Psychological Operations in Special Operations Command
Disclaimer – This is only meant as a short study on PsyOps and their effects. This course is for entertainment purposes only.
1. The Instinctual Barrier to Killing
B. Overview of firing rates and training to augment killing
C. Breaking down psychological boundaries – the good and the bad
2. Psychological Warfare
A. Importance of morale
B. Sapping the enemy’s will to fight
C. Destroying the enemy’s trust in his government – terrorism
Modern studies have proven that it is against basic human nature to kill another human. Fire line studies since the time of Napoleon have shown that while weapons practice has had a large pe rcentage of hits on target, real world firing rates are much lower. Firing percentages in practice might reach as high as 80% hits on target within a certain distance, but numerous instances throughout history have proven the validity of the power of human instinct NOT to kill.
The evidence at Gettysburg, for example, shows that many of the weapons at the battlefield were loaded multiple times, showing a propensity for soldiers not to discharge their weapons. Historical accounts write of firing effectiveness actually failing while firing rates increased as distances grew shorter between the lines, as men really saw the whites of their enemies’ eyes. This can be explained by another common means of escaping killing, firing over one’s target.
Casualties from small arms fire were in fact far outnumbered by those from artillery fire. Team operated tools of war have historically always been more effective at killing, but that is for another course.
Overview of firing rates and training to augment killing
WWII firing rates, combat personnel actually discharging their weapons at the enemy, were measured to be at around 20%. In Korea, the militaries had begun to realize the need to change training to reflect the lessons of the true firing rates, bringing percentages to nearly 50%. In the Vietnam conflict, training and psychological hardening of personnel had raised this overall percentage of firing rate to 90%, leading into the era surrounding the turn of the 21st century where firing rates were increased to nearly 100%.
In eras without such training augmenting the killing instinct, the ratio of firing rates between those firing at the enemy and those actually aiming to kill is significant as well, with only 1% or so overall actually trying to kill their targets. These few natural killers were still responsible for only a very small percentage of deaths in the combat zone, the onus falling to team operated equipment like heavy machine guns and artillery pieces. As training regimens progressed through history, beginning in the mid-twentieth century onwards, militaries have successfully churned out more killers than what would be naturally occurring.
Breaking down psychological boundaries – the good and the bad.
Realizing this, modern militaries have enacted training processes that effectively turn on the "killing switch" in the mind of the soldier. However, the danger is not so much in making killing easier and controlling it, as in removing the ease once the soldier is returned to civilian life. Furthermore, a problem is debriefing the soldier cum civilian in such a way as to leave his psychological wellness relatively intact, while still removing the urge to kill, which can be detrimental in civilian life.
Another danger in the civilian world is that of violence in the media. The media, as a means to entertainment of the masses, employs the same techniques used to break down the barriers to killing in soldiers. Namely, violence and killing are glorified in the media through movies, video games, and other entertainments. Studies have shown teenagers do not yet have brain development completed, especially in the parts of the brain that control the realizations of consequences of one’s actions. This, added to the media and marketing prowess of the contemporary world, creates a situation whereupon real violence is on the rise in non-combat areas where it shouldn’t be.
However, in terms of this course, such a situation is good so far as the recruiting age stays at 18, because incoming immature personnel won’t be aware of the consequences of joining until well beyond their initial enlistment. Further, mass media violence as focused on enemies helps in the overall morale of a country; this greatly aids any propaganda effort. As COL Walter E. Kurtz noted, "Horror and Moral Terror are your friends… if they are not, then they are enemies to be feared."
Allowing civilians to be aware of these policies is not harmful due to the shear size of the population, only a small percentage will even make the attempt to learn of the policies at hand. Few of that percentage will be in a position to do anything to change the policies if they are even so inclined.
The importance of morale
So far, it has been discussed that humans have a basic instinct not to kill, and militaries wish to change this in order to improve effectiveness in battle. The wish to kill an enemy is made all the more effective when coupled with a high morale. Soldiers fight better when given access to rest and relaxation opportunities, when acknowledged of their worth by the people back home and/or in power, and when propaganda proves the right of their might.
