Small Wars Journal

Swarming: The Art of 21st Century Warfare

Fri, 01/13/2012 - 11:28am

BLUF. To defend her position, 21st Century America and western powers must seek out and create opportunities for advancement. To do this, American warriors, intelligence agencies and nations must learn, adapt, even transform real-time becoming confidently capable in every domain. What you do in the first decades of the century dictates what you do throughout the century. Consider how World War One impacted the world and America's role with GEO politics.The Art of 21st century warfare recommends America, and her closest allies exceed the demands of 21st century conflict by raising and fielding more professional warriors or highly skilled special operations vs. conventional armies.  These quiet professionals must be mindful in all directions, where awareness resembles a sphere, comes only from fused intelligence, all in order to exploit every domain (Ground, amphibious, air power, space and CYBER).  Finally, when warfare subsides and warriors return home, America must never repeat past mistakes of failing to meet her responsibilities at taking care of warriors and their families.  Shadow warriors are the jewels of a nation.

Early, 4th Century B.C. Chinese military thoughts of Sun Wu are collected in the famous text known as the Art of War. Wisdom still relevant in the 21st Century, Sun Wu argues that strength does not come from size. It comes from unity (quan) and focus (zhuan). A small united and focused force (special operations) is much more powerful than a divided large force (conventional armies).

Emerging battlefields throughout the 21st century will challenge every value, law or rule of warfare. Putting American and allied warriors' even unmanned capabilities in positions where they will continue to make politically sensitive choices where they must cross international borders without permission, taking extreme risks by putting civilians, environmental assets and alliances in question.  

Afghanistan immediately following 9/11 and Libya in 2011 are prime examples of this risk.  Special Operations forces (SOF) from several countries working with rebel armies that did not exist months before their engagements.  All of this occurred while air power put pressure on adversaries, in the guise of “protecting the populous."   This combination of air power, SOF (including training and coordination), and rebel alliance is the new reality. (Kohler 2011).

21st Century American warriors must evolve reaching levels of enhanced maturity turning into a confident force capable of operating in small autonomous teams and individuals. (Arquilla/Kubik 2002)(Alexander 2003).  

Warfare is an extension of politics (Clausewitz). It must be the last resort after politics fails. As long as humankind walks this earth, there will always, always be conflict. The difference is how modern warriors must not be barbarians or cavemen. Today and tomorrow, warriors must be a diplomat one moment, yet respond proportionally at the last resort.  

Why? Because the entire world is watching, and warfare as we know it is changing real-time. No longer can you go from a campaign the size of World War II and expect to carry basic tactics and techniques through a Korean war, Vietnam even reaching sixty years into an era of Middle East conflicts.  

The idea of 21st Century Warfare is to be smaller, smarter and autonomous. Doing more with less, lighter and efficient using intuitive tools, fused intelligence that is timely, relevant and available for many, many small teams even individual warriors. Networked, operating autonomously where forces resemble white blood cells responding to a disease.

Forces on the ground must be integrated appearing natural blending into a modern surrounding versus hiding behind the next hill. Avoid standing out, yet be capable of exploiting every domain covering and defending more territory (Afghanistan 2001/Libya 2011). Avoiding the barriers and frictions in warfare by learning faster in order to adapt, evolve and transform real-time. What you don't want to do is hold on to tools, methods or standards even regulations only because it worked the last time. The world is more aware, meaning, with the use of the Internet alone; the worldwide public community will instantly know what one did in warfare, how they did it and where.

Hanging on or maintaining tactics, techniques or procedures are no longer smart.  Example is the horrific crash of an American CH-47 helicopter in Afghanistan, August 6, 2011.  A quick reaction force was shot down by a simple rocket-propelled grenade, killing over 30 highly skilled special operation forces.  Lessons learned are how the tactics used are over 25 years old.  Finally, this incident mirrored past incidents like the 1993 shoot-down of an American Black Hawk helicopter in Somalia.  With this said modern warfare has reached levels where tactics should now be disposable yet innovative, evolving in hours, and discarded on yesterday’s even today's battlefields. Nations and their military and intelligence capabilities must be just that.  Intelligent. This will all be problematic where you must walk along the boundaries between innovation vs. fixing something that isn't broken or reinventing a "wheel."      

The entire world is aware of your intentions.  With that said, Western alliances must be able to evolve and transform in a matter of months, weeks, days even hours.  

Be grateful for those who went before you. None of this could be possible without the ball and musket where rows and rows of soldiers lined up in formal formations working around the limitations of their weapons.

What about the massive force of soldiers, sailors, airman and marines infiltrating an Omaha Beach against dug in Germans? That assault resulted in the loss of nearly 100,000 allies. Even squads and platoons creating tactics and techniques for jungle warfare against a guerrilla force motivated and well organized defending their home land.

Consider how a collection of highly skilled warriors was tasked with a near-impossible mission equipped with inadequate tools, communication, logistics, transportation and poor intelligence. All because the definition of "joint" operations was not understood leading to disaster on an Iranian desert landing strip. This is evolution.  

The lesson learned in 21st Century warfare and national security is evolution must take place real-time, both strategically and tactically. Nations and alliances must adapt, change, and evolve even become efficient and smarter.  One thought to consider is when was the last time any nation fought in warfare against high threat air defenses? Can the TTPs from the last 10-20 years be applied and effective in that scenario?

In the 21st Century, your strength is your limitation, or your blessing is your curse. Today and tomorrow, everyone is aware. The world is not in a vacuum resulting in awareness becoming a limiting factor to providing national security.  This barrier or friction is proven by the 2009 Israeli hit against Hamas leadership in Dubai. 16 operatives believed their Cold War intelligence tactics were proven in the past and would still be effective. Unbeknownst to Israel was the impact of 21st Century technology.  Cameras throughout the city captured these assassins spread amongst one of the most famous cities in the world. Their down fall was their complacency, failing to adapt and evolve at the same pace of society. Specifically, they failed to keep up with an intelligent and aware 21st Century world where no one keeps up with the World Wide Web. If 16 individuals could not hide, neither will mass forces, ships, vehicles and aircraft. Space based satellites are no longer safe without the entire world paying attention. Knowing a nation's every move.

There are cases where awareness can be turned on its head and used to one's advantage.  When Pakistani extremist can infiltrate Mumbai and cripple one of the largest cities in the world with less than 10 individuals, this is proof how warfare and national security has been redefined. The November 2008 scenario proved evolution and transformation took place quicker than average, occurring within less than a decade from Al Qaeda's attacks against America.  These individuals infiltrated India via small boats equipped with light tools and weapons where smaller is better even smarter and independent. By carrying supplies with mere backpacks, they exploited over the counter technologies to overwhelm their targets.

Simple navigation via Google Maps, communicating and updating team members via cell phones, finally, these individuals literally conducted guerilla information operations carrying out ad hoc psychological methods confusing their adversaries by manipulating local media. 

