October 11, 2013

A State of Mind vs. The Mind of the State

Two of the best disruptive strategists in the modern era, TE Lawrence and COL. John Boyd, understood that a state of mind could defeat the mind of state, unless that state was prepared to adapt in unconventional ways and means. GEN Allenby got it, and let Lawrence create his own insurgency that became like an unpredictable human sandstorm in the desert.

While our government leaders tell us they are innovative and forward looking, the very nature of Government is to be stable, administrative, predictable, highly risk adverse and reactive. This is incongruent to an adversary with a state of mind that is unconventional, dynamic and free from bureaucracy. As COL Boyd argues in Patterns of Conflict, defeating our enemies requires creating fear, anxiety, and alienation in order to generate many non – cooperative centres of gravity as well as subverting those that adversary depends upon thereby magnifying internal friction. It is this state of mind that will defeat our enemies but cannot be massed produced through rigid templates.


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  • jasonthomas

    Nomad07 you are right to say these buzz words can begin to sound like lazy colloquialisms.  I like what you say about what is unconventional to us is conventional to them... one way could be too reach back and look at our pioneering forefathers. I don't think its anachronistic to compare how they made good with few resources so to us how they advanced seemed unconventional..but to them it was all they knew and so our frame of reference in analysing history and cultures needs to be turned around.  Thanks for the feedback

  • JRomeoWhiskey

    Great article Jason, thank you.  Excellent insight and comments as well, thank you gentlemen.  Spent a good amount of time reading and studying Boyd in the 90's he should be required reading by everyone up and down the food chain in my opinion.  "Strategy is the craft of the Warrior", Miyamoto Musashi...I don't see much of that craft being implemented by command, just sayin.

  • razteca

    jason... great article, but one complaint.... not long enough!  i could have kept reading for another hour, and i bet you could have written enough for another hour.  i'm emphatic for churchill, but i can't get enough of col. boyd (GRHS).  everything col. boyd should be mandatory reading for anyone who wore or is wearing a uniform. thanks!  one last point...   "If your boss demands loyalty, give him integrity. If your boss demands integrity, give him loyalty."

  • Nomad07

    Great article, one of the best on sofrep. A few thoughts I had while reading, for what its worth, take em' or leave em'. I have a beef with using the word "asymmetrical." It's like using "innovative" or "unconventional." Nice buzz words, but what do they really mean, and what do they look like implemented in the real world? In business academia the word "innovative" is used a lot. Sounds nice, but implementation and defining it into something tangible in the real world market is hard to do. So to start, the definition of asymmetrical: a·sym·met·ri·cal ˌāsəˈmetrikəl/ adjective having parts that fail to correspond to one another in shape, size, or arrangement; lacking symmetry. Its not that we must learn to think asymmetrically. I believe that's impossible. The human brain is wired to create order out of the barrage of data we receive every day. The asymmetry lies in the difference between the way we think (culturally) and the way our enemy thinks (culturally). Where we fall short is failing to understand other cultures (both the enemy, and the environment he operates in, the bystanders). The nature of the war we fight (on terror) is based on human differences (beliefs, values, culture), therefore humint, like the article states, is vital. I would venture that instead of "asymmetrical thinking" which is hard to define, we should replace with "cultural understanding" or "big picture view" or what a term I use "figuring out how everything works." We need to thoroughly understand the "other" and understand the asymmetry between us and them. We fight an enemy in the WOT, who's ways are completely alien to our ways. What is unconventional to us, is conventional to him. What is conventional to us, is unconventional to him. In order to defeat him, we've got to understand what makes him tick, and understand the ways in which we differ from him. Based on my time living outside the States, one of the biggest critiques of US citizens abroad (and our foreign policies) is that we are ignorant of other cultures, and that we don't even want to understand. They see our war on terror as a bully picking on the little guy (a lot of times influenced by our own US media). You can see the lack of culturally understanding in our foreign policy, and how we operate on the ground. "Winning hearts and minds" became trying to force you to think like me, instead of me trying to see things your way, so that I can understand you, and create a solution that incorporates both sides (win/win strategy, to use a negotiation reference), kind of like the snowmobile example. It's seeing the big picture, instead of just my perspective, figuring out how all the various components work, in order to create something new and unique. Sun Tzu said if you know your enemy and know yourself you won't be defeated.

  • bl_reck

    jasonthomas bl_reck ArcticWarrior Thats exactly the problem....just a facet of many. It appears we are wiling to compromise or flat out ignore rampant corruption, total inefficiency, sectarian divisions, violence, on-again-off-again fuck buddy status with Pakistan, demands for further constricting ROE's (make it harder for all of US to fight for all of THEM). We seem contempt with all of these lovely characteristics so long as we have to ability to say Afghanistan has a "functional, existing" government....not matter how defunct and worthless it is in the short and long run.  GIROA will never have any tangible, legitimate level of influence outside of Kabul. The ANP will all abandon their posts once we pick up shop and ANA will hightail back to the North to hold easier ground without a fight. Right back to a North Alliance stronghold in many ways. I can't say with 100% accuracy of course, but the current state of ANSF and their overall willingness to get in the fight flat out sucks. The top brass have zero say in this ridiculousness of looking the other way at corruption all the way to dumb fuck ROE's. So as usual, they abide by the evidently flawed game strategy to not rock the boat too much and throw away 40 plus years of military service. Sad state of affairs.