Why psychological factors affect military decision-making

By Chairman Manyang Parek von Chief Parek

It is absolutely true that in political history, there are psychological factors that affect people’s risk perception and preference that harm the quality of military decision-makers or generals within the society. Indeed such military decision—makers are being termed military commanders or generals that are affected by these factors at the end. If this hypothesis were correct, it would have significant implications for military commanders or generals in civilian environments within the society. In this case, the psychology of risk and its role in decision-making in civilian environments is so important for any military commander to know well. In a sense, the author then determines the role the psychology of risk might play in military decision—making. Simply the concept of risk is central to decision-making for a military commander or a general to have in fact learned. It is therefore, important for commanders to follow laid down rules and laws according to military disciple within the society.

The author examines decision-making theory as a way of demonstrating how the psychology of risk affects decisions-making in civilian environments. Although any military commander accepts the value of the commander’s intuition in decision-making, as a tool based on the rational model of decision-making. Thus military commander is charged with awesome responsibilities simply as unlimited liability to an extent of laying down his life for others and even make brave decisions that could result in others paying the ultimate price. Indeed, for military commander to improve his decision-making skill; it is not just a matter of professionalism; it can be a matter of life and death at the end. And that is why in this literature on the psychology of risk and its role in decision-making in civilian environments, it is in fact very contentious and deadly at times. It is therefore clear then that psychological factors affect people’s risk perception and preference as it harms the quality of decision-makers within the society. These military decision-makers will be affected by these factors if they don’t go for military training to gain more knowledge and skills in how to do decision-making in effective manner. If this hypothesis were correct, it would have real implications for military commanders in civilian environments.

Under this ground, political policy makers know that military decision-makers may violate the principles of rational decision-making and douse cognitive shortcuts that introduce biases and corruption within the system of governance. Because some military commanders have always interfered with civil administration forgetting that the time for liberation struggle is by-gone and no need for staging coupe d’état as a way  of taking over the government by use of military arm forces. This is why such nations will not enjoy democratic system of governance without economic development. This type of political crisis which our nation is facing is where the institutions of governance are control by military decision-makers without knowing how to rule the county effectively due to poor knowledge. This is re-enforcing mismanagement of people’s resources that escalated into insecurity and death of poor citizen’s without accountability. In this context the author will mention few nations below that are ruled by powerful military leaders or warlords in the past. These military powerful decision-makers have left in their country political instability without economic development because of failure to adopt democracy, freedom, and rule of law to achieve justice within the society. They are being referred to as Adopt Hitler of Germany, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, and Saddam Hessian of Iraq, Stalin of Soviet Union and Iddi Amin Dada of Uganda. They were well known dictators in the World as they exercised absolute power of the fittest by using iron hand as they killed their fellow humankind. By definition they are pure warlords without moral fitness of making sensible decisions about preserving human life. Whether they believe in religious values, norms and moral ethics was very hard for anyone to understand. But in military theory, military man kills human being without caring especially if given orders by his superior commander. This is the same thing which is going on now in our country as our warlords do not care for their poor citizen’s life. These powerful dictators are termed as liberators and apparently hate each other without minding of their people’s life to an extent of having depopulated society without any unity. The fear is that our system of governance is under control by military authorities which is catastrophic. Despite the fact that military personnel are not supposed to get involved in the civil institutional administration without having acquired enough knowledge in the past. If it is a matter of having taken part physically in the liberation struggle, it is another thing now to sit behind office desk and work for development by laying down right policies and decisions about governance than being engaged in civil war.

