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Archive for April, 2009

Chet Richards: Review of The Scientific Way of Warfare

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Dr. Chet Richards has a methodical review up at DNI on Antoine Bousquet’s new book The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity:

The Scientific Way of Warfare

….Bousquet opens with and ultimately answers the question of “does network-centric warfare (NCW) work?” To reach his conclusion, he proposes four “regimes” in the application of science to modern warfare:

  1. Mechanism, whose “key technology” was the clock, whose scientific framework was Newtonian, and whose military format was what we’d call first generation warfare — line, column, conformance, regularity
  2. Thermodynamics, characterized by engines, whose framework included entropy, energy, and probability, and whose military paradigm was 2GW (Bousquet does not use the generations of war model)
  3. Cybernetics — computers — whose scientific concepts included “negentropy,” negative feedback, homeostasis and whose military model would be modern 2GW, with heavy top-down, real time command and control
  4. Chaoplexity, where networks reign, whose framework is built upon the new sciences of non-linearity, complexity, chaos, and self-organization, and where warfare is conducted by decentralized cells, teams, or swarms — what we would call both 3GW and 4GW (p. 30)

Subsequent chapters take the reader on a tour of these ideas in turn, exploring their evolution as scientific patterns and their influence on the warfare of their, and subsequent, eras. So the chapter on mechanistic warfare introduces Vauban, close-order drill, and culminates in Frederick the Great’s Clockwork Army. The next chapter, Thermodynamic Warfare, concludes with Clausewitz, which is a stretch, of course, since the great Prussian died in 1831, some 20 years before the first publications in that discipline. But with liberal interpretation of the massive text of On War, passages can be found that seem like precursors of the Second Law. Bousquet does point out that these interpretations were not made in Clausewitz’s day but were retrofitted by later analysts and generals, including as he also notes, John Boyd.

Read the rest here. Good stuff!

Book Review: Paul Cartledge’s Alexander the Great

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

” …he was one of the most extraordinary individuals to have ever walked the earth. He above all others deserves to be called, “the Great’.”

Alexander the Great by Paul Cartledge

Cambridge classicist Paul Cartledge has the rarest of talents among professional historians – the ability to write books that simultaneously appeal to academics and popular audiences alike. Alexander the Great has his trademark “concise depth” that Cartledge also brought to bear in The Spartans and later to Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World; there is enough historiographic “meat” for the scholar and the casual student of history or of war will enjoy Cartledge’s depiction of Alexander as a “ruthless pragmatist”, engaging in calculated gestures of epic magnaminity and brutal murder of his closest comrades in arms with equal certitude. One who, despite his mysticism and growing tyranny, had imperial ambitions that “….can symbolize peaceful, multi-ethnic coexistence”.

Cartledge, despite the above quotation, is not an Alexander-worshipper but a realist or a mild skeptic, rejecting hyperbole and hidden agendas in the ancient sources, which he discusses in detail, along with the more extreme portraits painted of Alexander by modern historians, such as “…the titantic and Fuhrer-like Alexander of Fritz Schachmeyer“. Cartledge’s Alexander is a military genius and an inspirational visionary to be sure, but his icy ruthlessness of calculated murder of potential opponents and superannuated followers like Callisthenes or Parmenion is never far away. Cartledge uses the term “purges” several times in the text and it is appropriate; Alexander, with his suspicions aroused, had the same irrevocable instinct for savage reprisal as did Joseph Stalin. Alexander running through Cleitus the Black with a spear in the midst of a banquet, a man who had saved Alexander’s life, or who ordered the destruction of Thebes was the same Alexander who honored the religions and customs of his conquered subjects and tried to build his Overlordship of Asia on a fusion of Pan-Hellenism and ancient Persia:

“Alexander’s importation and integration of oriental troops into the Macedonian army was a crucial and controversial issue. by the end of 328 he had units of Sogdian and bactrian cavalry, so presumably he was drawing also upon the excellent cavalry of western and central Iran. In 327 he recruited more than thirty thousand young Iranians. Since Greek was to be the lingua franca of the new Empire, replacing the use of the Achaemenids use of Aramaic, he arranged for them to be taught the Greek language as well as the demonstrably supeior Macedonian infantry tactics. when they arrived at Susa in 324, he hailed them as ‘ successors’ – to the Macedonian soldiers understandable consternation” [ 204 ]

Cartledge discusses Alexander’s generalship and his abilities as an adaptive military innovator, building on a his father Philip’s original military reforms or improvising when faced with unexpected difficulties at river crossing or in siege warfare. He misses though an opportunity to explain the dreadful effectiveness in Alexander’s hands of the Macedonian phalanx, a more heavily armed, lightly armored, mobile and deadly version of the original Greek Hoplite formation.  While Alexander and his cavalry garnered most of the glory, the ordinary Macedonian phalanx cut through Persian ranks like an implacable meat grinder, mowing down enormous numbers of the enemy and trodding their dead and dying bodies underfoot. Understandably though, this is a biography of Alexander and not a history of his wars but the real scale of the slaughter Alexander inflicted is given far less attention than the skill with which he inflicted it, or his political and religious policies that came in their wake.

