy war is propaganda. The essential


ingredients of propaganda are source, time audience, subject and mission.
Only the effective integration of these ingredients will result in successful
propaganda and fulfillment of the objective. Thus the credibility of the
source, the timing, the characteristics of the audience and the credibility of
the message are of paramount importance.

17. An effective psychological operation campaign must be based on


thorough research and intelligence; it must be consistent with the
government, military and political policy; it must stem from a deep
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understanding of the target audience and must get the right message to
the right audience at the right time. Propaganda is the crucial factor for any
psy ops and should be based on information, which to the enemy is
credible. It should be presented in a form, which will both attract and
excite, while exploiting the physiological and psychological needs of the
targets, which it should then seek to satisfy.

18. Propaganda should neither be excessively rigid or dogmatic, nor


unnecessarily hostile or contentious and must be selective in nature. Only
in exceptional circumstances, it should be unproved as inconsistencies will
quickly be identified by the enemy psy ops teams and exploited. Although
propaganda will generally be true, it need not identify its source and may
indeed purport to emanate from a source other than the true one. It may
include rumors, but only if the target is suffering from a shortage of factual
information and if the subject of the rumor is of immediate interest or
importance to the audience. Rumor should not be allowed to become
folklore, nor it should be allowed to damage the morale of the instigators
own military or populace.

19. Posters, leaflets, cartoons, exhibitions, static displays, use of radio,


loud speakers, sound recording devices, TV, films and the internet are the
means that can be used for the dissemination of propaganda to achieve
the effects caused by disinformation.

PSYWAR THEMES

20. The crux of any psy war campaign is the “Theme” or the message. A
deliberate disinformation campaign would essentially encompass analysis
of the target audience, vulnerabilities, an assessment of its susceptibility to
being influenced, selection of dissemination tools & subsequent selection
of themes. Disinformation themes could attempt to mislead capabilities,
intentions, time frame, scope of operations besides a broad spectrum of
strategic factors including information on politico sociological facets,
economy, technological potential, transportation and communication
means in addition to the armed forces.

21. Considering the overwhelming reliance on overt sources of


information, the requirement of “smart manipulation” of open means
assumes great significance. While uncensored media is intricate to
influence, its credibility with its followers gives it an edge. Planting of
information to bewilder the enemy’s espionage network can also
accomplish dividends. In fact, misleading information must reach the
enemy through as many normal channels of information as possible. It
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should also reach him with sufficient time for him to act on it or to be
influenced by it.

22. In deception, new ideas must be conceived. Old and familiar


methods should not be repeated, as there will always be the risk of enemy
seeing through them. Variety and originality in execution are very
essential. Propaganda is one of the methods of achieving deception, by
giving the enemy misleading information.

PSY WAR- A HUMANE WEAPON

23. Skilful propaganda is capable of manipulating its audience at the


emotional level. Psychological studies once carried out in United states proved
the disastrous impact of wide spread racism on children of African descent. Black
children as it was revealed in the survey, all believed that a doll with light
coloured skin, to be more desirable than the one with darker skin- a measure of
‘self hatred’ instilled by social attitudes so prevalent as to be taken for granted.
Propaganda if carried out a long period of time and with intend to achieve a
specific goal or political change is usually part of a larger conquest called
‘political warfare’ and is almost sure to be accompanied by diplomatic pressures
against national leaders, economic actions like foreign economic/ military aid
cultural intervention, and surveillance. As such, it can have a profound or even
devastating impact on the target audience.

24. By the application of sound psy ops techniques, through mass media
communications, we can appeal to the intelligence, reasons and emotions of our
target audience to get them to think and act as we desire. If they are fighting our
forces we can persuade them to lay down their arms; if they fear, we can
convince them not to fear us. If they are belligerent and un co-operative , we can
show them the value of unity and cooperation with us. The utilisation of psy
operations can prevent needless bloodshed, misery and destruction. That is why
it can be said with conviction that psy ops, is a truly a humane weapon.

