Military Science


I’m off to Basic and Officer Candidate School. To friends and family who read this, thanks.
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Austin Bay describes the important role of intel in avoiding surprise attacks.

Intelligence is an art — a grand, interpretive collusion of linguistics, geography, mathematics, history, theology, psychology, physics, metaphysics and every other human means of analysis and explanation…

A Schwerpunkt is a focal point, or a center of gravity. This is the “hub of all power and movement” which you must strike to knock the enemy off balance.

So imagine two wrestlers grappling with each other on the floor. They may be doing many things at once, but they primarily exert their physical force upon a single focal point to pin down the opponent. This is a dynamic struggle as each tries to neutralize the other wrestler’s force. They demonstrate an ability to rapidly change focal points to overcome the other wrestler.
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Alan D. Beyerchen essay on Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War, is one of the best analyses of Clausewitz I’ve seen. Friction, the Trinity, and the open political system of war create the non-linear dynamics.

Many of his subsequent critics never understood this, and force linear interpretations on Clausewitz’ theory. Clausewitz’s rejection of geometric and linear mathematical models of war are often ignored.
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Most murder victims are criminals, not random innocents. In Baltimore 91% of murder victims were criminals. Other cities collected similar statistics.

Most crimes are not random or pointless. Most criminal activity is a violent competitive business – like gangs running drug operations.
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OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. Commanders have limited information and limited time in their decision-making process. Col. John Boyd describes a dynamic decision-making (pdf) to outperform your enemies.

OODA is designed to overcome wicked problems relating to friction and enemy action.
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Before we get carried away with a wave of “power-laws here there and everywhere!” craziness, we have to stop and test our conjectures. Here’s one paper that tests a large number of conjectures: Power-law distributions in empirical data

Sometimes the data tricks you by creating an illusion of a power-law distribution. This could be the result of incomplete or biased samples, or different mechanisms which produce something that superficially looks like an self-organized power-law but is just random.
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Hot Spot mapping uses spatial autocorrelations to identify criminal behavior in a city or other region. Traditional mapping plots the frequency of events and location and uses this to extrapolate probability trends. That does not quite work well, because crime spreads like forest fires. Criminals adapt and change their behavior. Hot spot mapping takes this into account.

The basic idea is that individuals do not make their decisions independently of one another. They act according to changing information in their environment, so their behavior is interrelated. As an analogy, humans are like ants in an ant colony, interacting, exchanging information, and displaying “swarm” behavior.
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An constant empirical pattern in the world is the cycle of intense warfare at regular intervals. The average interval of war between Great Powers is 34 years. The frequency of intense warfare is distributed according to a power law. In between intense wars are more frequent minor wars.

The cycles of warfare are strongly correlated to economic cycles.
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Wars follow a power law with a scaling parameter of 2.5

More specifically, the casualty rates of all wars follow a power law, as do the casualty rates within individual wars. Terrorist attacks, likewise, follow the same powerlaw. Different cultures have no impact on these mathematical patterns.

This is useful information, at least in judging the probability of casualties. The intensity of warfare is inversely proportional to its frequency. More importantly, this is the starting point for discovering the mechanisms that lay behind warfare in international relations. War can potentially be viewed as “self-organizing criticality.” It is similar to natural phenomenons like forest fires or economic patterns like urbanization.
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One of Clausewitz’s most famous statements is that “war is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse, with a mixture of other means.” The concept of warfare describes the rational purpose of a war.

An important point is the meaning of politics. It is not “policy” in the sense of abstract government decisions. Politics is the total sum of human social interaction. It is the way groups make decision relating to each other and their environment. It includes government, culture, economics and other aspects. War is the use of coercion to achieve political goals and it cannot be separated from the political causes and ends.
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The world “Ally” carries a positive connotation that blinds our rational evaluation of its actual value. We presume that allies must share the same interests and goals as us and will stand by our side in times of need. Some think of allies as friends.

Now, what if I told you that your allies will abandon you in a war about 75% of the time?
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Crimestat is a spatial statistics program that analyzes the location of criminal incidents.

This is the type of software used by police, military intelligence and marketers. It measures the frequency and probability of events from a set of data. Why software? Because doing the math by hand then mapping it out is extraordinarily painful and time consuming. Computers have perfect memory and perfect calculation.
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One of the most important ideas in war is the concept of the Trinity. The Trinity consists of three elements: the rational, the irrational, and non-rational and their interactions. The psychological and environmental factors create the non-linear and unpredictable effects of war.

Clausewitz described war “like an object suspended among three magnets.” This kind of pendulum is non-linear – it never repeats the same pattern. No one element dominates over the other although they may vary in proportion. The forces interact and blend together creating chaos.
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The concept of a “Strategic Corporal” is vital to understanding counterinsurgency. In these types of wars, action becomes highly decentralized. Leadership is provided by tactical teams led by the lowest ranking NCOs and officers.

The Strategic Corporal rests on the notion of military virtue which extends to the lowest ranks of enlisted soldiers. Military Virtue is not “mere bravery” as Clausewitz said. This virtue is harder to describe in the abstract but is easily witnessed. It includes skill at arms, morale, discipline, honor, bravery, and esprit de corps. It combines all virtuous elements into a cohesive unit which is more skilled than the mere sum of its parts.
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The intel war against IEDs continues. Intel relies on data mining and quantitative analysis to map out IED cells and probable IED locations. They are growing more skilled and using more computer models. The limitation is not the lack of intel, but the overabundance of it. It overwhelms any individual’s ability to recognize patterns and probability. That’s where data mining software steps in.
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Democracies are describes as having three virtues: Freedom, Prosperity and Peace. Democracies have a fourth virtue that most people remain silent about. It is not polite to say it outloud.

Democracies win wars. They are very belligerent states too.
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Beliefs are based on probabilistic information.  Bayes Theorem says that our intial beliefs are updated to to posterior beliefs after observing new conditions.

This is highly subjective, and is somewhat controversial compared to more objective probability theories in statistics. Bayes Rule states that our initial beliefs have a high margin of error. As we observe more conditional events, we grow more certain of the probability. This is the tool we use to measure incomplete knowledge and uncertainty. It’s part of the inductive process of learning.

I simply want to make the point that Intelligence analysis uses Bayes’ Theorem and is very subjective. I hope to clarify the some misunderstandings about how probability estimates are determined. The results are often very counterintuitive.
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Miltiades’ Speech before the battle of Marathon is a significant event for ancient Greek history. The Persians landed an invasion force which threatened all of Greece. Athens faced the choice to submit to Persian rule or fight. The Athenians were outnumbered. Their allies did not contribute forces. And even if the Athenians won the battle at Marathon, subsequent Persian invasions could have destroyed Athens.

The Athenian generals held a vote to decide on their course of action. According to Herodotus, the vote was split evenly. Half of the generals decided to fight at Marathon, and half decided against. Miltiades gave a speech to win over the cautious generals by arguing that their strategy was actually riskier.
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 The severity of terrorist attacks follows a power-law distribution.

The writers used the MIPT Terrorism Database. Between 1968 and 2004, there were 19,907 terrorist attacks resulting in 7,088 attacks that killed at least one person. They compared the frequency and severity of the attacks and discovered a universal pattern.
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