I’ve been thinking a lot about what Wikileaks, Anonymous, Tunisia, and Egypt mean for force structure of the military. Increasingly, I see conventional forces as modern day fusiliers, used to pin down an enemy while other types of forces maneuver around. Where as back in the Napoleonic era the maneuver forces were cavalry or lighter troops, today I view ‘other forces’ to be forces that do not even participate in actual combat. Where I see the most maneuver occurring is in the battlefield of ideas. After all, isn’t that the whole premise behind winning hearts and minds? I see this becoming difficult for leaders in that communication has to occur on two fronts at once – domestic and international. A lot was made over the claims that the Commander of NTM-A in Afghanistan was conducting psyops against Senators. This episode is evidence of this emergent nature of conflict – not because of what may, or may not have actually occurred. But, because that this event was even plausible to have occurred. When I was in Afghanistan, I had as much contact with my family as I did in the States (I know, I’m not a very good son, I don’t call home often enough). Being deployed isn’t being all that far away from home any more, maybe not in a literal sense, but in a cognitive and communicative sense it isn’t that far at all. How is a commander supposed to handle that connectivity?

Mao said that ‘political power comes from the barrel of a gun’, or something to that effect. While I don’t refute this fact completely, I will submit that the barrel of a gun no longer holds a monopoly on generating political power. Organizations are no longer required to organize people. It can be done nearly ‘automatically’, as evidenced by Tunisia, Egypt et al. political power now emanates as much from the tip of the Ethernet cable as it does from the gun. Woe unto the government which uses guns against those who wage a campaign with information, as well (e.g., using the internet to generate force does not warrant kinetic force in return). I’m sure that a lot of you are thinking that what I am saying here is all just apart of 4th generation warfare. But, I think this is beyond 4th generation. This is the 5th generation.

Sun Tsu talked about formlessness – how a general must keep his true disposition of forces concealed from his enemies. Anonymous is the epitome of such an axiom. Thousands of individuals motivated by all kinds of different things: For the lulz, political persuasion, a sense of belonging, to be cool, or even viewing organizations as their enemy. You can’t pin down a single cause, nor can you remove a single person and the organization collapses, you can’t point to a single type of person, you can’t name them all, they don’t even have a single raison d’être or cause célèbre. However, they do have a center of gravity, which is the ambiguous nature of ethics today. Any threat that emerged over the last year has done so in the moral and ethical gray areas created by the information age. The notion that information is now free is at the heart of the entire information revolution, the most extreme example of this being Wikileaks.

As a society, we are so far behind the curve in deciding and setting precedent for what ethics are now that information and communication are so ubiquitous that we are hurting ourselves. This too is a larger problem than what the military can fix, which is why we are left to hold the line while other more nimble forces must maneuver around to decide the outcome. Amazingly enough, I think these forces will culminate in the average citizen. It will be their interaction with others online that decide the outcome of this. However, I do not think it will be a simple affair, more formalized organizations will resist change and the debate will create more events like Egypt, in extreme cases. More common will be organizations like anonymous, not all of them will be hackers. But, will organize similarly and possibly cause much more difficulties for whomever they organize against.

I’m not completely sure what this is going to mean for force structure, but I know we can’t buy our way out of it. Nothing that any contractor can, or could, sell us will adapt the military to these challenges. What the Army has done to change from Division based deployments to Regiment based didn’t impress me much when I was in Afghanistan. My view of it was that it just caused a lot more confusion between the units (It was amazing to me to see such cultural differences between the different patches worn out there). The jury is still out (and will be for some time) on whether or not the modular concept for ships will work (I believe it will, but we’re learning it the most painful way possible). However, these initiatives are in the right spirit. It is that they just don’t strike at the heart of what we need to change. In reality, for us to adapt to the nature of modern conflict we’re going to have to change our culture. Medals, ribbons, uniforms and our organizational methods are all centuries old concepts. It was from the Prussians that we got our concept of the Flag Staff. It’s been nearly 100 years since Prussia ceased to exist (for all intents and purposes). Nothing I am proposing, or have said is ‘new’ is a revolution in any sense. All change that has occurred has been evolutionary in nature, and all change that must occur in the military must too be evolutionary. Directly working towards creating a Revolution in Military Affairs is like trying to grab a cloud. The whole of the military doesn’t need to evolve into some Wikileaks-Anonymous hybrid. But, their effectiveness needs to be noted and emulated. Bullets can’t kill ideas, only debate and dialog can.

Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Cyber, Hard Power, Soft Power

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Horatius

    A few comments:

    On a practical level, don’t be too proud of the techonological terror that is the internet. On any given day, the power to reach the entire planet still pales in insignificance to the power of force.

