June 2007

Disovery Magazine discusses. (via Instapundit)

All over the world, no matter what the cultural or language differences, science is more or less guided by scientific principles—except in many Islamic countries, where it is guided by the Koran. This is the ultimate story about science and religion.

Science can be a dismal study for some people. Some people are satisfied with what is, but many want to know what it means. Teleology describes that purpose, but it is the ultimate enemy of science. It assumes there is a purpose and design for creations and there is a final cause. Religions do so through divinities, but many “secularists” like Marxists create own teleologies.

Science follows the antique notion that we need to look at facts before understanding the function of an object or system. Teleology assumes it knows the answer before looking at the evidence.


I’m building a database of American Small Wars. I’m interesting in disproving widespread myths. For instance, the myth that United States was an isolationist nation.
There are also many myths about America’s Counterinsurgency history and capabilities. Namely, that Americans are inexperienced in guerilla warfare and that the guerrillas always win. These are the same people who bitterly note that Americans destroyed the native Indians. How? By winning guerrilla wars.

This is a common myth about Vietnam: ‘The US never fought a guerrilla war in a jungle before’ True, if you don’t count the half-dozen jungle wars fought before Vietnam where the US won.

I put together a list of 101 “Small Wars” of various types that required military intervention. Some of these insurgencies were stopped before they could do much harm. I excluded humanitarian and peacekeeping interventions.

The US waged war against a variety of enemies – criminals, privateers and pirates, insurgents, popular uprisings, tribes, and slave revolts.

As you can see, I’m not judging the morality of any of these actions. The fact that the US was better at putting down slave revolts than the French in Haiti or the Portuguese in Brazil does not mean much beyond merely judging military actions.


The NYT took notice (finally).

Cyberwarfare is a method of electronic sabotage. It’s not a new idea nor is it a real attack. It’s a way of sabotaging businesses and government web-based tools to cause confusion or monetary losses.

Estonia recently came under a severe DDoS attack from Russia that temporarily shut down online financial and government sites. China also stepped up “cyberwarfare” but so far sticks to industrial espionage.

Brookings Institute puts together an Iraq Index to measure a variety of critical factors. Pure numbers remain on the of the best ways to report on the war.


Here’s the sample Test.

This is the wave equation. How does it make you feel?

Wellington Grey makes a serious point. The UK Department of Education has restructured the way physics are taught. No longer is it a science with rigorous mathematics.

The thing that attracts pupils to physics is its precision. Here, at last, is a discipline that gives real answers that apply to the physical world. But that precision is now gone. Calculations — the very soul of physics — are absent from the new GCSE. Physics is a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, but now everything must be described in words.

Scientific argument is based on quantifiable evidence. The person with the better evidence, not the better rhetoric or talking points, wins.

The UK DoE no longer teachs physics. What they teach, no one knows, least of all the students.

This is not a new trend. Education Departments oppose logical positivism and empiricism in history and the soft-sciences. Arguments are based on emotional appeal and clever vocabulary rather than empirical evidence. This is absurd. I hoped that harder sciences would hold up better, but apparently they have not.

Salman Rushdie knighthood is causing a stir. They selected an Apostate who criticized the Islamic faith to be a knight? And they did so during a war against radical Muslims? Immediately, Radical Muslims in Iran, Pakistan and across the world called for Rushdie’s murder and retaliation against Britain. The British are braver than I thought.

The Battle of Grozny in 1995 lasted over three months resulting in heavy casualties. It was a Russian Pyrrhic victory. This is case study of network tactics in an individual battle. Timothy Thomas wrote a good history of the battle here. As Thomas points out, cities will become primary battlefields for 21st century insurgencies.


Planning bias is a major issue, so it is helpful to show the results of such planning systems. In short, top-down planning disconnects the planners from reality. Friction accumulates and goes unnoticed. Planners are disconnected from the system feedback loops – so information is progressively lost.

Much has been written about the absurdity of the Soviet command and control economy and its inability to even deliver basic food services much less advanced health care or information technology. Many of the same problems are found in the Soviet military.