Sapping the enemy’s will to fight
It is the duty of PsyOps personnel to deny the enemy his morale. These applications have many uses, from intelligence harvesting from prisoners to breaking down support on the enemy’s home front.
Machiavelli postulated that it is better to be feared than loved. Becoming a fearsome, ruthless opponent is helpful in the opening stages of a long conflict, however being known for no mercy can also drive up an enemy’s morale. If the blibbering alien army is known for eating their prisoners, anyone going up against them will do anything to avoid that fate, especially fighting to the last. Taking no prisoners has the disadvantageous effect in that no one will try to surrender, thus prolonging engagements unnecessarily. The key to effectively employing fear is that one must remove the will to fight against a superior – or even inferior – force.
If the blibbering aliens in the above example court the rumour that they eat their prisoners (even if they actually don’t) and employ this rumour to spread fear throughout the region, they might be able to drive out an enemy’s will to stand against them. Unfortunately (or not, depending on how one looks at it), the need to keep this rumour alive necessitates that any prisoners taken would have to be prevented from countering the common, preferred misconception with the truth.
Destroying the enemy’s trust in his government – terrorism
Another application of fear is that of on the home front through terrorism and guerrilla warfare. Denying the populace the protection of their government destroys their trust in said power, and opens the way to removal of that government through the instrument that the population will do one’s work for him. Daily shuttle bombs, for instance, are measures that can successfully be deployed cheaply and easily.
Also, recalling an unsuccessful tactic put into play by the Klingons against the Federation, hitting an enemy in his supply lines will hit him where it hurts. A Klingon agent provocateur attempted to poison the grain supply on Space Station K-7 in the Klingon-Federation conflict of the 2260s, however due to an unforeseen event was unmasked before the supply could be delivered. If the grain had been delivered before the poison was discovered, the effects could have been catastrophic.
Guerrilla warfare is an effective means of tying down enemy troops and if used properly, can be used to bring in the local population on the side of friendly troops. Proper use of guerrillas should be made in areas were the population is more friendly to our government than to the sitting one, or at least in areas where the sitting one is newly established and has not gained the trust of anyone – such as in the case of an occupying power.
In Philippines on Earth in the 1930s and ’40s, prior to that planet’s Second World War, an attempt was made to supply and prepare a guerrilla unit to face possible invasion. However, when the invasion actually happened, the units where not fully in place and through manipulation, the invader ensured that all units surrendered at the fall of the islands. In time, however, scratch units of combatants that did not follow the order to surrender formed and waged a successful campaign against the invaders. Two of these guerrilla commanders were COL Russel Volckmann on the island of Luzon and LTC Wendell Fertig on the island of Mindanao. LTC Fertig promoted himself to rank of Brigadier General in order to gain more respect of the population, who he felt would not recognize the authority of a lowly Lieutenant Colonel. At the end of the war, Fertig’s U.S. Forces in the Phillippines commanded more troops under arms that did most Major Generals… 30,000 - 35,000.
A more effective means of removing an enemy’s will to fight is to use his own media against him, especially if fighting an "enlightened power" that allows for a free press. Free media want to sell commercial airtime and therefore will often provide stories that create controversy in order to make people watch or use their services. Providing a steady diet of material that these media feed upon helps the friendly side get out their message, while simultaneously hurting the morale of the enemy.
If support at home drops due to these types of methods, it puts pressure on the enemy government to change their policies, which keeps the initiative in friendly hands. Like chess, forcing a move is a good thing; it keeps the enemy off-balance.
You are a Psychological Operations agent. It is your duty to make our people stronger and the enemy weaker. This course should have provided an introduction into just how to do that on an effective basis.
For further information:
Silence Was A Weapon: The Vietnam War in the Villages by Stuart A. Herrington, ISBN 0804101051, Reprint 1987
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by LTC Dave Grossman, ISBN 0316330116, 1996
They Fought Alone by John Keats, ASIN B0006AYKWI, 1963