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Archive for October 17th, 2006

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

EDUCATION SITUATION

Noteworthy posts on the subjects of learning, teaching and public education.

Dan of tdaxp has posted Part III., Part IV and Notes in his Learning Evolved series which in turn grew out of the prior, very interesting, series on Classroom Democracy.

Dr. Von, back from a short blogging hiatus, brings us a damning report on the state of colleges of education.

Ignorance is not bliss.

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

ON YARDSTICKS AND THEORIES

A great deal of posting on 5GW has occurred ( a new one from Tom, recently from Purpleslog, Christian Soldiers…) which brings me to the general subject of theory. Not everyone is enamored with theories or theorizing. Bruce Kesler, a friend who blogs at Democracy Project is one; a marine veteran of Vietnam, his patience for speculations that stray too far from real-world experiences is fairly short. I have heard similar views expressed from time to time at The Small Wars Council and at Military.com, which often invigorate partisans of a particular view to make their case and defend the insights a particular theory might offer. This is unsurprising as antipathy toward purely theoretical investigations is pronounced in the American character, our pragmatic bent having been observed by Alexis de Tocqueville long before the arrival of William James and John Dewey.

Nevertheless, theories are relevant and useful tools for interpreting the world in direct proportion to their reliability, validity and ease of use. The greater their explanatory power, the greater the longitudinal impact they will have on civilization. Truth has traction.

A rough and ready yardstick that I use for evaluating theoretical speculations is consiliency – how wide can the principles the theory purports to assert be applied with similar validity ? Take the late Admiral Arthur Cebrowski’s theory of Network-Centric Warfare for example. Cebrowski was primarily concerned with warfare where his theory deeply influenced U.S. military operations, but his ideas on information have obvious application to economics, sociology and business management to name just a few fields. In turn, general network theory and related concepts like resilience and complexity have so many applications across diverse fields of science, mathematics, technology and social science that my attempt to make a comprehensive list here would be futile.

So as we look at 5GW concepts, let’s see where else they might work before we adopt them as dogma in war – and be ready to discard what does not.

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

5GW EMERGENT -BUT WHAT IS IT ?

Sound and fury -and some solid thought – on the next generation of warfare:

“Attempting to visualize a Fifth Generation from where we are now is like trying to see the outlines of the Middle Ages from the vantage point of the late Roman Empire.”

- William Lind

“….fourth-generation wrfare is more than seventy years old and is reaching maturity. While we are only beginning to understand it clearly, history tells us the fifth generation has already begun to evolve”

- Colonel Thomas X. Hammes

“Things would be bad enough with just fourth generation opponents but as the research on global guerrillas has borne out, a new more dangerous generation is forming: potentially a 5th generation of warfare. Much of this new generation was derived and accelerated in cauldron of Iraq, just as the basis for 3rd generation of warfare was proved out in the Spanish Civil War”

- John Robb

” BFA suggested the institutional changes and strategic alliance choices necessary to move us beyond 4GW engagement (the Long War, as we call it now) and into what I would call 5GW shaping of the future battlespace (by locking down Asia and gaining its strategic aid in shrinking the Gap in all those places where our enemies are–to date–not yet strong, such as the entire Gap outside of the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan/Pakistan). “

- Thomas P.M. Barnett

Tom and John both had sizable posts today on 5GW, approaching phenomena of war and strategy, as they so often do, from related but opposing perspectives. Their common thread is contemplating 5GW as an event of a system with systemic effects. After that, they tend to diverge.

My own personal 5GW dream” – Thomas P.M. Barnett

Dr. Barnett is doing a lot of online horizontal thinking these days which people accustomed to his more analytical news pieces find jarring or confusing; personally, with my interest in cognition, I like to see ideas gestate. Normally, we have to wait until a writer dies and the heirs let scholars (hopefully) edit and publish the thinker’s drafts, notes and marginalia to gain insight into this process. Blogging it lets us all see the idea process in real time.

Shaping the global battlespace is the emphasis here which means the statesman, the salesman and the spy will have more longitudinal effect than the soldier. A good historical example of shaping the battlespace would be the “Present at the Creation” wise men after WWII whose work – Bretton Woods, IMF, World Bank, GATT ( todat the WTO), The Coal-Steel Community (today the EU), NATO, The Marshall Plan, the UN, Containment – won the Cold War and helped midwife globalization.

Today of course, it won’t just be governments or “wise men” but entities like Google or Microsoft and -ultimately – emergent social networks using open source platforms, who will do a significant part of the shaping. They will also ride the major flows of globalization, taking advantage of the momentum of the environment in which they operate. This is the ultimate constructive goal of grand strategy – steering a civilizaton.

THE CHANGING FACE OF WAR: Into the 5th Generation (5GW) ” by John Robb at Global Guerillas

Robb’s piece is tighter, polished and summative of his ideas. Probably the best look-see we will get on Global Guerillas until John’s new book hits the stores.

“Granularity” is a word Robb has invoked on occasion and it is a good descriptor of the major trend line in world affairs caused by Globalization, the decline of the state and the 4GW that Robb examines daily. Disintegration, devolution, reductionism to smaller actors without a corresponding proportionate loss of power. Robb has an excellent logical case that the core of Global Guerillas -open source warfare, system disruption and virtual states – comprise a generational improvement on 4GW. Certainly, an order of magnitude improvement in terms of decentralization, area of operation and strategic effect.

Either-or on these strategic visions ? No. Both at once – though the momentum at various times may tip toward creation or destruction before swinging back again. Globalization, which has eroded artificial barriers that once slowed transaction rates for capital, information, technology and people, has vastly accelerated the net rate of exchange in the global system. Dynamic systems are exactly that – dynamic – which involves continuous change even when they appear to have enduring continuity. The argument here – seen most clearly when Barnett and Robb discuss “Big Bang” system perturbations – is over how much instability is in the global system and the desirability of provoking more.

Additionally, outside of Barnett and Robb, 5GW may very well involve what Dan of tdaxp termed “ SecretWar” -an idea very much in keeping with the spirit of Sun Tzu. Steering emergent scenarios before an opposition realizes they are an opposition is far cheaper a policy than fighting after the fact. A policy of preemptive manipulation to which 4GW creates every incentive for using and which omnipresent communication networks enable.

SYSTEM PERTURBATION ADDENDUM:

For an understanding of System Perturbations, I modestly suggest the series I did in the aftermath of Tom’s first book, The Pentagon’s New Map:

HOW THE WINGS OF A BUTTERFLY CAN TURN PROUD TOWERS INTO A HOUSE OF CARDS: SYSTEM PERTURBATIONS AND PNM THEORY

GREATER THAN THE SUM OF THE PARTS?THINKING ABOUT STRATEGIC PRINCIPLES FOR A SYSTEMICALLY CONNECTED WORLD: SYSTEM PERTURBATIONS AND PNM THEORY PART II

Dr. Barnett’s Commentary on above.

MORE PNM THEORY: REVIEWING THE DELETED SCENE ON SYSTEM PERTURBATION – PART I. , PART II. , PART III., PART IV., PART V., PART VI., PART VII., PART VIII.

Dr. Barnett’s aggregator post with commentaries

ADDENDUM II.

Aherring at Dreaming 5GW -” Rule-Sets, System Perturbations and 5GW


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