Small Wars Journal

To Design or Not to Design (Part Four)

Tue, 04/05/2011 - 10:57am

To Design or Not to Design (Part Four):

Taking Lines out of Non-Linear; How Design Must Escape 'Tacticization' Bias of Military Culture

by Ben Zweibelson

Download The Full Article: To Design or Not to Design (Part Four)

The fifteen pages of design doctrine in FM5-0 Chapter 3 Design introduces non-linear open system concepts while paradoxically recommending traditional linear methodology for transforming these dynamic open systems into the desired state. While the first eleven pages on design discuss open systems and their inherent tendencies to learn, adapt, and resist mechanistic action, section 3-58, The Operational Approach, resorts back to linear causality by recommending lines of effort as a method to depict transforming the system. Once again, Army design doctrine suffers an identity crisis in which holistic approaches to complex systems struggles with an institutional preference for tacticizing all levels of war.

Download The Full Article: To Design or Not to Design (Part Four)

Major Ben Zweibelson is an active duty Infantry Officer in the US Army. A veteran of OIF 1 and OIF 6, Ben is currently attending the School for Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has a Masters in Liberal Arts from Louisiana State University and a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences from the United States Air Force (Air Command and Staff College program). Ben deploys this June to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as a planner.

Editor's Note: This essay is part four of a six part series on design.

About the Author(s)

Ben Zweibelson is the Program Director for Design and Innovation at the Joint Special Operations University and is a doctoral student at Lancaster University. A retired U.S. Army Infantry officer and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Ben has provided design education across USSOCOM, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Government, academia and industry as well as internationally. He was named “design conference ambassador” for the second year in a row for the upcoming IMDC, and has recently lectured on design at the Polish and Danish War Colleges, the Canadian Forces College, NATO Schools at Oberammergau, the National Counterterrorism Center, the IBM capstone SPADE conference for NATO in Copenhagen, as well as numerous Special Operations and strategic level defense assets in 2018. He resides in Tampa, Florida with his wife and three children. He can be reached at




Sun, 05/22/2011 - 6:48pm


<i>Steve- as always, a pleasure.</I>


The evolution of our communication systems from the printing press/Gutenberg Bible to the Johnny Quest/James T Kirk/'interweb' is pretty interesting.  Fun to be part of the experience

<i>I would argue that reductionist, linear, and positivist logic has a strong lock in western culture, but not all human culture. The works of Jullien, Bousquette, Rappoport, Deluze and Guatiari and others make the East-West tension argument regarding rival logics. </I>

My bookshelves are overflowing and I have had to repurpose a clothes shelf in my closet to try and keep up...looks like more room will be needed ;) With respect to your list of authors I have read and enjoyed Bosquette's The Scientific Way of War.  Some of my other 'free time'/non-tech books which I enjoy rereading from time to time include David S Landes' The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, Fareed Zakria's The Future of Freedom, Jeffery D. Sachs' The End of Poverty, David Berlinski's A Tour of The Calculus, and Peter L Bernstein's Against The Gods.  Since my two visits to Iraq I have been working on Lord Kinross' The Ottoman Centuries, and Ira Lapidus's A History of Islamic Societies but, frankly, it's been slow going and various financial engineering/modeling books seem to consistently monopolize my free time.  My digital library of non-tech books (Beamitdown Politics and Philosophy collections) is all heavily western as well.  Looks like I am stuck in the paradigm ;)

<i>Would you agree that the US military in terms of doctrine, training, planning, execution, and reflection (AARs, CALL, TTPs, etc) are all well grounded in a linear reductionist logic that prevents any "heretical" discourse about how we think from ever really occuring (except of course, here at SWJ!)....</I>

There is certainly a push within our military to think and act a certain way, however the massive cognitive gap/gulf between our peacetime and wartime approaches and that of the world as it is has been irrevocably changed due to GWOT.  The pace of GWOT is also chasing the dinosaurs out and, believe it or not, there is less stupidity and more transparency than there was in the bad old zero defect days of my youth.  

With respect to the term linearity, I wonder if your personal definition of the word is composed primarily of the things that you see that are wrong in the Army?  My personal definition includes all of the valuable analytical methods used in business and engineering.

Irrespective of cultural pressures, we each have a sphere of influence.  I can't imagine relying solely on either linear or non-linear ttp's and still being able to function successfully in my sphere.  Bottom line, I can't throw out the linearity baby with the bathwater. ;)

<I> We are using what Baudrillard in 'Simulacra and Simulations' terms the preference for "fake reality- simulacra" over the real world...</I> day soon Facebook will get a 'dislike' button and perhaps that event will rock the ako/bcks paradigm as well...until that day comes it seems that we are stuck with the aar

<i>To converge back to the original point- if we cannot have honest discourse in our military organizations about the far-reaching consequences of WHY we think the way we think, and WHY that logic may or may not work in every environment- then we really are not the adaptive, innovative, and persistantly creative institution we market ourselves as.</I>

Rightly or wrongly the current gate keepers fear the change that's coming. I think that it is good that you are asking questions and really looking for answers.  Folks like yourself were very important during our last drawdown and were successful irrespective of the path they took...both our military and our civilian systems benefited.

<i>The continued tremendous discourse online at sites like SWJ is indeed promising that transformation does occur; just not in doctrinal updates and standardized online training.</I>



bz (not verified)

Sun, 05/22/2011 - 11:30am

Steve- as always, a pleasure. This series tags American military culture to the Jominian, Clausewitzian, and western positivist logic that does indeed pervade most of American culture. TDONOT as a series focused the topic to just our military culture.

I would argue that reductionist, linear, and positivist logic has a strong lock in western culture, but not all human culture. The works of Jullien, Bousquette, Rappoport, Deluze and Guatiari and others make the East-West tension argument regarding rival logics. Would you agree that the US military in terms of doctrine, training, planning, execution, and reflection (AARs, CALL, TTPs, etc) are all well grounded in a linear reductionist logic that prevents any "heretical" discourse about how we think from ever really occuring (except of course, here at SWJ!)....

To diverge a moment, I just had to endure six hours of mouse-clicking in a SERE online manditory computer simulation where only 1 pre-determined answer was correct, and if I missed clicking on a butter knife in the room I was penalized for not tap-coding to SSG Jones in the next room about it. Seriously- what has become of us? We are using what Baudrillard in 'Simulacra and Simulations' terms the preference for "fake reality- simulacra" over the real world...and land navigation with injury treatment is done via a Tomb Raider knock-off. More disturbing was the preference for repetition and uniformity: click the right pre-determined answer or you do not get the cookie (your necessary PC generated certificate of completion).

