Once upon a time, in a far away land called IGMR (Indiantown Gap Military Reservation) an intrepid young Army ROTC cadet was leading his squad down a road when an enemy tank rumbled out in front of us. That event had quite a psychological impact.
Fast forward to March 2017 when the same cadet was a retired Colonel SME orchestrating an influence campaign designed to convince an adversarial military CDR not to lead a convoy on an attack mission. While the 'shock action' of tanks was not appropriate, one avenue that open was to have a couple of ‘fast movers’ fly over the convoy sending the not so subtle message – if you move forward, the next time these jets won’t be so benign.
There is a great deal to be said in favor of non-lethal action to get results. One technique is to employ lethal weapons in a PSYAct – a psychological action – designed to send a strong sensory message.
One of my favorite military sources is “Task & Purpose”. Their May 5, 2017 e-mail included “F-35 Pilot Shares How Stealthy Fighter Psychologically Wrecks Enemies” (see: http://bit.ly/2pOoAX8; which is also the photo source)
In the article the author describes “a sense of dread” which is precisely the kind of impact you want to have on an enemy. The message sent by the F-22 was “you can’t find us, you can’t fight us.”
Other PsyActs do not have to be as dramatic. While I was in SFOR Bosnia US personnel were generally dressed in ‘full battle rattle’, meaning helmet, flak vest, etc. The British on the other hand were not.
In a confrontation the Americans had little in the way of non-lethal options while the British Army could simple go to their vehicles and ‘suit up’ in their battle gear sending a pretty strong message.
The bottom line is that all manner of influence can be employed and the psychological impact of kinetic weapons in a non-lethal message can be quite effective.