All accomplished through Twitter. Sending false reports of their positions and amounts of wounded or killed. Causing the public to panic even overwhelm their threats (Police and military). Every principle of special operations was followed. Simplicity, security, repetition, speed, purpose and surprise. The very same principles used by every guerilla force in history.

After over a decade of global warfare, western nations refuse to get their hands dirty with all out full size campaigns or conduct siege warfare even deal with counter insurgencies. Why? First, it may be politically inappropriate or too costly.  Second, because nations can no longer afford large scale warfare, proven through current debt loads and poor economies. This situation will require combined efforts from allies throughout the first half of the 21st Century.

They will be overwhelmed with malfunctioning economies ridden with recessions fueled by debts no nation can afford. Modern nations, once thriving societies will no longer have enough revenue to train, equip, field, support with fuel nor provide adequate security for large forces. Finally, no nation will be able to hide their large military operation.

To shape, manipulate and impact modern battlefields that will appear like no other battlefields before, one must be smaller, streamlined, and independent to move below the radar and surprise emerging adversaries. Finally, 21st Century militaries and intelligence capabilities must always be smarter than their forces before. Not simply stronger. Carefully study and learn from those who walk before you. Seek out the ability to quickly adapt, evolve even transform faster than your adversaries. Being first to the battlefield can happen in hours versus days, weeks and months.  With Cyber warfare, nation's infrastructures can be crippled within minutes.  Not to mention the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical proliferation.

Military Philosophy, education and the 21st Century Warrior

In warfare, American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines traditionally rely on a limited set of values to guide them with difficult choices found only in war. On the battlefield, country, unit, family, faith and self, drive men and women. Modern warfare found within the 21st Century requires the United States invest further in educating their recruits ensuring they are raising warriors, professional individuals capable of thinking beyond country, unit, family and faith.  

For a traditional military, serving for 2-4 years then out is acceptable during a draft, and then only for career fields that do not require extensive training such as gate guard or cook.  This is unacceptable with a special operations community, or an all-volunteer force, where there are fewer recruits with far greater responsibilities and required training than generations prior.  In addition, it takes years to recruit, train and develop shadow warriors.  Modern American military brings changes in demographics where there is more diversity and over half the force is married with children finally college educated.  Career individuals have increased risk of facing true conflict or war.  America's national security rides on the backs of these people.  

In today’s battlefields, the entire world demands these individuals be capable of a wide variety of sophisticated decisions under incredible stresses, where a poor decision – or even a good decision with a poor outcome – can have substantial national security impacts (e.g. the death of civilians, offending a local potentate).  Never forget how their current foe moves freely not dressed in traditional uniforms, or follows basic laws of armed conflict.  Even worse, todays and tomorrow's adversaries now emerge within civilian populations further muddying the waters of societies.  Educating warriors beyond the conduct of hostilities has much potential to reduce unnecessary violence, trauma and innocent death.

Warfare is never simple, and changes with each generation. This paradigm shift in raising warriors operating alone and autonomously requires people trained in the arts, philosophy, critical thinking and leadership. The fact is how country, unit, family and faith are a limited support system. When confronted by an adversary where man faces death or takes the life of another human being, going against nature, demands individuals capable of compartmentalizing yet thinking at light speed considering option.  Additionally, the more exposure to real-world combat, the more difficult compartmentalizing becomes.

21st Century American warfare should rely on professional warriors capable of moving in small clusters of pods even swarming around one's adversary from all directions or immediately dispersing to survive (Arquilla 2002).  

This modality requires both very sophisticated swarm situational awareness, and refined, small, secure communications (including displays) that are not yet fully developed. (Kohler 2011). These individuals will require and demand awareness to make complicated even troubling decisions with potential for catastrophe.

Fewer warriors with far greater access to intense firepower and situational awareness, capable of unimaginable devastation yet expected to perform with precision. American warriors must become experts in their fields wielding power yet be broad enough in mindset to become warrior diplomats capable of operating with balance and restraint when it counts.  

With strategic knowledge, awareness enables us to make the right decisions under a wide variety of circumstances.  Precisely what is demanded of individual special operations non-commissioned and junior officers who face near insurmountable obstacles, which threaten their lives or others, even national security.   

To overcome frictions of modern warfare while operating autonomously, special operations Non-Commissioned Officers and Junior Officers must be capable of thinking and behaving like ground force commanders.

To be successful and reach full potential raising the level of awareness, improving intelligence and cognitive capabilities modern militaries must integrate critical thinking and philosophy studies to develop warriors.

Our philosophy is our motivation.  Teaching history and military philosophy is good for warriors.  However one must study with balance, taking in more than one view point.  Where Clausewitz encourages defeating adversaries with all out violence yet at times, disregards the need for intelligence, Sun Wu impresses the idea of restraint emphasizing intelligence to outwit one's adversary. 

More than one source of military philosophy is required to broaden the minds of professional warriors ultimately reducing risks on modern battlefields, increase confidence and improve survivability.  Lessons learned through military philosophy are how one cannot solely study the "Art of warfare". To balance oneself and be responsible with the tools of warfare, one must study math, sciences and arts. If not, one is certain to go to extremes drunk from the power of military art.

Twenty First Century, an American Renaissance

As The War Department, US Army-Air Corps and CIA is 20th Century,

DoD, Special Operations Command (SOCOM), allies and

"18" Agencies are 21st Century.

A mature, aware, efficient and sustained force:

What once known as the home of red headed stepchildren or career suicide, SOCOM is now America's gold standard in warriors. The problem is how special operations are a minority within the DoD. So much so, since World War II, the American special operations community has always reduced even disbanded following every military campaign.  With the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as we speak, in 2011, American special operations will continue to be cut.  This choice is a major barrier to American and coalition to national security.  The problem is how raising and fielding a special operations capability on average, takes decades.

The lesson learned is 21st Century nations cannot afford to be ignorant and repeat this mistake. If disbanded, every new campaign or action will result in nations forced to rebuild even recreate a special operations capability. To remain independent and mature breaching new levels of performance, even reaching full potential, US SOCOM must have the following.
Cabinet Secretary of US SOCOM:  Doctors, lawyers, engineers and American warriors.

Joint Chiefs of Staff SOCOM 4 Star General: Guidance and Interference.


US intelligence agencies never mixed well with each other or the military. Despite intelligence budgets emphasizing military purposes, their (agencies) fierce independence creates unnecessary barriers to national security.

The front line American warrior must not be distracted by intelligence. To be effective and focused on their mission, warriors must be one-step ahead of their adversaries. The mistake made believes raw intelligence is only for authority figures, negating the needs of front line operators and decision makers. No longer should warriors expend unnecessary energy and precious time collecting raw data from multiple sources of intelligence. Modern warriors should be pushed relevant intelligence, not only pull it.

