Military Science


The dynamics of particular classes of war may be universal. In a guerrilla war, the guerrillas tend to organize and fight in a specific pattern. This contradicts olders studies which emphasis cultural or ideological differences.

Guerrillas create social networks that self-organize into attack squads of different strengths. Cells can merge together to form larger attack groups and they can fragment and disperse.

Neil F. Johnson measured the casualties per attack in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia and discovered a power-law coefficient of 2.5. This graphs out the causualty patterns within a war. The full article is here:
Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism
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Politics follow a “Boom and Bust” pattern with an experimentation stage, an elimination stage, and a standardization stage. There are situations where conflicts of interest emerge that block cooperation. Factions compete for control, employ political violence, ending in victory for one faction over the others.

This places the idea of warfare within the context of political evolution.
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Tigerhawk discusses the coercion and intelligence dilemma.

There is a tradeoff between intelligence and firepower. The less intelligence a counterinsurgent has, the more coercion he must use. Greater intelligence allows surgical use of force that kills more insurgents and fewer non-combatants. Restoring law and order to a warzone gains greater cooperation, because local populations respond negatively to arbitrary violence.
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Robert Aumann describes why calls for peace result in greater warfare.

Calls for peace signal weakness. A pro-war party will become more aggressive, knowing that the pro-peace party will back down. Robert Aumann is a Nobel-prize winning game theorist, if you are not familiar with him.

He advises Israel to show greater commitment in the face of its adversaries.
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Clausewitz’s idea of culminating points of attack and of victory are important but abstract theories in military science. This is also called the “tipping point.”

Every offensive operation will reach a point where there attacker’s strength no longer outweighs the defender. After this point, the attacker’s strength declines and they become more vulnerable to over-extension and defeat. Commanders must recognize this critical point and change strategies accordingly.
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Max Abrams’ empirical study of terrorism shows that it is ineffective at changing the target government’s policies.

He analyzes 28 Foreign Terrorist Organizations and the outcomes of their campaigns. The terrorist organizations only accomplished 7% of their goals.
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Grim Beorn at BlackFive offers a useful way to comprehend counterinsurgency strategies. He uses a Gravity analogy to describe COIN operations.

Ten minutes, and you’ll both understand how the Global insurgency works, and how to fight it — even in those times and places when we have no combat troops to devote to working it.

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Phillip Killicoat did an economic cross-country analysis of the AK-47 small arms market over time.

There are an estimated 75million AK-47 assault rifles on the global market. There are roughly 25million more AK-74 and other Kalashnikov weapons. The elastic supply means that the arms market easily responds to surges in demand when states fall into civil war.
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Thomas Schelling won a noble prize for his work on commitment and game theory. Commitment raises the strategy’s effectiveness in a game because all players understand that the player will not deter from the strategy.

An agent strengthens its position by deliberately worsening its own alternatives. You burn your bridges.
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During the Middle Ages, Knights in training were required to play Chess in addition to conventional education and arms training.

Chess actually does teach an individual a lot about decision-making.
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Satellite imagery has improved US military recon for decades. Unfortunately, the intelligence agencies in charge of government satellites are disconnected from the the soldiers and marines on the ground. A captain of a Marine company wants immediate satellite images of a region, but he has to run through weeks of bureaucratic hoops to get the images when his mission is tomorrow. So he opens his laptop, uses Google Earth and gets the images in 10 minutes.

Al-Qaeda googles too.
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The Dragon Skin weighs too much. And it may not work.

A well trained man can carry 70-80 pounds worth of armor, weapons, and equipment for several hours of combat. The weight slows them down and exhausts them over time. The number never changed, whether we look at the Ancient Greeks and Romans, or modern American soldiers.
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This is interesting recreation of Hoplite combat using agent-based modeling.  An important rule to remember is that the individual is the supreme decision maker, yet this does not rule out complex patterns of behavior.

Hoplites fought in massed formation, but the formation does not act like a unitary mind – even with a great general. It displays results that stem from a large number of individuals.
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The cultural tradition of combat plays a role in defining a society’s concept of war. The environment and the society’s political, economic, and cultural systems unite to create an engine of warfare.

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LTC David Kilcullen describes a part of the Iraq COIN strategy as an “urban tourniquet.” Walling off neighborhoods can reduce violence between sectors by reducing insurgent mobility. This functions like a tourniquet to slow blood loss.
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Epstein, Parket, and Steinbruner created a simple game to model revolutionary behavior.

Agent-based modeling assumes that individuals are driven by a sets of simple choices. This could be managing scarce resources or deciding to revolt against the government. A large number of individuals making these small choices in a dynamic game create emergent and complex results.

Abstract:

This working paper presents an agent-based computational model of civil violence. We present two variants of the Civil Violence Model. In the first, a central authority seeks to suppress decentralized rebellion. In the second, a central authority seeks to suppress communal violence between two warring ethnic groups.

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Applied Mathematics can help up visualize complex patterns by reducing them to core elements.

So in a hypothetical insurgency, there are 5 categories of players with their order of preferences. This models two choices – Negotiate or Fight. Each has a “win-lose” utility value.
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A Youth Bulge is when military age males, 15-30 make up at least 20% or more of the population. The greater their percentage of the population, the more likely war follows. Right now, there are youth bulges in the Middle East, Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Arab world is just starting to shake from the pressures of a youth bulge. 65% of the population is under age 25. As the children become men, the fun begins.
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Attrition does not just kill men. It destroys skills.  Military organizations can regenerate losses in terms of manpower but they have far greater difficulty in regenerating skill.

Managing and using skills poses a series of tradeoffs that have long-term effects.  In World War II, the Japanese believed the best way to use aces was to kill American pilots. Americans believed the best way to use aces was to train more American pilots. The result was the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.

To get straight to the point, attrition has an impact in the current war. Bluntly, moron terrorists replace elite terrorists.
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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.

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