Saturday, February 18, 2006

A short but very intriguing paper by Dr. Tim Challans of was posted at The Small Wars Council that primarily criticizes Effects Based Approach/Effects Based Operations but raises the question of emergence in warfare.

Briefly, emergence is the phenomenon of a new, unanticipated, spontaneous behavior as a result of a system reaching a particular point of complexity. Usually the constituent components of the system lack the capacity for the emergent behavior until the collective has formed a pattern of interaction. If the emergent pattern- say for example the formation of a scale-free network - possesses the characteristics of resilience, it will stabilize as a recognizable and observable entity or phenomenon. The implications of emergence in systems are strongly Darwininan and quite naturally have immediate applications for such fields as physics and economics but would apply to virtually everything and as such, is a consilient concept.

One with revolutionary potential.


"Emergence" by Dr. Von

"Emergent Intelligence in Open Source Warfare" by John Robb at Global Guerillas

Good subject for further discussion and debate. Though the article is a critique of EBA / EBO you caught the greater "ramifications" of Challan's position. Certainly something that has (and will) gotten (get) within doctrine writer's OODA loop.

Hi Dave,

I was impressed with Challans - a lot of intellectual punch in so short a paper. This is one example of "out of the box thinking" I hope gains wider circulation in the defense -national security community.

They - "they" meaning the Pentagon's various universities and semi-official think tanks - need to start inviting complexity, chaos and network theorists in for some brainstorming sessions with the defense community's up and coming strategists and operational planners.

Read the article. Some good points, but some clarification is in order:

1) EBO has been around in the Air Force way before Col Warden and now General Deptula brought it to the fore during the planning for Desert Storm. Gen Horner, the CENTAF commander at the time implemented it. And guess what? It worked. Saddam was ousted from Kuwait with minimal bloodshed from our troops. Anybody with cursory knowledge of airpower theory knows that Douhet, Billy Mitchell, and the Air Corps Tactical Shool were already discussing the issue, the just did not call it EBO. Some in the Air Force (half jokingly) say that EBO is the discovery by the F-15-community (of which Deptula and Warden were part) of the targeting cycle. BTW, you can trace EBO all the way to Sun Tzu and Clausewitz.

2)This statement is troubling: "Military and political leaders have long thought in a naïve sense that they could cause people to act the way they wanted, bringing about desired results."
To quote Clausewitz: "War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will"
We don't go to war just for the heck of it, because it's fun (NOT), or to test our shiny new equipment and camp out in exotic locales. War is one of the means (and not even an independent one) of achieving one's obejectives when all else has failed.
I found other holes in the paper (some concerning his criticism of our target analysis system), but the other thing that stood out is that "The advocates of SOD at OTRI are Israelis (retired generals, philosophers, scientists—a real think-tank that privileges free inquiry) who were motivated by the hard-earned realization that the current situation they face will not be solved by force." I guess the Israelis have something to teach us Americans from their subtle performances in southern Lebanon and Jenin. I guess next time, we are going to ask the Russians for their theories. Sorry I took so much space.
hi Sonny,

"I guess next time, we are going to ask the Russians for their theories. Sorry I took so much space"

No, feel free to comment what you wish. That's why I post these things, to solicit informed opinions like yours.

I agree that this paper takes an extreme position on EBO ( making it good for sparking discussion)in favor of moral and political warfare but that too has its limits. There are scenarios where only meting out swift and sure destruction will do. I think the author's point was that EBO fits less well with the limited political objectives that we are often pursuing.

And we actually DID pull a major idea from the Russians, the " Revolution in Military affairs" which was propagated by Marshal Ogarkov when he became a senior figure but preceded him as an idea inside the Red Army by ( I think) something like 10 years

Holy mackerel! You are right! How can I forget that we already DID "steal" a concept from the Russians. Don't get me wrong, we have a lot to learn from how other countries do business. By the way, please don't interpret my comments as disparaging to the Israelis. We have a lot to learn from them. Personally, I have a lot of admiration for the IDF and the US armed forces have already learned a lot from the way they do business (e.g. F-16 and UAV employment, etc). It's been said that Israel is like a big aircraft carrier floating in hostile waters 24-7.

One of the things about EBO (and the OODA loop, and NCW) is that it often seems to be mischaracterized and misusderstood. Since the concept of EBO "originated" in the Air Force, by now, in the planning and targeting circles, we are pretty much in "agreeance" as to what it is and how to operate under an effect-based construct. The problem comes when you throw in the other services, especially the Army. I can go on and on, based on my experience in recent ops, as to the misuses of EBO and consequently of airpower due to a lack of mutual understanding between our services.

One commom miscopception is that EBO is all about kinetic means (meaning iron on targets, death and destruction, etc), when in reality the effects that we want and plan for in many ops require a combination of kinetic and non-kinetic means, sometimes even just non-kinetics, meaning no bombs get to be rained on people or things. Heck some operations call for solely "non-military", if we could only get other agencies to play along. Of course, since 9-11 "military operations" include anything from dropping bombs on a building full of insurgents to having dinner with a local sheik and his family.