To converge back to the original point- if we cannot have honest discourse in our military organizations about the far-reaching consequences of WHY we think the way we think, and WHY that logic may or may not work in every environment- then we really are not the adaptive, innovative, and persistantly creative institution we market ourselves as.

The continued tremendous discourse online at sites like SWJ is indeed promising that transformation does occur; just not in doctrinal updates and standardized online training.



Sun, 05/22/2011 - 3:13am


<i>sorry I am late on this one.</I>

No worries  

<I>"We prefer to use what I term the "suck it up and drive on- FORCE the success" mentality that is indiative of Jominian principles."</I>

Very true statement, up to the point of attributing this immutable facet of US Army culture to Jomini.  Our Army culture is based upon American culture and you will find this attitude to be prevalent out in the civilian world wherever the rubber meets the road.  I see it in other parts of the world as well.  Perhaps it's more correctly identified as a facet of human nature? Although Jomini (1779-1869) was certainly a child of the Industrial Revolution, he wasn't patient zero.

<i>In the hundreds of AARs I have suffered through in over 17 years in the military, I really cannot recall an instance where the AAR said something along the lines of, "the S3 CHOPS performed well, but the doctrine for X did not work in this environment because..." and "therefore, when we confront this sort of environment in the future, we should avoid using doctrine X and instead do this..."</I>

Raise you a few years, nonetheless, I haven't seen it at Hohenfels, JRTC, NTC, or BCTP either.  Its rare in the civilian world as well;  will the acquisition of Skype really change Microsoft's trajectory in the way desired?

So, Why?

Perhaps it's that successful non-linear leaps are rare, and that's why we celebrate them.  Dr Corn's most recent article here at SWJ:  From Mars to Minerva: Clausewitz, Liddell Hart, and the Two Western Ways of War is interesting and his observation regarding a more or less linear distribution of strategic philosphy memes since Liddell-Hart speaks to this.  
His observation is that Andre Beaufre, Thomas Schelling, Edward Luttwak, John Warden, John Boyd, and Unrestricted Warfare are all influenced by an indirect approach to strategy.

Developing non-linear and linear strategy is tough, this weekends FT has an interesting read on the topic;  Henry Kissinger talks to Simon Schama
By Simon Schama Published: May 20 2011 17:08 | Last updated: May 20 2011 17:08 at


bz (not verified)

Mon, 05/16/2011 - 10:20am


sorry I am late on this one. I want to stress to you that MDMP is not "the devil." It works when the conditions are right for it...but we as a military have the dickens of a time appreciating when the time is appropriate for linear logic, and when conditions call for an entirely different logic. We prefer to use what I term the "suck it up and drive on- FORCE the success" mentality that is indiative of Jominian principles. Follow Jomini's principles of war correctly and you will always win- but if you lose, Jomini has a catch-22 built in: you made a mistake. I submit that instead of always focusing our AARs on the operators ONLY, we should also spend some time critically thinking about the logic. For instance, a BCT staff that conducts an AAR at JRTC will likely construct many useful AAR comments where a particular staff section could improve on something, or they did not follow doctrine; or they need more training on CPOF or TIGR...but what happens when the organization failed not because of the operators, but the methodology they employed? In the hundreds of AARs I have suffered through in over 17 years in the military, I really cannot recall an instance where the AAR said something along the lines of, "the S3 CHOPS performed well, but the doctrine for X did not work in this environment because..." and "therefore, when we confront this sort of environment in the future, we should avoid using doctrine X and instead do this..."



Mon, 05/16/2011 - 1:13am


<I>"...many times we may find ourselves following the scorecard for the sake of the scorecard..."</I>


However....transparency and accountability, and the involvement of all three branches of government, might be enough to make a national balanced scorecard a useful tool for our democracy.  We already see demonstrated benefits arising from training briefs, workplans, and earnings reports which follow quarterly and annual cycles both for governmental and private spheres.  Institutional culture and thoughtfully chosen metrics are key to making those cycles work however.  

With respect to our culture we have a number of issues which we have to do a better job of balancing in order to make a quarterly and annual balanced scorecard work.  Risk aversion is symptomatic of a litigious culture, and it is a major driver of micromanagement.   Hyper-partisanship, whether inter-service, inter-departmental, or political is obviously corrosive.  How ironic it is that we will need 'sticks and carrots' to drive change.

As always it boils down to the need for quality education, experience, and leadership - bottom up and top down.  In the real world, that's not 100% across the board possible however - so that is why we are each responsible for looking after key individuals at key places and times.  

If you have time...the title is pretty cheesy, but the article is quite interesting and might help you with where you are going:  Are you a good boss, or a great one?  Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2011, pages 125-131.  It walks one through the art of engaging & influencing both inside and outside the wire... leaders are ultimately responsible for the azimuths chosen to get to and back from that fob on the hill ;)


G Martin

Wed, 05/11/2011 - 3:02pm

Totally agree with you, Steve, that linear and non-linear processes have to be used simultaneously to effect change in both kinds of environments (although not necessarily in ALL linear environments, I think...). At the end of the day a linear process of getting a battalion task force to a FOB is the most effective... usually. ;)

<EM>Wrongly or rightly I am still looking for something along the lines of a iterative balanced scorecard derivative in order to strategize how to use American DIME elements to achieve national objectives.</EM>

I think this might set us up for failure, though. If we come up with this iterative scorecard to achieve national objectives- then many times we may find ourselves following the scorecard for the sake of the scorecard- to the detriment of national objectives- which may or may not have changed. I saw this in Afghanistan all the time.

Our processes and culture aren't built to handle "re-framing" or changing our plans. If we start with this scorecard-type approach, we seem to become bureaucratically wedded to it, in spite of what it is actually doing for us. Changing things and questioning assumptions is seen as a weakness- easily exploited by interested parties. How long can we afford this hard-to-notice systemic self-licking ice-cream failure of a cone?


Wed, 05/11/2011 - 1:30pm

Here is a link to a free non-traditional way of teaching/learning math and business concepts (and he is expanding into other topics as well). He is an excellent teacher and I particularly like his no frills, bite size, ten minutes or less approach to things.

The SWJ Academy? War, Design, and other topics?


Wed, 05/11/2011 - 2:20am

Ben, Grant, and Chris,

Your Papers and comments regarding Design have made for a very interesting trail to travel along, and I for one appreciate the time and effort spent (as well as the many references and footnotes provided).  I have read and thought about this series because I am always looking for clues to use in  my engineering design and project management work.  Often during the journey that is a project I try and fuse engineering and art to come up with something that is needed, cost effective, and durable (aka holistic and sustainable).  Sometimes my efforts work, sometimes not, but is always a journey/continual learning experience.

