Behind the finger on the trigger is a soldier that makes the decision of whether to fire or to put the weapon down. Likewise, in modern warfare, there are operations that exist behind dropping bombs and deploying troops. Psyops are not new to the American military but have found renewed use in the war in Iraq.Psyops is the use of tactics such as propaganda and appealing to enemies and foreign civilians in an attempt to win them over, making one less enemy to fight against.
Dr. Robert Kodosky, a history professor at West Chester University, has studied the use of psyops for several years, focusing mainly on the Vietnam War. Through his studies of the American experience in Vietnam, he has been able to juxtapose the use of psyops in that war with its recently renewed use in the Middle East.
His new book, “Psychological Operations American Style,” will be released on Nov. 28. It is already placed at No. 16 on Tower Books’ list of modern history titles.
“I don’t feel good that my book on war is at 16 and a book on peace is at 25,” Kodosky said jokingly.
The concept of “winning hearts and minds” is a phrase used frequently in newscasts and press conferences regarding the war. The term was originally coined during WWII to justify the reasons for entering the war to the American people.
“The U.S. wages war very effectively in destroying opposing armies but little forethought is given to ‘what’s next’,” Kodosky said. He explained the “warrior ethos” that exists in the American military that puts almost all of its emphasis on weapons and combat training but does not provide training on how to exist in the culture that American troops will be entering.
Without this training, effective psyops is almost impossible.
“The blame can’t be put on the average soldier on the ground,” Kodosky said.
It is the responsibility of military administration and training to prepare soldiers for the areas they will be living in and the people they will be interacting with in foreign countries.
“The overwhelming force and power of the American military culminates in the idea of ‘shock and awe’,” Kodosky said.
However, after military invasion, the United States has proven itself to be ill prepared for the task of nation building that it so eagerly wants to achieve. This was a huge problem in the Vietnam War, according to Kodosky, and the problem has resurfaced once again in Iraq.