In the 21st Century, there must be the DoD, SOCOM to include every agency, all collaborating for the same purposes...the war fighter and national security. Competition must remain, however reality of real world conflicts and global awareness demands operations be intelligent, collaborative, even self-healing when attacked. Integration must be capable of transforming real time.

Virtual Intelligence Agency (VIA)


Jan 11, 2011: NSA Breaks Ground on Utah 'Spy Center' Data Center CIO: Network World – The National Security Agency is building one of the largest and most expensive data centers as a place to gather and analyze intelligence data. At $1.2 billion, this is the largest Department of Defense construction project underway. Officials broke ground at the site 25 miles south of Salt Lake City Thursday, and it will give NSA diversity with a separate data center beyond the one it has in Ft. Meade, Md., says NSA Deputy Director J. Chris Inglis.


Simply put, higher fidelity information and data will improve the mission of warriors and decision makers.

The office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is not the ideal solution required for true national security. A more technical solution is demanded to harness competition between the "16" key intelligence agencies, yet collaborate between all agencies, the US DoD, SOCOM, finally America's closest allies (Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

Weapons of choice for the 21st Century will not only be fourth, fifth generation fighter jets, aircraft carriers or unmanned aircraft and innovative integrated communications. Instead, nations must field highly skilled special operations vs. armies. Most importantly, military grade fusion centers designed to withstand threats and damage caused by new forms of warfare. Warfare such as CYBER attacks, or hacking nation’s most secure networks.  Finally, fusion centers are constructed to feed intelligence to operators.

Fusion centers or data centers, are weapons systems that provide many capabilities to include cloud computing or web based storage resembling Google,, Apple, Rackspace and Dell. A fusion center takes in information and or data from multiple sources (16 agencies) where intelligence will be collect, analyze and disseminate it to front line warriors and key decision makers.

A fusion center is effective by removing stovepipes enabling every source to collect raw intelligence on communications, travel, relationships, geo-locations, funding, etc. To be effective, data centers must not be only under one intelligence agency...they must integrate. The VIA is an integrated user interface for one purpose...intelligence.

The concept of a VIA should be in the form of a fusion center that will become a technical solution providing glue between interests, operations and information shared between every agency. The first mission or priority of the VIA is collaboration; next is autonomous information operations even CYBER warfare capabilities.  

Collaboration does not simply mean a memorandum of understanding or agreement to share in operations and logistics.  True collaboration is a single memo of understanding and agreement to pool the best resources and share crucial data, yet somehow preserve the competitive nature of intelligence.  All done to gather as much relevant data to study and observe adversaries, finally disseminate that awareness to front line decision makers.

“In the near future swarming intelligence techniques that operate independently without a central command authority will rely on technologies such as the proposed VIA for its current and real-time intelligence.  An independent swarm will collectively converge on an effective solution without the need for a decision maker, otherwise known as emergent behavior. Smart, small, independent is the name of the game”. (Sotzen 2011).

Construct fusion centers to collaborate and exploit intelligence and the CYBER domain. Support decision makers, but most importantly, provide a deep pipe of relevant intelligence to special operations warriors. Study, observe and take action against adversaries by dominating the information or "CYBER" domain.

Fielding the first SOCOM fusion center will help further efforts with other near peers. With robust fusion centers, nations can look in more than one direction at the same time.

The objective is to create a robust network of multiple fusion centers capable of self-healing and harness its power for the defense of a nation’s position all over the world. Fused intelligence and CYBER warfare is real and a current threat to all nations. This is not the sky is falling, instead its common sense.

Coalition Unconventional Battlefield Exploitation (CUBE)

The May 1st, 2011 covert mission where American intelligence and special operations crossed Pakistan’s borders without permission to capture or kill Bin Laden was the work of professionals.  The August 6, 2011 fatal crash of a conventional CH-47 Chinook carrying an entire troop of warriors was a tragic loss to their families and American national security.  Similar to Somalia in 1993, a simple rocket propelled grenade launcher shot down this quick reaction force.

Extreme military and intelligence operations such as counter-terrorism or CT missions demand a highly skilled force capable of carrying out a nation's most demanding operations. This small CT community requires a course of instruction enabling independent and creative thinking capable of preparing students for unpredictable scenarios...increasing chances of success and survival. CT training and operations require flexible standards for complex missions threatening the lives of not only the operators involved, but civilians impacted by any CT action.

Since 9/11, CT operations have skyrocketed. What conventional leadership once disrespected because it never understood CT, is now a specialty demanded to find and capture High Value Targets (HVT). CT is not only small teams breaching a structure to capture or kill individuals. CT can collect time sensitive intelligence even conducts offensive operations or preemptive strikes responding to find sources of CYBER warfare.

The 21st Century standard for CT operations to include both American and allied tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) is CUBE. In training and with operations, the concept of a CUBE means a small team, a form of instruction; finally, it is another term for national CT operations. To work effectively, a CUBE is a special operations team integrated with every source of relevant intelligence and domain (Amphibious, Ground, Space, Airpower and CYBER).

When deployed, teams formed into cubes will respond to global threats. To an adversary, where units are composable or fractionated (Kohler, 2011), CUBE is confusing where no team is the same. The idea is CT teams or Cubes constantly learn; evolve even transform real-time becoming intelligent. SOCOM and allied teams will experience the entire life-cycle of evolution real-time transforming and improving the more they train and operate.

By teaching the McRaven art of warfare, CUBE will emphasize how following the simple principles of purpose, simplicity, security, repetition, speed, and surprise will achieve relative superiority. In his book titled “Spec Ops”, Admiral McRaven analyzes case studies of history’s most daring CT missions; CUBE will be CT training integrating operational expertise from not only the US, but also international standards breaking free of Cold War TTP's.

In training, CUBE ensures students see and experience every aspect of CT operations. Examples include integrating Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), reconnaissance, media considerations, Sniper teams, communications, aviation (TAC, insertion/extraction, C4ISR), weather, space assets even CYBER capabilities, and so on. Practicing CUBE will enable US SOCOM and allies to evolve and transform collaborating to master current tactics yet rehearse to develop new solutions.

Current CT operations execute too fast to capture lessons learned meant for evolution. During training and operations, automated Intelligent Joint after Action reports will capture the smallest details in TTP's where both instructors and students learn from each other. Secure internet communications will enable vital operational information and best knowledge of operations and lessons learned are shared with SOCOM and coalition teams across the globe.

Where the US Air Force has the Air Warfare Center in Nevada, this document argues how US SOCOM must have their specialized Joint Special Operations Warfare Center at Hurlburt Field/Eglin AFB or Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

The concept of CUBE was created back in 2003 (Kubik, 2003), but only now presents itself as a vehicle for maturing even advancing SOCOM and allied forces. US SOCOM Special Tactics communities initiate CUBE because only ST forces experiences both US Navy and Army even allied TTP's.  The best chances of collaboration and success is through sharing knowledge and expertise reaching levels of learning, adapting, evolving even transforming.