So, here are some things I have learned from you guys on this journey.  MDMP, linearity, the engineering approach, and the positivist philosophy are the devil ;) You are trying to explain Design by focusing upon describing what it is not. The use of Wiki's may be an incomplete way to capture the truth of Design, but a fine arts education is the best ;)  

I would instead offer that a world filled with just artists or just engineers would most likely be hell on earth.  Einstein and Sun Tzu are closer to the mark with their demonstrated understanding regarding the simultaneous existence of wave and particle;  IOW we all practice linear and nonlinear ttps everyday...even within the context of MDMP.  Wrongly or rightly I am still looking for something along the lines of a iterative balanced scorecard derivative in order to strategize how to use American DIME elements to achieve national objectives.  


G Martin

Tue, 05/10/2011 - 2:30pm


What happens if mission analysis- or any "method" for that matter- doesn't do one good if faced with a complex environment? So, for instance, even if Design was "Mission Analysis Done Right"- what if that didn't help at all?

Mission Analysis, a la MDMP, is part of a linear, engineered-solution, backwards-planning, positivist philosophy that COULD be counter to what really works to effect change in complex environments. What good is doing mission analysis when higher's guidance may be counterproductive and everyone's understanding is 180 degrees off?

I agree the Army has approached complexity in pieces as if we could just do "Mission Analysis on steroids" and then "re-frame" as needed and we'll be successful. But I'd argue that that description of Design most likely isn't a productive way to effect change in complex environments and thus not a good way to sructure Design to be effective.

Dave Lamy (not verified)

Mon, 05/09/2011 - 10:02pm

Design = Mission Analysis Done Right
Ben puts forward an interesting argument IRT the U.S. Army's passion for Design. Unfortunately, I am not convinced. Design is the U.S Armys way of placing a new name on an old product; namely Mission Analysis. In my opinion, design is mission analysis done properly. By definition design is a concept/method to identify an ill defined problem, and then develop a course of action to address that problem. This sounds an awful like mission analysis and then MDMP. The only difference I can identify between normal mission analysis and design is the inclusion of an ill-defined problem. In ill defined problem is identified by utilizing the similar methods and procedures as "normal" problem, the only difference is the amount of time this process normally takes and the amount of effort that goes into the analysis.
Unfortunately, recently we (the Army) have allowed leaders to take short cuts and not ensure we execute mission analysis properly. So instead of enforcing an already established standard, the leadership has decided we must develop and utilize a new method; Design.

Here is a summary of professional military educational (PME) problems with design in the context of the US military:

1. Our education systems are modeled on our training systems: replication and mass production (more or less centrally controlled by accreditations). Design is non-reproducible (or at least it is undesirable to do so) and is oriented on uniqueness (not on sameness). Better stated, our hierarchical systems of "education" (more like training) and oligarchic approvals of knowledge-to-be-taught (i,e, doctrine) are philosophically incompatible with design.

2. Design is not a "thing in itself." It is a shorthand -- representing human efforts to combine utilitarian (pre-engineered) ways of doing things and "art." We do not focus attention in military colleges and universities on coaching "art." We give art "lip service" and use the term "art" as a catchword for anything we cannot fit or make sense of into our hierarchical structure of learning objectives (actually these are more like behavioral training objectives). We hear: "Oh, well that's the ART of operations," or "That's the ART of strategy," whenever we fail explain how to educate a particular creative or critical aspect of professional practice (because that would be irreproducible en mass).

3. As the purveyors of PME do not seriously study how the liberal arts and fine arts are educated (as a model), we naturally return to what we know -- military science as it mimics the natural sciences or the engineering sciences. As alluded to in blog conversations above, it is very seductive to turn to the engineering sciences in particular to see a model of instruction and education that works. Why not set up our PME approaches in light of a proven system of education -- as has the engineering sciences. Unfortunately, the logic of engineering does not transfer well to the "illogics" in fields of war as it would to engineers who go to work on projects such as bridges, roads, electric works, and so forth. Yet we persist because it is so enticing to think of our PME as an "engineering problem" and problem settings can be "understood" as would be a bridge-building problem, if we just study it harder.

4. "Systems theory" or "systemic design" can be a dangerously narrow introduction to design
because it can lead back to the engineering logic. We try and equate systemic design to something akin to "effects based operations" or the like (EBO was a systems engineering approach/borrowed logic to warfare). Yet it made its way strongly into the JP 3-0 series as the basis for fighting.

5. Now we see the Army taking a "complex systems" view (brought to us with the hyper-metaphoric story of the starfish and the spider and the oversimplified story of the Apache Indians, etc.). Here we go again -- the narrative is taking on the logic of complex adaptive systems and the idea behind the narrative is that we can fight networked organizations with networked organizations of our own (bring symmetry to asymmetry). The logic of subatomic and biological complex systems is believed to be the next "logic" that can help us win wars, so now the Army replaces C2 with the German idea of Auftragstaktik" or "mission command." The problem is this is another enticing "silver bullet" logic that will not work all the time. But now we have a revised Army FN 3-0 that sees this all but as a silver bullet (hence this idea will dominate our PME)...

We lack sophistication in our institution and faith in our officers. We have to learn how to design our logics based on the situations (problem settings we are in) and not ahead of time. We are just chasing our tail if we think we have found or can find the "right" logic. Our system of PME cannot handle the paradox of multiple logics that design embraces.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 04/10/2011 - 2:22pm

"Actually, auto traffic does follow some of the rules of fluid dynamics so that traffic studies can be quite accurate in predicting the effects of changes in street design."

- Mike K

This was posted on my group blog so I got that wrong....


Sun, 04/10/2011 - 1:25pm


<i>Do we accept the classic assumption that war is violent, chaotic, and any means to make it less so is foolhardy - or do we challenge it by saying it's finite, contained and can be brought to appropriate conclusion via application of a formula?</i>

War is of course wild and untamable, in a word chaotic, but that does not mean that we should limit our actions and responses to 'standard solutions. The clichéd ' a good commander maximizes his options while minimizing those of his opponent applies in this field of endeavor as well.

Differential Equations/DiffEq/Diffy-Q class was a bit of an out of body, down the rabbit hole, walk on the wild side for me. Part of that ambiance was due in no small part to the fact that one of my teachers appeared to wear the exact same clothes everyday, wore white gloves (to work on the chalk board), occasionally used a pair of glasses in which one lens was clear and the other darkened, and she had a wild mop of unkempt white hair. Some messengers have difficulty in rousing the troops to their vision, but there are theories and ideas that when operationalized nonetheless add value to society.

Mr. McNamara and Mr. Rumsfeld, in my view, attempted to bring the proven power of capitalism from the chaotic corporate world to that of the chaotic battlefield. The hubris that served them so well in corporate and governmental settings failed on the battlefield. The question remains, is the vision flawed or was it the messengers that were flawed?