Alexander’s religious sentiments and his mysticism, which spilled over in to his political vision for Asia and for himself as a semi-divine ruler are given much consideration by Cartledge, ranging from his at a distance dealings with subject state Athens, to his “contracting” a relationship with the Egyptian god Ammon, to his ideation with Achilles as a model for himself.  There appears to have been something of a feedback loop between Alexander’s military acheivments, which were truly superhuman, and his growing religious superstitions, both of which fed a kind of megalomania according to Cartledge, and led to Alexander’s unsuccessful demand that his Greek and Macedonian soldiers adopt proskynesis in the Persian style. A more or less blasphemous act of hubris ( though not quite absolutely, as Cartledge explains, given the precedent of the deification of Lysander) that led to a break between Alexander and his most loyal followers. This craving for divinity later was expanded posthumously to fabulous extremes in the traditions of the Alexander Romance, where Alexander the Great becomes a symbolic and heavily mythologized figure for dozens of peoples and regimes. Alexander himself began cultivating the myths.

Cartledge has done an excellent job demystifying one of the archetypal figures of Western history, the man whom other would-be world conquerors had to measure themselves against – reportedly, Julius Caesar wept in despair because Alexander’s glory was beyond his reach. He has also brought out the extent to which Alexander saw himself not as a Westerner, or a Hellene, but as a bridge to the East, a synthesizer of civilizations.

Government 2.0 and National Security

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Dr. Mark Drapeau and Dr. Linton Wells II in a National Defense University paper:

Social Software and National Security: An Initial Net Assessment (PDF)

….We have approached this research paper as an initial net assessment of how social software interacts with government and security in the broadest sense.1 The analysis looks at both sides of what once might have been called a “blue-red” balance to investigate how social software is being used (or could be used) by not only the United States and its allies, but also by adversaries and other counterparties. We have considered how incorporation of social software into U.S. Government (USG) missions is likely to be affected by different agencies, layers of bureaucracy within agencies, and various laws, policies, rules, and regulations. Finally, we take a preliminary look at questions like: How should the Department of Defense (DOD) use social software in all aspects of day-to-day operations? How will the evolution of using social software by nations and other entities within the global political, social, cultural, and ideological ecosystem influence the use of it by DOD? How might DOD be affected if it does not adopt social software into operations?

Saw this a day or two ago. Just finished reading the intro. Read the rest here.

What is it About….

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Being a wingnut after an election victory that eventually causes acute moral retardation?  She sounded a whole lot like Mel Gibson’s father talking about “the Jews”.

Blogfriends on the Make

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Galrahn of Information Dissemination was interviewed by James Joyner and Dave Schuler at OTB Radio. The interview is approximately an hour. 

OTB Radio – Tonight at 7 Eastern 

As usual, Dave Schuler will co-host.  We’ll be joined tonight by Raymond Pritchett, who blogs under the pseudonym Galrahn at Information Dissemination and the United States Naval Institute Blog.  We’ll talk about the Somali pirates, the state of the U.S. Navy, and the Tea Party Protests.


Tom Barnett has a muscular op-ed piece up in Esquire Magazine that is making some waves:

Inside the War Against Robert Gates

….When it came to selling that paradigm shift, Gates didn’t need to convince the military itself – the ascendant Army and Marine corps have suffered enough casualties to have learned it the hard way. And quite honestly, Gates needn’t worry about the defense industry’s willingness to follow the money, because Lockheed Martin and L-3 have been snatching up enough blue-chip companies to prove they can spot the Pentagon’s future funding spigots.

Turns out you can find Gates’s biggest antagonists in the halls of Congress, where the battle cry of “Jobs, jobs, jobs!” echoes the military’s growing embrace of funding for the manpower that’ll keep this counter-insurgency movement as successful as it’s become. So even amidst all this fighting and dying – neither of which is likely to slow down any time soon – the American military’s newest struggle seems to come down to one question: whose economic stabilization package matters more?

Read the rest here.

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