John Lewis Gaddis in Surprise, Security, and the American Experience argues major attacks like the capture of Washington DC in 1814, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 revealed fundamental weaknesses in the contemporary defensive strategy. The American solution was not strict retaliation against the offending state, but a massive and comprehensive expansion of the US’s sphere of security.

This is even more radical than it sounds.  Expansion of spheres of security resulted in a vast number of wars. The United States was never an isolationist nation.

Here is an explanation for the appearance of Golden Angles in Nature.

“The seeds of a sunflower, the spines of a cactus, and the bracts of a pine cone all grow in whirling spiral patterns. Remarkable for their complexity and beauty, they also show consistent mathematical patterns that scientists have been striving to understand.”


The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg stated that “a war of aggression… is the supreme international crime… in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Justum bellum theory is separated into two branches – Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello. There is a paradox here. We can only enforce one or the other. As a result, the idealist Just War theory is basically ignored, while we enforce Laws in War.


America’s confidence in Congress is at an all time low of 14%. That didn’t take long.

Americans have more confidence in HMOs, Big Business, Organized Labor, NewsMedia, President Bush, and possibly Organized Crime.

As the famous saying goes, no plan survives contact with the enemy. And everything takes longer than it takes.

One of the most important concepts in war is what Clausewitz called “friction.” Planning bias leads many to assume any imperfection is due to bad planning or incompetence. Clausewitz warns us that due to “the influence of an infinity of petty circumstances, which cannot properly be described on paper, things disappoint us, and we fall short of the mark.”

Here’s Clausewitz’s famous passage:

“As long as we have no personal knowledge of war, we cannot conceive where those difficulties lie of which so much is said, and what that genius, and those extraordinary mental powers required in a general have really to do. All appears so simple, all the requisite branches of knowledge appear so plain, all the combinations so unimportant, that, in comparison with them, the easiest problem in higher mathematics impresses us with a certain scientific dignity. But if we have seen war, all becomes intelligible; and still, after all, it is extremely difficult to describe what it is which brings about this change, to specify this invisible and completely efficient Factor.

Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction, which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen war.”

Many claim that solving the world’s problems are so simple. This shows the shallowness of their ideas.

Friction is a product of a nonlinear dynamical system. There are many components to the system, each with simple operations, and they interact with a large number of other components. This produces emergence. Small changes in the inputs by one or two components can drastically change the outputs.

Friction is the result of a large number of variables emerging from a few unnoticed and seemingly minor inputs. It provides vital information about reality. In this fashion, fricton is very similar to price theory in economics and just as useful.

Clausewitz compared this social force to the force of friction in classical mechanics. The law of inertia states that an object will remain at constant velocity unless acted upon by an outside force. In war, plans encounter this form of friction because “activity in war is movement in a resistant medium.” Clausewitz compares real war to swimming in water, while theorists speak of walking on land.

Weather is a classic example of friction. Fog limits sight, dampness affects gunpowder, mud slows transports, etc. Friction from individuals, logistics, the environment and random chance combine in a reinforcing loop, so tiny inputs amount to major effects (ie the butterfly effect). On top of all this? The enemy interacts with you in a competitive game. We operate in a realm of deeply limited knowledge – yet the unspoken facts still exist. Rather than creating idealist plans, our goal should be to discover the knowledge of reality.

The Trinity
War combines elements of the Irrational, the Rational, and Fortune. Clausewitz calls this the “Trinity.

“War is, therefore, not only a true chameleon, because it changes its nature in some degree in each particular case, but it is also, as a whole, in relation to the predominant tendencies which are in it, a wonderful trinity, composed of the original violence of its elements, hatred and animosity, which may be looked upon as blind instinct; of the play of probabilities and chance, which make it a free activity of the soul; and of the subordniate nature of a political instrument, by which it belongs purely to the reason.”

These three elements interact in such a way as to create a degree of uncertainty. All war is rational, but elements of it go beyond reason.