US SOCOM Battlefield Airmen Exchange Program

In the 21st Century, success is collaborating with the Joint and coalition Team. Essential to winning today's battles yet become proactive tomorrow requires strong alliances willing to share the load with America. National Security interests at stake, allies rely on American strength and confidence to ensure their safety.

BAO specifically means US Air Force Combat Controllers, Pararescuemen, TACP and Combat Weather teams. For an ideal unilateral mission, BAO operators must learn a variety of tactics, techniques and procedures used by every service and a nation's closest allies. First, BAO operators must learn to shoot, move and communicate with the finest teams in the world. Once proven, the next level of operating is confidently moving in smaller teams, even autonomously as individuals with little to no signature.

To understand the purpose and value of a US SOCOM Battlefield Air Operations (BAO) exchange program, you must understand Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Integrated Domain Operations, Terminal Air Control, Cyber Warfare and autonomous operations.

An exchange program will enable SOCOM BAO operators to integrate every domain into special operations.

Integrated Domain Operations (IDO)

Unilateral is not autonomous...autonomy is the goal. Roaming in "Karachi" or the "Xinjiang Region" while pursuing and swarming all over emerging threats. Operating in clusters of "pods" (1-3 man teams) vs. squads and platoons (Arquilla 2002).  SOCOM Battlefield Airmen (BAO) move freely with a mobile computing device or “DROID”, IR Pointer and confidence to come and go in peace. All while pushed multiple sources of intelligence dragging every domain available.  "I-Pathfinders": 21st Century experts in every domain.

Arquilla has promoted the idea of adapting militaries from a hierarchical structure to a network structure, suggesting that only the network military will be the most able to defeat terrorist networks and emerging autonomous Asian tactics.

Arquilla also describes the Roman concept of organized legions defeating the previous military paradigm of the Phalanx.  Arguing how terrorist networks have evolved while older Cold War militaries hold on to antiquated paradigms. Network cells can share precise information on a need to know basis without a hierarchical structure. This gives them the ability to disperse and swarm in an extremely effective manner, as witnessed by the 9/11 attacks.
In the 21st Century, advancement defines those who exploit the potential of integrated domains. IDO is not simply joint operations.  IDO is where BAO becomes equal to their peers (US Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces), even allied special operations.

 IDO is a warrior integrated with fused intelligence and every domain.  A military warrior crossed with other agencies, floating in and outside of a traditional uniform.  This is not sheep dipping. It is purely SOCOM.  As if a prism, the VIA will collect and analyze intelligence real-time, crucial information will be constantly disseminated to modern warriors as small teams or alone.

This approach is only now taking place.  These new tactics are in the early stages with very little proof to defend this mindset.  21st Century warfare is no longer fielding large armies; it is the individual warrior in his own domain.

Imagine moving alone. What resources are required to reduce risks increasing survivability?  If, conditions force a military member to move freely without weapons, can one reduce risks through domains?  Moving autonomously where operators are intelligent capable of making their own decisions on when to unleash lethal force.

To be successful, SOCOM BAO operators conducting autonomous IDO must be mature, independent, resourceful, responsible, reliable and morally flexible.


Psychological Performance


Psychological Performance is crucial throughout complicated operations where special operations forces move in small teams or individuals far from logistical support; to the point these warriors are alone on emerging battlefields.  

Threats to consider beyond physical include global awareness from social networks threatening the personal lives of special operators.  One can expect while moving alone; adversaries capable of tracking every aspect of their lives (Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) will pursue special operations warriors. How does one adapt to such awareness yet flourish under such a great threat?

Psychological Performance is a measurement of special operations gauging individual mental performance during complex and high-risk combat operations. The ability to withstand repeated exposure to inhumane levels of stress related to warfare. Psych Performance is overcoming fear yet balancing rage, acute awareness and focus in the end balancing one's self. Self-healing overcoming surges of neurotic behavior and brain chemistry common to overwhelming stress, Psych Performance is a standard that leadership, medical support and families use to monitor their warriors.

What you do not want in warfare is to be distracted by consequences of battle...whether Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) or Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).  All of these factors compromise a warrior’s personal affairs such as their families, in the end, distracting warriors.  Reality is how in combat, individuals will eventually fail to adequately cope with stress destroying resiliency.

Can you mitigate the effects of warfare even prevent PTS? If truly professional, modern special operations should treat the mind as if one does the body. Organizations train, exercise even reinforces the mind where mental injuries are treated.  Accomplished through education and training integrating modern techniques and innovative medicine. Managed by teams of professional medical experts (Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Social Workers), threats of losing valuable warriors to PTS should become outdated.

Once considered a stigma and unacceptable, studies have shown that every military campaign generates cases of real world PTS. Where the Cold War viewed PTS as unacceptable, 21st century warriors mature vs. alienating valuable warriors ultimately removing them from battlefields and their teams. Psychological Performance is the working as teams capable of catching subtle changes from exposure to near death experiences or acts of killing.


The Art of 21st Century Warfare is where Darwin meets Sun Tzu meets Moore's law.

The Art of 21st Century is not invading to take territory and owning it with sheer numbers.  It is protecting the home front than surgically seeking out threats to national security.  Mirroring modern medicine, security methods should no longer tear apart tissue or amputate appendages to save a life. Instead, resemble 21st Century medicine where slight incisions are meant to reach in and treat infections with innovative medicines or scoping out injuries repairing damage than pulling out leaving no sign. 

The name of the game in the Art of 21st Century warfare is to be smaller (special operations), smarter (fused intelligence) and autonomous (21st Century).


Kubik, A. D. (2011). The Art of 21st Century. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Self Published.

Kidron, Michael and Segal, Ronald. (1995), The state of the world Atlas, Penguin Books, London.

Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, 1979, Assurance Publishers, PO Box 753, Rockville, MD 20851

Bamhouse, Donald Grey.  (1965). The Invisible War, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mi.

McRaven, Admiral. (1995) Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare Theory and Practice.  Presidio Press.

Alexander, Bevin. (2003), How wars are won; the 13 rules of warfare.  Crown Publishing.  

Yoshida, Alan (2011), Email Interview, Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Sawyer, Ralph D, (2005) The Art of War.  Basic Books.

Kubik, Andrew D, (2003) Sibling Rivalry and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and GWOT.
Whitepaper, Hurlburt Field AFB, Fla.

Sotzen, Jeremy (2011), Email Interview.  Maryland.

Kohler, Ralph (2011), Email Interview.  New York

About the Author(s)

Andrew Kubik is a former TACP and USAF combat controller who served in multiple combat zones including the initial invasion to Afghanistan.  In 1999, he was named US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) NCO of the Year.  Currently, he is engaged in serving his community and starting his own business. 


