Статья 'Models of Information and Psychological Operations Used in International Conflicts' - журнал 'Мировая политика' - NotaBene.ru
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World Politics

Models of Information and Psychological Operations Used in International Conflicts

Manoilo Andrei Viktorovich

Doctor of Politics

Professor, the department of Russian Politics at the faculty of Political Science, Moscow State University

199992, Russia, Moscow, Lomonosovsky Prospekt 27, building #4, office #G-638

Other publications by this author








Abstract: Existing current models, means, methods and technologies of psychological impact on conflict situations have rather clearly defined cultural-civilization and nation-state features. Overall, all of their diversity can be combined within the framework of four cultural-civilization models (or orientations): Anglo-Saxon (represented by the USA, Great Britain, and the British Commonwealth), Eastern Asiatic (China, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan), Roman-Germanic (Germany, France, Italy, and the Scandinavian countries) and Middle Eastern (the Islamic world, Arab countries, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia). Within the framework of the Anglo-Saxon concept of information psychological warfare, military actions play a subordinate service role, while the plan for an armed campaign is built according to the rules and in accordance with the scenario of psychological impact on one’s own citizens, on the citizens of political allies and opponents, and on the international community as a whole. This conclusion is confirmed by the USA war in Iraq, which, with some changes in the political and military situation, in fact, continues today. It is not by chance that the former USA Under Secretary of Defense, J. Nye stated, that “the war in the Gulf was seen by the world through the eyes of CNN.”


international relations, international safety, political conflicts, technologies, conflicts management model, psychological operations, information war, political, world, state

This article written in Russian. You can find original text of the article here .

Like a classical war, information psychological warfare is made up of a sequence of military operations, united by a single design. Despite the considerably large variety of types of information psychological operations, used in modern day political battle, the planning and realization of the majority of them is subject to one and the same logical schematic.

A standard operation of information psychological warfare is comprised of the following sequence of actions (stages):

1) Political stratification of the international community.

2) Political polarization of strata playing a key role in the operation’s scenario.

3) Initiation of political activity by the strata (in accordance with the role assigned to them by the operation’s scenario).

4) A controlled chain reaction.

5) Correction to initial operation plans (feedback).

Let’s look more closely at the terminology used to describe the stages of the information psychological operation. It should be noted, that the databank of terms was specially developed by us to describe the field model of the psychological operation and is listed in this paper for the first time.

1) Political stratum – a social group of politically active citizens, having very close political views and convictions and striving to exercise their rights and freedoms in the form of political action, both independently and jointly with other participants to the political process.

2) Political imperative – the right to political behavior, essential for enabling all the participants of the political community to exercise under certain conditions of the political situation.. In this particular piece of research, we will use this term with reference to the structural element of society – the political stratum.

3) Political stratification of society – this is the process of dividing society into social fractions (strata) under the influence of a political ideology.

4) Political polarization of the stratum – this is a process of creating in the stratum their own rules of political behavior (systems of political imperatives), obligatory for all members of the stratum.

5) Initialization of the strata’s political activism – this is the result of the influence of any external factor on the strata, the political reaction of the stratum to which at least one of the political imperatives is stipulated.

6) A controlled chain reaction - this is a form of political activism of a stratum given political polarization, during which at each stage of change in the political situation, the stratum’s political activism is played out in connection with yet another collection of imperatives from the system of rules of political behavior that are formed during the polarization process.

7) Correction of the initial plans for an information-psychological operation is a form of feedback in the operation scenario, providing an evaluation of the efficacy of the operation (a comparison of the actual results of the operation with those that were expected) and development of corrective measures to the scenario of information-psychological influence.

As a whole, any information-psychological operation can be described as follows.

An information-psychological operation begins with the initiation of the process of division of a still homogeneous society into significantly large and politically homogeneous fractions – political stratification. We shall note that at the stage of political stratification there is not yet any talk about the application of technologies to manipulate public consciousness: the purpose of such stratification is to form target audience groups and channels of political communications, among whom the information-psychological influence from one receptor will pass to another.An example of such stratification - "rallying" of the nation in the face of a threat, a war for example - to rally together all of the political camps: both supporters of a solution by force, and its opponents, and also drawing strict division lines between these two.

