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Thread: Tactical Jenga vs. The Strategic Stopwatch

  1. #21
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    The slide looks like a poor imitation of Warden's TVA slide. The Time Value of Action. I sent SWEDJ a copy to post if he wants. I could not figure out how to do it But basically it is meant to convey that the longer you take to achieve your objective the more things can go wrong and the more likely you will fail in achieving your objective.

    This is a good picture one Warden's posters it combines both the business and war response in it,
    http://estore.websitepros.com/1761861/Detail.bok?no=27

    Warden was talking about this over a decade ago!
    Last edited by slapout9; 04-13-2008 at 12:24 AM. Reason: add stuff

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    I was stumped by the slide. Even worse, this old fogie had never heard of Jenga...Final comment, the Philippines with US assistance, was able to defeat the Huk Rebellion - see Edward G. Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars. JohnT
    John T:

    Dont feel bad because when I first saw Jenga without looking at the slide I thought it was perhaps some obscure counterinsurgency war which i had never heard of; or, perhaps subliminally I mixed it up with Jena.

    Acknowledge your elaboration of El Salvador and your point on the Huk Rebellion. I did not use the Huk Rebellion because American efforts toward it were largely in supplying military equipment as compared to El Salvador which had a lengthy commitment of American advisers. But your point is well taken and thanks for putting it up.

    I am working on an essay but cant get anything down so I keep clicking on SWJ or AM blogs; sort of like I am having a "25 or 6 to 4" moment. You know the classic 70s rock group Chicago song about having writers block.

    gian
    Last edited by Gian P Gentile; 04-13-2008 at 01:26 AM.

  3. #23
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Gian you need some Slapout MTV

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Gian you need some Slapout MTV
    Slap, buddy, I just listened to it. Not a big fan of R/B;

    as grand master of ebo (respectfully stated of course); what effect are you trying to produce.

    gian

  5. #25
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Thumbs down Not taken the wrong way just confused by your characterization

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post



    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.
    RA,

    I am afraid that that would be taking it quite a bit out of context with the situation considering we are not dealing with a position of permanent client governance here but rather a circumstance under which we must leave a country with the capability to care for itself in all manners necessary. Reality of life is that a government serves one main purpose and that is to provide basic direction for it's parts. Each of those parts have responsibilities and contribute to security and economic strength in some way. This being different from what you reference which is support and guidance for it's parts.

    I'm not sure if I should bother trying to respond beyond that considering how totally your characterization of what I said was.
    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

  6. #26
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    Slap, buddy, I just listened to it. Not a big fan of R/B;

    as grand master of ebo (respectfully stated of course); what effect are you trying to produce.

    gian
    Whatever it was I don't think I succeded....You seem like a Hendrix guy to me?

  7. #27
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Well...

    From my perspective (and I've sat through Kilcullen so I think I know his mindset wrt slide), I've started to form the opinion that Shinseki's call for larger force numbers wouldn't have made a difference. This runs totally counter to what I've opined in the past, and as painful as it is for me to retract my opinion, it's been an interesting ride .

    I think we would have be able to smother areas with forces and make ourselves happy that we "had things on lockdown", but the reality is that we would have simply provided more targets, pissed off more people, and prolonged things.

    We weren't ready for Phase IV execution, for a number of reasons we have beaten to death here. And since I believe we are just finally getting to a point where we are effectively understanding and employing COIN, we would have been woefully miserable at it five years ago, but would have just had more forces plodding around and breaking more pottery.

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    Default Gian, thanks,

    I'm really glad I'm not alone and that you young whippersnappers can join me in my senior moments.

    In some ways the Huk thing was a lot like El Sal. Lansdale had a small team to advise and work with Magsaysay. The rapport worked and they introduced an effective COIN strategy with suppoting operations and tactics.

    Concerning numbers and Phase IV: JC, numbers without a good strategy would have been ineffective. But without the numbers I really don't think any strategy would have worked. We have the numbers today - not even mainly US but rather Iraqi...

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Whatever it was I don't think I succeded....You seem like a Hendrix guy to me?
    totally; and thanks for the tip on "25." fixed it.

    although I am sure the great Jimi had some threads to plenty of good R/B folks.

    gian

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    We weren't ready for Phase IV execution, for a number of reasons we have beaten to death here. And since I believe we are just finally getting to a point where we are effectively understanding and employing COIN, we would have been woefully miserable at it five years ago, but would have just had more forces plodding around and breaking more pottery.
    Although I always read your thoughtful postings with interest, I have to disagree with you here. I think we have succumbed to a meta-narrative that tells us that we have been screwed up in Iraq up until Feb 2007 and then once the Surge hits then the corner is turned. As you probably can tell from my writings in other places I disagree violently with this interpretation.

