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Thread: Tactical Jenga vs. The Strategic Stopwatch

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Tactical Jenga vs. The Strategic Stopwatch

    Just got back from spending five days watching Dr. David Kilcullen in action at Joint Urban Warrior (JUW) 08, a US Marine Corps and US Joint Forces Command cosponsored program.

    Here is a slide from one of Dr. Kilcullen's briefs I thought might stimulate some commentary here on the Council. It depicts a framework for understanding (or more precisely “how to think about”) the transition of responsibility and authority of security, essential services, humanitarian assistance, economic development, and political governance from a coalition to host nation.

    Last edited by SWJED; 04-12-2008 at 02:49 PM.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Me must be stupido

    Looked at this slide for 10 minutes. I read the words, and I understand them, but I just don't get it. It means nothing to me.

    ...and I think Dave Kilcullen is good news, but this leaves me shaking my head.

    Please explain.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default The illustration may be bad...

    but the concept makes sense to me. What he's doing is attempting to show how outside considerations can interact with the realities of what's happening in the theater. The spikes show areas where local considerations might bump up against the external timeline and create domestic issues (like "is the surge working") and thus spark in-theater damage control (or adjustments to the external timeline).

    I think it's more of an internalized illustration, based more on how domestic considerations drive tactical decisions (or can at least influence them). Haven't had enough coffee yet to really break it down, but I can see what he's doing. I don't necessarily agree with all of it, but I can see where he's going.
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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    What he's doing is attempting to show how outside considerations can interact with the realities of what's happening in the theater. The spikes show areas where local considerations might bump up against the external timeline and create domestic issues (like "is the surge working") and thus spark in-theater damage control (or adjustments to the external timeline).
    .
    So there's a tension between what the policy makes/politicians want, and the reality of progress on the ground? Ya Allah! Hold the Front Page!

    ...and the Jenga thing? The more you interact with it, the more likely it is to fall over? Stopwatch, unstoppable and predictable?

    Maybe I've had too much coffee!
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Thumbs up The JENGA thing

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    So there's a tension between what the policy makes/politicians want, and the reality of progress on the ground? Ya Allah! Hold the Front Page!

    ...and the Jenga thing? The more you interact with it, the more likely it is to fall over? Stopwatch, unstoppable and predictable?

    Maybe I've had too much coffee!
    Battlefield Geometry, due to the overall constrictions placed on operations by external requirement it is necessary to move pieces. The important questions are the ones only the operational commanders can try to answer because if any movement starts to bring the house down they would be the first to see it and possibly be able to move something else instead.

    Also consider that in Jenga your not the only player moving pieces, so do all other players and thus one must watch closely to be able to see what else is being moved and where current fault lines may lay.

    Stopwatch makes sense to me because those on the outside have pressures of their own which give them quite a bit less flexibility in adjusting fires quickly and thus the constant need to stay tracking at a certain pace.
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

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    Council Member Randy Brown's Avatar
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    Default The Analogy Comes Tumbling Down

    I really want to like (and borrow) this graphic, but the application of Jenga as an analogy ultimately ... falls apart for me.

    Others here have rather cleverly noted how the game involves multiple actors, looking for fault lines, etc. Still, for me, evoking the game works cross-purposes with the intended message behind the slide.

    Assuming that the Jenga tower represents stability/order/a working government, consider: The way in which one wins a game of Jenga is to be the last person to make a move, immediately proceeding the point at which someone else makes the whole thing tumble to the ground.

    Not to put too coarse a point on it, but you could also say that the objective is to make the destruction of the structure look like someone else's fault.

    I hope to come up with a constructive suggestion of a more constructive analogy, preferably in the form of a game or activity. In the meantime, anyone else have any suggestions? Or interpretations?

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    Council Member Randy Brown's Avatar
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    Default Another Brick ...

    Yes, my reptilian English-major brain is in overdrive on this topic, but even if Jenga represents "troop levels," rather than "host-nation effectiveness" (my original assumption), the whole tipping tower image still makes me queasy. I get visions of troop-carrying helicopters lifting off of Jenga-block rooftops ...

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Talking Keep at it boys...

    ... the purpose of this drill is to drive discussion without burdening you all with context - something I should not have to do with the superior minds associated with the Council. This is one slide from a much larger briefing - and no, I'm not yet going to post the entire brief...

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default What? Wait until you have enough information to

    comment intelligently? That's un-American. Or something...

    (so it's okay for Wilf... )

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Wink Seriously...

    Just want to hear Council member’s thoughts concerning transition.

    At JUW one response to 'tactical Jenga' was "transition is not like Jenga, more like the opening scene from the original Indiana Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark" - where, when attempting to retrieve a precious idol - set with all kinds of 1930ish IED-like traps - Jones balances time and agility to replace the idol with a bag of sand. The counter-response from someone in the audience was along the lines that you have to be able to calculate the "right time" and have something of substance to replace the "idol" - not useless sand...

    SWJ Disclaimer: The link to Indiana Jones was thrown in only because I love the soundtrack and this post does not represent the views of the Department of Defense or Steven Spielberg.
    Last edited by SWJED; 04-12-2008 at 08:09 PM.

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default

    I may be just thick, but I just don't get Dr. Kilcullen's slide. I love most of his other ones, but this one isn't intuitive, and the explination from Dave hasn't really cleared it for me.

    Then again, just another DAT* trying to do the best I can ....

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    Default Once again...

