Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Go to Anticipatory Retaliation and read a fantastic prolegomena on the nature of war. It promises to blossom into a magnum opus. Some meat to whet the appetite:

It's generally pretty common for things to have a beginning -- presumably so we know where to stick the middle and end parts. Warfare, being a relatively large and complex subject, deciding where to put all the parts is pretty important, particularly if one intends for explanations to make any sense. The problem arises with the notion that things, especially large and complex ones, don't necessarily have their own beginnings, middles, and ends -- or at least ones we might immediately recognize. So, the problem then becomes less a matter of how to order something properly, but rather how to impose a roughly arbitrary order, and hope in so doing patterns about the underlying phenomena are revealed. Which is pretty much what I think I'm trying to do here. For those of a geekish bent, I guess writing about something like this is kind of like X-ray Crystallography, Tensor Mechanics, or Plato's Allegory of the Cave. So, I've been thinking about what kind of light to shine on the subject of war in order to see what shadows it casts so we can deduce the fundamental nature of the thing itself.

Thus, I've decided on a beginning, a source of illumination, as it were, we'll just have to see what middles and ends seem to fit and take it from there. And that beginning is the difference between order and disorder. That relationship is a lot more complex and pervasive than most people really think about on a daily basis. Sort of like economics or something.

Order is particularly important in the operation of systems, and as any systems engineer (particularly those who relish getting paid exorbitant consulting fees) will tell you, just about everything is a system. This has a couple of interesting implications, which we might want to touch on briefly.

The more literary souls out there might note that none of this speaks directly to the whys and mysterious corners of men's hearts that make them incinerate Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Interestingly enough, the relationships between order and disorders within and between systems are spectacularly highlighted in both war and biology. So our journey to war will venture through biology, because it starts to cause the subject of war to cast very peculiar shadows. And no, not in the Freudian sense, either.

Once we've done some of those things, we'll drift briefly through politics and culture, to examine the interactions between them and the role of war in the interactions of states. Among other things, I hope to discuss why peacekeeping operations are almost universally an abject failure, while nation building doesn't have to be. Additionally, deterrence, compellance, and communication will be discussed.

Once all the structural stuff is out of the way, I hope to get down to some of the brass tacks on things like why precision and speed are so incredibly critical and the physical reasons that this is the case.

Then, I intend to very briefly (without turning into one of those terrible gearhead-military-tech expositions) talk about existing systems: the whos, whats, whys, hows, and wheres of modern, high-tech killamajigs. This means things like why it is that artillery has its range limitations, why reconnaissance, logistics and sensors are very sexy, why the US only seems to build multipurpose planes these days, and what the hell the French think they're doing with nuclear deterrence. I might not cover all these topics. I might. Beats me -- I just won't know until I start kicking around in those precincts.

From there, I will go into storage and break out the crystal ball and try to shed some light on the next 25 years in the art and science of spreading ill will, discontent, and unhappiness among one's foes. The 25 year break is about as far as responsible military planners will worry about.

Since I'm neither responsible, military, nor a planner, I'm not constrained by a 25 year horizon. We might be able to look at a few flights of fancy that may be of interest much further down the pike.

I hope I'm forgiven for stealing most of that post & copying it here, but it was hard to choose where to cut. So I cut out a huge chunk to make my own life easier. Such is laziness.


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