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Archive for January, 2008
Catching up on a paper that needs to be returned to an author, email and then recent comments. And then after that is finished, some light blogging.
Quentin recently asked if there are people in western militaries who are “thinking outside the square” about strategy and warfare.
It’s a good question and one that I don’t have a ready answer for. Over the last 200 years there have been a number of great thinkers, like Carl von Clausewitz, Alfred Mahan, T E Lawrence (pictured), Basil Liddell Hart, J F C Fuller, and John Boyd. They developed general theories about war or thought deeply about the nature and shape of future warfare.
There were also military officers who operationalized radical ideas and thinking. They include Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian, the German pioneers of armoured warfare, along with Orde Wingate and David Stirling, the Brits who trail-blazed the use of special forces in WW2.
These thinkers thought deeply about their subjects. Their ideas were backed by experience, or they tested and refined their ideas in the field. They tended to be outsiders and were often regarded by the military establishment as odd, unorthodox, even dangerous. Some, like Fuller and Guderian, gravitated towards experimental military areas. To paraphrase Boyd, they tended to ‘do something not be someone’.
What about today? Who are the thinkers in western militaries? In the US, John Nagl comes to mind for his work on counterinsurgency. As Zenpundit and Armchair Generalist point out, Nagl recently left the army for a job with a think tank. The British have Sir Rupert Smith, who wrote The Utility of Force after he retired from the British forces.
Other than these people, I’m struggling. Any nominations? Or are we more likely to find today’s military thinkers in universities and think tanks (e.g., Martin van Creveld and Willam Lind), in aid agencies and private military companies, in IT companies, or, heaven forbid, in the blogosphere?
Join in the discussion here.
It is generally underestimated by the public (and even academics) how powerful games – especially free-play games- can be as a tool for learning; the cognitive potential of a well-constructed and rigorously moderated game is literally immense. ( and when coupled with mass-collaboration, social-networking, MMORPG technology a level of validity might be realized that the old Prussian Grossgeneralstab or RAND apparatchiks could only have dreamed. Unfortunately, a rigged game becomes a powerfully persuasive lie, so integrity is key if gaming is to guide decision-making in the real world) A few examples:
” The gamers argued that insights arose from immersion in play. In 1956 Joseph Goldstein noted that the war game demonstrated ‘ the organic nature of complex relationships’ that daily transactions obscured.War-gaming gripped its participants, whipping up the convulsions of diplomacy ‘ more forcefully…than could be experienced through lectures or books’.”
” A team from the Social Science Division [ at RAND ] posed a number of questions which they hoped the unfoldig month of gaming would resolve. Chief among them was whether gaming could be used as a forecasting technique ‘ for sharpening our estimates of the probable consequences of policies pursued by various governments’. Would gaming spark “political inventiveness“, and more importantly, how did it compare to conventional policy analysis? Did gaming uncover problems that might otherwise be neglected? And invoking the emerging touchstone of intuition, did the experience impart to policy analysts and researchers “ a heightened sensitivity to problems of political strategy and policy consequences?”
Sharon Ghamari- Tabrizi, The Worlds of Herman Kahn [ emphasis mine]
“What we encountered, though, once our game-called Therapy, as it happens-was finished, were two remarkable things, both of which Colin Powell and Richard Duke might have told us. First, of all the professions, psychiatrists and psychologists tended to do worst at the game; secondly, the synthetic process worked even better in reverse. Playing the game expanded people’s grasp of human nature in general and their particular group’s dynamics. But even more, watching people play revealed a depth of information about them, and about the world at large, that you would ordinarily expect only from months of official therapy“
“In fact, the phrase “just a game” is a masterpiece of cognitive dissonance. Games are anything but “just” anything. They cover the gamut of human endeavor and come in every package and medium you can imagine. Last year in the United States alone, 126 million board-style games were sold for $1.14 billion; video and computer games accounted for another $5 billion. It is impossible to calculate how much people benefit from games:
* Games are primers on turn-taking, the basis of all relationships.
* They can solve major crises in industry and teach people not to pilfer pencils from the company storeroom; in fact, companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on them for that.
* They can be training grounds for legendary generals and make the difference between winning and losing wars.
* Finally, and most important, games can reopen doors into the world of pretending and childhood, reminding us of unadulterated fun, sparking creativity
Psychologically speaking, games have a knack for setting us free”
Instead of reading about games, you should be playing one 🙂
Generally, I shy away from two things here: the excessive blogospheric focus on partisan politics and the lazy open thread post. I am making a one-time exception today ( and NO it is not out of sloth -LOL!).
Having no dog in this hunt and a readership that is wider, politically speaking, than most blogs, I’m genuinely curious to know what my readers think of the candidates for president, who they favor (or abominate) and why. Or anything that reasonably relates to this general topic.
Fire at will.