Friday, February 29, 2008

Freedom to operate

Note: this entry is not supposed to be about military theory, but about something much larger. Also, the dialogue is neither pro-military nor pro-pacifist.

I discovered a definition of cyberspace that is worth unpacking and mash-up. Here it is:

"In light of the looming threat to U.S. cyberspace, the 2006 National Military Strategy for Cyber Operations recognized cyberspace as a warfighting domain. The cyberspace domain is characterized by the use of electronics and the electromagnetic spectrum to store, modify, and exchange data via networked systems and associated physical infrastructures. Cyberspace is primarily a man-made domain that exists across the physical domains of air, land, sea, and space. The cyberspace domain facilitates the conversion of operational planning and commander's orders into action within the physical domains. Thus, superiority in cyberspace - securing the freedom to operate - is the prerequisite to effective operations across the physical domains."

-2006 National Military Strategy for Cyber Operations

Particular phrases to isolate and mash-up are:

  • Cyberspace is primarily a man-made domain that exists across the physical domains of air, land, sea, and space.

  • The cyberspace domain facilitates the conversion of ... planning ... into action

  • securing the freedom to operate [in cyberspace] is the prerequisite to effective operations across the physical domains

Honestly, I love these statements. They state in a short, memetically portable fashion what I see as a priori truths of contemporary Earth. I think anyone with control of their destiny has comprehended and operate with these memes. I am NOT talking about military operations, I am talking about living on Earth as a human. Everyone is in this game, including those staunchly opposed to the game's existence.

On to military theory as example of social theory for a moment. The buzz right now is 3rd generation warfare (Cold War tech and strategy such as submarines, CIA offices) and 4th generation warfare. The insurgents in Iraq are using 4GW. Not "supporting the terrorists" here, but the insurgents win battles (a suicide bombing) with less than $2000 investment using ubiquitous technology. Another key part of the "battle" is spread of information for further strengthening -they do this by posting a video of the bombing on the net as recruitment PR. The PR costs pennies.

The most advanced 4GW leader on Earth in 2008 is Henry Okah. Please read John Robb's summation of Okah here. Okah has used cell phones and email to command an army that is winning a war against oil corporation operations in Nigeria.

The juxtaposition of Okah and the DoD is worth a look. Not trying to say Okah is all good and DoD all bad, but the Okah success has something about it that generates enthusiasm. I think the Okah strengths and DoD weaknesses can be seen in these phrases:

  • DoD Weakness: superiority in cyberspace (equated with ) securing the freedom to operate

  • DoD Weakness: Expensive proprietary closed-source technology.

  • Okah Strength: Ubiquitous technology.

  • Okah Strength: Fluid labor pool along a non-unionized contract labor model. Low cost and no need for continual indoctrination.

  • DoD Weakness: Labor pool along a unionized labor model. Need for constant indoctrination a drain on organizational capacity.

In the Middle Ages military power relied on rarity -only the knights had armor. Now rarity itself is a weakness, and the strong rely on the opposite -ubiquity. In the Middle Ages orthodoxy held cultures together and made their march at an enemy stronger. In the era of nation-states this morphed into allegiance to the nation's myth about itself. Now, with 4GW, there seems to be bifurcation from orthodoxy and myth believing -towards very short term allegiance.

But there is one phrase, a DoD one, that is worth special mention. Superiority in cyberspace. Note to Pentagon: the rhetorical focus on superiority is where you work on the right solutions to the wrong goal. You will work to maintain this superiority, at the cost of not winning the important battles. Superiority is somewhat synonymous with perfection, it is a fools goal. The Okah model doesn't entertain the ideal of "greatest military presence on Earth", and that is why Okah wins and you don't.

1 comment:

The Serpent Lord said...

Superiority doesn't mean you can run faster than a bear, just that you can run faster than the other hikers.

Empire requires permanent superiority in military and economic affairs, and the anglo-american center of Empire has been the engine of this superiority for centuries, so it should be no surprise that this philosophy is built into US military doctrine.

However, cyberspace more like a marketplace than it is like physical territory. There's no land to control, no flags to take down, no treaties of surrender. If Cyberwar is a state-vs-market conflict then we can see it's future in the Wars on Drugs and Terror.

Empire was very successful when it's focus was on opening up trade over the sea and land, in the air and through space. Military superiority had the simple task of physically destroying obstacles to global trade, powered by the unstoppable economic engine of the marketplace.

Now the military might of Empire is pointed at it's own heart.