THE MODERN ENVIRONMENT

25. The rapid advances in the field of mass media and information technology
has made it possible for information and ideas to spread amongst masses across
geographical borders with astonishing speed. These very advances have now
become a major weapon of war & peace. The activities involved in the use of
information technology as an instrument of war has been termed as psy war,
propaganda, war of mind, humane warfare, silent warfare and mass
communication weapon which are all encompassed in the ‘infowar’.

26 Info war is emerging as a potent new element of strategy. The Gulf war
bought in the use of information, disinformation, deception, propaganda and info
war to its zenith. The gulf war experience has spurred the recognition that the
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ability to achieve psychological conditioning of the target audience, is by


‘information dominance’. This could represent a new era in strategy formulation.
Therefore, global dominance will be achieved by those that most clearly
understand the role of information and power of knowledge that flows from it.

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE IN 21ST CENTURY

27. The present age can aptly be named as the ‘information age’.
Technological advances and information are interdependent. The advances in
one field often entailing; and dependant upon the advances in the other. In the
modern context, psy ops has a vital role to play in the effective use of military
forces. This is especially so as the world becomes increasingly urban and
interconnected through the internet, satellite, television and media which
decrease the likelihood of conventional forces being used indiscriminately
against an adversary. The role of psy ops is also magnified as the armed forces
get more and more involved in protracted struggles at the lower end of the
spectrum of conflict. The low intensity conflict is basically a struggle for people’s
minds. And in such a battle, psy ops are more important than the firepower.

28. Impact of Technology On Psy War. It is the synthesis of computers and


communications that has radically transformed the dissemination potential,
brought about unprecedented transparency on the battlefield and made
inestimable changes in the field of electronic warfare. These three factors
combine to make possible disinformation and thereby to doctor and enhance its
usage as an instrument of war. It is feasible to doctor and manipulate the very
sources on which the potential adversary banks as a database.

29. The modern day info war is therefore multilevel & multi dimensional in
nature. At the strategic level, disruption, disinformation, media manipulation,
destruction and security of information systems form the core component of the
info war. The US propaganda against Iraq in Gulf war makes a typical example.
At an operational level, info war takes the form of propaganda or psy war and
protection of own systems all the while penetrating and denying the enemy the
use of its own information data system. At the tactical level, it takes the form of
Psy war and electronic warfare, conducted both during the war and peacetime
preceding it. That is propaganda psy war and media management, both during
peace and wars at all levels are all pervasive in nature, whether strategic,
operational or tactical. The psychological dimension therefore forms the center of
gravity of info war.

30. Psy war is the attempt to warp the opponents’ view of reality, to project a
false view of things, or to influence his will to engage in hostile activities. It
includes a variety of actions that can be carried out according to their targets by
Net war. Net war refers to information related conflict at a grand level between
nations and civilistaions. It means trying to disrupt/ damage what the target
population knows or thinks it knows about itself and the world around it. A net
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war focuses on the public as well as the elite of the enemy’s society and involves
diplomacy, propaganda and psychological campaigns, political and cultural
subversion, deception / interference with local media, infiltration of computer
networks and databases and efforts to promote dissident and opposition
movements. The ‘combat information’ on which the modern day ‘smart weapons’
rely upon is always the factor which decides a winner from losers and such
modern smart weapons are practically useless until they are directed / instructed
over information system.

31. Internet. “Kill one and frighten ten thousand” so said the famed Chinese
military strategist Sun Tzu. Fear is a weapon more potent than any fire weapon
and if you frighten your enemy enough, you may defeat him without having to
fight. Such is the logic behind Psy war; essentially a combat weapon which
targets the mind. In this era of information, a lot of disinformation and
misinformation is generated, which if suitably directed can be very corruptive to
the enemy’s personal and collective lives. The imagined becomes the real for
many a person, particularly if it is perpetuated in the cross flow of special interest
group via internet or other databases.

32. Internet is the most influential means of reaching the minds of public
across the world with speed. Because the Internet spans geographical, cultural
and economic boundaries its potential for outreach is tremendous. And due to
the way in which the information searching is done, through the use of keywords,
population targeting, and news groups, the message and propaganda can be
focused on particular elements of the population. However this ‘news grouping’ in
the media also offers a new capability to the terrorist elements as well which are
fighting for public attention too. Such terrorists will be able to doctor / tailor their
message to different segments of the population, just as advertisers do.

