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Old 04-05-2016   #1
Bill Moore
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Default Strategy in the 21st Century

After finally finishing the book, "Strategy: A History" by Lawrence Freedman

http://www.amazon.com/Strategy-Histo...ry+of+Strategy

I feel compelled to start a threat on strategy in the 21st Century to explore want remains constant and what has changed. The intent to share what I took from this book, and then explore other areas, with the hope others will dive in to seriously explore this important topic. The ability to develop good strategy is essential for national security. Most seem to agree that something is off kilter since 9/11, and I suggest if we fail to identify and fix it we are putting our nation in peril.

Like many of you, I'm extremely busy, so I'll start with a few areas I intend to explore in more depth later. Of course, remaining true to form, I intend to be provocative.

Freedman's book (over 700 pages) addresses he early origins of strategy, military strategy, radical and revolutionary movements, business strategies, and interdisciplinary theories of strategy.

While Freedman appears to respect Clausewitz's deep insights on the nature of war, he doesn't fall into the trap of hero worshipping him and points out some flaws in his theory.

- He challenges CvC's duel between two opponents (the wrestling match) as being overly simplistic due to the nature of coalitions, which makes it much more complex than a dual between them and us.

- I tend to agree with his criticism of the center of gravity concept. CvC borrowed terms from the physics of his day, like COG and friction. Friction of course makes sense as a metaphor, but a COG only made sense if the enemy could be viewed holistically, so that an attack on one point were it all came together would throw it off balance or cause it to collapse (the fallacy of systems thinking). In the 80s, new thinking encouraged the belief that the COG was something that led to the enemy's brain, then using maneuver warfare (older concept, but embraced again in the 80s) seeking to dislocate him psychologically.

In practice the COG concept caused confusion and disagreement, it would have been easier if they adapted Jomini’s concept of the decisive point (not the doctrinal decisive point tied to a COG) to avoid the burden of an inappropriate metaphor. COGs have historically wasted planner’s time, and usually who won out was the strongest personality, not the best analysis. The real problem was the COG has been expanded to the point of meaninglessness. It encouraged the expectation that there could be a very specific set of operational objectives that would produce the desired political effect if attacked properly.

The idea that societies and their associated military systems might be comprehended as complex systems encouraged the view, reflected in the perplexing searches for enemy COGs, that hitting an enemy system in the exact right place would cause it to crumble quickly, as the impact would reverberate and affect all the interconnected parts.

The frustration of the search was a result of the fact that effects would not simply radiate out from some vital center. Societies and armies could adapt to shocks. As systems, they could break down into more subsystems that are viable, establish barriers, reduce dependencies, and find alternative forms of sustenance. CvC’s theory of decisive victory required reassessment based on the emergent political situation. CvC recognized it as it he started to relook limited war before he died, but the concept of a decisive battle retained its powerful hold over the military.
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Old 04-05-2016   #2
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For me, I actually found the business strategy more interested. I have read volumes on military strategy, but after reading Freedman's description of strategy evolution in business I found myself seeing how it impacts military strategy, normally in a negative way.

He started off by discussing Taylorism, who focused on identifying how workers could be used more efficiently. In his view, a doer would not be able to understand the principles of management science either because of a lack of education or insufficient mental capacity, so they would have to be guided by the educated. It required people to work smarter but not by being smart themselves. I equated this to robotics before we had robots. The more the worker could be treated as an unthinking machine the better because without the complication of independent thought it would be possible to calculate how best to extract optimal performance. I can see the logic in that, but people are not robots, and one can see how this mentality led to significant labor unrest.

Lenin pronounced Taylorism as exploitive, yet he adapted the methodology. It was easier to push this form of management in the USSR where opposition could be crushed than the U.S.

He discussed McNamara at sufficient length. He was brought into to the SECDEF from Ford Motor Co. by JFK. He strengthened OSD, challenging the services to justify their budgets and programs in the face of intensive questioning by the whiz kids, mostly from RAND. It had a major impact on the management of the military programs and the conduct of operations, especially Vietnam. By the time he left OSD in 1968, his approach was derided for its relentless focus on what could be measured rather than what actually needed to be understood. (We still suffer the curse of measuring, and only having SMART objectives so they can be measuring, and still managing to lose, because as stated above we ignore what can't be measured).

Then a great discussion on planning that is very applicable to the military. Planning cycles came to dominate corporate life, with everybody waiting for a formal document that would tell them how to behave. Politically, the result was to strengthen the center at the expense of alienating those responsible for implementation, who were apt to become cynical in the face of meaningless targets.

The long-range forecasts upon which they depended were inherently unreliable, and the organizational inform was often dated, collected haphazardly into inappropriate categories and taking little account of cultural factors. These structures risked paralyzing decision-making and came at the expense of flexibility.

The success of planning depended on the ability to control the future consequences of present actions. This meant controlling the decisions of many people, with different interests and purposes, so as to secure a premeditated effect. Some causal theory must connect the planned actions with the desired future results, and then the ability to act on this theory.
By the 1980s, strategic planning was losing its luster. The planning departments became large and expensive, the next cycle began as soon as the previous one finished, and the outputs were ever more complicated. .