<i>So the data points you may enter into any equation will always be colored by human fallibility.</i>

Medicine is a good example of how we regularly and successfully transition from linear to non-linear descriptions and practices in our daily lives. Mathematics as a descriptive and operational experience is presently unable to ride along with us as far as we regularly travel in our daily journeys. Birth weights, head circumferences, heights, weights, body mass indices, immunization rates, treatment outcomes, etc. are used as starting points by medical professionals before they turn to codified observational knowledge (ie the paramedic manual, pocket guide to nursing diagnoses, etc), evidenced based practice described in cutting edge periodicals, and 'plain-old intuition and experience.

RCS and Madhu,

I often advocate for identifying and plugging into existing systems to solve problems when and where possible. For example:

USACE uses an organization of (mostly US-bound) experienced contracting officers, engineers (design and project managers), technicians, and construction inspectors who can (usually) operationalize successful engineering designs.

Iraq has a (broken) civil administration/organizational structure of accountants, engineers, technicians, and construction inspectors who can (sometimes) operationalize successful engineering designs.

In GWOT we have consistently attempted to replicate and parallel the USACE organizational structure with a field expedient USG structures (further described by CERP & QRF doctrine) while, in some instances, partially or completely bypassing the civil administration structure of the governments we partner with.

The learning curve has been a steep and expensive one for the generalists pressed into providing specialized advising and assisting service to the civil administration structures of the partnered government as well as for the taxpayers funding these operations. How will design address issues such as these?


Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 04/10/2011 - 12:50pm

Oops. I didn't state that I was addressing some of the other comments in the thread and not the original paper.

I liked the metaphors, and the examples used, and thought they aided in understanding. Then again, I'm not in the military so I should probably just shut up and read instead of commenting and getting things wrong :)

bz (not verified)

Sun, 04/10/2011 - 11:55am

The fluid dynamics metaphor in this paper is nothing but a metaphor; the difference is that Design uses metaphors in a system of logic that is distinct and incompatible (in my opinion) with traditional detailed planning logic that uses metaphors fused with reductionism, mechanistic process, and linear causality.

Take a military operation in our past- did we plan it in a linear logic? I argue that there are very few examples (none off the top of my head) that appear to be non-linear. Take Dora Farms when we tried to nip off Saddam- that appears to be the linear causality logic that EBO and MDMP prefers- looking for the critical vulnerability in the enemy center of gravity. Bomb the location the enemy head of state is supposed to be at (and his C2), and the rest of the snake crumbles. We didn't get Saddam then, and this is wild conjecture- if we did, would it really have mattered? Was the Iraqi operational or strategic centers of gravity as planned at that point linked in any way to the Fedayeen or the Sunni insurgency that was yet to come?

Linear used to work rather well when the world was less complex than today (I know that is another arguement in this thread)- but COGs made sense to the world in an earlier period where the military could influence the world and the future seemed to react in ways that could be anticipated with linear causality, MDMP, reductionism, COGs, etc. What happened?

Another metaphor I try to use in the paper has to do with swarming. Imagine a falcon that is trained to catch a mouse in a field. Simple enough- the falcon flies up, locates the mouse, uses his falcon OODA loop to outmanuever the mouse and snatch him up. End-state achieved. But when we try to anticipate what the actual flight path will be of the falcon and the ground path of a mouse in distress, we will not get past the linear causality of the planning in reductionism; we can only anticipate the falcon flies, finds, and catches the mouse.

So, if the world is not too complex, and your military actions consist of falcon and mouse actors- using linear causality and reductionism with planning appears to generally work- although you cannot get into the weeds on anticipating much beyond COGs, end state, and a general line of effort/operation.

Now, replace the world of falcons and mice with a bee hive and thousands of flowers over a diverse topography around the hive. Bees self-organize and adapt to local conditions- if 1x bee flies out to an area for pollen and there are already 3x bees there, that 4th bee instinctively moves to do another task- hence local becomes the key in anticipating behavior; but the entire process is non-linear. MDMP, EBO, COGs, lines of effort- these become increasingly unable to anticipate future action of the bee hive to determine system behavior because a different system of logic is required. Non-linear processes, adaptation, persistent creativity, innovation- these are theoretical concepts that work within the logic of Design.

Lastly, trying to cram non-linear into traditional planning logic is akin to salami-slicing a different logic into an incompatible one. Or, if you use a language that relies upon end-states, problem, line of effort, COG, etc- it is difficult if not impossible to incorporate a logic that not only rejects those concepts, but adapts innovative and potentially opposing logics to those.

As I am not a fluid dynamics specialist, I must also warn you I am not a zookeeper, nor do I work with bee hives (or falcons). These are all imperfect metaphors that attempt to convey novel logics; attempt is the operative word.


Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 04/10/2011 - 11:04am

Human behavior has too many complex variables to be plotted out neatly in graphs and charts and equations, and besides, humans beings lie. To themselves and to each other.

So the data points you may enter into any equation will always be colored by human fallibility.

What we want is to predict human behavior. We may be able to predict certain behaviors in very narrow circumstances but even <em>that</em> is fraught with difficulty. Why do people tend to buy a certain type of toothpaste or why do IEDs tend to be placed at certain times of day, etc? But even if we plot a graph and it fits a set of variables, we still don't really know how or why we got the graph and whether it is related or a statistical fluke. For example, we may predict what toothpaste a category of persons likes to buy, but it's a lot harder to predict why person A bought toothpaste B in country C at noon on a Sunday. Even if person A buys toothpaste in the same way every single time we have studied that person, maybe one day an old friend calls up out of the blue and says, "meet me for coffee." No shopping that day.

Did your linear progression have the variable for a friend calling up out of the blue in it? Adam Smith's "the invisible hand" and all of that.

Take for instance, historical examples of good and bad campaigns: sometimes two leaders within an organization just didn't get along and that affected decision making. How does an equation explain such a human intangible?

That doesn't mean we shouldn't try and predict behavior, it just means that we must understand the limitations of the tools that we use and be willing to reexamine the tools as experience dictates.

Good discussion!

*I posted this previously, but in the late 90s the Sokol hoax was a push back from the scientific community (in this case, a physicist) against the use of post-modern literary theory to understand science.

There were several criticisms:

1. The post modern theorists didn't really understand the scientific terms that they were using and were simply decorating their prose with scientific terminology in order to sound more impressive.

2. An analogy is simply an analogy. When you say something in human behavior is like fluid dynamics, it doesn't mean that the equations for fluid dynamics can be used on human behavior. An analogy is not the same thing as, well, the same thing.

I believe the misuse of scientific analogies is discussed in the following:

Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science…

By the way, all of this is not against using narratives or constructs to understand the world but against the misuse of science. That was the real center of the discussion.

This series on Design is fascinating. Again, thank you.