    ... this a free for all about transition. I posted one slide to generate discussion - which it has. If I had just posted a thread that asked what do you think about the same I probably would have heard the sound of crickets chirping and I don't mean Buddy Holly and company.

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    Default

    Presumably the X axis is time. What does the Y represent? Why does it get consistently lower?
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Default ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    Presumably the X axis is time. What does the Y represent? Why does it get consistently lower?
    You tell me - that is the point of this drill RA... Geezy, wheezy Batman. See your quote box for inspiration.

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    Default i didnt get it either, and still dont too

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Looked at this slide for 10 minutes. I read the words, and I understand them, but I just don't get it. It means nothing to me.
    maybe that is why i rarely use pp slides in the classroom to teach history and perhaps even why I have never cared much for Boyd and his so-called brilliant thinking reduced down into charts and slides.

    I am a big fan of the written word, so can somebody who understands the slide write out in a couple of paragraphs what it means. Kilkullen is an excellent writer which is why I have often been baffled by his reliance on these meta-pp slides presentations. If he wanted to use a slide why didnt he just write a couple of the salient points into sentences, put that on the slide and lecture from it?

    My guess is that he is saying that because there is more flexibility in Iraq (I assume we are talking about Iraq here) with "tactical conditions" (I am not sure what that term means, is he talking about US forces or Iraqi, or Iraqi conditions, or combinations of all of these?) than "strategic" because that timeline is somehow fixed (not sure what that means either) then this is gentile's interpretation of what the main point of the slide to be:

    continue American efforts in Iraq along the lines he (along with Biddle) has recommended before that orients our efforts on reconciling and rebuilding Iraq from the grass roots, or bottom up approach.

    Am I on to something here or just "stupido" like my friend wilf and others too who are confused with the slide.

    SWJED; perhaps it is the time for you to be didactic and not coy with the meaning here since you spent a number of days listening to Dr Kilkullen.

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    I'll say the y axis is the level of coalition intervention required. The objective is to withdraw resources without collapsing the governmet: like jenga.

    My personal spin is that - like jenga - the only way to prevent the entire structure from collapsing is to stop withdrawing pieces.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    Kilkullen is an excellent writer
    I agree - he chooses every word carefully - which is why I'm surprised that he chose the jenga analogy. Every game ends with the structure collapsing.
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 04-12-2008 at 10:33 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Default thanks, that helps

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    I'll say the y axis is the level of coalition intervention required. The objective is to withdraw resources without collapsing the governmet: like jenga.

    My personal spin is that - like jenga - the only way to prevent the entire structure from collapsing is to stop withdrawing pieces.



    I agree - he chooses every word carefully - which is why I'm surprised that he chose the jenga analogy. Every game ends with the structure collapsing.
    thanks, my friend, this helps

    gian

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Post To me

    This will make a lot more sense i it ends up driving towards the Coalition forces having to draw down ( take pieces out) while at the same time the HN fills gaps with whatever forces it has put together effectively. The key is whether those forces are able to hold up.

    In such cases as they are then the tower stands longer. In such cases as an external actor is able to weaken or remove them from that gap , it weakens the overall structure. The end game so to speak would be for a HN infrastructure which can hold it's own to the extent that outsiders may be able to weaken but not capable of bringing the tower down.
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    thanks, my friend, this helps
    gian
    You're very welcome. Let me add Gian's comment's in World Politics Review


    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile in World Politics Review
    In COIN, a precondition for success is the existence of a legitimate government. The United States has one success in the history of counterinsurgency since WW II to its credit: it succeeded in assisting the legitimate government of El Salvador defeat an internal communist insurgency. However, it was not the U.S. military that defeated the FMLN guerrillas, but the Salvadoran military under the control of its own government, with U.S. encouragement and no more than 50 or so U.S. military advisors. Moreover, El Salvador was not simply a sovereign state: El Salvadoran society was and is a single identity -- an essential prerequisite for successful internal defense of a government struggling for survival and legitimacy.

    None of these conditions apply to Iraq, where the Iraqi government does not appear to be legitimate in the eyes of its people -- whether Shia, Sunni or Kurd -- and it seems that one Iraqi society does not exist.
    And mention a concept I'm sure you're all familiar with: Occam's razor

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    This will make a lot more sense i it ends up driving towards the Coalition forces having to draw down ( take pieces out) while at the same time the HN fills gaps with whatever forces it has put together effectively.
    This is a logically consistent theory, but - and I really hope you won't be offended by this term - it is a socialist theory. You can make a lot of logically consistent arguments about welfare - and sending out welfare checks to poor people will reduce the violence in a community - but in reality the theories don't matter; human psychology does. In the real world, people on welfare don't start looking for jobs until the welfare is about to run out. I really think that the Sunni sheiks are smart enough to realize that as soon as there is reconciliation we're going to stop sending them US dollars.
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 04-12-2008 at 11:23 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Default Like Gian

    I was stumped by the slide. Even worse, this old fogie had never heard of Jenga, so what was I to make of it. Wish Kilcullen or SWJED (yeah, Dave ) had put it in simple English.

    To move tangentially, don't make too much of the unity of the Salvadoran Armed Forces - police really didn't answer to the military high command; they were under a separate Vice Ministry of Public Security and the 3 police institutions didn't like each other very much. Today, the police - National Civil Police - are under a wholly separate ministry and there are still some tensions with the Ministry of Defense, but not as bad. Final comment, the Philippines with US assistance, was able to defeat the Huk Rebellion - see Edward G. Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars.

    But I still don't get the slide so that is the reason for my tangential reaction.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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