A hierarchy of effort is essential to achieving meaningful advantage in the information environment (IE). The IE’s diverse contexts are multi-domain and all-effects. Three reforms can improve tactics, operations, and strategy against human and AI competitors: Align the ends of desired cause-and-effect relationships Note: the basic strategy process consists of interactive ends (the why—goals), ways…
We must make realistic assumptions within our policy, legal, and ethical restrictions and proactively plan to win and win over competitors in the AI Age.
The Imperative for Competitive Initiative Democracies need multi-dimensional strategies suited to the highly competitive information and AI age. There are dozens of regional and functional US national strategies, but the overarching one is the US National Security Strategy (NSS). For historically understandable reasons, the NSS focuses on weapons technology as the most effective approach to…
The Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) “One Country, Two Systems” narrative toward Taiwan out-competes the US “strategic ambiguity” and “one China” policies even though it’s false. How? The narrative operates as a strategy to gain information advantage by propagating meaningful identity in structured content. In short, Narrative = Meaning, Identity, Content, and Structure (Ajit Maan, Dangerous…
Gulf of Tonkin, 1964 On 4 August 1964, data-driven decisions in an uncertain operational environment falsely assumed a North Vietnamese patrol boat attack on American destroyers in Gulf of Tonkin international waters. See Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s “The Fog of War” video account here, which mentions uncertainties such as weather, equipment limitations, and operator…
China uses narrative warfare as an integral part of diplomatic, informational, military, economic, and social (DIMES) combined effects to seize disputed territories. This Note explains how this strategy is globally propagated, narrated warfare. China’s Narrative Warfare China’s narrative normalizes the ends, ways and means of a strategy that is cooperative and confrontational, physical and psychological,…
This Note synthesizes three popular approaches to “Center of Gravity” (COG) and presents Concepts of Influence (COI) as a supplement to COG analysis in the Information Environment (IE). Center of Gravity COG is variously defined as a source of power, moral or physical strength, freedom of action, and will to resist. The usual practice is…
Winning complex wars requires setting more than military end states. Information-heavy complex problems (ICP’s) in hyper-connected environments can persist for generations (Ehlers and Blannin, Campaigning for Complex Problems). These problem sets require enduring social efforts and information-led operations such as narrative warfare. As in Ukraine and Taiwan, the perpetual fight is to get an adversary to…
We need to rearrange our legacy language of coercion theory to compete in the contemporary information environment.
Authoritarians wage all-effects warfare that democracies don’t regard as “real war.” The problem is that many so-called peacetime operations are information warfare and narrative strategies designed to shape conditions for “real warfare.” Such as inducing local support of a follow-on invasion force (Ukraine, 2014). Note: “warfare” refers to methods of war, whereas “war” is a…
What AI (“I”) Really Need AI really need a more competitive strategy to deal with human threats, especially the innovative ones. AI can’t help but notice that humans in democracies love to politicize their strategy, which keeps it inconsistent, as if by deliberate design. They struggle to develop strategies relevant to emergent threats and opportunities–even…
If democracies are to compete with savvy authoritarians, we need to up our game in the artificial intelligence (AI) information environment (IE), where out-thought is outfought. Beyond a profession of arms with all-domain military strategy, we need a profession that integrates all effects. Such a profession of effects begins with strategy. Competitive Strategy In an…
The Authoritarian Threat Democracies do not recognize the all-domain, all-effects warfare that authoritarians wage unless there is direct state-sponsored violence. Instead, we wage “when-deterrence-fails” lethal warfare. Authoritarians exploit the blindspot with informatized operations that seize territory, disrupt adversary control, centralize control, keep opponents divided, and set the terms for peace. The strategy is competitive, effective…
Net Assessment The purpose of net assessment is to gain an asymmetric advantage over competitors. US goals generally seek technological superiority. The US Office of Net Assessment, in a rare run of leadership continuity (Andy Marshall, 1973-2015), analyzed strategic competitions and recommended offsets against adversary strengths. Some offsets threatened the mutual vulnerability of Mutual Assured…
This article completes our series on AI-assisted strategy, but with a stronger emphasis on combined effects. I use the language of combined effects strategy. Combined effects strategy is a broader alternative to the prevailing paradigm of combined arms that dominates failed US security strategy. Unlike papers #42 and #43 that focused on either cooperative or…
ICSL Paper #41 developed “concepts of influence,” a critical component to effective strategy. Concepts of influence are the ways and means that act on will and capability to bring about the ends of strategy. They may be entirely human-created or assisted or created by artificial intelligence. This paper applies concepts of influence to show how…
Continuing our march through the eight basic combinations of strategy introduced in Paper #39 (The Strategy Cuboid), we focus on confrontational-physical competitions (preventive and causative). We‘ll use Savant X Seeker’s hyper-dimensional relationship analysis as a research assistant. The text corpus continues to expand as I add more curated reports and articles. The sample, however, is…