Let us assume that the information-psychological operation is the means for the realization of a political program of an aggressor state. In this case the purpose of the information-psychological operation - on the one hand, is to rally and mobilize supporters of the political policy of the aggressor and to transform them into an obedient tool of this policy, and secondly the maintenance of voluntary submission of that part of a society which cannot accept the political ideology developed by political technologists of the aggressor state, and as a consequence their active opposition deeply complicates the actualization of the political policy of the given state into the sphere of international relations. To achieve this goal it is necessary to first and foremost divide a society by political labeling into two or more camps:

- Into the stratum, that is ready as a whole to support a political policy and is composed of both the citizens of the country, and citizens of other countries (supporters);

- Into the stratum, that is reacting negatively to the political policy and is ready to resist its realization (opponents);

- Into the stratum, consisting of citizens who have not yet taken a position, including the politically passive; vacillating, waiting and those ready to join the majority;

- Into the sympathizing stratum (potential allies).

As a result of such divisions active social groups are formed, putting forth in their midst informal leaders around whom the politically active population rallies initially, adhering as a whole to close political views and beliefs. This process we shall call political stratification which creates a certain structure of the social environment with the purpose of increasing its susceptibility to the subsequent "pin-point" management of the information-psychological influence. Division of a society into strata according to political labels is an initial stage of transforming a society into centers of political attraction.

Political stratification results from this,

First of all, society is divided into target audience groups (opponents, allies, undecided, etc.), and for each of these specific tactics of information-psychological are required to manipulate public consciousness are necessary (this is important for the forces conducting the psychological war);

Secondly, among the most active participants of the political process, informal leaders are nominated, for whose opinions an individualized program of IPW is developed by political strategists to manipulate their thinking;

Thirdly, having been divided into several political fractions, among each of which outwardly they seem to have quite spontaneously formed (and, in reality - a chain reaction) processes of socio-political self-organization: the political positions of individual members of a stratum "get closer" to each other and become more radical, categorical, and polarized. Gradually, doubts about the level-headedness and sufficiency of political convictions, to which the group adheres, vanish and in assessing those and other events, a collective opinion begins to prevail, which is always more greatly simplified and categorical than individual opinion. Thus, as a result of such a process of self-organization into a group, the collective consciousness is formed, guided by having made a final choice, by a comparatively small number of factors, making the stratum more vulnerable with respect to its external operating influences - factors (arguments), as a rule, and to some degree, it is easier to convince the stratum of the truth of something or the falsehood of something else.

Serving as an incentive to begin the process of political stratification is the release into the informational sphere of a political ideology specially generated by the powers of IPW containing an image of the political event or process, its political assessment and a set of the imperatives regulating public relations under these special conditions, and creating a specific phenomenon in the political life of the nation, group of subjects in foreign policy or the world community as a whole. In conditions where objective information from the place of events is lacking, the many diverse sources of information, and the various interpretations of the transpiring events given by dominant participants of the political process, such ideology provides information about an event that has already been assessed, and in many cases already quite simplified, schematically and psychologically comfortable for perception by the average inhabitant.

It is necessary to also note, that in case there is a strong aversion to its base ideology, the political imperatives are nevertheless partially implanted into the consciousness, even if the psychological operator is one of denial, it leads to changes of one’s own picture of the world and its adaptation to the threat being borne by these conditions. In this case a negative attitude to the ideology of the picture of the world being imposed also leads to activation of the processes of political stratification and, as a whole, promotes formation of target audiences and establishing between these the channels of communications that are necessary for transition from broadband information-psychological influence to "point" influence.

Formation of social fractions into political labels occurs in the case that:

- the provisions of the political ideology lead to the creation of or an aggravation of social conflicts;

- the ideological positions lead into the field of vision new or the actual threats to the safe existence of a society, including – threat to life;

- The political ideology is supported by the state and does not allow inhabitants of this state to avoid defining their own political position concerning its basic positions;

- The ideology encroaches into the sphere of private life and brings into it cardinal changes for which the inhabitant is not prepared; thus social adaptation to these changes is possible either in the form of active support of the ideological positions, or in the form of resistance to its influence in one’s own life, the life of one’s relatives, friends and acquaintances.

In a politically stratified society all members of a stratum adhere to close political views and believe that dividing society along political lines is necessary for the purpose of active representation of interests in the political life of a society.