    Especially the bullet-in-the-head in the middle-of-the-night kind of force.

    I think what we are seeing in recent events is that the ability to use force ends for one side because of the power of ideas. But there is still the fundametality of force–implicit or explicit force–that is driving the change. Ideas are pilot valves that can move force, but are still not the ultimate main mover of events. That is still force or the threat of the use of force–and levaithanic despotism can exist a very very very long time via use of both of those.

    Thus, bullets may or may not be able to kill ideas, but they are remarkably effective in making those that have them keep their heads down…unless they have bullets of their own (and a lot of them).

    I am with you as far as who might be the ultimate arbiters. As far as organizations–what you propose is not the proper function of the military. If one wants to put the job in a Federal organization, I argue that it is a job for the “Reconstruction Corps” (better name to be determined at a later date), which does not exist and until certain things happen in this country, never will. The place it should be is in the State Department. Unfortunately, our State Department too often seems (at least to me) like it is the world’s ambassador to the United States rather than the other way around. But that would be the ideal place. Our military really does not need to get involved in this “ideas” stuff to any great extent, for a variety of reasons–one of them statecraft.

    The real place such things belong is in the hearts and minds of the American people. If they have a continual vigourous debate about the ideals of liberty and freedom, others will note the discussions, form their own conclusions, and reach such arrangements as are necessary for their own lands.

    For example–the French Revolution was not sparked because of some Revolution in Colonial Military Affairs (continued by a RMA, yes). It was sparked, in part (budget issues aside), because the ideals of the Enlightement were in the air and the example of the American Revolution was before thinking Frenchmen–causing them to think the formerly impossible was now possible. (The fact that it turned out badly should also be under our eyes at all times.)

    Our military must strongly understand, then, that it cannot do everything that is required of American statecraft. In some things, only the character of the American people will do, and if that character be no longer up to the task, then we as a nation will have far greater problems to occupy our time anyway.

    Finally–and some will bristle at what I say here–you really should consider taking up the mantle of higher responsibility and becoming an officer. Now, you may not wish to do so, in which case continue to speak out as an informed citizen of the Republic. But if you decide not to take the challenge of a commission, for whatever reason, please remember that it was a choice and do not undermine the junior officer should you decide to stay in and become a chief. He neither asked for it nor deserves it, especially after he has been in a while.

    Of course, if you decide the second path hopefully the Navy will eventually have a reinvigorated and expanded warrant officer program that makes them regular and expected members of wardrooms. As with Napoleon’s “Every French soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his knapsack”, so with us it should be “Every sailor has a commission or warrant in his seabag.”

  • Byron

    I think YN2 Gauthier would make one hell of a Chief. He’d make a really good officer, too. Either way, YN2, your talents will be much appreciated by the Navy.

  • JackO

    It boils down to two things! Manpower, and Material!

    To save the forces it is important to honor the manpower, ensure their ability to perform, educate them on their duties, support them in their duties, and instill into them the honor of their service in the Armed Forces.

    it seems to me that little is done to demonstrate to the manpower their value, as they are considered cogs in the machine.

    The Marines have it right, the other forces lack the desire, I guess.

    Actually, if you look at the “terroists” they have it right, in that they, the fighters, are honored for what they do, while the commanders sit in the background.

    The bilge cleaner has his own value, the mess cooks there own value, and each has to be valued for their service.

    Look at the USNI magazine and note how many officers are shown, and how few enlisted are shown.The back seat man in the dive bomber gets no respect, but without them would the pilot succeed.

    Oh, hell, I don’t know, but subversion of the troops is a bigger danger than the incoming fire, in my opinion.

    Bullets in the head may not be necessary but 10 days bread and water might be necessary and quick discharges when necessary.

    When I went into the Navy in 1940, the skipper conducted a friday inspection of the barracks at NASSD, and one man had someone else’s blankets on his bunk with no explanation. got a BCD discharge that month!
    But it resulted in no thievery from shipmates!

    Rambling, as an old man does,I think we must go back to strict enforcement of rocks and shoals, and eliminate non-believers of the rules.

    Further, the object of the war is to win the war, and not to protect the population. IRAQ, was an example of modern warfare that failed. The population was not punished enough to force surrender, but allowed to remain armed and able to resist.

    We punished the Germans and the Japanese, and they have responded by becoming allies. Can we say the same thing about any war since WW2.

