By Christopher Paul
Originally posted at Small War Journal. Reposted here by permission of SWJ and Chris Paul.
The Department of Defense has decided to change the name of military psychological operations (PSYOP) and this is a good thing. I make this assertion despite concerns about the name change raised by others in this space (See The Branch Formerly Known as PSYOP and PSYOP: On a Complete Change in Organization, Practice, and Doctrine).
Although most psychological operations are no more than messages and broadcasts aimed at changing the opinions, attitudes, or behavior of foreign citizens, officials or troops, they have come to have a sinister connotation in the minds of U.S. citizens and policymakers alike. The very term PSYOP summons dark thoughts of orbital mind control lasers, dastardly propaganda, or deception.
In truth, the vast majority of contemporary PSYOP are based on wholly truthful information. PSYOP personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan prepare air-dropped leaflets, develop posters and handbills, make radio broadcasts, and operate loudspeaker trucks. They carry messages ranging from what enemy soldiers should do in order to safely surrender (dropped as leaflets during the opening days of the war in Iraq) – to posters or radio spots with the phone number for a tip line Afghan citizens can use to report Taliban activity. Changing the name of these useful efforts is good; eliminating the possibility of them including falsehood would be even better.