    I do think massive amounts of more troops would have made a difference if we were looking to really control the country with military force. I remember as a BCT XO in April 2003 in Tikrit trying to balance early Coin ops with raids, and with trying to secure all of the ammo dumps around; we simply did not have enough troops to do it all. To think that with the same number of troops but in your implied counterfactual having them trained on Coin and perhaps with a General like General Patraeus at the helm then things would have turned out differently places way too much on the idea that the American military is really in control of things in Iraq.

    For example and jumping ahead to the current situation; if it was the additional brigades under the Surge practicing so-called new coin tactics that lowered violence in the latter half of 2007 and if the majority of those brigades continuing to practice their so called new methods are still in place, then how do you explain the recent increase in violence not only in the south but in Baghdad?

    The assumption to Dr Kilkullen's thinking is that good Coin methods underpinned by sound theoretical thinking can replace mass of troops on the ground. I dont buy it and I never have. His Jenga slide actually reminds me of the way many airmen during world war II and even after would use metaphor and theoretical constructs to explain how the relatively simple act of dropping HE bombs on structures and blowing them up would have this sophisticated network-like, systems effect on the entire enemy economy. John Warden's rings comes to mind here too.

    I have come to conclude from a military perspective that using American military power to conduct Coin in Iraq is impossible.

    gentile

  11. #31
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I do think massive amounts of more troops would have made a difference if we were looking to really control the country with military force. I remember as a BCT XO in April 2003 in Tikrit trying to balance early Coin ops with raids, and with trying to secure all of the ammo dumps around; we simply did not have enough troops to do it all.
    If I may ask sir, what was your BCT raiding? Were you going after FRLs? When elements of the 4ID came into zone vicinity of Samarra, Apaches went to work engaging targets across the the highway from an entire battalion coil (which I was a part of); "targets" in an area we'd already cleared and have control over. There was a lot of ordnance and weapons around in Tikrit when TF Tripoli moved south, but by the time we pulled out we had already established a pretty brisk trade in cigarettes and orange drink.

    I'll have to disagree with you about COIN in April 2003. It wasn't happening. Sure, military leaders were trying to talk with Iraqi leaders and figure out whether we needed to be talking to mayors, sheiks, or some incarnation in-between, but we were also installing ourselves as "mayors" of sorts, and were all to quick to write PAO stories about it (which may have fueled our problems).

    There's been substantial Bremer-beating concerning the disbandment of the military (and I don't want to belabor that here), but if we had been doing it with, by, and through Iraqis back then, does the large numbers hypothesis still hold true?

    if it was the additional brigades under the Surge practicing so-called new coin tactics that lowered violence in the latter half of 2007 and if the majority of those brigades continuing to practice their so called new methods are still in place, then how do you explain the recent increase in violence not only in the south but in Baghdad?

    I don't think we were screwed up in Iraq until 2007. I think we were simply screwed up in pockets, and those pockets served as areas (or seams/gaps if you will) where our enemy was able to get into our loop, build his center of gravity, and drive us to swat the fly with the proverbial hammer. We were not unifromly screwed up across the entire country.

    As for explaining the current spate of violence, if you cull through my previous posts on the SWC, I believe that we did not surge enough in Baghdad (I was thinking a deliberate clear and hold through the city requiring several divisions), that we needed to square ourselves with Sadr, and that Iraq was only on a low simmer when we rolled into summer 2007. Come elections in the US, the violence would pick up for sure. Maybe that is coming true, but I don't know.

    The assumption to Dr Kilkullen's thinking is that good Coin methods underpinned by sound theoretical thinking can replace mass of troops on the ground.
    Perhaps you and I read Kilcullen differently sir, but I don't see him as actually having this sort of underpinning in his work. I think he believes that lower numbers of troops, actively practicing COIN and not wrapping themselves in too many force protection pillows, and working through the folks who really know that turf, are going to get you to your endstate faster than plodding around en masse.

    I think he recognizes there is a time and place for large formations, but if they aren't being employed properly, the are just shooting our strategy in the foot. We did not have the aptitude, temperance, nor patience to do a good job in 2003-2005, regardless of how many boots we had on the ground. Tie this problem to the woefull reconstruction efforts during that period, and I can totally agree with you that the military was not in control of things in Iraq. Like John T. Fishel said, no matter of troops would have mattered with a crappy strategy.

  12. #32
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default Dave has obviously been in the US too long...

    I have to admit, like some other people who have posted in this thread, I had no idea what 'jenga' was. It is not played in Australia.