  • Old Air Force Sarge

    The armed forces exist to blow things up and kill people, or threaten to do so. If you don’t want anything blown up, if you don’t want anyone killed, do not call on the armed forces. So, as some have said, this is not a job for the armed forces. Department of Homeland Security perhaps? State Department, no way! Traditionally Foggy Bottom isn’t much good at anything useful. All that being said, excellent post YN2! And I agree with Byron, you really should seek a commission. Yes, you’d be a great Chief, but I’d be willing to bet you’d make one helluva fine officer.

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    You’re all right. What needs to be done is short of war – combat. But, just the same, (I’ve been reading about set theory today, so bear with me) warfare is a subset of conflict, which is a subset of competition. Meaning, that warfare is at a more basic level, competition.

    In looking back over history, I think it is fair to say that warfare was a more prevalent form of competition because the methods by which States could compete in the past were crude. Ie, there were fewer means through which to compete so warfare was more likely.

    Where as, today, through economic connectivity, information technology and international organizations, there are more ways for nations to compete with one and other. Another way of saying this, is that there are more means through which nations can keep from warring with each other.

    But, with the addition of information technology competition can still wreak havoc – SCADA and E-Commerce. I’ve already stated that there is the tacit understanding in society that online do not warrant kinetic responses (Though, this may well change once a nation ‘openly’ attacks another nations networks), especially if the attackers are non-government civilians.

    Traditionally, on the largest national level, it has been the responsibility of the military to protect the nation from “all threats foreign and domestic”. Which then had the Federal, State and Local enforcement agencies to provide enforcement of laws and maintain peace and order. This system worked because of the nature of our Government, of a Federalist system; to say nothing of how geography supports such an organization.

    Online however, the structure of the Internet and World Wide Web does not have geographic features, or the same strata of society to allow for such tiered defense. The architecture of the Internet is flat (unless net neutrality goes the way of the dinosaurs).

    The Boss here at SHAPE talks a lot about the Comprehensive Approach towards Afghanistan. Essentially, the Comprehensive Approach is using all aspects of Government to approach a challenge. In Afghanistan, this means both Civilian and Military, NGOs and International Organizations all bring key skill sets and abilities to the table that help us to win. In terms of defending (again to borrow the boss’ term) the ‘Cyber Sea’ it will take a similar methodology. But, again, in adopting such a methodology it is not warfare. It is not really part of what historically has been the purview of the military. It’s not kinetic.

  • JackO

    and, this, indeed, is how we place our self at risk in the world.

    there are many types of nations, and beliefs.

    If we, believe in constructive foreign policy debates with the adverse nations, we will lose!

    A simple comparing of beliefs will show that!

    An example: A Norweigan Viking, and a Christian Monk
    The Viking is a berserker, and a Christian Monk is a peacemaker.

    In combat the viking always wins, unless the Christian Monk reverts to more savage ways!

    Iran wants to use Nukes to eliminate Israel, we don’t want to use nukes on anyone! Iran nukes Israel and we sanction Iran!

    Who wins!

    We are now down to 280 ships, and can’t even manage air cover over a nation like Libya! Even if we could I don’t think we would.And does that not contaminate our thinking of warfare! Can not our thinking be adversely affected by the lack of material, and the lack of desire on the part of the politicans to do anything that will indicate that we are not humane, gentle, and freedom loving.

    Look at the pandering to the public on the revolutions in the Far East! Do they really think that the Muslim populations of the area will form democratic republics?

    Solutions? None! It will result in a large atomic war in the future! Live with that thought a while.

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    No, I didn’t mean to say that I believed that dialog was the penultimate capability afforded to nations in the information age. Far from that, I believe when the grievance is significant enough, it will always have to settled kinetically.

    As I said earlier I believe that warfare is the the most niche subset of conflict, this being so, all other subsets of the conflict set will also become part of the struggle in a war.

    The biggest point I am attempting to make here (in the comments), is that the methodology we used to organize our security organizations no longer has a sound foundation. This flawed foundation is both hindering our ability to defend ourself as well as providing opportunity to those who would see to do some wrong.

    Just because there is an additional dimension (i.e., subset) added to conflict does not mean that we are taking a more passive approach to conflict.

    Actually, I will submit that the evolution of cyber-based conflict will add a much more insidious nature to conflict itself. Americans naturally find the notion of fighting from the shadows repugnant. But, that is what is demanded online.

    What’s more, is that I see a lot of cyber based tactics that should be adapted to more conventional forms of warfare.

    But, it’s 2230 here in Belgium. I have to get to bed.

  • Max Pad

    The infectious nature of cyber attacks must also take into consideration how much damage should be inflicted. Do you want to disable only the military or take over the enemy’s infrastructure?

    Plus, the word is spelled organization.

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    It’s not what I want to do. Rather, it’s dependent on what the situation warrants.