Monday, May 23, 2005

It's getting late but I read this paper today while walking on the treadmill at the gym, part of a bundle of research material I gathered for a paper I'm writing on the Bush Administration. The author is Vice-Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski (ret.), until very recently he was a top adviser to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on defense transformation issues. Cebrowski is also one of Dr. Barnett's mentors and the father of Net-Centric Warfare theory .

A deep horizontal thinker and a formidible conceptualizer. This one is worth your time.
He's a genius. Thanks for linking.

Art's "thunder bolt" comment reminded me of Larry Dunbar describing vertical force as an electric shock and horizontal force as magnetism.

Art's comment on conventional threats now being lesser includeds might shed some light on base closings.

His discussion of new metrics echos Rumsfeld question on how to know if the GWOT is being won.

I'm unsure on Art's comment that "The complexity of warfare in the information age compels increased speed. In this context, "speed" is a time based competition or "transaction rate." ... More broadly, transaction rates are about the number of actos, and the number of interactions with the competition and the environment." In Patterns of Conflict Boyd notes that complexity slows down the OODA loop, while Art implies it enables easier transit. Likewise Boyd's note that "In general, a more complex force prevails over a less complex force."

On the other hand, in his slides on blitzkrieg, Boyd noted that a thrust is composed of smaller thrusts composed of smaller thrusts, with decisions made further and further down the line. So what Cebrowski is saying does make sense, but it is important to remember that "complexity" doesn't mean "complex management."

Cebrowski's description of NCO seems like 4GW but the Navy/Air Force. Maybe it is the same thing. Is the entire 4GW/NCO debate just a funding issue with no ideological component?

Fantastic article! Thanks for linking to it!

-Dan tdaxp
Hey Dan,

I think in Cebrowski's use of "complexity" he is focusing on the internal organizational complexity within an actor's military system allowing greater speed rather than the complexity of the overall scenario/environment in which the actors engage in warfare.

I'm starting to dig deep into NCW and I'll have some more links up soon...and maybe better answers ;o)

Great point. Chet Richards pointed out that the easier a network is to diagram, the easier it is to subvert/subdue. Under that rubric, complexity would definitely be a plus.

One last thing: Several times the Adminiral mentions "comparative advantage." I think he means "absolute advantage." Comparative advantage is when even "adversaries" are cooperative (through seflish business, everyone's output and consumption is boosted with trade and comprative advantage). Full Spectrum Dominance, on the other hand, relies on absolute advantage.

"Efficiencies" don't matter as much as "the enemy has no channel to victory." You do not "trade" victories with an enemy in war.

Full Spectrum War is not MBA War.

If I had to guess, I would say that this is a relic over MBAophlia. Hammes mentions something similar in his book.
hey Dan,

If you can find a mechanism to systemically lock in your comparative advantage - it becomes an absolute advantage. The difference between the two is really an expectation of duration and stability.

Which is why paying attention to the state of Rule-sets -who wants to change them and why - is vitally important ;o)
"If you can find a mechanism to systemically lock in your comparative advantage - it becomes an absolute advantage. The difference between the two is really an expectation of duration and stability."

Could you say more on this? I'm looking at it from a classic economics viewpoint, but I always love your explanations. :)

Imagine a world where there is only the EU and the US, where both trade only in cars and movies. The United States has a locked-in advantage in making both, because of flexibile industries and low regulations. However, because of how making movies complements American creativity and creative destruction, it would make more sense for Americans to focus on making movies and Europeans to focus on making cars. Until a system pertubation, Europe has a locked-in comparative advantage in car making. But never an absolute advantage.
Hey Dan,

The interesting thing in considering absolute and comparative advantage are Rule-sets that affect competition.

I'm not certan if an economist would admit/include such an effect or insist it be regarded as a separate phenomena but in real life, Explicit Rule-sets can be set up by States or transnational entities that effectively change the parameters of your potential productivity and change your opportunity costs.

Without patent laws,for example, you and I could spend our time brewing viagra and taxol in our bathtubs and selling it on the internet instead of, say, blogging which is not currently an opportunity cost for us. Patent laws put less developed nations ( or any late entrants to a field)at a tremendous comparative disadvantage.

If you can use the window of opportunity given by comparative-advantage and Rule-sets that create barriers to entry to refine your process to the point where you can effectively drive any new marginal producer out of business ( who must factor in start-up costs that for you are long since sunk) rendering your advantage absolute.

But then your advantage would be focused on one or the other, so you would maintain your absolute advantages while losing a compettive advantage...

The joys of economic cycles. :)

It's all relative anyway. As soon as you corner the Whale oil distribution market some goddamn fool comes along and invents Kerosene.

Or a light bulb. ;o)
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