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Thread: What we really need is a better crystal ball

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What we really need is a better crystal ball

    (Taken from a Hybrid Warfare thread: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...?t=7360&page=2 and a post by Bill Moore (No.37).

    I'm not a fan of hybrid warfare....we all recall more than one senior officer during OIF saying "no-one told me about this threat"....What we really need to invest in is a better crystal ball.
    I am mindful of a number of recent threads that try to "look forward over the horizon", notably the thread on the Deterrence of Irregular Threats. We have looked at human terrain, language skills, CIMIC, developing informants and lots more. Elsewhere open source intelligence is touted. I understand this need has been looked at within "The Beltway".

    This thread is at a more strategic level - for Small Wars - how can 'a better crystal ball' be developed and invested in? What is a better crystal ball?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-02-2009 at 02:49 PM. Reason: Gradual construction.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    This thread is at a more strategic level - for Small Wars - how can 'a better crystal ball' be developed and invested in? What is a better crystal ball?
    Errr.... let's not even try. You cannot predict the future. It's nonsense. We have pumped millions into "predicting future threats" and we have ALWAYS BEEN WRONG.
    The problem isn't the Crystal Ball. It's the humans looking into it.

    What you can predict, with reasonably high accuracy, is the capabilities that threats might have, and how they will use them. Problem is that this area gets corrupted by not very smart folks trying to secure funds, and usually based on no evidence.
    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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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    From a junior officer's perspective:

    We need a better system of historical, political, and military analysis. This means greater tolerance for and encouragement of our national security community's "prophets" (i.e. Rick Rescorla). While the specifics of any particular pending event may be incomplete or unavailable, they nonetheless fit into a general pattern of behavior of that actor. The attack on Pearl Harbor was not Japan's first surprise lightning naval strike against a world power, and the British attack on the French fleet in WW2 was a long-time used strategy of the Admiralty to cripple the use of third party warships by a continental threat. Neither the Battle of France or the Battle of the Bulge was the first time the German army went on the offensive through the Ardennes. Combined with Wilf's point about the predicting "with reasonably high accuracry the capabilities that threats might have and how they will use them", it's just a matter of packaging the analysis and finding someone willing to hear you out. But from the pattern I've seen, our institutions (or institutions in general?) do not have that capability. And the people who should have listened usually say in reply: "hindsight is 20/20". You'd think by now we would have learned to better develop foresight then.

    Maybe we need a brain trust not invested (i.e. compromised by its organizational interests) in the system. Kind of like a GAO for strategic thinking.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    I mostly agree with Wilf. Instead of trying to predict threats, what we really need is a robust and diverse intelligence collection and analysis system that will provide warning when and if threats emerge. As threats emerge, then resources can be allocated to the problem.

    Unfortunately, the US intel system does not like to "waste" resources sustaining a diverse analysis and I&W capability. The money, promotions and benefits go to the high-visibility areas and the threat du jour. The policymaker and intelligence system's obsession with current intelligence is a result. Most analysts (including myself) are forced to spend most of their time on current intel instead of the research necessary to obtain a deeper understanding of an intelligence problem. It's probably my biggest complaint about our intel system.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    What I base my opinion on is the following.

    a.) Since 1945, we (UK/US) are usually wrong about where and against whom we will be fighting. This is not likely to improve. Why do we keep trying?

    b.) Since about 1973, we have seen very little, if any, in the way of "technical surprise" in the conduct of warfare. Almost every weapon encountered is very well known.
    • Every weapon Hezbollah used in 2006, was well known to IDF intelligence.
    • The Taliban are using 40 year old weapons, within an entirely predictable tactical doctrine.