In the social expanse political strata form clusters and structures which by nature resemble the domain structures of ferromagnetism: if we consider that rules of political behavior in a stratum set a certain direction of political activity for each of its members, then within this framework everyone in the stratum, each of its members behaves in conformity with the direction of political activity of the political stratum as a whole. Vectors of political activity of various strata are multi-directed and also can both coincide with, or not coincide with the direction set by the base ideology that had initiated the political stratification process. As a whole, the stratified society, created by the set of political stratum-domains, remains politically neutral: on the average in the vector expanse of political activity of various strata they mutually compensate each other, and in local areas of the expanse various directions of political activity can dominate.

As a result of stratification of the society along political lines, there is a set of politically active strata which are used in information-psychological operations as objects of psychological manipulation. It is obvious, that those strata which basically support a political policy become the basic motive power of psychological operations, as the head of the “ram” that will strike a blow on the rebellious and becomes a reasonable argument for doubting and vacillating. However, in order for this part of society to become an obedient tool in the hands of IPW political strategists, it is necessary that it becomes controlled. For this purpose in the operation there comes the next phase - a phase of application of the technologies of political polarization of the strata.

In order to control a political stratum, and ideally to make it an obedient tool to achieve the goals of the information-psychological operation, it is necessary, that there exist inside the stratum a system of norms of political behavior, obligatory for unconditional execution by all the members of the stratum and providing a set of coordinated political behavior of the stratum as a single unit in situations where there is an aggravation in political conditions. The formation of such a system of norms of political behavior occurs as a result of the influence on the stratum developed by political strategists in the information-psychological war using foreign policy ideology. Thus in the strata uniting potential sympathizers of the agressor’s policy, there is a polarizing effect: The system of the world outlook of individual members of the stratum is replaced with the positions of the foreign policy ideology developed by the aggressor, and the system of rules of the political behavior, accepted inside of stratum and socially comprehensible to all its members, is changed into a rigid and categorical system of political imperatives.

This process we will rightly call political polarization. After its completion the system of political imperatives of the base ideology of an aggressor becomes for stratum a unique norm of political behavior, the "rules of the game" for any of its members and makes such a stratum an obedient tool for the realization of a policy of the aggressor using political tricks to potentially make the stratum "blind".

As a rule, the positions of the base ideology are formed in order to smooth out the consequences of the stress transferred to the citizen as a result of his "voluntary-compulsory" inclusion in the political stratum (the sub-conscious always very precisely distinguishes and sensitively reacts to psychological compulsion applied to a person) and, against the background of such a typically therapeutic influence, to generate in the consciousness the state of psychological comfort. The illusion of security in most cases is the result of such influence and the information overload leads to voluntary replacement in the consciousness of the person of his own evaluations, conclusions and judgments (his picture of the world) by the already made set of positions from the political ideology. As a result the political behavior of the person arranged under the ideological "umbrella", during any significant (from the point of view of the scenario of psychological operation) changes of political conditions is built according to political imperatives contained in the base ideology and becomes predictable enough, and, hence controllable. With the association of such citizens in a political stratum, the set of political imperatives contained in the base ideology become the norms of social behavior as a whole, extending not only in the sphere of actual political activities, but also in the entire spectrum of social relations within the stratum, and quite often become the new "rules of the game" in the stratum.

So, for the person falling into a political stratum, the base ideology becomes the “rules of behavior” in the political stratum, obligatory for execution by all members of the stratum. By getting into the mind of a person at the early stages of political polarization as the exclusive external factor (with respect to that person), the ideology that created the polarization of the political stratum, ceases to be an external program and becomes an internal norm of sociopolitical existence, the instructions for organized political behavior according to the newly introduced system of values and political imperatives. We will emphasize that behavior rules in the base ideology are imperative in nature and pursue two main objectives:

High enough degree of independence of political behavior of the stratum from external environmental conditions;

The programming of activities of the stratum in the conditions of any changing political situation.

Actually, the imperative is a schematically constructed instruction on unconditional execution of the sequence of actions included in its text, the program which is started with the operation of the mechanism put in it from external initiation. The imperative does not allow a multiple approach of behavioral reaction to the same political situation; actions of members of the political stratum, the following of the political imperatives introduced in their consciousness, are comparable with functioning of modern electronic-mechanical systems. Thereby, concerning the person, he is provided with voluntary subordination and controllability of political behavior with the methods of hidden psychological compulsion - without requiring the destruction or deformation of his personal psychological individuality.

