Thursday, October 19, 2006

Curtis, at his new group blog, Dreaming 5GW, analyzed system perturbations and the differences that Thomas P.M. Barnett and John Robb have had recently over 5GW. I thought I would offer my views on some of the points and questions Curtis raised ( his remarks in bold) in "'Global Guerrillas' as 5GW Warriors". I'm doing so in two parts to separate personalities fromthe substantive issues:

"Perhaps it is the Zen in the ZenPundit that has led Mark Safranski to ask, “5GW Emergent — But What is It? while maintaining neutrality between the opposing views. Neutrality is of course the wrong word, since he views both approaches with interest and not a little agreement either way."

I'll use the opportunity Curtis provided to clarify.

It is true that I intentionally look for connections, congruence and consilient elements as a standard analytical approach but in the case of PNM and GG, as both Tom and John are dealing with military affairs " in the context of everything else" with " everything else" being a dynamic system, I think the approach is warranted. In my view, the strategic theories they have created are strongly complementary tools for statesmen and soldiers to bring intellectual order to a world that seems ever more chaotic.

Frankly, they desperately need these tools. The community of defense intellectuals is not exactly a large one and those offering imaginative, paradigm-shifting, solutions is a smaller grouping still. Obviously, I'm deeply invested in Tom's vision of shrinking the Gap as a grand strategy consistent with both America's national interests and moral values but that does not mean other approaches or insights require a pro forma rejection as if we were sectarian Trotskyite Leftists going after Bukharinite Revisionists at the Grand Sixth International and Coffee House at CUNY, circa 1934. There's far, far too many people in government and academia who are comfortable with the dysfunctional status quo for the * exceedingly small minority* seeking change in defense policy to waste energy on pointless feuds. Dr. Barnett's work is an art of synthesis and originality - to remain sharp, the blade of PNM must be unsparingly tested against other ideas and GG is the whetstone.

The same goes for Global Guerillas. Dan of tdaxp threw the kitchen sink at it the other day on the issue of 5GW, but as much as I'm certain that Dan's post irritated John, over the long haul, good theories are only improved by unstinting criticism like Dan's, while bad theories fade. For myself, I'm not ready to draw a rigid demarcation line between 5GW and 4GW yet; while I am one of the first ( perhaps the first) to suggest that Tom's Sys Admin might be 5GW, I'm pretty sure 5GW will run the tactical-operational-strategic gamut from destructive to constructive like previous generations of warfare.

We need more brainstorming, frank exchanges, open minds, healthy skepticism and the firsthand observations of warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as veterans of other small wars. We need data and sound metrics to undergird our speculations; but if we do these things, and do them properly, we all have the potential to make a real contribution.

Coming Soon: Part II. - Thoughts on System Perturbations.
I have something for you to read before you take off on "Part II. - Thoughts on System Perturbations." Toward Ensembles Acting with Authority. It deals heavily with system perturbations and my conclusions for the imminent future of 5GW. I sure would appreciate your comments, even if you just read it and comment in your Part II. Thank you.
Hi revg,

could not log in to comment at your site. Nice post. I'll probably include some of your points in Part II but first:

"The current environment already possesses a high level of novelty and novelty levels will only increase. More complexity and complications will increase novelty levels. Attempts to reduce complexity and complications will also reduce interconnectivity, which will increase novelty levels. This leads to the question of how to effectively act while implementing analysis of the current environment before increasing levels of novelty invalidates the analysis. The answer involves speed of action relative to analysis. Increasing levels of novelty increase the need for speed. As this development accelerates anything that retards action relative to analysis will possess ever-lessening utility. This has a direct bearing upon the location of the authority to act with profound implications for human society."

Are you familiar with Boyd's OODA Loop ?





Moving faster through the OODA cycle does not always mean faster OPTEMPO, though that could very well be the result. Sometimes a superslow OPTEMPO might be the route of 5GW because it would be less subject to observation.
Mark, RevG,

Sometimes a superslow OPTEMPO might be the route of 5GW because it would be less subject to observation. [Mark]

I think that is so, and it ties in with something RevG said elsewhere, that a target group or population would think it is merely responding naturally to an evolving environment, if perturbations are low-level and gradual.

Also, besides perhaps increasing impulsive activity, greater levels of novelty and complexity can reduce active responses by creating indecision and operational paralysis. I think this might even guide the efficient 5GW warriors: not only by suggesting ways to paralyze a target, but also as motivation for making very careful, lower-level perturbations, so that the target won't become paralyzed (if you are wanting that target to move in a new direction.) I also connected all of this to OODA, in my series on a revised OODA.
Aloha Mark,

Yes, I'm familiar with Boyd's OODA loop. My sense of the OODA loop is that it applies within specific environments, as in between combatants/contestants. I was trying to use the analysis-action time lag external to a specific environment and not as a means to defeat a one-on-one opponent. Since I was in a different context I did want to take liberties with the OODA loop by applying it otherwise than where Boyd spoke of it.

My sense of Boyd is the OODA loop was evaluated relative to peers, I wanted to speak about the analysis-action time lag relative to hierarchies. While I would feel comfortable using OODA relative to two opposing central command-and-control systems I felt less comfortable using it relative to central c&c and the exercise of in-the-field authority. It was a stretch I did not wish to make, so I used other language.

Thank you for the insights. BTW, are you originally from Milwaukee/mid-west? I'm doing a study.
Aloha RevG,

Genealogical study ? Or blogospheric ?

No, I am from Chicago, originally. There are people with my surname more commonly found in Milwaukee than Chicago but they are not relations. At least not close ones.
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