    Yes there are emerging technologies, but they usually don't have a proven and coherent military application, so are not really much of a threat.
    If you have some understanding of potential technical capability then how that capability is used, is usually mind-numbingly obvious.
    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 Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default An interesting perspective

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    What I base my opinion on is the following.

    a.) Since 1945, we (UK/US) are usually wrong about where and against whom we will be fighting. This is not likely to improve. Why do we keep trying?

    b.) Since about 1973, we have seen very little, if any, in the way of "technical surprise" in the conduct of warfare. Almost every weapon encountered is very well known.
    • Every weapon Hezbollah used in 2006, was well known to IDF intelligence.
    • The Taliban are using 40 year old weapons, within an entirely predictable tactical doctrine.

    Yes there are emerging technologies, but they usually don't have a proven and coherent military application, so are not really much of a threat.
    If you have some understanding of potential technical capability then how that capability is used, is usually mind-numbingly obvious.

    A senior guy at the 5-sided building offered that, we've been surprised by the conflicts we've gotten into because we've successfully deterred the ones we foresaw.

    I think he may be giving our deterrence efforts a bit too much credit, and letting off the hook those whose job it should be to identify the indicators of growing threats vice over-analyzing the ones we are already focused on.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default My observation has been that our predictive capabilities are quite good.

    The difficulty is that people in power will not listen to analysis that provide problems counter to their desires or understanding of what the problems should be.

    Wilf is correct, you cannot predict the future but you can ascertain trends and possibilities-- even probabilities (though many in the Intel business do not like to do that for a variety of good and bad reasons). American Pride is correct in that good analysis relying on patterns can give insights that may not be totally predictive but which still provide indicators.

    Entropy really sums it up:
    The policymaker and intelligence system's obsession with current intelligence is a result. Most analysts (including myself) are forced to spend most of their time on current intel instead of the research necessary to obtain a deeper understanding of an intelligence problem. It's probably my biggest complaint about our intel system.
    Though I believe the policymaker is really the problem; I've watched junior intel types come up with good stuff for years only to be told by their intel bosses to stifle it -- because that intel boss is catering to the policymaker he works for. I've also watched a very few good Intel Bosses take sound products to their Policymaker knowing he would not like what he was going to hear. In a few cases, I've seen the Policymaker accept it -- in too many I've seen it shot down...

    IIRC, prior to and during the Battle of the Bulge, there was only one Corps G2 out of all the US Army Group, Army, Corps and Divisions who consistently got it right and would speak up. The belief from Eisenhower and Bradley was that it was over; few wanted to tell the Emperors otherwise...

    So if anyone can come up with a way to fix policymakers so they're more open minded and less devoted to the way that was and convinced only they can know all that must be known, we'll have answered David's question by removing the myopia that occludes the crystal ball...

    ADDED: I think Bob's World's comment just above effectively corroborates that. We can successfully deter (perhaps...) those we (The Policymakers) foresee -- while ignoring those for which adequate warning has been available and provided but didn't fit in 'our' worldview so they went on the back burner (See international Islamist terrorism from 1972 forward)...
    Last edited by Ken White; 08-02-2009 at 04:51 PM. Reason: Addendum

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    Posted by Ken
    My observation has been that our predictive capabilities are quite good.

    The difficulty is that people in power will not listen to analysis that provide problems counter to their desires or understanding of what the problems should be.
    Posted by AmericanPride
    Maybe we need a brain trust not invested (i.e. compromised by its organizational interests) in the system. Kind of like a GAO for strategic thinking.
    Seems you're both addressing the same issue. Maybe our predictive analysis isn't deeply flawed (though I remain suspect), but analysis without a political/business agenda (more F22s, more submarines, etc.) just doesn't get floor time.

    There is little concensus on which nation-state presents the next serious threat, and even less consensus when we discuss where irregular warfare will trend to in the future, and then how we should prepare for it. We generally think we're going to be involved in more of these irregular warfare conflicts, and the irregular enemy "can be" very adaptive due to their small size and relatively non-existant bureaucracy. They can turn on a dime while we have to turn on a quarter (or a 50 cent piece). We evolve, then they evolve (if they're not defeated). The concern is when we evolve it generally means evolving the entire Army (or another service), which can cost expotentially more than our foe is spending. The EFP is a perfect example, I was playing with field expedient shape charges in the late 70's, and now that concept has evolved into an EFP, which is still a relatively cheap technology compared to the expense of uparmoring the entire force. It won't be too long until they find a way to defeat our new armor and new vehicles, then at great expense we'll adapt to the new threat. It would be nice to get ahead of the threat, instead of reacting to it, thus the desire for a better crystal ball.

