Mind Games and Word Games

The NATO Review has published an essay by Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Collins, the chief of PSYOPS (psychological operations) in NATO's Operations Division at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Titled "Mind Games," the essay examines the use of "perception-management operations before, during and after Operation Iraqi Freedom. Collins defines perception management to mean "all actions used to influence the attitudes and objective reasoning of foreign audiences and consists of Public Diplomacy, Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), Public Information, Deception and Covert Action." He adds, "It was surprising, even to PSYOPS practitioners, how often the term 'PSYOPS' was used in military briefings and by the press during Iraqi Freedom. In recent military operations, there has been a tendency to blur connotations and meanings by using fuzzier terminology, avoiding terms like psychological operations and opting for what is deemed by some to be more acceptable expressions like 'Information Operations' (INFO OPS)." However, Collins continues, "This can lead to embarrassing consequences. ... [T]he press and the public have caught on to this word game, expressing concern about how the use of the term INFO OPS seems to be a deliberate attempt to allow PSYOPS to be used by politicians in order to manipulate domestic audiences to support weak, unpopular policies."