As in the military, the business world lost confidence in models based on centralized control, quantification, and rational analysis left an opening for alternative approaches to strategy (design?). Whether a superpower corporation or country, as the environment became less manageable, the cumbersome processes the model demanded became less dysfunctional and unresponsive.

In the 1980s, Harvard business professors complained managers abdicated their strategic responsibilities. They sought short term gains rather than long term innovation. The problem’s root was managers increasingly relying principles that prize analytical detachment and methodology over insight.

This part was enlightening to me, he described the folly of confusing rank with expertise. The idea that any General, regardless of background, would be capable of leading a combat or stability operation, based on management or military principles is dangerous.

Freedman wrote, "A false and shallow concept of the professional manager had developed. Such people were pseudoprofessionals who had no expertise in a any particular industry or technology but were believed to be able to step into an unfamiliar company and run it successfully thru strict application of financial controls, portfolio concepts, and a market-driven strategy."

The good news is the military seems to be increasingly recognizing these problems. Next thoughts on hyper competitiveness.
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Old 04-05-2016   #3
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Final post tonight, and perhaps for a few days. After which I want to start addressing strategy in the 21st Century, as it contrasts with traditional or legacy strategies.

Freedman's discussion on competition between businesses has equal merit between nations conducting competitive strategies short of war.

The Japanese managed to combine lower cost and superior quality and then imitated each other, which meant the approach was bound to be subject to diminishing marginal returns as it became harder to squeeze more productivity out of existing factories and others caught up with the efficiency of their operations. Cutting costs and product improvements could be easily emulated and so left the relative competitive position unchanged, In fact, hyper-competition left everyone worse off (except perhaps the consumers). A sustainable position required relating the company to its competitive environment. Outperformance required a difference that could be preserved.

Note our national security documents frequently refer to the eroding U.S. technological competitive advantage due to the rapid proliferation of military related technology. So along comes the Red Queen Effect.

The problems facing companies trying to maintain a competitive advantage when everyone was trying to improve along the same metric was described as the Red Queen Effect. By focusing solely on operational effectiveness the result would be mutual destruction, until somehow, the competition stopped, often through mergers. Hopeless firms were likely to be those competing w/o end in the red oceans, instead of moving out to the blue oceans where they might create new market space. (21st century military implications?)
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Old 04-05-2016   #4
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Bill,

There are a mass of previous threads where 'strategy' features in the title and not all of them relate to President Obama.

It may help to return to the 2014 thread 'The Understanding and Meaning of Strategy has been lost', which IMHO touched upon the same issues; it was based on a book written by the British academic Hew Strachan:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=19848

I attended a local lecture given by Lawrence Freedman, part of the publication process and unlike previous talks he'd given on non-strategy subjects he was not persuasive, indeed it was all too overpowering.
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Old 04-05-2016   #5
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David,

I appreciate the thought, but that isn't the direction I want to take this thread. I'm not convinced the meaning of strategy has been lost. The idea that strategy only belongs in the realm of the military has been outdated since Kings quit leading their armies into battle. For me, Freedman touched on a number of issues I can relate to from personal experience. However, I only used Freedman to start the thread. It isn't about him, it is about identifying what has changed and what remains the same regarding strategy and strategic factors in the 211st century.
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Old 04-11-2016   #6
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Interesting topics Bill. One thought that immediately comes to mind: I think the U.S. suffers in this regard in part due to the barrier constructed between military strategy and political strategy, often leaving both military officers and political officials confused or frustrated with the other. This barrier has become increasingly destructive because of the intensification of 'political warfare' (a term I use broadly here to describe all the non-military activity taken by states to compel other states to change behavior). So, what element that has changed is that military strategy is most directly and strongly connected with political strategy than in previous generations.
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Old 04-11-2016   #7
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Interesting topics Bill. One thought that immediately comes to mind: I think the U.S. suffers in this regard in part due to the barrier constructed between military strategy and political strategy, often leaving both military officers and political officials confused or frustrated with the other. This barrier has become increasingly destructive because of the intensification of 'political warfare' (a term I use broadly here to describe all the non-military activity taken by states to compel other states to change behavior). So, what element that has changed is that military strategy is most directly and strongly connected with political strategy than in previous generations.
Some would argue that our current operational art, despite claims to the contrary, are increasingly disconnected from political aims. I agree with that, how many times have you seen a senior officer state he or she just wants a clearly defined military objective or end state, so they can say they did their part? How many appreciate the complexity of strategy from the start and accept it is interactive, and that we must interact with all elements of national power and allies to pursue shifting political aims? I will never forget the claim from senior military officers in Baghdad in APR 2003 that they won the war and it is time to go home. If you only looked at from a military perspective their argument may have made sense. This is why you increasingly see a push to get military officers to start thinking strategically again. We have dumbed down the force with our mindless focus on task, condition, and standard, and it has percolated to the top ranks in many cases.

