Encyclopedia Britannica defines psychological warfare or psywar as the use of propaganda against an enemy, supported by such military, economic, or political measures as may be required. Such propaganda is generally intended to demoralize the enemy, to break his will to fight or resist, and sometimes to render him favourably disposed to one’s position. Propaganda is also used to strengthen the resolve of allies or resistance fighters. The twisting of personality and the manipulation of beliefs in prisoners of war by brainwashing and related techniques can also be regarded as a form of psychological warfare.
Psychological warfare aims at weakening the strong link between the brain, the mind and the body. There is often a great relationship between our mind power and body power. Most people receive courage to act not based on physical energy available to their body, but based on a strong belief and motivation fired by knowledge or belief fed into the mind. Psychological warfare aims at destroying one’s stamina. Stamina is the ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue. Psywar aims at invading and conquering stamina.
Psywar aims at achieving in an individual a feeling of self distrust or loss of self confidence. Psychological warfare if successful turns an optimist into a pessimist. It brings the most powerful to the weakest. It damages competence and erodes self mastery. Famous Chelsea Football Club Coach, Jose Morinho is an expert in psychological warfare or mind games. He was quoted, referring to a clash with one of the opposing club sides saying, “The title race is between two horses and a little horse that needs milk and needs to learn how to jump. Maybe next season we can race.”
Children often play mind games with each other by calling their friends names that lacked prestige and dignity. A child will prefer to be called a lion and then call his rival kid a rat. Some nations in the past went to war with large paintings of their kings and commanders dressed to look like awe instilling figures like the dragon and muscular flying horses. “Most modern armies have specialized units trained and equipped for psychological warfare. Such units were a major part of the German and Allied forces during World War II and the U.S. armed forces in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The British and the Malayan government forces made extensive use of air-dropped leaflets—promising immunity to those who surrendered.
In psywar, the enemy is cajoled and made to believe that he is already defeated and of no use fighting. Psywar destroys the potential in a nation or an individual. The use of psychological techniques to demoralize the opposition or somebody you do not like is vividly shown in the attempts by Senacherib to conquer Judah under the rule of King Hezekiah: “Surely you must realize what I and the other kings of Assyria before me have done to all the people of the earth! Were any of the gods of those nations able to rescue their people from my power? Which of their gods was able to rescue its people from the destructive power of my predecessors? What makes you think your God can rescue you from me? Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you! Don’t let him fool you like this! I say it again—no god of any nation or kingdom has ever yet been able to rescue his people from me or my ancestors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!” And Sennacherib’s officers further mocked the Lord God and his servant Hezekiah, heaping insult upon insult. The king also sent letters scorning the Lord, the God of Israel. He wrote, “Just as the gods of all the other nations failed to rescue their people from my power, so the God of Hezekiah will also fail.” The Assyrian officials who brought the letters shouted this in Hebrew to the people gathered on the walls of the city, trying to terrify them so it would be easier to capture the city. These officers talked about the God of Jerusalem as though he were one of the pagan gods, made by human hands. 2 (Chron 32:13-19)
Senacherib knew that a direct offensive against Judah during the reign of Hezekiah would have been unsuccessful; he therefore used psychological means to first of all weaken the mind of Judah. The Bible said he sent letters and threats of terror “so it would be easier to capture the city.” This technique of war is seen again in the book of Nehemiah: “Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!” (Neh 4:1-3).
Unfortunately in most cases those who use psychological warfare to intimidate their foes are usually not stronger or better endowed than the person or persons they desire to conquer. When a man begins to make grandiloquent claims that send terror into the heart of people there is an antidote to this. In the case of King Hezekiah and Nehemiah, they found solace in the word of God and prayer. They held strongly to God’s word. God’s word is infinitely beyond the reach and power of the strongest foe. Most people are not able achieve their potentials because of what they heard people say they could not do. I remember how I had my first carry-over in the university. As a year one student I met an older student who intimated me about the courses and the lecturers who taught them. She told me of one particular lecturer and his course which no one passed at first sitting. The very first they I met the lecturer, he appeared huge, unfriendly and “deadly” to me. His smiles were interpreted by me as the jeering of a jackal. I attended his lectures with fear and because of this; I did not quite understand what he was saying. I just attended his lectures for formality sake. When I eventually sat for the examination, I could not even write the simplest definition.
Later on while repeating the course, I suddenly realized how fear had made a failure. The course was very easy but fear made it difficult. If we focus our thinking on the infinite power of our Lord God Almighty, we shall not be afraid of the recent incursion of terror into the South East Nigeria.