RCS (not verified)

Sun, 04/10/2011 - 10:18am


Ok - fair enough, I certainly don't want to spend a beautiful Sunday combing through my old DiffEq and engineering text books. My concern is not the math itself - it's already proven; my concern is that we try to rationalize everything to some form of equation i.e. Rumsfeld/McNamara type thought process. While I will agree that there are perhaps places it will fit in neatly, in the spectrum of war, there will be places it would not fit...hence, a value in design. The EBO tie in relates to this concern...would a room full of super computers do a better job at designing and planning than humans? Do we accept the classic assumption that war is violent, chaotic, and any means to make it less so is foolhardy - or do we challenge it by saying it's finite, contained and can be brought to appropriate conclusion via application of a formula? The engineer in me wants to believe we can explain things logically - the practioner in me says if only it were that easy...


Sat, 04/09/2011 - 10:14pm


<I>I am confused. Are you agreeing or disagreeing with me?</I>

I agree with your broad observation that we in the Army are often crafting field expedient solutions for GWOT operations which are neither holistic nor sustainable (in the sense of inputs < outputs).  With an estimated national debt in excess of 75,000 billion USD (source:  A Bankrupt Nation Wakes Up, by Christopher Caldwell, 8 April, 2011, in the Financial Times), it is very important that the US Military rapidly structure itself for success and that individuals help out where we can.  

I disagree with the way you are using some examples to describe linear and non-linear systems.  Pendulums are another topic we need to discuss.

<I>If you disagree that fluid dynamics are not linear, or that they are both linear and non-linear, we might be going off topic from the meta-issue here.</I>

In order to correctly solve problems i find that stating assumptions, describing variables & parameters, deriving the appropriate equations to be a chore worth the effort.  Let's keep exploring?


<i>Got to admit that one's got me too - are we talking linear vs nonlinear on purely mathematical grounds? </I>

Mathematics is a language used to describe life and I would argue that linear is linear ;) but ok let's do it right; a linear equation is of the form a1x1+a2x2+...+an+xn=y.  Engineering methods frequently include the solving of multiple variable linear equations by substitution and elimination.

Nonlinear equations can be used to describe the cyclic exchange of energy (harmonic equations). Harmonic Oscillators such as Nonlinear Pendulums can be described by nonlinear differential equation systems called Hamiltonian Systems.  Direction fields and phase planes are a couple of methods used to help solve Hamiltonian systems.

Groundwater and open channel models make extensive use of differential equations and partial differential equations to describe natural phenomena.  Finite element models used in geotechnical and structural engineering do the same.

Relating back to War, predator-prey/competitive species systems can be described using the Volterra-Loktka nonlinear system of differential equations.

Ben and RCS,

I'll work on another post describing where I see effective bridges between linear and nonlinear systems in USG DIME practice.  

As an aside I have always enjoyed the intellectual workout of EBO, but the engineer in me wonders about the Military's capacity to operationalize non-standard, one off design solutions.


RCS (not verified)

Sat, 04/09/2011 - 6:39pm


Got to admit that one's got me too - are we talking linear vs nonlinear on purely mathematical grounds? In that case, what makes something linear is that when the function is plotted out, the result is a line. Further, it can have multiple variables, but not mutliple variables multiplying by each other nor can the variables have a power greater than 1. Nonlinear systems / equations do not plot out neatly, and are considered those that have multiple powers or multiply variables by themselves...Often, in math and engineering, some of the variables are sufficiently small such that they can be considered non-factors.

The takeaway I suppose is that we (planners, etc) try to rigidly apply principles (formulas) to problems without understanding that the potential effects could not be what we originally planned. For example, we send a company to clear a small village, therefore there will be no enemy in the village, thus, we can start other projects. This seems like a logical conclusion, but if we don't know all the variables or understand the problem it may not work out that simply. Perhaps, we clear the village, but we dislocate a large part of the population or violence suddenly shoots up...etc. It's better that we have at least thought of these alternative futures as a result of our actions than simply thinking A+B=C. In the end, it still may not work...but one would summise that through good problem framing (Design) we would have sufficient courses of action and methods (planning).

That aside - does "Design" turn into the bastardization of EBO - or is the antithesis of it?

bz (not verified)

Sat, 04/09/2011 - 5:17pm


I am confused. Are you agreeing or disagreeing with me?

As for fluid dynamics, my footnotes have the sources. Glen James, Chaos Theory; The Essentials for Military Applications (Newport: Naval War College, Center for Naval Warfare Studies, Newport Four article series on Army Design Number Ten, October, 1996) 13-85. If you disagree that fluid dynamics are not linear, or that they are both linear and non-linear, we might be going off topic from the meta-issue here.

The military wants the world to conform to mechanistic and linear processes of logic; and they employ theoretical concepts that support this such as Jomini, Clausewitz, doctrine, etc.

When linear processes yield what Kuhn calls 'abnormalities' which evoke the paradigm shift towards a superior and new field (or methodology of military planning), many within the linear mindset actively resist the transformation. Our military adherence towards seeing everything as a linear construct (Line of Effort, Line of Operation, Physical Line of Operation) support this. Is there an example of a non-linear approach in any military planning methodology out there? I have yet to see one. Why?

You ask for a Design description of Design's customer value proposition. That is the first error, in my opinion. Do not seek description; you are working within the logic of western reductionism by describing. Seek explanation- seek the exteriority of the system, the unknown-unknowns; ask 'Why' questions, not 'what' questions. Do not look for description, because that generally leads to more categorization, measurement, concerns with time and cost- those are set within the value components of an organization's system of logic. That is interiority, not exteriority of a complex system.



Sat, 04/09/2011 - 1:46pm


There are many lessons out there worth considering.  Einstein, with his paper on the photoelectric effect, described how electrons behave simultaneously as wave and particle.  Sun Tzu's deep and worldly understanding of the duality of things  preceded that of Einstein's.  George Costanza is modern duality exemplified, and a fan of the idea of architectural design to boot.  Nonetheless all three offer us examples regarding design to consider.

What sparked my initial comment was my disagreement with your description of fluid dynamics, within part four of your paper, as 'resisting simple modeling'.  That is part of why I sketched out for you a survey/transect of fluid dynamics methods which span today's use of static linear models and dynamic non-linear models to describe different aspects of hydraulic systems.  Water, like war, is many things simultaneously and i would argue that we do, in fact, have ways to describe the linear and nonlinear aspects of it's being.

More broadly, however, I am looking for a description of Design's customer value proposition for would be designers and customers.  What are the demographics of the designer's customer, what does a designers customer care about, and how much time and cost will it take to deliver the design?  How does Design meet the taxpayers needs for balanced, holistic, and sustainable solutions?  Is  Design best described as a method to be used or a lifestyle to be lived?  