I just started reading "Toward a New Maritime Strategy," by Peter Haynes. So far I would give 5 out of 5 stars, but will offer a more thorough review later. He hooked me in the introduction, where he made an argument that the Navy had become too focused on threats, operations, and war fighting at the expense of thinking strategically. He reviewed the history of cold war strategy and post-cold war navy strategy. Of note, he made the point that civilian strategists in the early years of the Cold War (still a problem in my opinion) we hyper rational, ahistoric, and apolitical. He also noted strategy goals shifted from winning to deterrence and all that implies (I won't repeat it here).

Since we were freed from the concept of winning, the Depart of Defense focused on program management instead of winning strategies. Using best business practices to ensure we had sustainable positive balance of power (off set strategies, metrics, centralized decision making, McNamara's budgeting process, etc.). I'm still wrestling with all the implications, since deterrence is still a needed mainstay of our strategy, but it shouldn't be the sole aspect.

He argues, and I agree, that the military (he focused on the Navy) seems content focusing on threats, and largely ignoring opportunities to advance interests that are not relative to known threats. Haynes argues that instead we should be focused on vital strategic interests, which in the view of the Navy is protecting the U.S. international system (economic and political), which is what the U.S. derives most of its power from. If we focus on our vital interests, then we can put threats in perspective and that would seem to open a host of opportunities that we may be missing now.

More to follow, but overall I think the military strives to be apolitical and misguidedly focus solely on military objectives as though they can be extracted cleanly from political, economic, and information objectives. What we seem to be missing, and of course this is not a fresh insight, is whole of government integration.
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Old 04-25-2016   #8
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Expanding on the desired ends or conditions as it relates to strategy, I found this article of interest.

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2016...seone_today_nl

America Can’t Do Much About ISIS

That leaves patience, containment, and humanitarian aid as the least-bad policies while waiting for this awful war to play itself out.

After an explanation of why wars like this drag on for years and why ISIL won't be defeated by some proxy conquering Raqqa and pulling down their flag, though we still have many conventional thinkers in the military to include SOF who continue to buy into the curse of Clausewitz, his center of gravity, while ignoring his true wisdom about understanding the nature of war you're about to engage in. The authors focus on how to answer GEN Petraeus's famous question, "Tell me how this ends?"

Quote:
In practical terms, the answer to Petraeus’s famous question is thus relatively insensitive to U.S. policy. If this war plays out the way so many others have, its end will come not through an allied offensive to conquer a capital city but through the mutual exhaustion of multiple actors with multiple, often wealthy outside benefactors. This will eventually happen—but it will likely take many years yet. U.S. efforts won’t change these fundamentals much absent a major stabilization and nation-building effort that few Americans now support, or some diplomatic breakthrough that assuages Iranian, Russian, and Saudi long-run security concerns. And that leaves Americans with patience and containment as the least-bad policy while waiting for this awful war to play itself out.
One of the explanations on why this conflict will likely continue for years, even if the actors change their names (ISIL becomes ?) is the about of external support the various combatants are receiving, and the failure of West to address the humanitarian crisis that is destabilizing the region (beyond the conflict zones) and Europe. Same as it ever was, or have strategic factors in the 21st Century resulted in new conditions that strategy must adjust to? A little or a lot of both I suspect. Maybe the nature and character of these conflicts haven't changed, but we changed as a nation and are no longer capable of developing effective strategy based on our current ideology, which includes the false dichotomy between war and peace, which results in a failure to recognize the risk of not acting short of traditional war, or trying to solve a problem using traditional war where it is an inappropriate response.

The latest National Military Strategy and subsequent articles indicate that military strategy remains threat centric. The military discusses 4 potential state actors plus VEOs as the plus one. Is it incorrect for the military to be threat centric? If you don't anticipate who you may have to fight and understand their capabilities and doctrine, how to do you project future force requirements?

http://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Docume...y_Strategy.pdf

On the other hand, Haynes in his book, "Toward a New Maritime Strategy," argues the value of having a strategy that is focused on our national interests. I don't think he stated or implied that threats were irrelevant, but rather if you understood your interests, then you can place threats in the correct context. What U.S. interests does ISIL or the Islamic State threaten?

I think there are several starting with destabilizing the region beyond the current conflict zones, which could put a good part of the global oil supplies at risk with significant impact on the global economy, which will impact the U.S. If the U.S. continues to fail to lead in a meaningful way, it will undermine the U.S.'s ability to protect the largely U.S. led international order that has provided for our security and prosperity for several decades now. Arguably it has provided the same for our allies and partners. ISIL presents a persistent threat to the homeland and U.S. lives globally, probably not a large scale, but with 24hr news, even small attacks take on strategic significance beyond the personal tragedies suffered. Finally, and perhaps this is tied to maintaining the international order (not rigidly maintaining, but adapting it according to set rules), are promoting the values we stand for a nation. Do we have a responsibility to protect? If we don't what are the consequences from a strategy perspective (humanitarian crisis with significant second order effects) and on our character or identity as a nation?
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Old 04-25-2016   #9
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With all that said in the previous post, what can we actually do to protect our interests in a way that is sustainable economically and politically? This is where we repeatedly seem to fail. If we anticipate this conflict will continue for years, how do we contain it and manage its effects short of waging a traditional conventional war that will likely drag us into another quagmire with no feasible end other than pulling out when we lose the political will to stay? Furthermore, taking such as approach will harm our economy further, and create opportunities for other adversaries and potential adversaries to seek a position of advantage globally relative to the U.S. Anther perceived loss will also weaken our standing is a perceived leader.

