[February 19, 2021] Fear – absolute fear – is what you want your enemies to experience. Why? Because overwhelming fear will be their downfall. Armies, across time, make every effort to instill fear; it works. Ordinary people give up, competitors surrender without a fight, and enemies retreat from the battlefield. Their message … we’re your worst nightmare.
The BBC teleplay Quatermass and the Pit (1967)1 is one of my favorite SciFi horror films. That glowing giant devil head rising in the sky stuck with me since I saw the movie as a teenager. It scared the willies out of me. Just imagine if we could harness such technology to induce fear into our enemies today.2
For the past 50 years, the U.S. military possessed technology, allowing our troops to operate at night with impunity. In Iraq and Afghanistan and the world of Special Forces operations, our enemies fear us because they can’t see us in the dark. An average person fears what they cannot see. I say this from direct experience. Captured insurgents told me their greatest fear was being attacked by U.S. forces at night.
In a 2017 interview by CBS’s John Dickerson on Face the Nation, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was asked what kept him awake at night. His response was spot-on. He said, “Nothing keeps me awake at night. I keep other people awake at night.” 3 That is exactly right. Project strength, let your enemies know that they fear you. His message was clear, mess with us, and you will die.
By instilling fear in our enemies, we conquer them easily. Sun Tzu, the famous ancient Chinese general, recognized this centuries ago when he said, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” He was referring to fear.
Modern militaries today use what is called psychological warfare. Through the use of propaganda and other psychological operations, we influence our enemies’ opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior. Little has changed since Sun Tzu’s time.
Fear still dominates as a human emotion. We spend time teaching, mentoring, and coaching our military members to reduce the effects of fear in combat. This is not easy but a worthy cause. Those who keep their heads in combat are more likely to come out on top.
Exactly how we will learn to control fear or better methods to instill fear in our enemies is the next frontier in military research.
- U.S. movie release name was Five Million Years to Earth.
- The storyline of the movie centers on the discovery of a mysterious object buried at the site of a proposed London Underground extension. Realizing the object is an ancient Martina spacecraft, Professor Quatermass deduces that the aliens have influenced human evolution. The spacecraft exerts a malign influence, resurrecting Martian memories and instincts buried deep in the human psyche.
- Defense Secretary Mattis: ‘I keep other people awake at night’ | TheHill