    The beter crystal ball is one piece, but assuming we had a better crystal ball, it won't mean squat if we don't have a military and industrial process that can adapt quickly. Adpation can take place in many ways, training, education, technology, organizational change, etc. What has changed and it can't be denied, is the speed of change. Will be able to adapt quick enough in the future?
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 08-02-2009 at 09:26 PM.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I'm not sure that's correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    I was playing with Shape Charges in the late 70's, now they're called EFPs. Of course they evolved the principle remains the same. No one really put two and two together that someday an irregular force would actually being using these against our vehicles...
    Demo training on SBH in the early 60s taught and we used EFPs. Many would be amazed at what 12 pounds of C4 and a Manhole cover will do to a steel door to an Ammo Bunker. The VC used EFPs all through the Viet Nam war in addition to dozens of other IEDs -- a 250 pound bomb will do amazing things to human bodies. We knew all that. We just buried it because it wasn't in line with the power structures ideas.

    As an aside, I've been advocating putting a giant Earmuff charge on the Hoffman Building since 1961...

    We got introduced to Islamist international terrorism in 1972. Nixon convened a cabinet level commission to study the problem and over the next five years, they predicted much that has happened since. Those in power did not want to hear it. Been dozens of studies and commissions since, many had some good ideas -- all diligently ignored.

    Every incident since then has been a pointer; there were people who saw and raised flags. Those in power did not want to hear it.

    Aside from that, there are many recorded cases of the intel being available and not wanted by higher echelons. I'm a little jaded on that; 1st MarDiv was capturing Chinese PWs in Korea in early November 1950 -- and G2, FECOM, MG Charles Willoughby himself responded sharply that we were mistaken, there were no Chinese in Korea because MacArthur had already assured the President there were none.

    Said Chinese, BTW, were also using IEDs in the early 50s, a technique they learned from the USSR -- who, surprisingly enough, spent a great deal of time teaching people throughout the ME and South Asia how to fight evil capitalists.

    In the 70s that you mentioned, Joe Cincotti and a bunch of other folks were working on SBH to rebuild UW capability; a lot of people were pointing right where we are today -- and the upper echelons of the Army didn't want to hear it. In the 90s, in spite of all evidence, we made a number of really poor command and organizational decisions -- that includes all the services and SOCOM -- and we're paying for them today.
    We adapted over time with better armor and new vehicles. The enemy has adapted with new TTPs to mitigate our progress...
    The 'new' armor was developed in the 70s. We didn't buy it then. Other nations did. The 'new' vehicles were also being bought by others ten, fifteen years before us. We didn't adapt, we, as usual, were simply forced to cobble together some half assed fixes and come late to the party because we refused to anticipate and look ahead. There's nothing wrong with leaning forward in the foxhole -- except that these armed forces of ours are pretty much opposed to it.

    We do do that quick fix thing -- and we do it well sometimes, not so well others. The MRAP purchase being an example of not so well (dumb vehicle) and, at the same time, one of doing it okay (keeps people alive). We can cobble stuff together pretty good...
    What has changed and it can't be denied is the speed of change.
    The change has not been that speedy -- our failure to pay attention and adapt has simply made it seem so. There's nothing around today that wasn't known or seen 15 to 20 years or more ago. Just that no one in charge wanted to hear it.

    All that is an answer to your question:
    Will be able to adapt quick enough in the future?
    Probably not.

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    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default What was old is new again....

    From Engineering News: South Africa’s armoured vehicle success steeped in impressive design, manufacture history

    South African industry has gained world renown for what the Americans have come to call mine-resistant and ambush- protected (Mrap) vehicles, thousands of which have been produced, and hundreds of which are on order, for a growing number of international customers, especially the US.

