According to the New World Encyclopedia, psychological warfare involves using propaganda or similar methods to demoralize an enemy and ensure victory, possibly without physical violence. Modern examples include the U.S. spreading leaflets over Japan during WWII and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A similar term, psychological operations, is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense as:“The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives.”
A glaring omission from these definitions is the extent to which people in power can use “psychological operations” to intimidate and coerce their own people into compliance with their goals.
In olden days and in some parts of the world today, civilians have been kidnapped, beaten, tortured, and forced to fight battles for their kidnappers. Today, in the US and many other parts of the world, leaders can influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of their own people without necessarily using violence to achieve their objectives. Does refraining from violence when pressuring and enticing people into using violence make that coercive influence any less an abuse of power than shanghaiing them?
Is there any valid reason for believing that throwing all of our military might at ISIS will make us or anyone else in the world safer?