PART V - GAINING THE UPPER HAND IN SYSTEM PERTURBATIONS
Reviewing rules # 10-12 from Dr. Barnett's Deleted Scene on System Perturbation
. As before my remarks are in regular text, Dr. Barnett's in bold:
When do we gain the upper hand in System Perturbations?
Rule #10: A strong offensive strategy can force a certain amount of structure on the most asymmetrical of enemies.
Because I believe state-on-state wars are fundamentally a thing of the past, I have strong expectations that the enemies -- whatever form they take -- will be both fairly distributed in their organizational structure and seek to wage war on us in the most asymmetrical means. This enemy could be an Al Qaeda, or a SARS, or an anti-American intifada in Iraq. In these situations, defensive strategies inevitably fail, because all the initiative is left to your enemy. Some might say, "But if you cut off one head of the Hydra, then ten more with appear!" But to be perfectly blunt, I hate arguments that take you down the path of saying in effect: "Whatever we do, let's not piss off the terrorists." If you don't take the fight to the enemy, the enemy brings the fight to you, so we can do this in Manhattan or in Iraq -- and I prefer Iraq. You can counter with, "But what all those soldiers dying in Iraq?" Those lives are no more, nor any less precious than the almost 3,000 we lost on 9/11. But the big difference is that there are soldiers, not civilians. Taking the fight to the enemy forces that enemy to adapt himself to whatever offensive strategy you pursue. If you shoot on sight, then he will hide. If you track him across networks, then he will have to stay mostly off-grid. If you plant yourself in Iraq and Afghanistan, then you will fight him in Iraq and Afghanistan, not New York and Washington.
Interesting. I have commented a number of times in PNM and terrorism related posts on the need for the United States to control the initiative and I don't wish to be redundant in my comments so I will selectively address a couple of Dr. Barnett's points:
On asymmetry: the United States is in the peculair position of having the entire rest of the planet combined in an asymmetrical stance. This " unipolarity" is something the world has not seen since the period between the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and the unification of Germany when Great Britain ruled the waves even as the size of the Royal Navy declined in absolute and relative terms.
I have to disagree here though with Dr. Barnett- I don't think state on state warfare per se is dead except within the Core. What has died is any interest in taking the United States on in a head-on clash because the Soviet model of warfare both in terms of equipment and doctrine has proven that it is no match for American, real time computer processing,Leviathan power.
Saddam had a very good, very large, Soviet armed military in 1991 and we crushed it easily. There's really little indication today that China or North Korea could do much better than Saddam did. Quantity, whether it is a million artillery pieces or 5000 medium range ballistic missiles or the Syrian Air force, is no match for quality. The only hope of an opponent is to strike massively at our initial deployment at the start of our logistical steamroller and all this would accomplish is to delay the inevitable as a now angry America mobilized and retaliated.
You will see vestiges of state on state warfare in the Gap, most likely in central Africa and you will see states attacking the U.S. while trying very hard not to leave a return address. Case in point, Iran and Syria playing games in Iraq
. This is warfare within the context of everything else. Whether we recognize it or not is merely a political choice.
When Dr. Barnett discusses "Taking the fight to the enemy forces that enemy to adapt himself to whatever offensive strategy you pursue"
he is talking about consciously structuring our attacks - not merely military assault but using the range of tools at our disposal- to in effect force the enemy to evolve organizationally to a form that we find easier to defeat. Our pressure should make it tempting for al Qaida to adopt tactics and structure that works for them in the short run to their long-term disadvantage.
The caveat is that this relationship with the enemy is a dynamic feedback loop
- we are evolving as well to match their responses. In order to control the process instead of being controlled by it it is crucial that fluid creativity in operations and policy, not systematization - and the military loves systematic procedures, doctrines and predictable outcomes - be our primary governing principle.