Nevertheless, personality, experience, organizational setting and social cultural context are relevant factors which influence military decision-makers. Moreover the unique culture and ethos of the military cause military commanders to adopt consistently risk-taking or risk-avoiding behavior in the society. Clearly, the Oxford English Dictionary defines risk in terms of both danger and possibility that something unpleasant will occur. In simple terms, decision—making involves making a choice between options. Thus, the idea that people actually make a choice in decision is when making a decision about the idea in regard to decision-making which is both intuitive and logical. But the need to make a decision comes from the need and opportunity to move from some current conditions to future conditions. This is of critical importance because it implies that the decision-maker has to make a judgment about the future. By its very nature, the future is uncertain to speak. Well in making his choice the decision-maker must form a judgment, from the options he considers, about both the likelihood of a desired outcome occurring and the value of that outcome. Simply the main risk in this central decision-making is that the psychology of risk affects decision-making in civilian environments. Here, the behavior is influenced by bedrock beliefs within the society. Above all; moral, ethics, ideologies, beliefs, and values all have influence over the way humans behave within the country. As Napoleon said, he would rather have lucky generals than good ones meaning that military decision-makers do not have common understanding of risk as their decision-making is affected by the psychology of risk itself. Although generally military commanders have great advantage of being professional decision-makers who have skills because of their extensive training and exercises.

Strictly speaking, national power within the country have many components, some are tangible such as economic wealth, technical pre-eminence and other components that are intangible like moral force, or strong national will. In this case if military forces are strong then are a credible and tangible to a nation’s power. But if both the intangible national will and those forces are forged with one instrument, national power becomes effective at the end. In this sense, use of military force against democratic system and citizens is not useful as a man must first be transformed inside if he has to change the world around him. Although there is more to that than being feared however, if the people only tolerate you because they fear you, you will not last long in power. Surely there is always someone out there in the world that does not fear you threatening your existence. The people who will one day turn on your leadership as the only fear is the first chance they get. This means a leader’s legitimacy rests in the belief among his subjects that they are better off with him in charge of them. This people would take him out as they don’t want to because they value his leadership. I mean, yes, fear is a big part of it, but people simply think they are better off with the dictator in charge than not. They trust his judgment and ability, and will always tolerate his brutal ways. So this is the irony and a persistent myth that dictators do maintain power through fear alone without wisdom and moral authority to manage the system of governance effectively.

They only keep power through fear and respect and that is irony to speak. They must have genuine admires along with fearful subjects. Good example not everyone did hate living under Castro’s Cuba, Soviet Union and even under current President. Let us take Fidel Castro who held power for so long because he and his secret police whether thugs or not do kill, imprison and torture anyone who spoke out against him. Despite of these, Cuban masses stayed in line as they feared the consequences of stepping out of line. What is clear is that the military served ultimately, have power of checking on executive power in the country for anyone who might take over if a leader gets too drunk with power. If leadership advisers and enforcers with secretaries despise him, apparently he won’t last long as that opens the scheme of ousting him out of power as true loyalists are not there. The synonymous with military regime, a subtype of authoritarian with principle of blind submission to authority as opposed to individual freedom of thought and action is not useful. It is a sign of authoritarian government which denotes political system where power is concentrated in the hands of a leader or small elite without people’s body.  Such authoritarian leader often exercises power arbitrarily without existing bodies of law that makes it hard to be replaced by citizens through choosing freely among various competitions during elections. Instead there should be freedom to create opposition political parties or other alternative political groupings that compete for power with the ruling group.


Otherwise lack of that brings temptation of military force making coups by high command or by those coups led by junior officers with the rank of or equivalent to army captain or below. Rather more useful is the distinction between factors internal to the armed forces, domestic political variables, and international influences. In the first category, violations of military hierarchy by civilian politicians, and expansion of the military capacity or sense of mission, and a heightened sense of threat can all trigger coups within the country. With regard to domestic politics, high degree of political conflict especially ethnic and religious conflict, economic crisis, weak political parties and low-capacity state institutions have been observed to cause military takeover in most countries. The other is the image of the military in national politics as popular identification of the military with certain positive national values has to defend their nation from any external forces that threaten the nation.

The author is the chairman of Sudanile Christian Democratic Party (SCDP). He can be reached via email: prince.manyangparek@hotmail.com or Phone: +211 915334323


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