A. Kubik

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 1:32pm

FYI: The original title was submitted as "The Art of 21st century warfare" Swarming was added by editor. Don't be distracted by the tactic called swarming, instead invest in rapid evolution perhaps from crowd sourcing tactics based on adaptive strategies.


Tue, 01/31/2012 - 11:47pm

Maybe I'm just dense, but I still can't get my head around this:

<i>...autonomy is the goal. Roaming in "Karachi" or the "Xinjiang Region" while pursuing and swarming all over emerging threats. Operating in clusters of "pods" (1-3 man teams) vs. squads and platoons (Arquilla 2002). SOCOM Battlefield Airmen (BAO) move freely with a mobile computing device or “DROID”, IR Pointer and confidence to come and go in peace. </i>

It sounds fine, at first. Realistically, though, many of the areas where threats might emerge are going to be very difficult places for Americans to blend in and wander whither they will. Some of these guys are going to get caught, and are likely to find themselves on the wrong end of a swarm attack or a boot on the door in the night. That could mean arrest and diplomatic scandal, or much worse. What's our tolerance for seeing TV footage of our guys' bodies dragged through streets, or of decapitations? Are we willing to take the risk involved in secreting these "pods" in numerous hostile environments?

Groups evolve tactics and strategies to suit their strengths and weaknesses, their capacities and constraints. Certainly we need to be aware of what our antagonists evolve, but our capacities and constraints are very different from theirs, and tactics that suit them might not suit us.

If we have a discrete, identified target (can't imagine staging a swarm attack without one), what advantage would we gain from swarming it with previously implanted assets, rather than with remote attack or an Abbotabad-style externally supported raid? Would those advantages justify the risks to those previously implanted assets and the loss of their intel value?

Would our antagonists swarm because it's a superior tactic or because they lack the resources that we have? Would they swarm an outpost or a patrol if they had the option of calling in an air strike?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 01/22/2012 - 10:56am

In reply to by Starbuck

Starbuck--yes you are correct in the thinking---"swarming" is an excellent battle tactic- it requires though a coherent "strategy" to drive it. In one key area--strategy has to be adaptive and right now with the decisionmaking process MDMP that battle staffs are using is not "adaptive" meaning "seeing" and "understanding".

Would argue that the Sunni insurgent groups IAI and AAS as well as several complex attacks by AQI (2005-2008) were very successful with their use of "swarm attacks" as they had a "strategy" for their use backed by a "campaign plan".


Sun, 01/22/2012 - 10:48am

"Swarming" (in the sense of the RAND publication) is an effective, time-honored tactic which, like many tactics, works under certain conditions. In essence, it's a very well-coordinated and synchronized envelopment.

It's a good tactic, but like many tactics, it shouldn't necessarily be extrapolated into strategy.

I'm also a bit nonplussed by the "white blood cell" analogy, for different reasons. An immune system combats intruders in one's own body or environment. The US does occasionally need to do that, but when they do it's a law enforcement function, not a military function. In the environments where our military operates the analogy seems strained, simply because typically we are the intruder, the foreign force. We're the foreign body in the blood stream that draws the swarm of white blood cells, the foot in the anthill, the fist in the beehive. That's why we're typically responding to so-called "swarm" attacks, rather than initiating them.

The idea of numerous autonomous networked teams blending in with the scenery in conflict environments, emerging to swarm on antagonists, sounds wonderful. I'm not sure how well it would translate to practice, for a number of reasons.

In many if these environments, Americans simply don't blend in very well, no matter how well they are trained. Imagine the hypothetical example given in the article, Xinjiang... do you really think you could secrete enough Americans to manage a credible swarm and sustain them there without them being discovered, and likely drawing a swarm of their own?

If you could get them there and keep them there, there would of course be intel advantages. But if you had agents in place and were receiving good intel from them, why would you want them to break their cover to swarm somebody? Once they did that they'd require immidiate extraction to avoid being counter-swarmed, and the intel source would be gone. The idea that such autonomous groups could gather, swarm an antagonist, and return to blending in seems unlikely at best.

In actual practice, given the need to target hostile individuals are groups in hostile or at best shakily neutral territory, would a swarm of pre-implanted operatives really be preferable to a targeted strike from outside? You'd have to get those people in place, protect them, sustain them, gather them in close enough proximity to swarm, then either extract them or get them back into cover... practical? Imagine the case of the Abbotabad raid. Even if such agents had been in place, would they have provided a superior alternative?

I realize that "swarming" is the buzzword <i>du jour</i> and we are all meant to bow before it, but for our anticipated purposes (or the purposes the article suggests), what advantages does it pose over the targeted strike?

Certainly the whole swarm concept is worth looking at, especially since our habit of intervening with relatively small forces in environments where opposition is largely in the "unconventional" category assures that it will be used against us. I am not convinced that it represents the nature of 21st century warfare... and while it may be something our people might in some circumstances use and should be aware of, I don't see how it's something we want to build strategies around.

Hubba-Bubba nailed a few of the contradictory statements that took away from the point of the article. I have four follow on points:

First, the author's argument for the 21st century being the century of Swarm-theory is predicated on the assumption that the next 88 years will only involve small-theater state-state engagements, non-state-actor engagements, or counter-terrorism (highlighting the Mumbai incident and the OBL raid). Events within the century, however, seem to run counter to the author's assumption. "Small, networked teams" did not alone topple the Taliban in 2001 or the Saddam regime in 2003 - conventional US, NATO and Northern Alliance forces accomplished that feat. US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were surged to conduct COIN, not networked and swarmed. In 2010, Russia utilized conventional forces to force Georgian and Chechen compliance. The reality is that, for the near future, our military will be engaged in Humanitarian/Disaster Response, Counter-Insurgency, Support and Stability Ops, and Regime-Change/Nation Building in addition to traditional SOF engagements. Those former missions are manpower intensive, and cannot be achieved with SOF alone. Special Forces cannot effectively provide long-term security for a town or village, secure an election, or promote stability.

A superficial counter-argument to this claim is, as the author states, is the SOF "success" in Libyan regime-change. While removing Khadafy from power, like Saddam, was morally just goal in and of itself, positive regime-change from the US perspective requires a net-gain in Libyan Government support of our national goals. Unfortunately, this involves the creation and maintenance of institutions which support and foster Western ideals. Without this, the new boss will be the same as the old boss. True to the spirit of Clausewitz, the military should be used to protect our national interests and ensure US-positive outcomes in these situations.
Second, the analogy that the author uses in regard to the function of white blood cells (The idea of 21st Century Warfare is to be smaller... Doing more with less... operating autonomously where forces resemble white blood cells responding to a disease.) is actually an argument for the current application of special forces, not Swarm-theory. White blood cells and anti-bodies are merely internal actors in a system of infection-prevention which involves the skin and sinus cilia and other specialized epithelial cells (prevent bacteria from entering the body). These systems prevent greater than 99% of the threats from penetrating the body and entering our blood and tissues, where the white blood cells and antibodies act. Without the complementary systems, the white blood cells required to "swarm" all the pathogens would induce cardiac arrest. In this analogy, the skin is akin to the conventional military forces. They act through both deterrence and force to protect the integrity of the body. This relationship allows the "swarming" white blood cell/Special Forces to engage the rogue elements the most effectively, as they are NOT required to do everything.