War is a “wicked problem.” Interacting with a complex social system changes its nature; any attempt to enact a solution changes the problem. Rittel and Webber outline this problem:

  • You don’t understand the problem until you have developed a solution.
  • Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
  • Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong, simply “better,” “worse,” “good enough,” or “not good enough.”
  • Every wicked problem is essentially unique and novel.
  • Every solution to a wicked problem is a “one-shot operation”
  • Wicked problems have no given alternative solution

In other words, even the simplest thing is impossibly difficult. Here’s a way forward. When dealing with wicked problems, we must gather and analyze data, then formulate and implement solutions in an incremental way.John Boyd’s OODA loop decision cycle (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) is the military description of this decision-making strategy. The commanders closest to the action observe friction before anyone else and take initiative. Command power moves down the chain of command to accommodate resources and reaction time. At the tactical level, American soldiers’ OODA reaction is faster than the enemies, allowing them to get multiple decision cycles ahead of their enemy. Tactical superiority of lieutenants and NCOs accumulates to strategic superiority in both military and political fields (e.g. the “Strategic Corporal”). In this way, we discover reality and adapt more efficiently.

On the strategic level, warfare is the economics of destruction. Wars consist of incremental tradeoffs with no solutions. Enemies fight, learn and adapt to each other in a dynamic environment. Whoever adapts better gains an advantage. This continues until one side reaches a breaking point where morale, material, or political will is unsustainable. We can transfer much of our economic knowledge to the competitive arena of military affairs.

Muddling Through
Leaders must prepare for the unknown and rapidly respond to changes in the system. Attempts to plan and control a chaotic society encounter severe friction leading to failure. Why does planning fail? Plans are not reality. It “solves” a mathematics problem when one does not know the formula or variables, but wants a certain answer and is determined to get it no matter what. Idealist plans result in a flood of unintended consequences that nullify the intended action. What is desirable is not feasible or stable.

So how do societies wage war? We muddle through. Incrementalism outperforms master plans. So how can we build strategies? The Army theory of strategy uses “Ends, Ways, and Means.” You set the objection, the way to achieve the objective, and prepare resources for the task. Commanders prepare material for thing they directly control, but getting from point A to point B cannot be planned. At any rate, the enemy moved to point C since you last looked. You approach the enemy incrementally and update your approach as you go.

Militaries must use friction the way businessmen use prices. Price allows us to rationally respond to innumerable changes in economics. Our personal feelings about high or low prices are irrelevant, and so are our feelings about friction. It is bottom-up information from millions of silent sources that self-organize and speak to us. Friction and price both collect information from the weather, logistical delays, morale, technical malfunctions, competitor behavior, capricious politicians and other uncountable variables. Price and Friction are the truth of reality – the desire to change or control these efficient factors represents delusion.

Typically, micro-planning at the lowest level receives more immediate feedback allowing us to better adapt. This higher up the commander, the more removed he is from the reality of Earth. So it follows that Congress exists on a different planet.

Critics, such as Senators from Massachusetts, frequently blame the military for not having plans. Planning bias by political and media elites cause considerable harm to strategic operations. They demand that reality conform to a perfect ideal rather than the other way around.

John Hagel claims our views are “shifting from a Gaussian world to a Paretian world.” This will alter our understanding of probability and help us create more effective strategies (via John Robb).

“These are two very different ways of viewing the world, with some events following a Gaussian distribution (classic example: the heights of individual human beings) and other events following a Pareto distribution (classic examples: frequency of word use, size of human settlements, distribution of Internet traffic and intensity of earthquakes).”

The Gaussian Bell Curve usually describes patterns without interacting parts. The Paretian graph describes complex systems through Power Law which is P(k) ~ k^−γ.

If you’re willing to bear with a bloggin newbie, here’s a brief introduction:

Currently, I am a grad student in international relations aiming to become an Army Officer. I’m shooting for intelligence or combat positions.

The prime focus of this blog is the concept of 4th generation warfare as well as other topics in international relations and political science. Netwar by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt provides a introduction to 21st century warfare:

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