<i>The question is- does that system of logic that prefers reductionism, mechanistic thought, and linear causality still recognize this more complex world and also anticipate how we can influence the future of the world?</I>

If I understand you correctly my friend, I would ask you to look deeper...our eastern and western science and engineering paradigms are not limited to just linear descriptions....even though your Army experiences lead you to question this.


Ben Zweibelson (not verified)

Sat, 04/09/2011 - 11:22am


Dr. Paparone has emphasized within the comments of this series of articles a good point on this. Design is inter-disciplinary; it is broad because a fundamental organizing principle of the Design logic requires an ontological approach as well as 'persistent creativity'- a Shimon Naveh phrase. Design draws from sciences, so fluid dynamics, chaos theory, fractals, and General Systems Theory are all in play, but Design does not bound the field just there. As you might notice in my sources and footnotes, Design spans post-modern philosophy, non-western philosophy, and ancient Greek philosopy as well; it reaches into architecture, modern economics theories, even ideological topics such as neo-socialism and education theory. In essence, Design does not hold its hand up to any discipline, field, theory, or concept and say "sorry, you bring nothing to this party."

When folks argue that "great leaders or this unit or this conflict were doing Design..." it makes me wonder if we are simply correlating success in hindsight with holistic thought and adaptation, or is it a fallacy to attempt to make something Design that really was not. Armies can win wars and battles without Design, just as a society can dominate the ancient world while considering the world flat, medicine as a magic, and dinosaur bones as evidence of monsters. It is a matter of using a system of logic to attempt to recognize the world and attempt to influence the future. Some systems of logic are better than others, depending upon the time period and level of complexity. Is the current level of complexity of the 21st century too difficult for the western way of thinking to continue to work efficiently for the military? This logic worked in the past to conquer powerful enemies, put men on the moon, and remain the lone superpower at the dawn of this new era of globalization. The question is- does that system of logic that prefers reductionism, mechanistic thought, and linear causality still recognize this more complex world and also anticipate how we can influence the future of the world?


Sat, 04/09/2011 - 2:05am


Thanks for this writeup, i enjoy tagging along with you on these articles.  As an aside I too enjoy Bosquet's 'The Scientific Way of Warfare'.  In response to your comment on the difficulty of Fluid Dynamics I thought I'd share a quick note with you.

Water is not the only dynamic system that is simultaneously linear and non-linear, but among the many methods used to describe water there may be some ideas worth including in your survey of design.  Statics is a way to study systems at rest; the sum of all forces acting in the x,y, and z axis' are equal to zero.  Water pressure at the bottom of a pond can be examined using the principles of Statics.  Dynamics is a way to study moving systems; Newton's second law describes how all forces acting in the x, y, and z axis' are equal to mass times acceleration.  Scour forces around bridge piers resulting from moving water are examined using the principles of Dynamics.  Genetic algorithm methods are a way to leverage the benefits of Darwinian selection across a population of algorithms describing water flow by using cheap computational power.  Storm sewers can be sized with commercial programs using GA methods.  Probability density functions, are not just limited to the normal distribution, and they can provide some descriptive tools to describe risk- flood frequencies as well as the failure of hydraulic structures.  USACE has a number of freely distributed online engineering manuals which describe how to apply these methods.  Fluid Dynamics is typically a second year course in a four or five year undergraduate civil engineering program ;)



Didn't mean to leave you hanging on the other points, but simply ran out of time. I'll try to respond within a week or so in more detail. All good points above, but I still would like to see some justification for your comments other than a few quotes on why today's environment is more complex than the Cold War. Vietnam alone was incredibly complex, and we dealt with all the social and political issues (including religion) throughout the Cold War. Nothing new here except the conventional Army didn't internalize the lessons from this era, instead they developed doctrine focused on pure warfighting hoping to wish away the social complexities associated with it, but they were always there. Special Forces doctrine on the other hand has always recognized these factors, so I think the complexity debate goes back to the lens we view the world through. SF is looking largely through the same lens (younger SF types may not realize this, but we are), while big Army is using a new one and the world looks different to them, more complex. Just a thought.

Ben Zweibelson (not verified)

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 11:10am

Bill M-

It is most promising that you agree with me on the growing importance for Design in making sense of the world and helping the military better influence it's future.

It is disappointing, not that you disagree with many of my other points, but that you leave it at that. What other points in this article do you disagree with? I can only guess.

On your comment about my reduction of the Cold War to two paragraphs as an easier era than todays; I can offer some discourse on that since we do seem to disagree on that point. First, I do not think the Cold War was easy, or simple, and I embrace the '20/20 hindsight' issues that histiography (not as much history) throws into an objective view back on a difficult period of military conflicts. That said, I am not just making wild conjecture here. Let me paste the footnote to that statement from my article as a starting point.

8 Carl H. Builder, The Masks of War; American Military Styles in Strategy and Analysis (RAND Corporation: John Hopkins University Press, 1989); John Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife; Counterinsurgency Lessons From Malaya and Vietnam (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002); Russell F. Weigley, The American Way of War (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1973). United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, Field Manual 6-22; Army Leadership; Competent, Confident, and Agile. (Headquarters, Department of the Army, October 2006), 11-3. "Army operations since the Cold War ended have shown all organizations must be capable of adapting to rapidly changing situations... (emphasis added)"- Army doctrine implies here that the Cold War provided some level of stability.

So, what I attempted to do with that point in the article was attempt to convey the differences between a more stable bipolar world and the emerging multipolar phase the world appears to be heading in. Perhaps we are in a uni-polar intermediate phase right now?

The Cold War era dealt with new geography- space and the birth of cyberspace; these certainly made thing more complex; but the post-Cold War period we are in now have those same complexities, plus more. As the last reference in my footnote indicates, even our own operational doctrine makes this statement.

There is another source I would like to throw into the ring here, and it links back to your comment about young officers neatly summarizing the past eras in short paragraphs; Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui were also 'young' officers when they wrote "Unrestricted Warfare" in 1999. In their introduction, they make the argument that the Gulf War represented the end of the world as we knew it- the period from WWII through the Cold War, had become much more complex and at the extreme disadvantage of the U.S.

"Faced with political, economic, cultural, diplomatic, ethnic, and religious issues, etc., that are more complex than they are in the minds of most of the military men in the world, the limitations of the military means, which heretofore always been successful, suddenly became apparent." p5. Unrestricted Warfare.

Last point on interpreting history- I enjoy Peter Novak's "That Noble Dream" and his position that the tendency for groups to "own" aspects of history is a dangerous and flawed position. Novak targets black history in the 1960s rejecting white historians, and womens history of the same period rejecting male historians. Does that correlate to your concern about young officers looking back on conflicts they were not a part of? Or, going back to your remark about future officers summarizing this era of warfare as well, I not only expect that, but I encourage it.