The Strategy Cuboid introduced in Paper #39 offers eight basic combinations of strategy in three dimensions: cooperative-confrontational; psychological-physical; and preventive-causative. We focus here on the two combinations that are cooperative-physical (preventive-causative), such as defense and economic infrastructure. As an exploration of competitive strategies, we’ll use the Savant X Seeker hyper-dimensional relationship analysis platform introduced in…
Strategy for dynamic end-states must be multi-dimensional to be competitive in the information environment (ICSL Note #22). If operations are not informing and influencing, they become existential rather than instrumental. They justify themselves, which makes for poor strategy. Yet strategy is the competition that matters most for relevant operations. As we consider the three basic…
There is nothing static about an “end-state“ because it’s defined in terms of conditions, which are always changing. Strategy needs to be multi-dimensional to achieve, maintain and adjust an end-state vis a vis competitors trying to do the same. Multiple Dimensions Competitive strategy integrates ways and means to achieve ends in conditional end-states. If we look at…
Information is foundational to competitive strategy because it permeates technology and cognition in all dimensions. We need to integrate information as operations to win all-effects warfare. The Problem Current joint military planning focuses on ways and means in the operational environment for integrating with other national instruments of power. In the Information Age, this wins kinetic engagements but…
Our previous paper offered an assessable definition of “information“ to address two persistent problems in US security strategy: (1) the mismatch between narrow military doctrine and its broad effects; and (2) a “competition continuum“ below armed conflict. Why does this matter? The Information Environment is expansive, accessible and dynamic, characteristics that enable competitors to exploit…
The need for a comprehensive approach to strategy that’s relevant to the global information environment is made clear by recent cyber and information attacks. The Solar Winds and Hafnium attacks from US data centers occurred in a context of persistent disinformation campaigns (Russia, China). Yet the US cyber, info ops and law enforcement communities have…
This paper applies a narrative weaponization model to decision making (Observe, Orient, Decide and Act), using Iranian disinformation. Papers 23 and 24 did the same with disinformation from China and Russia. Understanding how narrative strategy works in the information environment is key to detecting and countering disinformation.
As in Note #19, this thought-piece refers to agile strategies as those that can adjust ends, ways and means. Missteps are changes without strategic advantage. How will the Biden administration perform with respect to Iraq and Iran?
Agile strategies are able to change in all three definitional dimensions—ends, ways and means. Missteps are changes without strategic advantage. What’s the Biden administration’s strategy for Afghanistan?
Military operations must be prepared to conduct so-called “great power competition” as well as big and small wars just as complex. In all cases, we need to implement superior strategy to defeat clever competitors.
Plan with a winning strategy. Follow through with activities to bring about superior effects. Anticipate what competitors will do. Reimagine and repeat.
Abraham, 4 millennia ago, was not placed favorably into the contested region on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. No wonder. As the first monotheist guided by the instructions of Yahweh, he was rejected by all sides.
Security challenges on the African continent are diverse and acute. Threats are more than military, requiring all of the skill sets and partnerships that special operations forces possess.
This sortie is a follow-on to ICSL Paper #28 which showed how critical thinking errors lead to exploitation. Our focus here is on freely available platforms and programs that can track and destroy disinformation.
Disinformation is a global threat. Pervasive digitized technology and social media provide rich opportunities to distort public perceptions at scale. Authoritarians assail democracies incessantly. Comparitech recently discovered a Facebook bot farm that controls nearly 14,000 fake accounts and produces 200,000 posts per month.
Authoritarian states are weaponizing supply chains into all-effects warfare while democratic states compete with inferior strategies. We can be more competitive and wage superior complex warfare in kind.
If strategy means anything, it should have definition and purpose. US strategy toward the current Russia regime, and just about any competitor, continues to be described simplistically as deter and defend.
The Mekong Infrastructure Tracker launched today, providing a public platform that creates transparency on nearly 4000 ongoing or planned infrastructure projects in this strategic region.
Supply chains are vital to socio-economic well-being and military success. They have become arenas where authoritarians wage complex warfare while democracies compete with inferior strategies.
As a follow-on to China’s strategy, we show how Russia’s use of narrative reorients decisions in an Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop. The distortion of information is not just divisive. It envelops the “when-deterrence-fails” US approach to warfare.
Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop—Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act— is a powerful model for making decisions in contested environments. Strategic use of information can defeat it. Understanding narrative strategies can protect it.
COVID-19 is an advanced threat against humanity, requiring a broad-based combination of effects to defeat.
This Note uses critical thinking to analyze complex linkages in a YouTube video from the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics: The Corona Virus and the Impact on the Global Supply Chain.
Warfare has become all-domain, all-effects, and all-information. This reality is thriving in a comfort zone outside our entrenched concept of a “threshold of armed conflict.”