    But this is not the first time that South African industry has successfully filled a gap in the international light armoured vehicle market. In fact, the history of the design and manufacture of armoured vehicles in this country goes back nearly 70 years - to the start of the Second World War.
    The history of the South African develop- ment of mine-protected vehicles is rather complex, with different streams of development running parallel. A plethora of vehicles were developed - Buffels, Mambas, Hippos, Casspirs, Bulldogs, Okapis, Kwêvoëls, and so on - and many companies were involved. There was a further development stream, concerned with heavier AFVs, which gave rise to the Ratel, the Rooikat, and the G6 programmes. Consequently, the following account is somewhat simplifed and some projects will be omitted.

    Over the years, the main industry players were TFM Defence & Security, Sandock Austral, OMC Engineering, Truckmakers, Gear Ratio (specialising in transmissions and powerpacks), Henred Fruehauf, UCDD, and Ermetek. Mergers, aquisitions, and disposals complicate the corporate history of modern South African AFV design and manufacture.
    Last edited by Surferbeetle; 08-02-2009 at 10:21 PM.
    Sapere Aude

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    What has changed and it can't be denied, is the speed of change. Will be able to adapt quick enough in the future?
    I know Ken commented on the same, but allow me to elucidate.

    Really? I mean how fast are things really changing? 2003 was 6 years ago. World is still pretty much the same. Compare that to 1914-18, or 1939-45, or even 1989-95?

    Military technology is actually not changing that much. We do see some change in applications, but generally the technology is not changing that rapidly - and the fields that are, are going relatively unnoticed!

    Adapting is something that only becomes an issue, if you were unprepared in the first place. "We must be able to adapt" takes it as a given that we do not prepare.
    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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    Default New warning from IEA

    IEA chief economist Fatih Birol continues to sound the alarm on oil supply, most recently in an interview published this morning in The Independent (UK). Mr. Birol also mentioned the fact that oil is essential for our global food system and that it “is a strategic asset for the military.”

    This morning’s Independent article is here:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/sc...t-1766585.html

    It also contains the link to a related article by Jeremy Leggett who asks, "Why haven't more people in government, and the oil industry itself, seen this particular crisis coming? Why aren't they acting proactively to soften the blow?"
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-03-2009 at 05:41 PM. Reason: Shorter edition, was moved from the Energy Security thread.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    The change has not been that speedy -- our failure to pay attention and adapt has simply made it seem so. There's nothing around today that wasn't known or seen 15 to 20 years or more ago.
    I've got a '74 Jane's Weapon Systems and I found many demonstrators for today's hot technologies in it (including UAVs that were launching mavericks).

    The only really new technologies are based primarily on the progress of microelectronics in the 90's. Almost all else in military tech seems to have been around for 30-140 years (140 years was for remote-control of vehicles, for example).

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Agreed.

    The miniturization has speeded some development and made some things more effective but has produced little is that new...

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Crystal ball missing oil

    Thanks to Rick M for drawing attention to the forecast energy shortage soon (from the Energy Security thread:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...?t=7629&page=2) and a shorter edition placed above (Post 12): "Why haven't more people in government, and the oil industry itself, seen this particular crisis coming? Why aren't they acting proactively to soften the blow?"

    The Leggett article is far wider in analysis: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion...t-1766551.html

    I quote (shortened):
    The same question can be asked, with hindsight, of the bonus cultists who gave us the credit crunch... Gillian Tett of the Financial Times, a trained anthropologist, describes the effort made by the banking elite at "ideological domination" ahead of the financial crash. Elites do this to maintain power, she explains. They decide what is talked about and what is not. There was a major "social silence" around the epidemic growth of derivatives....This is exactly what I see going on among my old friends in the oil industry when it comes to weighing their assets....One of the few financiers who saw the credit crunch coming said derivatives were financial hydrogen bombs built by 26-year-olds with MBAs. Here is another set of similarities and differences. The oil crunch is an economic hydrogen bomb. But it is being built by men close to retirement.
    So the search for a crystal ball involves generations and reducing 'silence'.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-03-2009 at 05:55 PM. Reason: Gradual construction.