    When I first saw the title I also wondered which insurgency the 'Jenga' had fought in and why I hadn't previously heard of them......

    That said, Dave D, I get nothing from that slide other than a motherhood statement of the obvious - I think that without context it might be doing DK a disservice.

    Cheers

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 04-13-2008 at 12:56 PM. Reason: expansion, punctuation

  13. #33
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    Default Mark, but Dave Kilcullen

    is an Aussie!!!!

  14. #34
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    is an Aussie!!!!
    That is exactly the point in my title - he has been working with the US so long that he uses terms that Aussies do not use or understand...

    You could walk thorugh Sydney for days and quiz people about what 'Jenga ' is - most would probably guess it is a type of Indian Takeaway.....

  15. #35
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default I am the Proverbial Pig

    looking at a wrist watch.

    I know it must be useful 'cause someone built it...

    But I could use it equally to keep track of my left wrist versus my right

    Or as a reminder which hand to use when...

  16. #36
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default More...

    Well, the point here is to get some discussion going concerrning transition.

    Several days prior to the briefing I asked Dave K. to present something to the 180 JUW participants that would stimulate thoughts along that line. The tactical Jenga and the strategic stopwatch was simply a visual tool to generate that thought. The bottom line for the brief was to set up key questions and issues, to introduce some ways of thinking about the problem and for Dave to seek participant input via a healthy Q&A session. The brief did all that.

    Up to this point (the briefing) the participants had been struggling a bit in coming to terms with the differences in an events driven transition (conditions based) vs. what we all know as a political truth – a time imposed transition. Part of the timed transition is a drawdown in coalition force levels that the tactical commanders have no control over.

    Concerning the stopwatch, Dave illustrated what he called the “Aden Syndrome” with his hypothesis that in a timeline-driven drawdown, local allies will turn against the withdrawing power at the approximate midpoint of the drawdown - local allies fearing loss of external support, must consolidate their future power base in an environment that is not going to include external actors, so they turn on departing external power to shore up local support and avoid retribution from resistance actors. He used two examples - Aden, 19 June 1967 and Iraq 31 March 2004.

    He went on to discuss the irreversibility of a drawdown – doing so would indicate deterioration of the security situation, admitting deterioration would undermine political support – both domestic and host nation, the shifting of domestic and host nation political expectations as a drawdown continues, and the drop in troop readiness as the extraction of combat forces is completed. A caveat was that the decrease in readiness applied to forces drawn out of theater – not out of major combat operations.

    Dave went on later to discuss the evaluation and assessment of the transition posing this – if it’s Jenga, how do you know the stack is getting wobbly? Concerning the stopwatch – if it’s a stopwatch, how do you ask for a timeout?

    That’s the wavetop, and again – the purpose here is to get some discussion going on transition and the Jenga slide was posted merely as a means to get that discussion off the ground – for a knuckle dragger like me it most certainly did.

    I hear those who have a healthy distaste for PowerPoint but in front of large audience a slide used as prop is quite useful in generating discussion as well as Q&A.

    On edit: Mark, welcome back!
    Last edited by SWJED; 04-13-2008 at 02:20 PM.

  17. #37
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Default Clear as mud, isn't it?

    I see the chart as an attempt to demonstrate that one’s point of view has a direct impact on how one sees progress. Using the 80,000’ strategic, soaring eagle’s view of the world, progress towards one’s goal(s) may seem to be linear, as the straight line shows. However, one needs to remember that the stopwatch needs to be rewound or it will slow down and not perform as desired—hence the downward slope of the line. Another interesting point about the eagle’s eye view is that as the eagle dives towards its prey, it loses the ability to see other options. It may end up with a meal that is sub-optimal. By focussing on the chipmunk during its dive, it may miss the javelina 100 feet away.

    At the ground-level, tactical, worm’s-eye-view level, one starts with a monolithic effort, or coherent/cohesive force, as indicated by the original Jenga tower. The wavy line seems meant to show that progress at this level is much hard to track. Over time, the tower loses its structural stability as blocks are removed. Removing blocks may represent fragmentation of effort away from the original single focus. It may also represent a fracturing of the original force structure caused by asymmetrical unit rotations or an overall reduction in the deployed force. Others have already noted another aspect of the unpredictability of stability caused by the Jenga blocks’ removal: uncertainty is introduced as each side makes its choice of a next play. That is part of the reason that stability of the tactical effort is rather unpredictable.
    As an aside, to those who haven’t played Jenga, sometimes removing an additional piece brings a little more stability to the surviving structure. Of course it is not as stable as the original monolith, but it may be more stable than a preceding combination.

