The Economist has an article titled “What makes heroic strife” – Computer models that can predict the outbreak and spread of civil conflict are being developed.
The article starts with:
Guerrilla warfare, however, is harder to model than open battle of this sort, and the civil insurrection that often precedes it is harder still. Which, from the generals’ point of view, is a pity, because such conflict is the dominant form of strife these days. The reason for the difficulty is that the fuel of popular uprisings is not hardware, but social factors of a type that computer programmers find it difficult to capture in their algorithms. Analysing the emotional temperature of postings on Facebook and Twitter, or the telephone traffic between groups of villages, is always going to be a harder task than analysing physics-based data like a tank’s firing range or an army’s stocks of ammunition and fuel.
Harder, but not impossible. For in the war-games rooms and think-tanks of the rich world’s military powers, bright minds are working on the problem of how to model insurrection and irregular warfare. Slowly but surely they are succeeding, and in the process they are helping politicians and armies to a better understanding of the nature of rebellion.
In the article, the author mentions several projects where highly sophisticated algorithms are used to predict and analyze the patters on modern warfare. Today conflicts are more chaotic than those of the past. The very nature of the current guerrilla wars and insurgency being fought around the world makes the job of the engineers coding these algorithms extremely hard.
Yet, advances in hardware, the knowledge of current computer scientists, mathematicians, physicists and tacticians make this incredibly complex analysis possible. To a certain degree.
While some level of success comes out of these systems, it is the very chaotic and random nature of modern warfare that makes SOF the right tool for the job. The current SOF are trained to cope with this randomness, they know how to adapt, they know how to read the patterns and flow with them: they know how to develop the situation.
Moreover, units like the US Army Special Forces, with its tremendous experience in developing and training indigenous forces, are better suited to read these patters by listening to those forces being trained, by having a better understanding of the local way of life.
Units like the US Navy SEALs, trained to put together mission plans fast and based on the information that just arrived, can attack quickly, decisively and with accuracy, and make the fighting of chaotic modern wars something that SOF might thrive on.
I think ultimately that Generals and government oversight will have to rely more on the “boots on the ground” than to just trust a computer model. Sure, initial analysis by these fantastic systems should be taken into consideration. However, it is the training and fantastic capability of our SOF that will win this and future wars.
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