Third, the author's obsessive focus on national debt as it applies to the function, size, and application of the military is a poor justification for his premise. Our Federal Government is burdened with the responsibility of providing voter-sanctioned and unrealistic social services to the population. The unchecked growth rate of the cost of these services will bankrupt the country before the military can be relegated to small swarms of operators. Check spending as a percentage of GDP for core military expenditures (non-expeditionary) and "non-discressionary" programs and their rate of change if you want confirmation.

Lastly, unless you are the unchallenged expert in your field, you should refrain from citing your own work – cite your old sources.

On a positive note, the author does provide some interesting food for thought for the counter-insurgent.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 01/17/2012 - 2:43pm

Would argue that swarming is a solid battle tactic that can be practiced by small units as well as large scale maneuver units.

To be successful though it requires EXCEPTIONAL Situational Awarness or in the new term Operational Environment driven by a Strategy that is just as flexible/adaptable.

That would as a follow on require a battle staff decisionmaking process that matches the SA/OE with speed and adaption.

Currently with the old standby MDMP--- outside of SF/SOF do not think there is a single current BCT/RCT battle staff that can pull off a swarming defense and/or attack at a drop of a hat. We have not maneuvered in over seven years.

So yes back to the basics---but unless the decisionmaking process is finally getting to point of "adapting" (not via RDMP) on the fly---all the blocking and tackling practice in the world will not help.


Robert C. Jones

Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:45pm

Ok, trying to keep an open mind and see how this is not just another example of reading too much into one's current situation and attempting to extrapolate that out into some sort of projection of future warfare. But I can't see it.

If one wants to make the argument that states will face greater challenges from non-state actors in the future, sure, I agree. But states will face great challenges from other states as well.

Will Cyber domain create a powerful medium that non-states can operate as powerfully within as states can? Certainly. A scary thought for states. As advances in technology opened up domains of undersea, air and space it created even greater advantages for states over non-states. Cyber re-levels the playing field. Just as Bio re-levels the playing field advantage that Nuke gave to certain states.

But one still must be prepared to understand and fight the conflict they are in.

We will continue to see powerful, dangerous challenges from populace groups who feel oppressed by some combination of domestic and/or foreign policies and laws that they perceive deny them equal opportunities. We will also continue to see powerful and dangerous challenges from states who similarly believe their future security and well-being is best served by waging war to change some set of conditions they believe cannot be addressed through other means. We could be back in trenches in five years just as easy as we could be "swarming" some place.

Then there are the wild cards, such as Chinese insurgency. When China blows up, it tends to blow up HUGE (The number of casualties credited to the White Lotus Rebellion in the late 1700s, and the Taiping Rebellion in the mid 1800s are off the chart, with 16M and 20M casualties credited to each).

To me swarming sounds like tactics. Tactics that rely upon very fragile cyber capabilities to effectively implement. Tactics that draw far too broad of conclusions from recent events. Should we be able to "swarm"? Sure, and I think we can do that just fine. But let’s make sure we are trained, organized and equipped to block and tackle first.


I find it fascinating that people try to draw conclusions about "21st Century Warfare" from observations made in the first decade of the century. Imagine how wrong you would have been if you'd tried that for the 20th century.

Nobody knows what "21st Century Warfare" will look like, and there's little reason to assume that it will look consistently like anything: it's likely to adopt many different forms in many different places. There's nothing wrong with not knowing the future, of course, but assuming that we know when we don't is dangerous, and assuming that tomorrow's war will look like today's seems unwise.

I'm not at all convinced that Sun Wu's distinction between "small united force" and large armies is really analogous to the current distinction between special operations and conventional forces. Neither am I convinced that SOF will be the sole and only best tool for all 21st Century conflict. A useful tool certainly, and the best tool in some situations, but using SOF in circumstances that call for conventional force is as bad as using conventional force in a situation that calls for SOF.

Bill M.

Mon, 01/16/2012 - 12:36pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Swarming is multiple semi-independent operations and actions based on a collective emergent intelligence and purpose as demonstrated by bees and ants. We can attempt to replicate this behavior, but only to a limited extent. When dealing with so called swarming tactics, it is frustrating for the opponent, but I'm not aware of swarming tactics ever resulting in a decisive victory. They definitely get headline coverage and it appears the situation is out of control for awhile, but ultimately the deliberate targeting process seems to work better over time. We can conduct multiple operations simultanteously over a wide area that resemble swarming, but in reality they are just another form of deliberate targeting where we're conducting multiple dispersed operations, instead of massing effects on one target (which doesn't work against a dispersed threat). Conceptually the concept may have some value, but I don't see anything new here. Technology of course gives us capabilities to conduct more effective dispersed ops as the author points out. Tell me what I'm missing?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 01/16/2012 - 8:55am

Would have liked a far deeper analysis of swarming than the author covered.

Taken from the RAND study:
"Tactically, swarming can be conceptionally broken into four stages; locate, converge, attack,and disperse. Swarming forces must be capable of sustaining pulsing, coalescing rapidly and stealthily on the target, then redispersing and recombining for a new pulse."

Basically this would require excellent operational awareness and it really goes to the core discussion that BZ has had in his articles/comments on Design. And it applies both to the conventional and unconventional environments.

The Sunni insurgents in Diyala province were excceptionally good at carrying out swarm attacks and especially good at operational awareness as they functioned on 200% recon pull.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 01/14/2012 - 8:39am

Hubba Bubba---all good comments especially referencing the RAND study which should be the actual starting point for a discussion on swarming.

Another starting point could be the numberous battle videos from the IAI, al Sunnah and 1920 which effectively depicted their use of swarming against the COP systems as well as Iraqi military facilities.

A side comment though is the following-- attempted to train Company Cmdrs during their CTC LTP rotations on the concept of insurgent swarm attacks in 2007/2008 and discovered not many Company level officers fully understood maneuver even though they were from the Combat Arms side of the house because they had not done fire and manuever due to the high ops tempo at that time. Things like watch your avenues of approach or dedicated lanes of fire or once an infantryman is given a position to defend defend it even when the entire complex is under attack from a multiple different directions---all the old standard WWII tactics "sounded" new to them.

Program drifted into space with no further interest on the part of the CTCs. The CTCs attempt to replicate the swarm attack concept but it is sold under the term "complex attacks" not swarm attacks.