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    Default SSI study on Strategic Shocks (N. Freier)

    Thanks for your support, David.

    The following was posted on the Energy Security thread this morning, but since it evolved out of a study which has everything to do with intelligence (in more than one sense of the word) and little to do with energy, I will offer it here as well.
    I welcome your observations, particularly if someone spots something which is felt to be incorrect.

    Review and application of SSI study, “Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development” (Nathan Freier, Nov. 2008).

    The Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) at the US Army War College has issued many stimulating research papers in recent years, several of which deal with energy security issues.
    Nathan Freier’s recent SSI paper does not focus on energy issues.
    Rather, the central purpose of his study is to present a paradigm for the examination of potential strategic shocks.

    I recently summarized the key points of Nathan Freier’s “Known Unknowns” and then applied his paradigm to emerging energy security issues, primarily the phenomenon known as “peak oil” and its corollary, export decline.

    The central point of my application of Freier’s paradigm to the issue of peak oil may be summed up thus: there are well-established trend-lines which point to impending energy security concerns (witness yesterday's warning from the IEA, #12 above).
    Meanwhile, industry and government officials largely deny these concerns.
    This ongoing situation provides a classic and real-time illustration of an evolving potential shock.
    It is precisely the sort of situation which Freier says needs to be noted and scrutinized by military analysts.

    This analysis was posted at Energy Bulletin this morning:
    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/49779

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Cold War lessons?

    An interesting, (UK) short review entitled 'How vital were Cold War spies?', which has a variety of views from insiders: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8184338.stm

    davidbfpo

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    Default World Energy Outlook: graphs

    The IEA released its most recent WEO last November.
    Its Executive Summary is available for free downloading, but it does not contain any of the graphs.

    Two of these graphs are particularly telling, and after much fiddling I was able to post them on the Energy Security thread:
    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...?t=7629&page=3

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    Default Supercomputer predicts revolution

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14841018

    A study, based on millions of articles, charted deteriorating national sentiment ahead of the recent revolutions in Libya and Egypt.

    While the analysis was carried out retrospectively, scientists say the same processes could be used to anticipate upcoming conflict.

    The system also picked up early clues about Osama Bin Laden's location
    Maybe this has some potential, a lot more at:

    http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin...view/3663/3040

    News is increasingly being produced and consumed online, supplanting print and broadcast to represent nearly half of the news monitored across the world today by Western intelligence agencies. Recent literature has suggested that computational analysis of large text archives can yield novel insights to the functioning of society, including predicting future economic events. Applying tone and geographic analysis to a 30–year worldwide news archive, global news tone is found to have forecasted the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, including the removal of Egyptian President Mubarak, predicted the stability of Saudi Arabia (at least through May 2011), estimated Osama Bin Laden’s likely hiding place as a 200–kilometer radius in Northern Pakistan that includes Abbotabad, and offered a new look at the world’s cultural affiliations. Along the way, common assertions about the news, such as “news is becoming more negative” and “American news portrays a U.S.–centric view of the world” are found to have merit.

  20. #20
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A 'crystal ball' for 'Small Wars' being realistic

    I'd forgotten this thread.

    Having immersed myself in data-mining, data collection and similar subjects I remain a critic of this approach - both in the domestic and overseas expeditionary contexts.

    Sticking to the 'Small Wars' context and the strong possibility they will happen in the developing world - where will the data come from? Even allowing for the spread of mobile phones and computers there are large areas of the world which are electronic / data deserts, albeit maybe ones with a sparse population.

    Jobu asked this question a few months ago in a RFI:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=13252.

    Data collection is fraught with problems, so is access to such places and how much expertise exists outside?

    A 'crystal ball' with very little data and insight is what we have now and for sometime to come.

    If our enemies reduce their electronic exposure and do not travel widely the IT solutions so beloved of late will simply not work.
    davidbfpo

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