It reminds me of Kissinger recognizing the limits of U.S. power, and the fact that U.S. could not afford a protracted war in SE Asia AND maintain it more vital interests. He recognized the world's power balances were shifting, and new forces would challenge the domains of superpowers. There were already multiple economic centers, and economic power is the key to other forms of power (The Rise and Fall of Great Nations, Kennedy).

Haynes talked about the primacy of economic power in his book also. Any strategy that fails to consider the risk to the U.S. economy over time puts the nation at long term for short term goals. We have been fighting the war on terror, arguably poorly, for close to 15 years now with little to show for it but set back after set back. We can't afford to sustain large occupations, and those who argue FID and UW are the answer, while logical from an economic standpoint tend to dismiss that our partners frequently don't have the will to engage in these fights. Meanwhile, Russia, China, and North Korea have become increasingly dangerous and confident to challenge us. Our ability to deter them has eroded. Why? Excessive focus on the war on terror? Maybe, but I suspect the reality is the diffusion of power is creating opportunities in a globalized world like never before. Opportunities best exploited for advantage by effective whole of government approaches where the military is only one tool in the strategy toolkit. Our almost total focus on winning decisive battles that don't create favorable political conditions/advantages will soon drive us into the ranks of second ranked nations. A superpower that has squandered its power in a global war of the flea. A superpower that failed to used all its tools in a synchronized manner to advance its interests.
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Old 04-30-2016   #10
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Bill,

I thought this short article was helpful, even if USA-centric:http://www.thestrategybridge.com/the...eat-leadership

The author's very slim bio on Twitter:
Quote:
British / Australian mil officer + strategist. Conducting the 'Helmand Project' @ ANU Bell School; six year exploration of US, UK + Talib strategy in Afghanistan
He blames quite a few players:
Quote:
Who is responsible for this absence of strategy? The sad fact is that all those who have participated in the Global War on Terror must share the blame. Politicians have certainly been central, mis-reading Clausewitz, seeing war as a simple extension of politics and ignoring its true nature, and hubristically believing their stated intentions of policy could pass for true strategy. The military also played its role, and is guilty of inflating both threats and capabilities for its own internal agendas, and fostering a conspiracy of optimism that removed failure (or even strategic withdrawal) as an option. Even the eternally well-meaning non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are not immune to criticism as they were slaved to the thriving, billion-dollar industry of international aid and reconstruction funding governments used to excuse their lack of strategic thought.
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Old 05-01-2016   #11
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Bill,

I thought this short article was helpful, even if USA-centric:http://www.thestrategybridge.com/the...eat-leadership

The author's very slim bio on Twitter:

He blames quite a few players:
David,

This article is certainly relevant to the thread and points to a shared frustration about something that I also struggle with identifying exactly what is wrong. I agree with the author's argument that many of us own the blame for our collective shortcoming when it comes to strategy. We confuse McChrystal's Team of Teams as strategy, when instead it is an appropriate management/operational approach for employing forces to counter a networked threat. Warden's Five Rings have been confused as strategy, instead of a paradigm for targeting that is only applicable in select situations. We also confuse Jomini's lines on the map as strategy instead of operational maneuver. Add to this more great works emerging on how to fight in the cyber and space domains, competing in the human domain, and so forth. All interesting and valuable in their own, right, but ultimately of little value if they don't support a higher strategy that provides context, meaning, and purpose to the why of what we do beyond achieving a tactical success.

While much of what the author touches upon is well known, even if not well understood, by a select community of interest, I still found his focus on jus ad bellum very relevant and a factor that has been previously under appreciated.
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Old 05-01-2016   #12
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Default Competitive Mobilization in the 21st Century

An interesting article on competitive mobilization in preparation for a great power war, but does it hit the mark?

http://warontherocks.com/2016/03/com...against-china/

Competitive Mobilization: How Would We Fare Against China?

Quote:
Defining mobilization
Mobilization entails the substantial and exceptional displacement, through either government conscription or bidding, of a country’s labor and productive capacity that would otherwise naturally go to civilian purposes.
Referencing another article, he quotes:

Quote:
Their stimulating essay identified six gaps — munitions, weapons platforms, manpower, planning, technology, and stamina — that a big war against a peer competitor could reveal.
Is the legacy assumption still valid?
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Manpower and production mobilization are likely to provide a competitive advantage for one side during a conflict
He argues that the side (comparing the U.S. to China) that can mobilize forces/power for the air and space domains will have the competitive advantage. He also points out that if policy denies kinetic attacks against China and we engage in a military force versus military force war that attrition will play a greater role, resulting in the growing importance of mobilization.

He ends with this:

Quote:
Mobilization is a competition. But dominating a mobilization competition is not enough. A player still needs a complete strategy with a sound theory of success and operational concept in order to succeed.

