Military Psychology: Time to embrace a front-line diplomatic role

  • Jacques Gouws Independent Researcher


The weapon systems created for the purpose of fighting the enemy in World War I caused terrible losses of human life on all sides of the conflict. However, World War I was also the event that gave birth to what became the field of Military Psychology. This position article, briefly tracing the development of the field, encourages the development of an expanded scope for this sub-discipline of Psychology.

In its infancy, the role of Military Psychology was the selection and placement of soldiers based on a series of cognitive tests. After World War II, the scope of Military Psychology quickly expanded exponentially into areas such as leadership development, psychological warfare, and the enhancement of morale, motivation, resilience, and human , as Military Psychology with its sub-disciplines became integrated into national military forces to enhance the capabilities of the modern fighting soldier psychologically, physically and technologically. As the discipline matured, its present role can be described as to create soldiers whose skills sets greatly surpass those of their predecessors in meeting the ever-increasing complex demands of the modern battlefield.

In recent years, Afghanistan and Iraq that conventional warfare tactics are rendered all but obsolete by small numbers of militia fighters with improvised devices and even outdated weapons in a demonstration of human ingenuity trumping advanced technology and well-equipped, superior military forces that inevitably failed dismally to subdue insurgent opposition forces. Even the destruction of the forces serves to emphasise that the world can no longer afford to continue armed conflict as a means to settle territorial and international disagreements because these eventually become the rationalisation for ongoing, unnecessary conflict.

In its contribution to the defence role, alternatives to engagement in ill-advised military options must involve the strategic deployment of Military Psychology in a front-line capacity to research, comprehend and then, through diplomatic means, counter the psychological and ideological factors at play in creating the world’s current conflict areas. If not, an even greater catastrophe will arise from ongoing ill-informed, ideology-driven international military interventions around the world.



How to Cite
Gouws, J. (2022). Military Psychology: Time to embrace a front-line diplomatic role. Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies, 50(2), 1-36.