Right now perhaps, a baby is born that will be the grandfather of a future historian in the 22nd century that will look back at my era and make conclusions that I am incapable of making from my position in history. I accept that, and even relish it. Hayden White's "Content and Form" address the issues with histiography and objectivity in a most interesting fashion- essentially we cannot really see the world without some lens that we create ourselves, and therefore our perspective is always tarnished with values, tenets, and theoretical concepts that may recognize the world for better or for worse.

Just some thoughts.



At least you caveated it this time. Your comments that the Cold War was less complex is definitely argumentative. Looking back at it 20 years after it ended I can see where some may look for simple ways to explain the conflict (using MAD and the Fulda Gap scenario), but it involved much, much more than that. I suspect 20 years after we call an end to GWOT, young officers will sum it up nicely in a paragraph or less, and lament that it was easy compared to what they're wrestling with now. Since you read the Black Swan, I know you understand this view.

The Cold War wasn't cold, but most of the hot spots were proxy wars, and they had the same complexity of the wars we're engaged in now, with the added complexity of if we misstepped we risked a major war with the USSR or PRC. Irregular Warfare isn't new, we did it throughout the Cold War, and we dealt with the same complex issues. Then it was communism that the global political ideology that threatened our interests (and existence), and now political Islam is the ideology that threatens our interest (but to a much lesser extent than communism).

In my opinion, and this too is argumentative, AQ doesn't present an existential threat to our nation, so our response since 9/11 wasn't based on the threat, but the idealistic goal of transforming the Middle East, which made the problem worse by trying to push our values and life styles upon the people, and we wonder why we're not loved? This was self imposed failure, not complexity. It is a situation that we can extract ourselves from with minimal impact to U.S. security. Just because the Army and Marine comes home, doesn't mean that the war in the shadows will stop, and that was going on prior to 9/11. A few bad actors slipped through our net (that will always happen), but continued operations in the Middle East won't stop that.

During the Cold War, decisions could result in the fall of our nation and the deaths of millions, and they were not simple linear decisions by any stretch of the imagination. Decision makers intuitively used their understanding of the world (design if you will) to support their decision making. I will argue our senior leaders were better educated and had a better understanding of how the world actually worked than our current leadership (since George Bush Senior) who have an idealistic view of the way they want the world to work. There is a big gap in the middle. I agree design would be useful in closing that gap, but disagree with many of your other points.

Ben Zweibelson (not verified)

Thu, 04/07/2011 - 7:32pm

On the linear retrospective of the Cold War; roger, that is clearly a argumentative position that I tried to back up with some footnotes that echo that process. I think that, in retrospect of course, dealing with MAD scenarios against the Soviets was certainly complicated, but there was possibly less complexity because the MDCOA and MLCOA centered on a Soviet-US conventional landwar with the nuclear considerations (deterrence fails- nuclear war with follow-on conventional fight over remnants of civilization). That is no easy thing to plan for, but it might be easier than what we face today. It seems that we 'ism' and 'ization' everything now into these very ambiguous threats. Terrorism, Islamo-facism, globalization, radicalism, etc. Does Design present a different and more useful approach to recognizing the complex world and anticipating in more realistic processes how we can better influence the future so that we are at an advantage to current (and future) rivals? I try to argue that Design (not Army design doctrine) does offer that- but we need to break away from only relying on a system of logic that espouses reductionism, mechanistic thought, linear causality, and the procedurizing that detailed planning methodology uses to understand and influence the world.


G Martin

Thu, 04/07/2011 - 2:25pm

Ben- good thoughts- there was definitely a push to infuse known military doctrinal concepts into Design by the higher-ups- as I heard it "because it needed to be short, small words, and incorporate some current doctrinal concepts". As it was taught in SAMS, it was little more than something to do prior to Mission Analysis. That we attempted to do "Design" on problems in Afghanistan from Leavenworth, IMO, went against most of the foundational literature I had read: you had to at least be in the environment a little to do "Design" on it. That's why I had a problem with doing Design from IJC on the "key districts": few of us had been in one of them, much less all of them, and there was almost zero participation from those who were.

I agree that there are barriers within our institution that fight questioning faulty logic. It's a little hard to counter the statement: "By doing x we will be successful in the future", if it is made by a commander who is known for refusing to accept alternative thinking.

Ben said: "A conventional nuclear war in Central Europe between the Soviet Union and the United States was, in retrospect, a much simpler and linear model to problematize against over any of the current complex challenges of today."

I'd argue many things in retrospect seem much simpler and linear because we know what happened and supposedly (although it is arguable) why- as opposed to the future, which always looks incomprehensible. But, surely there is a difference between "plug the Fulda Gap" and "establish governance, economic development, and security" as mission statements in terms of complexity...

"... design is just Mission Analysis on steroid... "

One of my favorite anecdotes from Afghanistan: Senior-ranking officer interrupts a brief to scribble on a map with a pen the doctrinal tactical tasks that units three levels down should do, covering the entire Area of Operations and then seeing that at the intersection of three units' "scribbles" the letter "T" had "emerged". "Do you see that?" he reportedly asked. "That's what it's all about! The f---ing T!"

What that anecdote does for me is to reinforce your thought that we are ruled by "the tactical". I remember a comment out at Leavenworth that the operational level was where we had to ensure that our tactical level actions are combined and synched in such a way that we can reach our strategic goals- and that we are sorely lacking in capability at that level.

I know Dr. P and others warn of artificially categorizing "levels of war", but I do think in the practical world it is useful at times to describe the actions we do to link our ground activities (tactical) with what our strategy is as "operational". When we do so I think there is evidence that we've done- and continue to do- terribly with respect to the operational level. Of course, as others have pointed out- it doesn't matter what you do at the tactical (and operational) if your strategy is flawed. Not saying it is, but just reiterating the point that even if we got the operational right, it still wouldn't guarantee success.

Ben Zweibelson (not verified)

Thu, 04/07/2011 - 12:19pm


Alvesson and Sandberg's "Generating Research Questions Through Problematization (Academy of Management Review, Vol. 36, No 2, 2011- one of the articles Chris referred us to) has some interesting stuff from the Organizational Theory side. On page 254: Alvesson and Sandberg use the term 'in-house assumption, 'root metaphor, and 'field assumption to explain how problematization takes on the assumptions within a system of logic once abnormalities occur in a logics narrative. When the world does not behave the way military detailed planning logic anticipates it to, critical thinking must target those theoretical concepts within that logic that are 'in-house assumptions and contribute to the abnormality of the logic. Nothing within the logic is 'sacred or 'off-limits to problematization.

