“Worldview Warfare” and The Science of Coercion

The phrase “psychological warfare” is reported to have first entered English in 1941 as a translated mutation of the Nazi term Weltanschauungskrieg (literally, worldview warfare), meaning the purportedly scientific application of propaganda, terror, and state pressure as a means of securing an ideological victory over one’s enemies. 31 William “Wild Bill” Donovan, then director of the newly established U.S. intelligence agency Office of Strategic Services (OSS), viewed an understanding of Nazi psychological tactics as a vital source of ideas for “Americanized” versions of many of the same stratagems. Use of the new term quickly became widespread throughout the U.S. intelligence community. For Donovan psychological warfare was destined to become a full arm of the U.S. military, equal in status to the army, navy, and air force.

32Donovan was among the first in the United States to articulate a more or less unified theory of psychological warfare. As he saw it, the “engineering of consent” techniques used in peacetime propaganda campaigns could be quite effectively adapted to open warfare. Pro-Allied propaganda was essential to reorganizing the U.S. economy for war and for creating public support at home for intervention in Europe, Donovan believed. Fifth-column movements could be employed abroad as sources of intelligence and as morale-builders for populations under Axis control. He saw “special operations — meaning sabotage, subversion, commando raids, and guerrilla movements — as useful for softening up targets prior to conventional military assaults. “Donovan’s concept of psychological warfare was all-encompassing,” writes Colonel Alfred Paddock, who has specialized in this subject for the U.S. Army War College. “Donovan’s visionary dream was to unify these functions in support of conventional (military) unit operations, thereby forging a ‘new instrument of war.'”

via “Worldview Warfare” and The Science of Coercion.

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