James Rogers jamesr at
Wed Apr 9 12:02:58 PDT 2003

From: Joseph S Barrera III
> What exactly is the difference between
> "Terror" and "Shock and Awe"?

It is unfortunate that the talking heads latched on to the term "Shock and
Awe" and that the DoD politicians used it.  The term comes from a paper
published a number of years ago on maximizing the psychological component of
offensive combat operations.  I saw an interview with one of the authors of
the paper who said he wished they had used another term in the paper because
it sounds absurd in the context it is currently being used in the popular
media.  Despite the term, it does not imply grossly visual Hollywood-style
combat scenarios.

The difference between "terror" and "shock and awe" is somewhat subtle.
"Shock and Awe" is a mindfuck where the enemy combatant feels utterly
overwhelmed BUT they do not feel cornered or see the obvious inevitability
of their own death.  The trick is to create a battlefield environment where
most of the enemy combatants feel that they have the reasonable option of
escaping the overwhelming wave of destruction.  In short, you attempt to
trigger the strongest fight-or-flight response possible, and you do so in a
combat environment intentionally biased to make flight an attractive and
reasonable option, thereby minimizing the amount of actual "fight" that the
enemy soldiers decide to give.

"Terror" is designed to engender fear that is disproportionate to the
threat.  It is not generally intended to bias the fight-or-flight response
on the battlefield in any particularly manner, and historically has been an
unreliable tool on the battlefield and arguably counter-productive.  

> Didn't we experience "Shock and Awe"
> when the Twin Towers collapsed?

Technically, no.  The closest attempted analog in American history would be
Pearl Harbor.


-James Rogers
 jamesr at

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