Secondly many were uncomfortable in watching a swarm attack directed against say the 1st CAV COP in Baqubah as it was recorded by the "enemy" so they would turn off as they viewed the videos as propaganda not an example of true OSINT that could provide you insight into the enemy thinking and his TTPs.

Just some thoughts-


Sat, 01/14/2012 - 5:54pm

In reply to by Hubba Bubba

- Hubba Bubba

Thanks a lot for your comment. I agree that the article is mostly a SOCOM ad.
But in one point I strongly disagree:
"he espouses the linear and hierarchical Clausewitzian logic himself with, “Warfare is an extension of politics (Clausewitz). It must be the last resort after politics fails."

Clausewitzain logic is not linear - only the Clausewitz perception and interpretation especially in the US is linear - or even dogmatic.
His approach is non-linear - and therefore non-Jominian. Clausewitz acknowledged the rational, irrational and nonrational character of war - due to his philosphical background in the German "Romantik" of his time.
I really wonder why Clausewitz in many comments on SWJ is described as linear and rigid.

Hubba Bubba

Sat, 01/14/2012 - 3:54am

I was excited to see the possibility of a Swarm Theory article on 21 century conflict on SWJ; unfortunately, this article appears to be more of the “use a trendy phrase or word and wrap it around your worldview” sort of piece that makes the half-argument that special operations ought to define their processes with yet another term.

A quick review using the “Good, Bad, and Ugly” format on this article.

1. The Good: I applaud the author for tying in social production models out of organizational theory for swarm considerations. These are the ‘Googles’ and ‘Wikipedia’ based systems of the world, and they get a bad rap from our traditional hierarchical and control-fixated institutions such as the military. The fact that ‘Second Life’ has cyber-meetings and recruitment drives for potential global terrorists reflects our changing world; we do need to understand this, appreciate how it changes conflict, and consider how we can adapt to better transform the environment to our advantage.

2. The Bad: Based on the content, footnotes, and arguments, I would unfortunately consider the ‘Swarm Theory’ in this article as highly misunderstood by the author. For starters, there is virtually no swarm theory in the footnotes, which raised my initial concern as I make it a habit of reading references and footnotes to gather an appreciation of the author’s source material and their background.

a. Swarm Theory material abounds on the internet and in many major academic sources; RAND did a pretty great Swarm Theory called “Swarming and the Future of Conflict” in the late 1990s that is free online and delivers what the title of this article teases the reader with. Steven Johnson explains the concept of swarming through the myth of ant colonies in Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software- another fantastic book that could easily support military applications such as this one.

b. Swarm Theory deals with some pretty important differences in organizational logic that hierarchical military organizations simply are unable to do in current form. The author reinforces non-swarm processes while mislabeling them as “swarm”- examples:

i. “To do this, American warriors, intelligence agencies and nations must learn, adapt, even transform real-time becoming confidently capable in every domain.” – to be capable in every domain implies a linear logic for approaching problems in a post-positivist reductionist sense. Swarm theory deals with collective intelligence where instinct creates novel solutions to complex problems that individual elements of the swarm collective are unaware of, or incapable of understanding…ants are individually rather stupid, but an ant colony is genius. One does not train special operations to be capable in every domain as the author argues by fusing intelligence with highly trained individuals and consider it a manifestation of swarm logic. Remember, individual ants are stupid, and cannot see the holistic picture at all. Operators, by nature of their training, are individually intelligent yet absolutely tied to the overarching campaign plan of the hierarchical military organization from the tactical up to the strategic level in all conflicts. In other words- while an ODA team is tactically innovative, the operational effect they produce is not swarm-theory based, but a manifestation of the Clausewitzian driven post-positivist and reductionist preferred logic of the larger military institution. The author even demonstrates this as he espouses the linear and hierarchical Clausewitzian logic himself with, “Warfare is an extension of politics (Clausewitz). It must be the last resort after politics fails. As long as humankind walks this earth, there will always, always be conflict.” This is a purely western position; and it contradicts Swarm Theory entirely.

ii. I found the section on linking the downing of the CH-47 Chinook with 30 SOF personnel and Black Hawk Down in Somalia very confusing; does the author suggest that using aviation to move assets around the battlefield is an outdated TTP as he seems to state? Swarming Theory does not fit very well with 1x RPG hitting a helicopter; RAND offers a slew of historical examples of swarm in military applications going back to Greek/Roman times, but I think their example of Nazi U-boat applications in the WWII battle for the Atlantic is a outstanding ‘swarm theory’ example- and it escapes the tunnel vision this article has towards only looking at modern SOF operations. More importantly, the physical movement of rockets into moving helicopters sort of misses the swarm theory point here- we want to talk about intelligence and organizations, not the unfortunate reality that if you fly something (helicopter, hover-craft, or Good Year Blimp), and someone wants to shoot at you, they will. The Red Baron supposedly died from a ground pounder’s lucky shot in much the same way- and that has little to do with Swarm Theory.

iii. “All because the definition of "joint" operations was not understood leading to disaster on an Iranian desert landing strip. This is evolution.” Again, another highly problematic statement demonstrating a misunderstanding of how Swarm Theory operates on a fundamental level. Evolution is a separate theory from Swarm, and evolution theory works rather well with hierarchical organizations such as western military forces that employ SOF. Swarm theory also evolves, but in a different manner than a hierarchical military force adapts to joint special operation requirements in the early 1980s…swarming deals with self-organization and collective intelligence. Yet this did not, and does not happen in SOF evolution. Why do we have SOCOM and directed joint operations after 1986? Did SOF units self-organize and collectively organize into a higher evolved state the way ant colonies are able to rely on Swarm Theory and adapt to changing conditions? Or did a bunch of Congressmen (hierarchical) draft something called the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, inspired in part by the very Iranian desert strip that the author mentions? That is not swarm theory- that is our military institutional hierarchy where we are directed- we are not ants. We are not evolving our SOF based on local conditions and collective intelligence…they are utterly strange bedfellows in this regard.