    One thing I do not like about either metaphor is the pessimism that seems operative in each, reflected by the downward trend in each line. Another problem for me was much better put by Tom Odom’s metaphor. I can put this slide to a lot of different uses, not least of which is a mystical example to obfuscate what I took to be an obvious point. (Slapout MTV’s “All Along the Watchtower” link works here: “There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.”) Maybe Slapout MTV also needs a link to the Stone’s tune, “You can’t always get what you want.”

  18. #38
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Jenga

    As an aside, so as not to be confused with an obscure insurgent group, the latest rock video discovered by Slapout or an Australian take-away delicacy, here is some info on Jenga.


    Jenga is played with 54 wooden blocks; each block is 3 times as long as it is wide, and slightly heavier in height than in width. The blocks are stacked in a tower formation; each story is three blocks placed adjacent to each other along their long side, and each story is placed perpendicular to the previous (so, for example, if the blocks in the first story are pointing north-south, the second story blocks will point east-west). There are therefore 18 stories to the Jenga tower. Since stacking the blocks neatly can be tedious, a plastic loading tray is included.

    Once the tower is built, the person who built the tower moves last. Moving in Jenga consists of taking one and only one block from any story except the completed top story of the tower at the time of the turn, and placing it on the topmost story in order to complete it. Only one hand at a time may be used to remove a block; both hands can be used, but only one hand may be on the tower at a time. Blocks may be bumped to find a loose block that will not disturb the rest of the tower. Any block that is moved out of place may be left out of place if it is determined that it will knock the tower over if it is removed. The turn ends when the next person to move touches the tower, although he or she can wait 10 seconds before moving for the previous turn to end.

    The game ends when the tower falls in any significant way -- in other words, any piece falls from the tower, other than the piece being knocked out to move to the top. The loser is the person who made the tower fall (i.e. whose turn it was when the tower fell); the winner is the person who moved before the loser.
    Last edited by SWJED; 04-13-2008 at 02:36 PM.

  19. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    Dave went on later to discuss the evaluation and assessment of the transition posing this – if it’s Jenga, how do you know the stack is getting wobbly? Concerning the stopwatch – if it’s a stopwatch, how do you ask for a timeout?
    Did Mr. Kilcullen offer a third option? Or are we stuck with two ineffective alternatives?
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

  20. #40
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Hmmmm....

    Gotta go with Gian in terms of the written word often (but not always) being superior to snazzy graphics. That said....

    I take the stopwatch to represent the time limit often imposed on any COIN activity by political and domestic realities in democracies (Merom's "How Democracies Lose Small Wars" goes into some of this). It's a fixed scale, although those at the tactical level often don't know just how fixed that scale is (and for that matter neither do the politicians or those that monitor "home front moods"...although I contend that such monitoring is often skewed by the perceptions and biases of those doing the monitoring). I'm not a fan of the Jenga analogy, although it does capture to a degree what can be happening on the ground. Better, perhaps, for some to think of building a house of cards with four players.

    Gian said:
    I have come to conclude from a military perspective that using American military power to conduct Coin in Iraq is impossible.
    This is accurate as far as it goes, but I would change it to state that is isn't really possible to conduct COIN anywhere with just military power. That's been demonstrated time and again. COIN is an integrated show, which might be why Kilcullen chose Jenga as his illustration. All the pieces have to fit together somehow for it to succeed, and when parts start falling out (or being removed) the whole becomes shaky. It's also often a question of how one uses military power. Placing force protection above all is clearly not the way to get things done, and never has been. I could kill the whole thread with many examples from American military history alone of how this is true, but for this discussion that just isn't necessary.

    I'd also argue that the Big W and Big B (Warden and Boyd) are not as useful for COIN as many might wish (and no...I'm not doggin' on you, Slap...). Actually, I'm not sure that they are especially useful in any limited war scenario. Elements of their theories and techniques certainly CAN be, but on the whole they tend to worry me in any situation that requires restraint and finesse.

    What's the answer, then? I don't claim to have one, but there's some stuff dancing around at the edge of consciousness that's trying to gel into something. The short version is that I don't think Kilcullen's stopwatch line is quite as fixed as it might seem (since public opinion is a malleable thing and politicians have the attention span of an ADD 2 year old on a sugar high) and I also think that the tactical environment is in many ways slightly more predictable (or at least comprehensible) than Jenga might imply. To make the Jenga bit work you'd need to have someone sticking blocks back in toward the bottom from time to time.
    Last edited by Steve Blair; 04-13-2008 at 03:44 PM. Reason: Fix early morning brain fart
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