PSYCHOLOGICAL WEAPONS OF FUTURE WAR

33. The raging insurgencies and terrorist activities the world over, including
India as well need to be tackled effectively by force of arms alone. However once
subdued these elements do raise their heads from time to time in attempts to
defy and challenge the existing order. Therefore, instead of physically destroying
them, a well-orchestrated propaganda can be unleashed aimed at making the
target group see the futility of its chosen path. They should be convinced that it is
in their interest to shun their path of violence and work towards a future that
satisfies their hope and aspirations. The psy war needs to target these segments
to ensure desired responses both during peace and war.

34. In war, both conventional and non conventional, the priority of a target is
dependant on its value to the other side. The same is true in the case of terrorism
although the targets chosen are more of psychological value than for the military
value. For this reason in any full-scale conflict, the communication facilities and
the supply lines have always been higher priority targets. Today the critical
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information both on and off the battlefield flows from one place to another by the
means of digital technology. Thus with increasing digitization of the battle field, it
makes sense to find ways of protecting the computerized control of ones own
military apparatus all the while coming up with the means to disrupt / degrade
that of enemy’s.

35. The weapon of psy war is also deeply linked to the instruments of
statecraft and polity as there is a psychological aspect / implication to every
diplomatic, economic or military action. In order to influence the behaviour of a
state and its leaders, it is necessary to develop a strategy aimed at affecting the
decision makers. The distinctive nature of the psy ops derives from the fact that
they do not attempt to manipulate material objects but try to influence the way in
which material objects are perceived and interpreted.

36. The next full scale war between any two countries would be a push-
button war, it will be impersonal, men replaced by machines and will be won by
the side possessing better information technology / weapons if not nuclear
weapons. However this will be true only of this kind of info war is preceded with a
large-scale psy war. It will be a war of imposition of wills. The method of imposing
the will of one nation upon another in due course of time will be replaced purely
by psywar, wherein weapons are not even used in the battlefield. It can be
attained by corruption of the human mind, dimming of the intellect and
disintegration of the morale and spiritual fibre.

CONCLUSION

37. The psychological dimension of any conflict is as important as the


physical. It is those who operate the weapon systems and not the system itself,
that controls the eventual outcome of the battle. This is applicable not only to the
combatants but also to those in the domestic front, that is the civilian population
in the vicinity of the area of operations and the international community as a
whole. Therefore, the critical focus in any psy war campaign will remain towards
the human being and towards the human mind in specific.

38. Information technology is presently frantically being developed and


applied both as an offensive battlefield weapon and as a weapon to disrupt/
degrade the civilian infrastructure on which an enemy’s military apparatus
depends upon. However, info war is a double-edged weapon wherein the
countries most proficient in it are also the most vulnerable to it. The increasing
dependence on sophisticated information systems brings with it an increased
vulnerability to attacks on the very same, which is very easy to carry out. The
means are relatively inexpensive, small, easy to smuggle, virtually untraceable
and completely deniable. This, coupled with the fact that the civilian network
which are most attractive to terrorist are also most vulnerable thus making info
war a perfect weapon in terrorist arsenal for spreading / propagating propaganda.
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The power of information technology is thus very tremendous and is the single
most important factor to determine and evolve any future psy ops strategies.

39. Military history is replete with evidences that not even the soundest of
strategies, brilliance of leadership or most innovative of tactics on the battlefield
can overcome the disaster that awaits the military commander who loses control.
In this context, during the Gulf war, Iraq may have been the first hapless nation in
the history of warfare to crumble and fall victim to info war. Iraq was left deaf,
dumb, deceived and its impressive military strength fatally weakened by a
precisely planned and skillfully executed plan encompassing a great deal of
psychological dimension. Therefore the commander/leadership must utilize the
psychological dimension to create an illusion in the enemy’s mind. By the time
“truth will be out “ and the people and the leadership of the targeted group
discover it, the war may actually be over. Such is the strength of psychological
warfare in the 21stcentury.

Place: Jorhat ,Assam (Abhishek Tewari)


Date: Nov 10 Flt Lt