What made me decide to major in tactics? Well, a lot of things actually. My mother is a psychologist, and I suppose the human mind has always intrigued me on some level. What do you mean what does tactics have to do with the mind? It’s all strategy isn’t it? How to outsmart your opponent? How to out-think him? It’s what drew me to chess too, I suppose. Actually, to be totally honest, Tactics wasn’t my first choice. Psychology was what I intended to major in. What happened? Well, a lot.
You see, when I applied to the Academy, the Federation had been receiving a lot of intelligence on the Cardassians – about troop movements and ship operations. They knew that they were planning something, but they didn’t know what. As a precaution, every cadet that signed up for Psychology was given the option of receiving their primary training in Psych Ops – Psychological warfare. Well, I was young and naïve at the time, so I chose to take the Psych Ops route.
For two years I studied the psychological aspects of warfare…the use of propaganda, the media, and its effect on a population. I read about using television, leaflets, news, radio broadcasts, speeches, buying off heads of state and politicians. I wrote papers on an individual’s need for acceptance, about how groups think and the need for a common identity.
You see, the ultimate goal of Psych Ops is to win a war before a single battle is fought. Ultimately there should be no casualties, no blood, no phaser burns or starships being blown up. What could be more appealing?
In the third year of the training, we began running elaborate holodeck simulations that ran continuously for months. We were to target a city, initiate Psych Ops protocols and then move in with an occupying force. We had three imperatives: Convince our enemy that their equipment and war assets were obsolete, that they were being commanded by inefficient commanders, and that their basic human rights were being suppressed.
Well, my team did it all. We began with circulating rumors that the mighty Federation of Planets was going to end the Cardassian offensive once and for all, that the main strategic point of entry was their town. Then we fed misinformation on starship movement through the local radio and TV broadcasts that tripled the size of the actual occupation force. Leaflets were distributed that depicted their leaders as inept fools, and the Federation as saviors. We portrayed the Cardassians as poor victims of a tyrannical regime and they bought it hook, line and sinker.
The murders started before we even got there. See, what we hadn’t counted on was our Psych Ops being too effective. When we finally arrived with the occupation force, the city was in shambles. The lower classes had rebelled against the rulers of the city, inciting riots, and out and out civil war. Thousands died when the Cardassian government sent shock troops in to put down the revolution that we had started.
When the remaining citizens saw us, they cried. They were so happy that we had finally come to ‘save’ them from their oppressors. They didn’t realize that we had started it all, that we had played them for the fools. When a little girl who had seen her parents mowed down in the street THANKED me for saving her, I realized that we were the fools.
I saw that Psychological Warfare was not the honorable way to fight, that it didn’t leave the enemy a chance. It relied on misdirection and subterfuge…lying and cheating and I knew right then and there that I couldn’t stomach it anymore. I dropped out of the program and switched my major to Tactics. The overt ways of warfare were more honorable in my eyes than the covert. I wanted to be able to look into the eyes of my opponent, so to speak, rather than make war from thousands of light years away.
Luckily, I had completed enough of my lower division requirements that it only took me one extra year to graduate. Why did I return for my Psychology degree later? Well, I guess I never got over the demons I had created on that holodeck and I needed to face them. I hadn’t touched a Psychology book or periodical in over two years for fear I would see that little girl's face again. Having immersed myself in the dark side of Psychology, I decided I needed to discover the light side. That’s why I returned. Another cup of coffee? Sure, why not? My shift on the bridge doesn’t start for another 20 minutes.