By the way, many of the concepts of emergence and network theory are already making their way into our tactic techniques and procedures (TTPs), since our main enemies today are non-state networks. One of the limitation of Col Warden's air campaign concepts (the basis for much of the USAF's EBO thinking and older operations TTPs) is that they are more suitable for operations against an industrialized (or semi-industrialized) nation-state. Remember when we "ran out of targets" in the initial stages of OEF; well, if you are operating under a Wardenian air campaing construct, yes you will run out of targets pretty quickly in a country like Afghanistan. The truth is, that enemy land forces (in its broadest definition) were the critical kinetic target set during Allied Force, OEF and OIF. Warden is more concerned with centers of gravity (COGs), a concept borrowed from Clausewitz and not too suitable for a centerless enemy.

Two last things. First, we need more "out of the box thinking" in the military; whether that comes from within or from "outside" I don't really care. If the concept makes sense, and it's practical, it will be implemented in the field in some way, however, no doctrinal concept is universally applicable.

Second, thanks for bringing things like this to my attention. Keep your eyes open for what's going to be coming out of our services' War Colleges and you will see more interesting things based on our "real-world" experience in OIF, OEF, and elsewhere. If there's one word I can use to describe my various experiences in Southwest Asia, that word would be "chaos", followed by "friction". The seeds of victory are in our minds.

Take care,

After reading Sonny’s comments, I have to believe that even with the strategic mess that I believe our civilian leadership have dealt our military, there is still hope for a positive outcome in Iraq, because of people like Sonny.

Tim Challans wrote, “One simply cannot cause another person to act a certain way, people act for reasons, not causes”

A few months back, when I first started blogging, I may have agreed with Tim. In fact it was just this idea of changing implicit controls that got me to comment. I told Mark that you can’t change implicit ideas because of the fact they are simply a person’s own thoughts. However, now, after just scratching the surface of understand about an OODA loop, I believe a person can cause another person to act a certain way. In fact, I believe we cause people to react in a certain way all the time. Maybe Mark is making me say this, I don’t know. Maybe he has even entered my OODA loop! The little PISRR!

All OODA does is give us a way of understanding how we can cause another person to act. In short, we send a person’s decision making back to orientation, and then change the person’s orientation to match the outcome of what we want to happen. To do this takes information to start the process and trust to maintain it. To fail at either brakes, what I call, the flux, of the OODA loop.

I believe we presently have an old coot in charge of the DOD (he is braking our OODA loop) and Arab sympathizers (selling our strategic interests to Arabs) in the White House. However, one advantage of this is that the military leaders, who now have to work in this kind of a situation, and who will ultimately need to win the war we are fighting, are learning what it will take to win. There will always be old coots and enemy sympathizers. What there will never be enough of are thinkers who can see past these people and know how to win. In some ways, I believe our military was attacked before it penetrated Iraq. The enemy entered into our destructive cycle (OODA) before we entered our constructive cycle (PISRR). I don’t believe this attack was necessary fatal.

What would be fatal is the possibility of getting too hung up on terms. We are really only talking about the flow of energy, after all. Non-kinetic (ideas) and kinetic (sword) energy have been with us for a long time. Which is greater, the pen or the sword?

"If there's one word I can use to describe my various experiences in Southwest Asia, that word would be "chaos", followed by "friction"", Sonny.

Friction is an electrical force. An electrical force carries both non-kinetic energy (voltage) and kinetic energy (currant). Neither can be destroy but both can be influenced. Over time both Chaos and friction should be influenced by our actions, with the help of trust and information.

Thanks for the comments.

You can have the best strategy in the world, but if you have poor leadership running your operation, then you are doomed from the start.

At least in the Air Force, and from a strategic perspective, one of the purposes of an air campaign is to change the behavior of your adversary to suit your needs. This is, of course,easier said than done, sometimes it works like during Desert Storm, sometimes it does not, like in Vietnam. That's an oversimplification of course. To this day, measuring the effects of a strategic air campaign is one of the most elusive tasks for the military.

On the operational/tactical level (I am talking mainly interdiction, close air support, and some precision strikes) the desired effects are usually physical: you are not too worried about the phycological effects to the immediate target because your desired effect is the destruction of that target.

Every action in the battlespace has physical and psychological effects on the participants (combatants and non-combatants). Physical effects tend to be immediately apparent, for example: I have a concentration of enemy troops shooting at me, I shoot back and call in air support, the enemy is destroyed as a result of those actions and therefore the undesired behaviour is halted.

The underlying construct of an effects-based military campaign is that the psychological effects of the operation can help shorten the war and reduce the costs, particularly in lives.

I agree that sometimes we get too hung up on terms, but each profession has its own dialect. In Air Force parlance kinetic means I am dropping a bomb on the target, non-kinetic is everything else, to include troops kicking down your door. We kind of have a one tarck mind when it comes to that.

Sorry Mark for clogging up your blog with my rambling, and thanks for putting my blog on your blog roll. You are a good American!
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