Finally, decision-makers should incorporate mobilization into their overall concepts for deterrence. This will mean communicating competitive strategies for mobilization both to internal audiences and to allies and adversaries. Mobilization plans aren’t just for war — they should be a component of peacetime competitive strategies.
Overall a good article that is effectively argued, and probably does a flaw in our strategy if national leaders have failed to develop meaningful and realistic plans for mobilization. People is one thing, I suspect that despite the political liabilities associated with that, it will be worked out.

However, with the impact of globalization resulting in massive outsourcing of our manufacturing, or the inability to compete in basic areas such as the steel industry in a global market, does the U.S. have a sufficient infrastructure to quickly produce arms, ships, war planes (especially based on today's technical requirements)?

The author focused on the air and space domains, but what about the cyber domain? Do we have effective operational concepts for fighting in this domain? What does that mean? Would we have to rapidly recruit geek battalions or contract out an organization like Anonymous (which is multinational and reportedly mostly composed of French)? What if great powers leverage the human domain, like Russia did in the Ukraine, and Iran in Yemen? What does mobilization mean in that context? What does it mean beyond the military? USAID? State Department? etc.

Mobilization must be tailored to the conflict at hand or the projected conflict, and future wars will probably look increasingly different with more drones and other robotics playing a more predominant role. SOF, cyber, and other elements will most likely play increasingly important roles, but they will be employed differently than they are now.
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Old 05-31-2016   #13
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Default The So What of Globalization and Complexity

I’ll be the first to argue that the modern world has always been complex, but I also agree that complexity is increasing and this has significant implications for those developing or executing grand strategies. I found an article recently that provides a concise description of the emergent challenges due to information technology enabled globalization. Like many SWJ readers, he too was frustrated with the use of complexity as a cliché, with little explanation on what it actually implied.

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/...gle-keep-13698

“The Complexity Challenge: The U.S. Government’s Struggle to Keep Up with the Times”
“The world is complex’ is the U.S. government’s greatest strategic cliché and--paradoxically—its greatest strategic challenge.” By Josh Kerbel

Kerbel correctly points out that complexity is about interconnectivity and interdependence, both of which has been and continues to be greatly accelerated by globalization, and in the virtual world via information technology. Kerbal argues this is creating a world where it increasing difficult to find strategic mooring points. In other words it isn't simply Russia and China, or violent extremists, as Joshua Ramo stated in his book, "The Age of the Unthinkable," the global order is undergoing its most significant change since the Westphalia order was created.

Kerbel then looks at U.S. government leaders and points out they do not want to face this fact. They rather dismiss the obvious by making half true claims such as the world has always been complex, and globalization has been in existence for well over 300 years. He writes, this means the real world is
Quote:
increasingly at odds with traditional government thinking and organizations. He states this “more than just disturbing—it’s terrifying.”
He makes the following arguments:

1.
Quote:
Complex issues cannot be looked at as discrete pieces. Everything is interconnected—and interdependent—and there are ever fewer issues solely in the portfolio of a single department or agency. Consequently, the traditional government organizational constructs—ossified and stove-piped hierarchies—simply don’t work as they impede the ability to form the necessarily holistic perspectives and approaches.
For the military, this implies there is much more to cross domain operations than simply focusing on the traditional physical domains and cyber, the human domain and its many dimensions (identity, economics, influence, political, etc.) increasingly will be decisive. Although joint doctrine addresses Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, and Multinational (JIIM) operations, and refreshingly developed a relevant joint operations concept focused on adapting to globalization called "globally integrated operations," and they're working on an emerging concept tied to campaign planning that addresses the gray zone, the reality is in practice we are not able to effectively implement these concepts. Why? Legacy systems and bureaucratic infighting between various U.S. government interagencies. As Kerbel stated, most problems today require the synchronized approach of multiple agencies.

Quote:
2. Complexity defies the desire for clear and identifiable cause-and-effect dynamics.
I'm back on my center of gravity soapbox, Kerbel points out our reductionist thinking leads us astray, and I argue our center of gravity of concept is a symptom of that mindset.

Quote:
3. Complex situations are very prone to emergent macro-behaviors—cascades, bubbles and crashes, etc.—that are discontinuous and can abruptly deviate from past patterns.
We have seen this repeatedly in recent history, no need to further elaborate.

Quote:
4. Increasing complexity means that already-extreme volatility is only going to get worse.
This is what I believe is the biggest so what for strategists. We could never truly afford the luxury of focusing on one threat, e.g. the USSR or Al-Qaeda. That is more true today, and increasingly so tomorrow. While the department of defense is now focused on the 4+1 threat set, which expands our myopic focus from Islamic Extremists to legacy and emerging adversary states, it still misses the larger picture in my opinion. Instead of focusing on what type of force we need based on today's threats (that must be done, hear me out), we should have a think-tank like organization focus on what type of government we need to effectively advance and protect our interests in an increasingly globalized world. Once the larger picture is understood, we can focus on the type of security forces we need to mitigate threats to U.S. interests globally. I suspect part of that security force will look constabulary like (land forces with Coast Guard like law enforcement authorities), not to mention pulling our heads out of our butts when it comes to cyber.
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Old 05-31-2016   #14
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Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
I’ll be the first to argue that the modern world has always been complex, but I also agree that complexity is increasing and this has significant implications for those developing or executing grand strategies. I found an article recently that provides a concise description of the emergent challenges due to information technology enabled globalization. Like many SWJ readers, he too was frustrated with the use of complexity as a cliché, with little explanation on what it actually implied.

