Guest blogger Daniel Markham posts a followup to his post on The First Media War.
There have been some great books lately on how warfare is both returning to its desultory roots and evolving from Mao’s war to a decentralized trans-national threat. One buzzword is 4GW, which stands for Fourth Generation Warfare. The general idea behind all of these works is that war keeps evolving, and understanding how it is evolving is essential for winning it.
Indeed, “What war are we fighting?” seems to be a popular topic among armchair Generals, and real Generals too. In a recent article in Armed Forces Journal, Major General Bob Scales, Ret, after digging up the ghost of Clausewitz for yet another trip through the briar patch, says it’s World War IV and we need to understand what the “amplifying factors” are. Amplifiers are not “multipliers” or “enablers” in that their influence on the course of war is nonlinear rather than linear; amplifiers don’t simply accelerate the trends of the past, they make war different.
For example, World War I was a chemists’ war in that the decisive strategic advantage on the battlefield was driven in large measure by new applications of chemistry and chemical engineering. The war should have ended for the Germans in 1915 when their supplies of gunpowder nitrates exhausted. But the synthesis of nitrates by
German scientists allowed the war to continue for another three horrific years. World War II was a physicists’ war. To paraphrase Churchill, the atom bomb ended the conflict, but exploitation of the electromagnetic spectrum in the form of the wireless and radar won it for the allies. “World War III” was the “information researchers'” war, a war in which intelligence and knowledge of the enemy and the ability to fully exploit that knowledge allowed the U.S. to defeat the Soviet Union with relatively small loss of life.
So what does General Scales and the academic he quotes think is going to be the amplifier in WWIV?
…controlling amplifier will be human and biological rather than organizational or technological. From his theory we can postulate a new vision of the battlefield, one that shifts from the traditional linear construct to a battlefield that is amoebic in shape; it is distributed, dispersed, nonlinear, and essentially formless in space and unbounded in time. This war and all to follow will be what I would call “psycho-cultural” wars.
The General goes on to say that sociologists are going to be needed in the new war along with scientific psychology “Cultural psychology can teach us to better understand both common elements of human culture and how they differ. An understanding of these commonalities and differences can help gain local allies, fracture enemy subgroups, avoid conflicts among allies, promote beneficial alliances and undermine enemy alliances. ”
I think the general is on to something here. Populations and attitudes play a critical role in our next war, even if it gets a lot hotter. The goal of any war is to make the enemy stop fighting, whether that enemy is one guy on the internet or an entire national command structure. There are obviously roles that culture play, and psychology and the way people think is an important part of all of this.
In short, I think the general is so close it’s a crying shame, as we say in the south. But a war for social scientists and scientific psychology? It seems that the general would keep the Armed Forces the same, and just “smarten up” the way we select and train people, sprinkling some little buzz words from the towers of academia over them as they head off into battle.
I know I’m new to the party, and I don’t have any stars on my collar, but I beg to disagree. Close, but no banana. The general is so close — the answer is sitting right under his nose.
Is war a continuation of commerce by other means? Must we choose between “wrestling” or “politics”? Can’t it be both?
This is not the social-sciences war. Those guys couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag. This is the businessman’s war. And it’s a war for which we are overwhelmingly prepared.
Welcome to Transactional Warfare.
Transactional Warfare states that the battlefield is described by messages and options, as I posted earlier. That the side that wins is the side that, by use of options and messages causes the other side to be unable to make any sales.
Sales? That’s right. Sales. TW stipulates that the fight for ideas, for hearts and minds, for psycho-cultural values, is a fight that businessmen have been engaged with for hundreds of years. That we have evolved the tools, separate from the military, to scale a discussion from one person selling a used car to launching a complex product line in a foreign market. We can measure, plan, and fight other ideas in any culture in the world. We can integrate media, messages, options, positioning to maximum benefit. Heck, we’ve even been known to integrate low-level armed conflict into our product campaigns. This is idea warfare, meme warfare, product warfare, and it’s what we know best.
But back to definitions for a minute.
Messages that are relevant to a population can be discovered fairly easily. In business, we call these “Key Selling Points“, “Unique Selling Propositions“, “Value Statements”, or “Political Maneuvers” (one good Clausewitz deserves a Machiavelli. >) In addition, there is a strategic position for any population for any set of messages and options. This relationship of options and messages in the market can be graphed, and opportunities discovered. In fact, a similar process is used for new products that are being brought to market — the goal is to position the product in the market to the maximum degree possible.
