Monday, November 07, 2005

The New Limited War

The New Limited War

Also called Infowar , Infocentric War , Cyber War

A quick summary is given first . See the end for Mongol references .

In the last 15 years , the cutting edge of the world’s armed forces have been radically transformed . It is not only new technology , but mainly the way that the consequences of that technology enforces new tactics , strategies and logistics .

“Quantity has a quality of its own “ – Josef Stalin

The four principles below seem to be only a quantitive change , but together they spell a qualitative change that any armed force that wants to survive or win will have to adapt to .

The Four basic principles should be seen in synergistic combination :

1 Information technology : The first shot kills . Smart munitions and rapid-fire weapons means that the only safe places are stealthed or deeply fortified . Besides being a force-multiplier , this means that the baddies can be individually targeted . (Theorist : Rona) .

2 Interconnected secure digital communication .

Unfortified military forces have to be stealthed . A good way is interspersed in the enemy and organized via stealthed communications . By this , efficient , secret , interconnected digital communication is usually meant. They have to be stealthed , as anybody who gets identified gets zapped or swarmed (See para 1 above) . (Theorists : Arquilla and Ronfeldt) .

3 Asymmetric threat :

Attackers and Defenders have totally different profiles . A small aggressive , mobile (ie stealthed by uncertainty of position) army can force the defender into a totally different configuration . Cf Guerilla wars , Mongols , Boer war , Wolves and Moose , etc . The classical case is the West’s freedom of info systems (ie computers , Xeroxes , etc) vs the USSR control of all information dissemination . The USSR could not defend itself against the asymmetric threat without losing itself . (Theorists : Marshall and Wohlstetter) .

4 The Decision Cycle . (The Granddaddy of them all)

(Theorist : Boyd) .

The decision cycle or loop is summarized by the acronym OODA

Observation , Orientation , Decision , Action .

It is applicable in any competitive endeavour . If you complete the cycle(s) before your opponent , you win . Baseball , rugby , battles , you name it .

Freedom (democratic) systems historically have been at an initial disadvantage , as the are counter-punchers . (ie Napoleon , Kaizer , Hitler , USSR) . They managed to weather the first punch and gain the upper hand in the decision loop by virtue of their superior internal competitiveness . But note that as technology progresses , the first punch grows stronger . Germany nearly won WWII . The USSR lost the Information War and does not exist any more . But it nearly , nearly won . If it aggressively used its armed forces in the late 1970’s , most of the remains of Europe would be speaking Russian now .

The logic forces aggression upon the USA . It has to close the decision-loop before any enemy . And since the enemies are all hidden and stealthed , it has to go on the worst-case scenario .

The enemies like Al Qaida are not really free-based : their support are drawn from very specific areas and population groups . The West has the nasty habit of drawing things out once it knows it will win . (This is because of vested interests in armaments , politics , etc ) . Eg the West can win easily and cheaply now by nuking all Muslim nations with neutron bombs and interning all suspicious nationals indefinitely .

Boom-bam over . Neither Russia or China will really risk annihilation in protest , since they also perceive these elements as risks to themselves .

The USA is at the present moment willing to expend lives and treasure in a sub-optimum tactic to secure strategic advantages . But it is still the 800 lb gorilla . If the terrorist groups are too successful , it will sit where it wants .

Since neither adversary seems willing to push the other over the edge , a de facto rule of engagement has emerged . The US wants cheap oil , not the territory or the people . The Muslims want the territory and people , as well as a fair price for the oil . Essentially , it is about the price of oil . Osama bin Laden quoted a bazaar price of $160 a barrel . Total denial will definitely cause genocide . A settlement of about $100 - $120 a barrel seems to be barreling down at us , with various guarantees . US troops will wthdraw to bases in Iraq , mainly as a buffer against Iranian adventurism .

This is the most optimistic scenario .

Random fluctuations: Birdflu

A pandemic with death-rates of about 30% planetwide seems very likely (80% probability during northern winter of 2005 .) Muslim populations will be hit very hard (70%-100% mortality) because of their custom of social eating out of communal dishes . Flu is mainly spread by hand-to-mouth/nose transmission . All Muslim communities are overpopulated and depend on external food imports for survival . Primary flu effects will be the flu . Secondary effects will be starvation due to quarantines .Planes , cars and communal dishes will be a lethal combination .




1 “The New Face of War” by Bruce Berkowitz.

ISBN 0-7432-1249-5

Clear and simple by CIA and RAND insider . Worrying because of the hubris leaking around the edges .

2 A very interesting article at the site below:

“Social Science at 190 MPH on NASCAR's Biggest Superspeedways” by David Ronfeldt
First Monday, volume 5, number 2 (February 2000),

An interesting correlation is sonons in superconductivity .

Even Nascar racers should be able to use repeated draft-bumps to speed up the pair to arbitrarily close to in-vacuo speeds .

3 The Castles-Knights defense evolved against exactly this kind of threat . Ie it has happened before .



Whatever happened to William what’s-his-name?

“The only serious challenge would have been from the Mongols .

The Western response to centuries of light-cavalry attacks was numerous fortifications with a few heavy cavalry in each . Light-cavalry (like the Mongols) usually win by getting inside the decision-loop of their enemies . This presupposes that their enemy obligingly masses . A few big fortified cities counts as massing .

The key is the advantage of fortified defense over offense . (In the siege of Malta about 8 000 knights held out against about 70 000 elite Ottoman troops .)

A successful ratio is about 1 defender for every 10 attackers .

What is the Western defense to enemies who do not stand still but can sting ? :

It is Independent defensive positions with a heavy smallish offensive punch which are NOT co-ordinated on a large scale.

Ie Numerous small Castles with a few knights and each having an independent ruler .

They will sit tight , but a few neighbours might combine to hit a tempting target .

If 300 000 Mongols attacked say 1 000 independent neighbouring castles , each with about 20 heavy cavalry , the Mongols will lose .

If they try to reduce each castle in detail , they will be nibbled to death by heavy-cavalry attacks from neighbouring supporting castles . Siege machinery would make the Mongols vulnerable to fixed-point attacks . There are not enough Mongols to attack on a broad front .

There are always more agriculturists than pastoralists .

It is a numbers game as long as the castles do not try to unify . If the castles do not unify , their attacks are random and the Mongols cannot get inside their decision-loop , because there isn’t one . “

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