So, our military's "in-house assumptions" are intellectual and institutional barriers that prevent Design (a different system of logic) from being used, and at the same time those barriers protect faulty systems of logic that inhibit innovation and adaptation. In other words, we are the hammer and now everything looks like a nail.

G Martin

Wed, 04/06/2011 - 6:02pm

What's the sufficient cause? Not sure- maybe a bureaucratic military naturally emerges from a Capitalistic Democratic Republic with our natural resources and history...? So- the "sufficient" cause is our nation's history and there's not much we can do about it--?

If I had to guess at necessary causes, however, I'd guess these:

- if we are too institutionalized to change is asking us to overcome that sufficient cause above (kind of hard to overcome our history..?)

- our military's "can-do" and conservative culture that, along with cultural and historical hubris, leads to an authority of status for our senior leaders that is not popular for civilians or junior officers to question

- our military history (mentioned above) wherein we really haven't been beaten yet- at least not in a way that threatened our way of life (thus no motivation to change)

- our military culture that glorifies the tactical and downplays the intellectual. This doesn't stem from the military IMO, though- our pop culture denigrates intellectualism as well

Your comment on personalities is interesting- everytime I've seen the structure improved in an organization, personalities seem to "overcome" the improvement...

RCS (not verified)

Wed, 04/06/2011 - 2:12pm


Curious how one deals with this "fallacy of dramatic instance" where we assume we can template anwers and solutions to problems that we face. I fully agree that thinking or more precisely knowing that you need to think is the hard part. So what then is the issue - are we too institutionalized...hard headed...dumb? Do enough people understand the basics of doctrine enough to know when to deviate from it? I've found it interesting that while the military has a process for literally everything, that personalities still the biggest influence - IMHO.

G Martin

Wed, 04/06/2011 - 1:50pm


Agree with the "learning to learn" comment. What happens, though, if you don't think you need to "learn to learn"? That you already are a "learning organization"? I have heard two things in the last few years about that:

1) That we already ARE a learning organization (which I totally disagree with); and,
2) That we can become one with a few changes on the fringes of our institution (which I also disagree with).

I think there are too many in our profession that think if they've seen it once, they can just cut and paste- and that, IMO, makes "learning" a little hard to do...

The differences between GEN (ret) McChyrstal's points in the TED video posted earlier and LTG (ret) Dubik's remarks in his Foreign Policy piece posted recently about 'knowing a thing or two in 30+ years of service' are a good case in point. One says he basically had to listen to others and learn a lot- assuming he didn't know all he needed to know because the world was different than what he had thought after 9/11. The other basically says- listen to me, I've been around therefore I know better than others. Which one of these examples are you more likely to meet in the Army?

Ben Zweibelson (not verified)

Tue, 04/05/2011 - 5:32pm

Chris- thanks again for your continued discourse on these both at SWJ and offline. Very helpful.

1. 'Tacticization'- for this paper I went with (as the footnotes hopefully explain in greater detail) some Shimon Naveh concepts from Systemic Operational Design; I think he makes a great point that implies the phenomenon of Kuhn's paradigm shift between systems of logic. Design is the new methodology that should eliminate the existing reductionist/mechanistic/linear system of logic that I refer to as Detailed Planning. That said, many still useful processes and components of Detailed Planning should transfer over into Design (just as a NASA scientist drives to and from work relying on Newtonian-style physics but uses the more accurate Special Theory of Relativity at work when steering space probes around Mercury). The problem that Naveh implies (and I try to expand upon) is that the opposite is occuring. Design is being chopped up and inserted into Detailed Planning narratives (doctrine and practices/procedures) to support the inadequate Detailed Planning system of logic.

2. Agreed on 'understand'- I need to be more specific; agreed; Design is a system of logic that attempts to recognize the world and understand how to influence it in a more accurate and useful way than the existing system of logic. You cannot understand reality unless you are omnipresent and know everything- perhaps 'make sense' and metacognitition get at it better? Or 'learning to learn.'

3. Complexity Theory and General Systems Theory- I tried to pull from a variety of sources including post-modernism philosophy, perhaps I relied too heavily on the complex system angle? As you know, my current work goes towards the French post-modernism and ties in organizational theory a bit more. Design is a fascinating and very broad topic to consider. Perhaps that is also it's greatest intellectual hurdle on gaining traction in the Army?

4. If you have time, take a look at the opening quote to my conclusion section on that monograph I sent you; you should laugh, and appreciate my taste in fine films that have useful design metaphors.

Thanks again for your time, comments, and patience.



Again, I applaud your critical review of the Army's attempt to embrace design philosophy.

I have a few comments:

First, I'd offer the criticism of using "tacticizing all levels of war" which may be reinforcing the myth of what "tactics" means and that war can be framed in "levels." These terms in and of themselves fall into the single-loop trap of doctrine (i.e. using doctrine to criticize doctrine). I would argue the designer has critically ask whether the "levels of war" is a useful construct to frame the phenomenon, war. Also, whether "tactics" should mean anything more than its original Greek meaning -- "orders."

Second, I would be careful not to think of design as way to advocate complexity science (or its construct of "complex systems" or "soft systems"). Design should be open to many sources of framing, to include complexity science. It should also be open to framings borrowed from history, sports, jazz music, and so forth. Your arguments seem to focus on design thinking as complex/soft systems thinking. Design philosophy is very pragmatic -- if complexity science metaphors work, great. If they do not, then seek other ways to reframe.

If one were to use complexity science as a frame in design, then I would challenge your assertion that one can "understand complex systems." I know of no complexity scientist (e.g., those from Santa Fe Institute) who would claim they UNDERSTAND complex systems. At best we may be able to APPRECIATE them (that is acknowledge their "trajectory" is indeterminable while also admitting there is no known way to model their interactivity). The Army should have kept the word "appreciation" (it was in the TRADOC PAM title in fact) in the lexicon of its approach to design and omitted "commander's understanding."

Finally, your argument that "design is a military paradigm" may be crippling dialogue as design relies on a multi-disciplinary approach -- borrowing ideas (and metaphors) from all knowledge disciplines, to include fictitious literature, movies, sports, fine arts, and so forth. If we close it into a "military paradigm" (as doctrine invariably will), we run the risk of losing touch with other disciplines' theories and practices associated with design (business, urban planning, architecture, etc.). The "reframing" process requires a large "bank of heuristics" and we should not ignore any discipline of knowledge (nor Kolbian state of knowledge -- assimilative, convergent, acommodative, or divergent) that may serve creative thinking.

As you know, my intent here is not to knit-pick, but to stretch, philosophically, your arguments a bit. We have to be careful not to be seduced into a limited "science" approach -- like that afforded by "soft systems." We should not ignore its usefulness to design and framing, but we should remain paradigmatically nimble and ever-critical of all such theories.