ON YARDSTICKS AND THEORIES
A great deal of posting on 5GW
has occurred ( a new one from Tom
, recently from Purpleslog
, Christian Soldiers
...) which brings me to the general subject of theory. Not everyone is enamored with theories or theorizing. Bruce Kesler
, a friend who blogs at Democracy Project
is one; a marine veteran of Vietnam, his patience for speculations that stray too far from real-world experiences is fairly short. I have heard similar views expressed from time to time at The Small Wars Council
and at Military.com
, which often invigorate partisans of a particular view to make their case and defend the insights a particular theory might offer. This is unsurprising as antipathy toward purely theoretical investigations is pronounced in the American character, our pragmatic bent having been observed by Alexis de Tocqueville
long before the arrival of William James
and John Dewey
Nevertheless, theories are relevant and useful tools for interpreting the world in direct proportion to their reliability, validity and ease of use. The greater their explanatory power, the greater the longitudinal impact they will have on civilization. Truth has traction.
A rough and ready yardstick that I use for evaluating theoretical speculations is consiliency
- how wide can the principles the theory purports to assert be applied with similar validity ? Take the late Admiral Arthur Cebrowski's theory of Network-Centric Warfare
for example. Cebrowski was primarily concerned with warfare where his theory deeply influenced U.S. military operations, but his ideas on information have obvious application to economics, sociology and business management to name just a few fields. In turn, general network theory
and related concepts like resilience and complexity have so many applications across diverse fields of science, mathematics, technology and social science that my attempt to make a comprehensive list here would be futile.
So as we look at 5GW concepts, let's see where else they might work before we adopt them as dogma in war - and be ready to discard what does not.