Aquino Michael - Psychological operations The ethical dimension


Author : Aquino Michael
Title : Psychological operations The ethical dimension
Year : 1987

Link download : Aquino_Michael_-_Psychological_operations_The_ethical_dimension.zip

Introduction: The Relevance of Ethics to PSYOP. This paper came about as a consequence of my participation in a recent symposium on Psychological Operations (PSYOP) at the National Defense University. The papers which were presented dealt primarily with the mechanics of how and when and against whom to apply PSYOP, and secondarily with the organizations and tools available to undertake such campaigns. The international situation being what it is today, there was a notable emphasis on “out-doing” perceived antagonists - principally the Soviet Union - by beating them at their own game. Something about this atmosphere began to disturb me, and after awhile I recognized what it was: PSYOP was being treated as an environment in which credibility by whatever means - not credibility based upon a firm commitment to the truth - was the essential factor. This was particularly evident in an apparent emphasis upon the utility of “black propaganda”, in which the source of the entire message is deliberately misrepresented. The unspoken assumption seemed to be that, since the Soviet Union is apparently not concerned with the truthfulness of its “disinformation” programs, we need not be either. “Nice guys finish last.” At one point, after hearing a presentation extolling the promise of “black propaganda”, I questioned this unspoken assumption. “The United States’ claim to leadership in the international community is based upon its commitment to principles of ethics and human dignity above and beyond the convenience of national interest,” I argued. “If we merely give lip service to these principles, how can we claim to be more deserving of international leadership than the Soviet Union?” I received no answer from the floor, and the speaker responded only that he was not advocating lying which was incorrect, since black pr.... The issue was not pursued in discussion, and I had the feeling that I had trodden on awkward ground - not so much because the symposium participants were deliberately unethical, but rather because American PSYOP practitioners have simply not spent much time considering this aspect of their craft. This paper addresses the ethical dimension of PSYOP: to sketch the dimensions of the problem and to suggest renewed emphasis on the United States’ historic commitment to the truth as an essential component of such ethics - truth in this sense being statements based on fact and which impartially and objectively represent a given situation. Truth in political and social contexts is inevitably influenced by the ethical assumptions and perceptions of the observer, which means that an appreciation for the influence of such ethics must be factored into statements that are represented as “true”. I wish to plead a case for an attitude on the part of PSYOP practitioners, not just a “do this/don’t do that” section in a manual or circular. I am confident that PSYOP professionals, once sensitized to the importance and relevance of this standard, will evaluate their own work accordingly. In the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg there is a statue of a soldier standing with his foot on a rock, under which is a snake symbolizing tyranny. The soldier wears the famous Green Beret, but he could be any American soldier in any of our wars. One is struck by the contrast between the soldier and the snake: the stature of the soldier above the snake and his denial and condemnation of the snake. It has always seemed to me that this statue manages to convey the very essence of what has made the United States a “new order of the ages” (as our Great Seal proclaims). We have always fought for something beyond ourselves, for certain principles in which reside the dignity of humanity. Our PSYOP must carry forward that same tradition. ...

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