Countering Fear in War: The Strategic Use of Emotion

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Liaras, Evangelos & Roger D. Petersen (2006) Countering Fear in War: The Strategic Use of Emotion, Journal of Military Ethics 5(4): 317–333.

In the course of war, fear and terror are often used as weapons to distort the opponent's decision-making or break the opponent's will. Military and political leaders need to respond to this tactic. They have several options including the appeal to reason or the creation of emotions to counter fear. This article examines these options in two ways. First, it theoretically specifies five alternative strategies. Second, the article examines which of these strategies appears to be most prevalent in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. In the classical Greece of Thucydides, leaders generally chose to employ a combination of hope and reason as counter to fear rather than shame, anger, or spite. As discussed in the conclusion, this finding provides several insights about the strategic use of emotion.


Roger D. Petersen

Roger D. Petersen

Associate Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology