Small Wars Journal

Legitimizing Army Psychological Operations

Legitimizing Army Psychological Operations, by Alfred Paddock, Jr., was published earlier this year in Joint Force Quarterly and expands on Paddock's Small Wars Journal article PSYOP: On a Complete Change in Organization, Practice, and Doctrine.

Once again, we hear discussion within the U.S. Army on whether the name psychological operations (PSYOP) should be changed—an issue that has arisen periodically for years. The term, defined broadly as the planned use of communications to influence human attitudes and behavior of foreign audiences, is characterized by some as "toxic," "disinformation," "unsavory," and with other pejorative words. This criticism inhibits the ability of PSYOP units to support U.S. military forces and to interact with other executive branch agencies—or so goes the criticism. Thus, some argue, the term must be replaced.

I believe this would be a mistake...

More from Joint Force Quarterly.


Brett Patron

Wed, 06/30/2010 - 5:19pm

I'll ask the (maybe too obvious) question:

If Psyop/MISO/Influence Support, et al cannot influence the DOD as to who they are and what they should be called, who can they influence?

Dan Niggles

Wed, 06/30/2010 - 3:47pm

Admiral Olsen (a SEAL) received some over-intellectualized bad advice. The term PSYOPs is the correct word for what Army PSYOPs units do. The term is recognized, understood, and carries just enough mystique to make being in a PSYOPs unit attractive. "Influence Support" - what a crock. It sounds like we bribe people or are experts at spinning the truth....the Public Affairs folks can't be too thrilled with that. It's sad when a senior officer makes a goof and a herd of junior officers fall all over themselves to rationalize why the senior officer didn't really goof. Tradition, "brand name", and a hint of sinister mystique are what all Special Operations units strive for. I was in the 8th PSYOP Bn from 1985 to 1988 and the experience broadened my SF skill set considerably. With a name like "MISO", who are they going to get to provide tactical loudspeaker support for the Rangers when they jump into some Third-World hole to secure an airfield for a NEO? There is still a need for airborne qualified PSYOP troopers who can keep up with the Special Ops guys when they need to "influence" the locals with non-kinetic means. Leave the name PSYOPs in-place, or at least keep it alive until the next CincSOC comes along and can fix Admiral Olsen's goof.