[FoRK] Reducing defense spending

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Fri Jun 25 09:03:07 PDT 2010

On Jun 25, 2010, at 7:40 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> On Jun 25, 2010, at 9:09, mdw at martinwills.com wrote:
>> Jeff,
>> You obviously have never had any military training.  Aircraft can not
>> hold territory, bodies in the wadies do.  Tanks do not hold territory.
>> Bodies do.  Artillery does not hold territory. Bodies do.  Until there
>> is a body holding onto a piece of ground, it isn't worth having or
>> fighting over.
> Obviously you are too mired in the Napoleonic mindset to think outside that box.  Few wars in the last several decades have had as their ostensible goal "holding ground.". Fewer still are likely to be about that in the future.  In fact, it is falling into that cognitive trap that gets us into endless no-exit scenarios that cost terabucks.
> More surgical disruption of social / political / ideological networks, less occupation.  Coupled with real strategic use of weapons and incentives-setting, and you need far fewer bodies in the wadies.

You are both partially correct. 

The US military has been moving toward a warfare model of surgical network manipulation that requires very few boots on the ground for some time. However, there is very little overt strategic weapon use in that model. Quite a bit of research has been done on this model and even empirically tested in some limited scopes. 

All the work that has been done on this point to two facts. First, it is a very effective and low-profile mechanism for achieving what would otherwise require a "boots on the ground" military operation. Second, we have neither the mathematics nor computer science to actually implement warfare like this in a general way. On the other hand, the theoretical problems are characterized; there is nothing impossible about it, there are just gaps in understanding.

For now the US military requires boots on the ground, but that is more of a stopgap than some kind of universal truth. Closing the implementation gaps in the "bootless" model is a very active and high-priority area of research that is rapidly making progress.

Assuming that "boots on the ground" is required is based on a set of assumptions that are not unbreachable. We are seeing a similar transformation in armor; the US is field testing weapons that cross the magic energy threshold where it is no longer feasible to have passive armor. The longstanding truism of the "armor v weapon" arms race no longer holds. The weapon side won, and now there is an equilibrium shift toward active intercept of weapons.  So it is with boots on the ground, it just requires sufficiently advanced technology that will exist sooner rather than later.

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