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Strategic Studies Institute: Strategic Landpower Task Force Research Report

Author: Dr. Steven Metz
October 3, 2013


"In the contemporary security environment, strategic success requires an ability to understand, influence, or control the human domain…Thisrepre­sents an effort within the U.S. military to better integrate the psychological dimension of conflict into military thinking and planning, and to institutionalize lessons about the human domain learned at great cost in Iraq and Afghanistan and now playing out on new battlegrounds in Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere."

The 21st-century security environment compels the United States to develop more effective and efficient ways to promote its national interests. This includes refining methods for developing and applying landpower. One of the most important aspects of improving American landpower is augmenting the ability of the U.S. military in the human domain of conflict.

While discussion of the human domain is new for the U.S. military, it reflects long-standing ideas. Skilled military leaders have always understood that war has both a physical and a psychological dimension. The physical dimension allows an army, navy, and air force to compel enemies and noncombatants to act in a specific way. By contrast, effects in the psychological dimension are indirect, leading both enemies and noncombatants to choose to act in a specific way, either by fear of what will happen to them if they do not or the promise of reward if they do. The two dimensions clearly overlap: physically compelling enemies to do something, or killing them, has psychological effects on anyone who observes or hears about it. But skill in one dimension does not automati­cally equate to success in the other.

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