It is worth noting as an observation, that similar systems of imperatives and principles of construction of base ideology are used in modern Western totalitarian sects. However, these sects pursue the aim of full submission of the consciousness of all adherents while technologists of psychological operations are interested in controllability of political consciousness and behavior only.

As the unconditional instruction to behave under certain conditions of a political situation, the imperative in the process of maintaining group unity of the stratum plays an important division-identification role, creating an accurate border between “friends” and "strangers". "Friends" know in advance how to act in this or that political situation and thus do not experience the problem of choice. This, in their opinion is constantly supported from the outside by technologists of psychological operations, and gives them a distinct advantage with respect to other categories of citizens, and even lifts them into a qualitatively new rung of evolutionary development. Other categories of citizens, incapable of understanding and accepting the obvious, apparently are relegated to the less organized biological organisms.

Coming back to the role of the base ideology in political polarization, it is necessary to note, that in modern psychological operations it is rare that only one base ideology is developed for the stratum, ensuring a political course of the aggressor that is unconditionally supported; as a rule, analogous ideological systems are developed for other strata as well that spring up in the process of political stratification: both for strata that are consequential or potential allies, for whom only a small modification in the base ideology is required, as well as for strata of obvious and hidden opponents with respect to whom in relation to whom a special technology of polarizing influence operates.

For opponents of the course of the aggressor, who have organized their own strata, the processes of political polarization are connected with the same partial replacement of one’s own values by ideological positions and the evaluations imported from the outside which occur in the following sequence of stages:

- Active resistance to the introduction into the consciousness of positions of base ideology results not only in the display of true intentions of an aggressor (positive result), but also to partial penetration into consciousness of political opponents of the base imperatives of ideology of an aggressor (negative result); penetration into the consciousness occurs through the psychological negation operator, changing in consciousness in the course of negation the polarity of positions of base ideology of an aggressor from the negative to the positive, without destruction of the structure of ideological designs;

- By getting into the mentality, the positions of the base ideology of the aggressor, supplemented by the negation operator, ignites in the consciousness of a person the mechanism of change of one’s own picture of the world with a view of its adaptation to a threat borne by these conditions; for an aggressor it is important that such a conscious activity of political opponents for resistance to the realization of its political policy to be built strictly on the basis of directions, as a matter of fact, registered in its base ideology, i.e. collision of interests and values occurring in a format defined by the ideology of an aggressor (when the anti-ideology which political opponents adhere to, as a matter of fact, repeats the neuron-linguistic structure of the ideological positions of an aggressor, only – with a changed polarity);

- By entering into the human sub-consciousness, positions of base ideology of the aggressor, supplemented by the operation in sphere of conscious mental activity by the operator of negation, are freed from this operator and, are actually fixed there, in an unmodified form.

Here the known physiological features of human mentality operate: the concept "not" in the subconscious area of higher nervous activity of the person does not exist, the operator of negation in these conditions does not work: so, for example, if to a child going nearer to an edge of the sidewalk you give the command "do not fall", the probability of his falling thus significantly increases. Thus, within the limits of action of such a scheme of psychological carrying over of positions of ideology of an aggressor through the consciousness of political opponents into their sub-consciousness, only in the consciousness are these concepts fixed in a negative context, with the operator of negation, this operator vanishes into the sub-consciousness and the positions of the base ideology become fixed as the truth.

Considering, that of all the higher neurological activities of the person only ten percent belongs to the conscious part, and – the rest belongs the sphere of sub-conscious, and knowing, that the sub-conscious quite often blocks the conscious activity based on arguments of reason, it is possible to assert, that this technology of psychological influence, and possibly, some other technological schemes of manipulation as a whole are capable within the limits of modern operations to provide controllability of the psychological status of political opponents and of the consciousness of political opponents too.

Now, after the process of political polarization is basically complete, the information-psychological technologies for management of directions of the political activity of strata are put into place, concerning the external initiation of political activities and management of the psychological chain reaction, ensuring the operation of the algorithm of political behavior that was put into the individual and the mass consciousness of the stratum.

Political activity of strata is regulated by means of two basic mechanisms of psychological management:

- First, it is introduced into the consciousness of members of a political stratum through a system of positions of the base ideology’s sets of imperatives, each of which has its own mechanism of initiative (since the political imperative is a rule of political behavior, obligatory for execution by all participants of the political community in specific political situations); there are several such sets, and as a rule, and in the present moment in the political stratum operates only as one set, the others are inactive and wait for external initiation;

- Secondly, it is the feature of human psyche, which is based on association of external perception of the surrounding reality.