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/...gle-keep-13698

“The Complexity Challenge: The U.S. Government’s Struggle to Keep Up with the Times”
“The world is complex’ is the U.S. government’s greatest strategic cliché and--paradoxically—its greatest strategic challenge.” By Josh Kerbel

Kerbel correctly points out that complexity is about interconnectivity and interdependence, both of which has been and continues to be greatly accelerated by globalization, and in the virtual world via information technology. Kerbal argues this is creating a world where it increasing difficult to find strategic mooring points. In other words it isn't simply Russia and China, or violent extremists, as Joshua Ramo stated in his book, "The Age of the Unthinkable," the global order is undergoing its most significant change since the Westphalia order was created.

Kerbel then looks at U.S. government leaders and points out they do not want to face this fact. They rather dismiss the obvious by making half true claims such as the world has always been complex, and globalization has been in existence for well over 300 years. He writes, this means the real world is

He makes the following arguments:

1. For the military, this implies there is much more to cross domain operations than simply focusing on the traditional physical domains and cyber, the human domain and its many dimensions (identity, economics, influence, political, etc.) increasingly will be decisive. Although joint doctrine addresses Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, and Multinational (JIIM) operations, and refreshingly developed a relevant joint operations concept focused on adapting to globalization called "globally integrated operations," and they're working on an emerging concept tied to campaign planning that addresses the gray zone, the reality is in practice we are not able to effectively implement these concepts. Why? Legacy systems and bureaucratic infighting between various U.S. government interagencies. As Kerbel stated, most problems today require the synchronized approach of multiple agencies.



I'm back on my center of gravity soapbox, Kerbel points out our reductionist thinking leads us astray, and I argue our center of gravity of concept is a symptom of that mindset.



We have seen this repeatedly in recent history, no need to further elaborate.



This is what I believe is the biggest so what for strategists. We could never truly afford the luxury of focusing on one threat, e.g. the USSR or Al-Qaeda. That is more true today, and increasingly so tomorrow. While the department of defense is now focused on the 4+1 threat set, which expands our myopic focus from Islamic Extremists to legacy and emerging adversary states, it still misses the larger picture in my opinion. Instead of focusing on what type of force we need based on today's threats (that must be done, hear me out), we should have a think-tank like organization focus on what type of government we need to effectively advance and protect our interests in an increasingly globalized world. Once the larger picture is understood, we can focus on the type of security forces we need to mitigate threats to U.S. interests globally. I suspect part of that security force will look constabulary like (land forces with Coast Guard like law enforcement authorities), not to mention pulling our heads out of our butts when it comes to cyber.
Just a side comment to the cyber threat....the core problem with the US IT world right now is that utter believe the US is the greatest IT giant and others cannot match our abilities.

Right now I see daily nation state Russian, Iranian, Chinese hackers and their related IT crime gangs doing things that major US IT companies cannot even come close to doing...

Simply put we have been left standing still in the dust on that 21st century IT highway.....we urgently need to wake and smell literally the coffee before we become "the toast".....

As a cliché..."our IT ego experts are writing checks they cannot cash and they are trying to convince they can"....
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Old 05-31-2016   #15
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Finnish power companies targeted by hacking attempts. Specifically going after critical electrical distribution systems (!)
https://twitter.com/akihheikkinen/st...15290158759938

Russian cyber espionage in Finland, targeting media and @bellingcat:
http://yle.fi/uutiset/russian_cyber-...sanoma/8919118

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Old 07-04-2016   #16
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An interim report that came out in FEB 2016, titled,
"Thinking the Unthinkable: A New Imperative for Leadership in the Digital Age"

http://www.thinkunthinkable.org/

Quote:
“The rate of change we are going through at the moment is comparable to what happens in wartime …yet we think we are at peace. The global pace of change is overcoming the capacity of national and international institutions”
Chris Donnelly,
Director, Institute for Statecraft
This report is directed at the top levels of executive management, whether in government or business. I think they overstated some arguments, but they're still very much relevant. The authors assert that the rate of change is faster than most are prepared to concede, or respond to. They argue it is imperative we overcome our bias towards conformity if we hope to adapt to the new world that is rapidly emerging. The authors are British, so that should help explain this statement:

Quote:
We heard similar concerns from someone currently at the heart of policy making: “On major foreign policy issues such as Russia and Islamic State, we are working with a set of leaders in Whitehall, in the European Union, who have no adult experience of harm affecting the homeland”. The official added: “Our leadership is strategically fatigued. I’m talking about
politicians and most of the Whitehall village. And also much of British society. The Twitterati for sure. But the world is changing. The world may bring harm to you in ways you cannot imagine and ways you cannot manage. There is a resilience deficit, a lack of understanding of the scale of emerging threat”. This makes identifying ‘unthinkables’, then taking action to prevent or pre-empt them ever more problematic and unlikely.
This seems to be a prevalent line of thinking throughout Western Europe (much less so in Eastern Europe). Wish problems away until it is no longer possible to do so. This goes back at least as far Chamberlain's refusal to see the obvious and instead of countering seek to appease Hitler. The alternative was unthinkable, or as the authors argue, even when it wasn't unthinkable it was undesirable; therefore, people tend to ignore it and hope it goes away.

