Warrior Politics and social networks

I recently read Robert D. Kaplan's book Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos. It got me to thinking and so I read some more books and white papers about military response, complexity, networks and collaboration. There were a number of related themes, one of which is to push power and knowledge to the edge of the network, in order to solve the complexity issues -- as well as to serve as a critical part of a transformational change required to address today's and tomorrow's terrorist threats to nations.

A collection of excerpts from Kaplan's book illustrate and introduce the situation:

National security analyst Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters writes that American soldiers "are brilliantly prepared to defeat other soldiers.  Unfortunately the enemies we likely to face . . . will not be 'soldiers'," with the discipline and professionalism which that word implies in the West, but "'warriors' -- erratic primitives of shifting allegiance, habituated to violence, with no stake in civil order."

The collapse of Cold War empires and the disorder it engendered -- along with the advance of technology and low-end urbanization -- has provoked the breakdown of families and the renewal of cults and blood ties, including more militant Islam and Hinduism.  The result is the birth of a warrior class cruel as ever, and better armed, communicating by e-mail and cell phones.

The further development and profusion of smaller low-tech nuclear devices and of chemical and biological weapons will make obscure "freedom fighters" strategic menaces.  An economy-of-scale is no longer necessary to produce weapons of mass destruction.  The United States cannot maintain its monopoly on new military technologies, many of which are not expensive and can be obtained by our adversaries.  While the average engagement during the Civil War featured 26,000 men per square mile of battlefront, the figure is now 240, and it will dwindle further as war becomes increasingly unconventional and less dependent on manpower.

According to Marine Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, American forces will have to operate in a range of settings, "from deserts to foliage, to densely populated urban areas with embedded antagonists" -- environments not conducive to technological dominance.  Even when they work well, computer-operated sensors and listening devices may swamp military organizations with undigestible data.  As more information accumulates, the difference between information and real knowledge may widen. 

Air Force Colonel Charles Dunlap Jr.  writes another problem will be the unwitting collusion between global media and our enemies.  Because of technology and consolidation of of news organizations, they can now afford their own surveillance satellites.  One firm, Aerobureau of McLean, Virginia, can already deploy a flying newsroom: an aircraft equipped with multiple satellite video, audio and data links, gyro-stabilized cameras, and the ability to operate camera-equipped vehicles on earth by remote control.  Dunlap asks, "[W]hat need will there be for our future enemies to spend money building extensive intelligence capabilities?  The media will become the 'poor man's intelligence service'."

How can the military respond to these changes?

Dr. David S. Alberts, Director of Research for OASD (NII) / DoD CIO, and Dr. Richard E. Hayes, founder and president of Evidence Based Research, Inc., write:

[T]he 21st century military mission space encompasses a wide range of operations (including civil-military operations) in which success requires (1) an effects based approach to operations where the effects that need to be considered include not only military effects, but social, political, and economic effects, and (2) the ability to work effectively in coalition environments that include not only other militaries but also other government entities, international organizations, businesses, and a variety of non-
governmental and private voluntary organizations (NGOs and PVOs).

Alberts and Hayes wrote in a previous book,

"Transformation is an effort to accelerate adaptation to maintain competitive advantage. DoD’s commitment to transformation is an explicit recognition that something needs to change sooner rather than later. It means changing even if you currently are (or think you are) the best. This is very difficult for many to accept, and as a result there is less than universal commitment to the kind of transformation described in Information Age Transformation.  Network Centric Warfare is identified in this book as a central focus of transformation efforts. This is because it is understood that existing command and control concepts and processes are no longer adequate to accommodate current and emerging threats and significant changes in the security environment, and that significant advances in information technologies and their employment offer us the opportunity to rethink command and control. To become an Information Age organization, a military organization will need to fundamentally change their approach to command and control. This means that they will need to change the way they think about information and its dissemination, and about accomplishing tasks, organizing, and training. This also means that they need to explore new interactions among individuals and organizations and develop new processes."

DoD policy envisions users who post all of the information they collect or produce so it can be immediately available to those who need it.  To make this information understandable, it must be accompanied by metadata that describe and classify the information to which it is appended, and similarly qualify the source.  This allows users to quickly identify which information fits their needs.

This is what social networks help enable.  We are transforming the network platform to provide an "information marketplace."

References:
Ralph Peters's Fighting for the Future: Will American Triumph?  (Stackpole, 1999).
Paul Van Riper's "Information Superiority," Marine Corps Gazette, June 1997.
Charles Dunlap's "21st Century Land Warfare: Four Dangerous Myths," Parameters, U.S. Army War College, Autumn, 1997.
Robert D. Kaplan's Warrior Politics (Random House, 2001).
Dr. David S. Alberts and Dr. Richard E. Hayes, Planning: Complex Endeavors, (CCRP, 2007).
Dr. David S. Alberts and Dr. Richard E. Hayes, Power to the Edge, (CCRP, 2003).