So, for example, it is known that if at the moment of finding a person in a certain psychological state (for example, awake) to touch him or to shake hands this action will be fixed in his sub-consciousness and he is unequivocally connected with its psychological status during that moment in time, i.e. an accurate associative array will be generated; at a repeated touch or repetition of the specified gesture on the part of the initiator in relation to this person even if there has passed significant time, the initial reasons of excitation have disappeared and he, at the moment is in a steady psychological state which is distinct from the previous one, the associative array will work and the person will return to the former awake state, and the gesture will serve for this person as an external initiation to a psychological chain reaction. In psychology on the basis of this feature of human mentality there have been developed and operate numerous technical “psychological anchors” in which the emotional externals, written down in the sub-consciousness are called "anchors". In the human sub-conscious the "anchors" are connected with external factors, leading to their initiation, by means of an individual associative chain with the help of which it is possible to return at any moment the person to the emotional status remembered by the sub-conscious and a small psychological influence can quickly change a psychological state and behavior of the person, "having switched" him from a steady state on the borderline, and to the contrary. These possibilities of the modern "anchor" technique create considerable possibilities for the hidden, manipulating, management of human consciousness through its subconscious activity.

The same mechanisms of psychological management are used also in the external initialization of political activity, and in the management of chain reaction behaviors of political strata, according to the external program placed by the base ideology. Also, just like political imperatives, the key "anchor" associations take root in consciousness of members of a political stratum in the course of political polarization.

Moreover, the initial initiation of the program of political behavior of a stratum occurs, as a rule, from an external operating impulse[1]; but the subsequent chain reaction and consecutive replacement, in process of their development and achievement of the intermediate purposes of the operation, one group of political imperatives leads to the occurrence of others, as a rule, without external participation as those intermediate purposes of psychological operation which are reached as a result of the activities of the stratum, constructed within the limits of one group of imperatives, at the moment of achievement of these purposes becomes the new “triggering hook” - the initiating mechanism starting the process of automatic replacement of former group of imperatives, already completely fulfilled, by a new of a set contained in base ideology. Thus, in a psychological operation there is designed not only a sequence of psychological states of the political stratum, defining the format of its activities at each of the stages of psychological operation, but the technological chain of consecutive initiation of these states, based on associative technology of management that is created by the consciousness in which factors of initiation (start) of each subsequent external is the result of the achievement of the purposes put before stratum during its transfer into a previous psychological state.

The use of psychological "anchor" techniques becomes especially dangerous in the conditions of ethno-political conflicts: many versions of the mass psychological states generated during the historical period of development of national consciousness, including - border and aggressive states, have already been placed into ethnic memory and, practically in an invariable kind, unconsciously (i.e. - at level of collective sub-consciousness) are passed from generation to generation. They do not need to be formed by concrete psychological operations. Historical mechanisms of initiation of these states, time and again working in the historical practice of international conflicts, are also known, i.e. To "switch" the population of any ethnic enclave from a psychological state of peace good neighborhood in a status of unmotivated aggression, it is enough to adapt only slightly the format of the psychological impulse initiating the psychological mechanism of “switching of states”, characteristic for the given ethnic group, to modern conditions, - this is how it occurred in the conflict in Nagorny Karabakh, and occurred and continues today in the conflicts of the Balkans (Kosovo), etc.

And, finally, in modern technologies used to carry out psychological operations the special mechanism of external intervention in the technological process is provided as a so-called mechanism of "feedback", the technology of operative correction of the scheme of operation in case of infringement of the parameters of a technological chain or occurrence of unforeseen situations. It differs from the above described technologies of maintenance of voluntary subordination of mass and individual consciousness that, in effect, is the mechanism of fast reaction when updating is brought into the conditions of actual shortage of time and resources. Repeatedly raising the efficiency of the psychological operations and increasing the flexibility of reaction in relation to any, even the most unpredictable, conditions of varying political situations, this together with that, brings additional risks and elements of chance into technological process: An evaluation of the efficacy of an operation based on its external manifestations in the environment on which its influence is directed, is always subjective, and given that time constraints do not allow us to gather the statistics of observation necessary to make a single correct decision. The existence of this subjective factor, along with clear advantages, creates a threat of the latent external management for the technological process of carrying out a psychological operation.

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