When leaders are blindsided, it is often due to their biased information sources, as explained here (think about Trump defeating the Republican establish and Brexit passing, both a surprise to the so-called experts).

Quote:
“[In a] world where more and more people are connecting … [where there is] greater fragmentation, but you’re also seeing greater connectivity … leaders are not very good at actually interpreting the messages that are out there from people who are not connecting through formal institutional mechanisms”, one former senior international official admitted. But this is the new reality. “Technology and the new politics are changing the relationship between leaders and those they lead”, said Sir John Sawers, former head of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, in his first speech since leaving
Vauxhall Cross.
How this disrupts legacy forms of governance:

Quote:
Governments will have to address super-complex issues such as mass
migration, climate change, population increase, rising urbanisation, ageing and the attendant huge resource questions. This is at a time when its legitimacy is being publically challenged.
Later in the report the authors state the ministers in Whitehall have relied on, and gotten away with, the tactics of delay and prevarication because they have worked. Of course those ministers have good company in the U.S. Congress and other countries.

Part 2 follows:

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Old 07-04-2016   #17
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I loved this quote:

Quote:
“You cannot know any more as a leader. Therefore, your role as a leader has changed to becoming the one figuring out what the best way is to frame problems, what the most important questions are to be asked.”
Patricia Seemann, founder, the 3am Group
The level of knowledge between leaders and followers are often equal, and in some cases, especially technical, the follower will have more knowledge. The leaders role is to lead the group in framing the problem to enable the group to address it. Our as Patricia stated, to ask the right questions.

Quote:
What must be regarded as the pre-2008 and pre-2014 ‘old think’ now has to be viewed as no longer fit for purpose and in large part redundant. Past beliefs and assumptions must be jettisoned. They need to be replaced by a pragmatic realisation that such old ways of thinking carry not just a high price but an even higher cost. “What you need to think about are the necessary structures and tools that the business must employ to try and minimize conformity and cognitive bias”, said a leading consultant.
In my view, we have creative people in the military, at least in the special operations world, but that creativity, that ability to think in ways that doesn't conform to engrained ways are thought, are difficult to act upon when our bureaucratic systems tend to oppose implementing ideas that do not fit into existing processes and the existing timelines (The situation on the ground could change 5 or more times, by the time a change is implemented. Thus, when it is implemented, it is no longer suited for the current situation).

Quote:
In all of this there is one major hang up. Many leaders don’t feel comfortable believing in strategic thinking anyway.
In fact, many military leaders brag about not thinking strategically and just acting. They embrace tactics, the illusion of short term success, while losing strategically. They system rewards this behavior.
Quote:
Short-termism is the inevitable reality both in the public and private sector. “Strategic thinking is something which doesn’t happen very often, even when people say that they take time out to do strategic thinking. In my experience, not a lot of that goes on. And without strategic thinking, and without some imagination, then it’s easy to understand why people don’t think the unthinkable, because they haven’t thought of all of the possibilities that could face them in the future”, as one former security specialist now in the corporate world told us.
Getting back to understanding the world we live in, I found the following comments of interest. This type of understanding may have led to different decisions in Vietnam and elsewhere.

Quote:
An insight by Professor Ngaire Woods of Oxford University is especially intriguing. “If you want to get a sense of what kinds of social change are likely to happen in a country, or what the extremes might be, look to the film makers of that country. Look to the people who are documenting the experience of communities and people. My prime example would be of an Egyptian film – Heya Fawda? [Is This Chaos?]53 which was made several
years before the Arab Spring, and completely predicted [it] theme-by-theme.
Quote:
“I'm not saying, ‘read any old film like the weather forecast’. But I’m just saying: look for who the social commentators in a society actually are. The artist, the filmmakers – whatever – are usually telling you about something that you’re not seeing through the eyes of government analysts and advisors and academics and social scientists and such like”.
These rather unexpected pointers are a sobering reality check of what is possible when it comes to spotting, then identifying both ‘unthinkables’ and ‘unpalatables’.
Quote:
There is an imperative to change fundamentally organisational systems: “The way we are structured, organised, the way we share information, the way we process information, the way we reward people, the way we take risk and analyse risk. The way we organise what is up, what is strategic, what is not, what is tactical. Who has the right to do what, what type of control”, said one exceptional leader currently in the throes of a top-to-bottom refit of an organisation distinguished by its extraordinary complexity.
Part 3: What to do, next post

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Old 07-04-2016   #18
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Quote:
Greater, urgent understanding of the extraordinary scale of transformation needed for contemporary organisations and the implications for their leadership is now essential.
I noted earlier that the authors may be overstating the speed of change. There was significant and rapid change in the world just prior to and after WWI, and of course after WWII. Then we settled into a Cold War, which created the illusion of time standing still, because we only focused on one strategic issue, our competition with the USSR. Today, everything is increasingly connected, so almost any change anywhere tends to ripple across borders and often has a global impact, so change may be more frequent and it may be happening faster. I'm not sure how you would measure that, but suffice to say, change is happening, and when change happens you adjust or face set backs relative to your competitors.