iv. “Nations and alliances must adapt, change, and evolve even become efficient and smarter. One thought to consider is when was the last time any nation fought in warfare against high threat air defenses? Can the TTPs from the last 10-20 years be applied and effective in that scenario?” - again, this is not Swarm Theory. Swarms are not about “getting smarter.” Collective intelligence has to do with local conditions and instinct driving group activity; individual ants do not get smarter with age; they are as ignorant about the big picture of the ant colony on the day they die as the day they are born- but the ant colony does adapt over time using collective intelligence. The problem is that SOF, and the larger military establishment does not do this. From our budgets to training to execution, we are cemented to a hierarchical concept of control and power. As for TTPs- I would argue that ants and bees have TTPs…it is instinct and pheromones (their biological vehicle for making swarm theory work in nature). National Geographic had a good article about researchers dropping glass beads coated with scout ant pheromones down into the colony entrance to get interior worker ants to switch behavior to come out and scavenge. They figured out that if an interior worker was hit with 4x pheromone beads within a 10 second span, which triggered the instinctual behavior change. Soldiers use TTPs to control behavior and make it uniform and consistent throughout the force, to include SOF. That is why sniper training adheres to the same general principles whether you attend the Army, Navy, or other school environment. But the big difference on why Swarm Theory is different has to do with how TTPs evolve over time. Ant colonies use collective intelligence to change individual ant behavior at the local level under local conditions in a collective format…many bees within the hive will shiver when cold wind hits the hive because they instinctually are following a hard-wired TTP; and collectively they all are heating up the hive to protect the larva, although they have no idea of this individually. Soldiers adapt TTPs and doctrine through hierarchical and linear decision making processes- field manuals and organizational products are staffed up to the central decision maker, and they are only adapted by the organization when the leader (usually a general officer) endorses the change. SOF does this as well- otherwise we might as well get rid of SOCOM above troop level entirely. Higher HQ, even in SOF environments, are completely unlike the Ant Queen, who has no awareness or influence on the colony or their actions- she lays eggs until she dies.

v. “With strategic knowledge, awareness enables us to make the right decisions under a wide variety of circumstances. Precisely what is demanded of individual special operations non-commissioned and junior officers who face near insurmountable obstacles, which threaten their lives or others, even national security.” Again- the author confuses swarm theory with how the hierarchical military functions within a different Clausewitzian logic. Swarm theory deals with collective intelligence based on local conditions- the individual ants do NOT see the big picture. Pods or clusters of swarming elements cannot by definition be “strategists” making “ground force commander” decisions. They would react to local conditions and follow critically developed “instinctual actions” that reflect collective intelligence; in other words, a pod of SOF would react to local conditions following established TTPs and never see the swarm- but the effect would be a swarm theory process where multiple small pods of SOF produce actions that influence the big picture. They would do these actions without any direction from higher…there is no higher in true Swarm Theory- other than instinct. In a military application, one might argue that some aspects of swarm theory does nest with small teams of operators conducting actions in a decentralized fashion- but if one increases the communication as the author recommends with new technology, how will one avoid the burden of greater control by Commanders at the higher HQ? Leaked reports on the OBL raid support the story that SOF assets on the ground were being monitored, and directed by the highest strategic leadership- the ant queen was directing drones on what picnic basket to raid, and when. This is not swarm theory- this is our modern military organization playing with new technology.

vi. “US SOCOM must have the following: Joint Chiefs of Staff SOCOM 4 Star General: Guidance and Interference.” This supports hierarchical control and greater reductionism…not swarm theory. Sounds more like SOCOM needs a 4 Star to have more power and control to get what it needs; that is hierarchy logic…remember that swarm theory goes in the opposite direction and reduces top-heavy command and control to zero…the ant queen lays eggs.

vii. “A fusion center is effective by removing stovepipes enabling every source to collect raw intelligence on communications, travel, relationships, geo-locations, funding, etc.” The author uses the term “remove stovepipes.” This again supports the movement of information up to decision makers…stovepipes are a metaphor for when folks plan in a vacuum and make poor decisions because they did not share the info. That is a flaw in hierarchical based organizations, but swarm theory has nothing to do with a fusion center. The ‘fusion center’ concept the author suggests addresses the problems associated with hierarchical organizations and decision making- not swarm theory. Collective intelligence uses local conditions for adaptation- they do not gather information from some higher intelligence agency that fuses it for them; local conditions means the team gathers their own observations and operate without centralized control; they swarm based on “instinct” in the form of TTPs and training. Fusion centers relate to hierarchical logic- once again, a decision maker whether they are an operator or a general within some higher command structure is calling the shots.

3. The Ugly: When you see stuff like “Shadow warriors are the jewels of a nation” in the introduction, I am opt to think of a metaphor concerning my gym workouts in a military setting. At the gym, I see some folks that come to the gym with a purpose: some focus on their cardio, some are there to build muscle, some do crossfit. Some go to socialize. There is another group that comes dressed to work out like any of the aforementioned exercisers, but they are more apt to admire themselves in the mirror while flexing instead of actually “working out.” The author has special operations as his primary background; thus there is not much of a leap in logic that this entire piece on “Swarming: The Art of 21st Century Warfare” addresses the very slim salami slice of conflict that special operations addresses…there is nothing here on Swarm Theory applications outside of that very select field; 21st century conflict is not going to be just about counter-terrorism.

4. As for CUBE; this is not really anything new, and it will be replaced in due time with yet another organizing process that better addresses a future conflict in ways CUBE cannot. I think the author hangs his hat a bit too much on what is really a flashy acronym for a modern approach within the standard evolution of special operations within the overarching structure of modern conflict. Some future conflicts will require counter-terrorism, some will not. I personally find processes such as the OODA Loop and this CUBE concept (purpose, simplicity, security, repetition, speed, surprise) as just re-inventing the wheel on what amounts to Jominian linear-causality. Follow my simple steps, and you will win. If you fail, you did not follow my steps correctly. The other bad thing about trying to categorize logic into repeating procedures like CUBE is that it actually works against innovation and adaptation. Once you begin to codify something by stating, “The 21st Century standard for CT operations to include both American and allied tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) is CUBE.” So, it is 2012 and you are telling us that for the next 90 years, we must follow this procedure? Things just do not work that way…otherwise we would have invaded Panama in 1989 using WWI era planning and tactics. CUBE might be useful now, but it is a procedure, albeit a special operations one that has utility in many environments. Once you lock your organization into one way of looking at the world, you risk missing what is really there because you only see things the way you want to.

5. The extra ugly: SOCOM needs more lawyers? If they are for some sort of “Running Man” target practice, I am all in favor of that. Otherwise you are just strengthening the traditional military hierarchical span of control by injecting legal advisors into SOF teams…you will end up with more micro-management instead of local-condition swarm processes. “Your honor, I did advise the team on the following regulations concerning the disposal of non-flame retardant material as per the following Homeland Security rules and regulations concerning article 18 of…”

-just chewing gum here. This might come over a bit rough, but we just need to prevent buzz words from dominating our military discourse…’Swarm Theory’ is quite interesting- if you know what you are talking about.

Hubba Bubba

Outlaw 09

Fri, 01/13/2012 - 1:23pm

Swarming---not really new---- actually it was the core battle tactic of the Sunni insurgency starting in 2006 and still continues---we just called it "complex attacks", but ask the 1st CAV just how effective it was.

Skip forward to Afghanistan---it is the core Taliban battle tactic there as well.

It has been a far Eastern battle tactic for hundreds of years as well.

What is new is tying it to SOF and the modern techno gadgets---will it work--not so sure as the concept requires a massive amount of defense contractors just to get the techno side to play with each other.

Better is to teach SF the far Eastern battle tactics and let them get on with their job.

Another solution using technology to fill the gap of the lack of institutional knowledge under the guise of the 21st century.