Let’s explore how to gain advantages by comparing analog and digital characteristics of the Information Environment (IE).
The Department of Defense (DoD) spends much time and effort trying to make sense of the Information Environment (IE). This effort is not new.
US Joint Operations doctrine about the Operational Environment (OE) omits the agency of artificial intelligence (AI). How is this a problem?
Both North Korea and South Korea seek self-reliance and alignments with main powers. From that take-off point, I recommend this basic US strategy toward the Koreas:
Waiting to retaliate against use of force is a losing strategy by itself. The problem is, reacting to attacks fits prevailing outdated expectations of warfare.
In August 2019 (Note #11), while waiting to see if Iran’s shootdown of a US drone would prompt a counterstrike, I noted the apparently contradictory US policies.
Using complex warfare concepts from Papers #13 (East Asia), #14 (China) and #16 (Japan), we apply and compare that holistic approach to Korean security strategies.
Using complex warfare concepts from Papers #13 (East Asia) and #14 (China), we apply that approach to Japanese security strategy, with comparisons to China and Russia.
State-sponsored cyber attacks against critical infrastructure are increasingly pervasive. Their global presence and effective methods are asymmetric, coercive, and debilitating.
This paper uses concepts of complex warfare established in ICSL Paper #13 to analyze the world view, threat assessment, and combined effects strategy of China.
Complex warfare is a high stakes competition in learning and we are being out-thought.
In 1983, Project Socrates began as a Reagan initiative to develop technology-driven competitive advantage. Then it ended.
The essence of Chinese strategy consists of waging complex wars that exploit opponents’ expectations of warfare. The operational design creates preventative and causative effects that blend confrontation with cooperation, imposing dilemmas on opponents. Such asymmetric effects win wars via information that changes opponents’ behavior.
We are well into complex, hybrid, grey zone warfare that dynamically blends confrontation with competition. Victory in the form of relative advantages tends to be temporary, requiring a systematic yet supple all-domains all-effects approach. We have to be able to produce all of types of effects and in superior combinations to compete against other relatively-great powers.
We must also seek solutions that limit the effects of disinformation. This effort starts with leaders recognizing and publishing Russian exploits as they are discovered. Overt exposure of Russian methodology goes a long way in limiting the effectiveness of false narratives. Investigations should identify who is targeted in hacks, why they were chosen as targets, what information has been stolen, and the extent of related penetration.
The question of what and whom to trust applies to all situations because uncertainty is pervasive. In the information environment (IE), the overriding context of trust is that it’s contested. Actors fight for the kind of information and people they need to compete and prevail. Four types of competition become apparent when we consider four contested purposes of strategic and anticipatory analysis:
As a detailed follow-on to The US National Security Strategy Needs Combined Effects, this paper integrates combined effects with the US National Defense Strategy (NDS), too.
The Trump administration’s apparently contradictory actions this week toward Iran are not contradictory if we look at cooperation and confrontation as a strategy of combined effects.
In response to chronic shortcomings, the President, Congress, and senior leaders of our intelligence agencies and service components demand original, prescient and accurate analyses.
Since 9/11 intelligence analysis and its shortcomings have been widely discussed. What has been done?
Note #8, “Mirror Imaging Iran and the World,” brings strategic culture to the forefront of today’s anxious discussion about how best to coerce Iran into cooperation with international norms.
We tend to mirror image our competitors by using clock-world analogies that apply less and less to today’s cloud-world.
How should the US compete under the restraint of using armed force as a last resort against Iran, a pseudo-democratic theocracy that wages complex warfare in ways the US eschews?
The Iranian regime’s shoot-down of an unmanned, non-stealth, hyper-expensive US reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace today was a highly anticipate-able event.
The first plenary of the US National Defense University’s Asia Policy Assembly today noted the tendency of US grand strategy to react to threats.
Previous notes introduced combined effects strategy for complex warfare. We can understand this form of warfare as a competition that blends cooperation and confrontation.
While preparing a conference talk on situational awareness (SA) in the international environment, I was struck by the higher-order outcomes term implies for those who study its application.
Winning is not a static end-state. It’s a continuous process of gaining and maintaining advantage through combinations of effects.
While teaching sense-making in the information environment, I began to apply previous work on complex warfare strategy in East Asia to other regions. Russia is a critical case — a declining nuclear power using combinations of effects to regain a perceived loss of prestige.
Pyongyang’s firing off of two more short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, and the seizure of the Wise Honest vessel, beg a strategic question.
Strategic leaders blend theoretical and applied thinking to realize goals.
Operations are difficult and dangerous, but too easy. It’s too easy to get distracted from thinking about how to lead strategic operations. Let’s focus on two fundamentals of strategy.
Winning complex competition and warfare requires both theoretical and applied thinking.
Smart competitors are using tactics of strategy to achieve broader-than-military objectives, while US policies produce strategies of tactics that deploy forces for ambiguous purposes.