Step one in my view is identifying what interests we must protect, until we do that, it will impossible to identify what is truly strategic and must be addressed. Step two is to frame the problem accurately. We'll be unlikely to do that at first go, so as designers say, we have to reframe constantly, the only thing that will remain relatively static are those national interests we are hoping to protect or advance.

Quote:
Therefore, your role as a leader has changed to becoming the one figuring out what the best way is to frame problems, what the most important questions are to be asked”.
Quote:
Patricia Seemann agrees. “How the hell do you design a strategy in today’s world? You used to be able to do one for three or five years. You can’t anymore. You can set the general direction and then you try things out, and you constantly re-frame and re-frame etc.” She says that the ‘coping’ strategy involves “A huge amount of iterative experimentation”. As a result, she said: “The critical thing is to have an organization that can learn incredibly quickly, faster than its competitors. Now, the 1990's theme of ‘learning organisation’ is coming back with a vengeance”.
The paper ends with the following, which reminds me of McCrystal's "Team of Teams."

Quote:
The imperative is to change fundamentally organisational systems. Capability can be achieved by linking together people, process, leadership, technology and culture in order to focus them on one thing, such as decision making. Engaging staff in decision-making requires the removal of obstacles to internal communications, and shattering cultural barriers that lead to conformity. It also means having direct access to the widest possible number of sensors and analysts, however unorthodox they might be. “The way we are structured, organised, the way we share information, the way we process information, the way we reward.
We're into the second decade of the 21st Century, and we are adapting, but it isn't clear if we're adapting quick enough, or even adapting correctly. Technology is important, but technology doesn't replace the necessity for strategic thinking. Perhaps strategy in the 21st Century will be less about ends, ways, and means, and more about understanding what our interests really are, what is happening the environment, and how we describe and evaluate risk. Strategy should facilitate mid and long term views, but more than ever our processes for acting must be increasing agile so we can act fast to capitalize on an opportunity based on our understanding and sensing the environment. These processes also need to allow us to rapidly divest and reinvest elsewhere based on our improved ability to learn and adapt.

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Old 07-04-2016   #19
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Default Institute for Statecraft

This little known and discreet "think tank" has some excellent members, two of them are good friends and I've met a couple of others. Chris Donnelly is a former USSR military expert, based at Sandhurst and then a Soviet Studies team - which IIRC was disbanded as a cost-cutting measure.

Their website:http://www.statecraft.org.uk/
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Old 10-31-2016   #20
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The October 2016 issue of the Joint Force Quarterly has some articles that shine some light on how our current Department of Defense leadership is looking at aspects of strategy for a 21st Century.

First, From the Chairman: Strategic Challenges and Implications

http://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Fo...-implications/

The Chairman identified 4 strategic implications:

Quote:
1. The first one is foundational. We need a balanced inventory of joint capabilities that allow us to deter and defeat potential adversaries across the full range of military operations.
Not a new challenge, but it remains a significant challenge, more so tighter restrictions on the purse strings. The ability to wage non, unconventional, conventional, and nuclear warfare (I'm lumping cyber under non-conventional for now). While hybrid threats also are not new, it is still a useful concept for reacquainting the force with the totality of warfare. Before 9/11 is was conventional warfare centric, no need to worry about unconventional adversaries, after 9/11 the force swung in the other direction. Need to get after those terrorists, there will never be a conventional war again. We have started, and need to continue, to stop treating wars like Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs). One soldier specializes in conventional warfare, while another specializes in unconventional, and treat warfare more like liberal arts, than a technical trade school.

Quote:
2. The second implication is the need for us to more effectively employ the military instrument of national power to address the challenges Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea present. Each of these nations, in different ways, fully leverages economic coercion, political influence, unconventional warfare, information operations, cyber operations, and military posture to advance their interests. This is competition with a military dimension that falls below the threshold that would trigger a traditional and decisive military response. And since these countries compete in ways that mute our response, they continue to advance their interests at the qualitative and quantitative expense of our own.
Back to the gray zone, a zone we compete in, but not as effectively as our adversaries.

3.
Quote:
The third implication, and to me one of the most significant, is that we have a mandate to keep pace with the character of war in the 21st century.
Short discussion on multi-domain and rapid pace of change.

4.
Quote:
Therefore, the fourth implication is the need for greater strategic integration in the future, both in our strategy development and in our decision making processes. The intent is to build a framework within which we can address these 4+1 challenges across the five operational domains with which we are dealing and the many associated functions.
This one worries me, because it is ahistorical and far being strategic as written. It continues to push the military-industrial-complex myth that if our technology enables us to dominate the 5 "recognized" domains, we will prevail strategically.

I did like the closing though:

Quote:
What drives me, and what motivates our Joint Staff team, is the changing character of war. How do we get more agile? How do we frame decisions for our senior leadership in a more effective way? Just like every other endeavor in our profession, it begins with a common understanding of the threat, and a common appreciation for the capabilities and limitations of the Joint Force, and then a framework within which we could make real-time decisions that will most effectively employ that force.
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