Sample chart demonstrating for any message and its converse, various options can be plotted to show weaknesses and opportunities. Sample data only
Transactions are an exchange of economic value for a change in options and a delivery of messages. This is my column, I get to make the rules. A transaction, by this definition, can consist of a door-to-door salesmen selling vacuum cleaners. It can also consist of a laser-targeted bomb taking out a building where terrorist hide. Yes — it is wooly and it covers a lot of ground, but the new war also covers a lot of ground, if you haven’t noticed. The key concept is that every transaction in a market changes the risk of terrorism in that market.
That is, if I sell a cell phone from a street-corner in Baghdad, I have changed the risk of terrorism, to a very small degree. If I give a hundred dollars to tsunami relief, I have changed the risk of terrorism. If an Iraqi police commando team storms an insurgent hideout, the risk of terrorism changes. If the opposition party in Spain runs TV spots calling to get out of Iraq immediately, it changes the risk of terrorism — transactions are not good or bad based on how they change the immediate risk! Sometimes increasing short term risk might well be worth it in the long term, as in messages and options from the loyal opposition. But each transaction, the options it changes and the messages it sends, changes the war at a tactical level. That must be acknowledged.
In the past, we have concentrated on transactions that work at the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid — we spend money, the bomb or the solider kills you. The message is that if you capitulate, we stop sending the bombs. This seems like a clean-cut and “honest” transaction for westerners. We like the simplicity. Other cultures, however, view the concept of war in a much more nuanced light. There are all sorts of capitulation, for example. I might not openly take up arms, but do so covertly. I might not take up arms at all, but might support those who do. If we are fighting a fluid, amoebic, and “fuzzy” war, we’re going to need better tools than body counts and exchange ratios.
So what is terrorism, anyway? Isn’t it the decision by a person or persons to hurt other people? A decision to use stealth to deliberately attack civilians in order to change political realities? In effect, a “sale” has been made by the opposition. All throughout their life, this person heard messages from both sides of the debate, finally choosing where to put their money (life). Their understanding of the messages of both sides, and their understanding of what options are available to them, directly contribute to the sale.
>From a population standpoint, the risk of a single person becoming a terrorist is very similar to the risk of a single person getting cancer, or dying early, or having an accident. Insurance companies manage these risks all the time. We have plenty of tools and methodologies for measuring and managing risk in a population. Why aren’t we using them?
Each transaction changes the risks, to a small degree. If we understand that ALL transactions have this effect, and we understand that we can measure risk before and after groups of transactions, then it follows that we should group transactions together into coordinated efforts to change the risk of terrorism. We should measure, promote, and coordinate those groups of transactions that do us the most good.
I’m not trying to be mushy or soft. Killing a terrorist with a sniper is a perfectly good transaction to reduce the risk of terrorism. The larger point, however, is that we need a management and planning structure that easily scales up from transaction groups that give free water bottles to villagers to small unit tactics. We need a philosophy of warfare that encompasses fatwas as well as sneak-and -peeks. We need an integrated command, planning, execution, and measurement environment. Else everybody — all of our allies, all of our departments and agencies, all of our NGOs — goes their own way, and we loose the synergy that would otherwise be available to us.
We have some clear models for terrorism that we can use. Terrorism is a risk in the population that can be measured and tracked. We have industries and experts that know how to do this in the private sector. The marketing and sales of terrorism, (or acts of terrorism) is also a concept that we can track and plan for. We have the best experts in the world at motivating people to make decisions, and better yet, we have management and planning structures to do this. Key Selling Points can be determined and plotted against market share. Finally, opportunities can be identified and projects put together to maximize economic return in the Long War. Start-ups and new product lines each day, all over this country, are identifying holes in mind share and market share and pinpoint targeting products to go into those spots.
None of this is anything new. If you were to ask, say, Coca-Cola to sell blue soda in Pakistan, within a few weeks they could tell you who the thought leaders were in the market, where the market was strategically and tactically, where the other products were, and what overall strategy would work best. They could tell you how much money it would cost, how the media and ground campaign would come off, and what type of return they would expect. Do you think a presidential candidate tries out any new platform without an almost exact understanding of where it will move the electorate? To be more provocative, if Baghdad asked BlackWater USA, the best PR firm in the Mideast, and a civil engineering firm from Jordan (note the combination of options and messages) to secure some city in Iraq and turned them loose to do it — would that be more or less effective than what is going on now? I understand that some of this is art, but there is also much science. Moving people to action is something we in the commercial sector have been working on for centuries. And better still, we have lots of examples of it working or not working all around us.
Why not use them?