U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1939
6 December 2011
Psychological Warfare During the Cold War
Since the beginning of time, warfare has greatly evolved, increasingly partitioning into two distinct fields that contributed to an overall war effort. The physical, “direct approach” of warfare involves concentrating on the physical forces of the enemy to destroy them completely, as emphasized by Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz. Then there was the “indirect approach” that focused on destroying the enemy’s morale, causing a complete breakdown of an army’s will to fight without ever engaging in combat—a style of warfare promoted by Chinese military theorist Sun Tzu. The two approaches have existed all throughout history, but it was not until very recently that the indirect approach gained as much importance as direct, force-centric combat. Though truly gaining momentum under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, it was during the Bolshevik Revolution that V.I. Lenin came to recognize the importance of psychological warfare. “The soundest strategy in war is to postpone operations until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders the delivery of the mortal blow both possible and easy.”1 This ultimately inspired Hitler to state some years later that “our real wars will in fact all be fought before military operations begin.” It was this moral breakdown of the enemy before the war even began that interested Hitler, and ultimately caused the Allied leaders of World War II to look back and wonder how Hitler had been successful in achieving most of his objectives.
A man who conquers without bloodshed is a man who controls his enemy’s mind. Clausewitz, who said, “Blood is the price of victory,” would likely disagree, but Hitler transcended these conventional bounds, and employed psychological weapons. In a war of the mind, the primary weapons are sights and sounds, with the goal of destroying...