Rule #11: Our individual plays unfold with utmost speed, but in ignoring any "game clock"
We remember that our strength is our inevitability. America's strategic tempo in this global war on terrorism must be deliberate, not rash. We need to line up allies before we strike, not be forced to bribe them afterwards. We want to make clear every time we act, what rule sets we are upholding or proposing. In sum, it is a "rash" U.S. military establishment the advanced world fears most: reckless, trigger-happy, and prone to unilateralism. An inevitable military Leviathan, on the other hand, is what the global system needs most: decisive in its power projection, precise in its targeted effects, and thorough in its multilateralism. So while we will strike with amazing speed, and coordinate our operations with eye toward rapidly dominating any enemy we take on, our strategic choices must be made with great care. Living in an interconnected world, America must understand that almost any time it intervenes militarily overseas, it sets off a series of horizontal scenarios both good and bad. The rest of the Core will invariably have to live with all those resulting scenarios, so they cannot just be forewarned, these countries must be consulted, enlisted, and convinced to the best of our abilities, and that takes effort up front. So tactical and operational speed are doubleplusgood because they save our soldier's lives¸ but strategic speed is fundamentally bad because of its negative effect on the global security rule sets we seek to enhance with every intervention we undertake
The Bush administration should read this section of the Deleted Scene as some valid criticism. Desiring to "lock in" a forward posture on the WOT so that another administration - perhaps of a liberal, New England Democrat - cannot undo the general direction of policy, merely slow the tempo, the Bush people have hurriedly missed a great number of diplomatic opportunities. I'm not talking the hopeless cases on Iraq like France and Germany but India, the Turks, Russia and China who have been alienated in part by clumsy gaffes or brusque treatment. Or by neglecting to push general WOT moral positions, like proposing a strong Anti-Terror Convention.
It's fine to punish your enemies - the Bush administration has that down pat - but you also need to reward your friends. "Friends" means allies like Australia, Italy, Poland and most of all Britain - not simply our creatures like Allawi and the devious Chalabi brothers. We need more carrots. Not compromises on important points of strategy but carrots given freely, not grudgingly and tardily. We need to sell the positives not just duty and obligation in defending Western Civilization - because to be frank, most of our allies decided to get out of the defense business in terms of power projection. We need to cherish the few who remain useful.
It is better to be feared than loved but take care not to make yourself hated.
Rule #12: Our efforts to dissipate horizontal scenarios will invariably trigger unintended consequences that take on a life of their own.
In the Y2K scenarios, we called this the "Iatrogenic Zone." Iatrogenic refers to "unexpected side-effects that result from treatment by a physician." People who own computers know this one instinctively, whether they realize it or not. Iatrogenic is when you try to download this nice little program from the web to fix this itsy-bitsy problem on your computer, and three hours later you are looking at a complete wipe of your hard drive for your troubles. America's occupation of post-Saddam Iraq places the global war on terrorism in the Iatrogenic Zone. The USA Patriot Act, in many critics' minds, places the Justice Department squarely in the Iatrogenic Zone, where they fear the new powers to fight terrorism will represent a cure worse than the disease. But again, while I cite this rule I see no need to slavishly submit to its logic. All "slippery slope" arguments end up pushing you toward inaction versus action, defense versus offense, and disparate tactics instead of real strategy, so you do not want to go too far with this one
Having already discussed unintended consequences earlier, a good question to ask if some of these unfolding, unknown scenarios are predictable or quantfiable before the fact. ? Yes, potentially in a rough outline, they are.
Recently I discussed PNM with a particle physicist, an extremely able and creative guy who has published over 70 papers and worked on the project team at Fermilab that found evidence of the Top Quark. His response to Dr. Barnett's System Perturbations analysis was follows:
"...it sounds like the driving principle of chaos theory. For a given set of initial conditions, one gets some result/final state. If there is some very minor fluctuation or perturbation on the exact same system that causes even minute changes in the initial conditions, a chaotic system will evolve very differently than under the original set of initial conditions, resulting in a drastically different result/final state. Chaotic systems can be complex and are unpredictable. Without knowing any details of Barnett's work, my guess is he is trying to apply such ideas to social situations, and in my mind anything that includes humans is by definition a complex and/or chaotic system. The best one likely can do is apply probability theory to the system. We have an advantage in the physical sciences of having mathematical models in place that can be confirmed via controlled experiment, and then do computer simulations to predict outcomes on complex and chaotic systems. But some are so complex, such as weather systems, that many assumptions have to be made.
Keep in mind, too, that complexity theory fundamentally looks at how single elements spontaneously organize into complicated structures. How do individual species organize into ecosystems? How do individual stocks relate and become part of the structure of an economy? How do individuals organize into societies or civilizations? People suspect that there are similar mathematical rules for very diverse examples such as these. A perturbation theory for such mathematical models would look to account for 'noise' one gets in the system."
Presumably, the pure math and computer analysts could develop sets of simple models and run scenarios based on the premises of historical data ( 9/11, the Stock Market Crash of 1929, major earthquakes, pandemics etc.) . This is so far out of my field of expertise that I'm not capable of giving a reasonable estimate but the work on hypothetical nuclear warfare exchanges during the Cold War and global warming models should have left a body of experts capable of at least starting work on PNM System Perturbations.