They’re reading my stuff there…

Colleague Josh Wineera is off on his travels again after being selector as the sole Kiwi to attend a US STAe Dept-sponsored Programme in the US. Details from Massey University

Massey University lecturer and soldier Major Josh Wineera has been invited by the United States State Department to participate in a high-profile study programme examining US national security policy and current threats facing the United States.

Major Wineera was chosen by the United States Embassy in Wellington as the sole New Zealand nomination from a very competitive national pool. He went on to be selected by the State Department in Washington from a range of worldwide candidates whose areas of expertise included foreign affairs and international relations. 

The intensive post-graduate level programme begins later this month in Amherst, Massachusetts, and brings together around 20 international participants. It includes study sessions at Harvard University as well as study tours to the University of California in San Diego and Washington D.C. 

The six-week programme will examine such issues as energy policy, economic stability, cyber-security, chemical and biological weapons, nuclear weapons and infectious diseases. The United States Government will meet all costs of the programme. 

Major Wineera says he feels humbled to be representing New Zealand, the Defence Force, and Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies. 

“This will be an excellent opportunity to deepen our understanding of the way the US formulates its national security policy,” he says. “I think this is especially relevant for us in New Zealand given the recent announcement by President Barack Obama that America will renew its focus in the Asia Pacific region.”

In addition to lecturing at Massey University, Major Wineera speaks to many Defence Force contingents preparing for overseas deployments, particularly to Afghanistan. His extensive operational experience includes missions to Bosnia, Bougainville, East Timor and more recently Iraq. He is also a member of the New Zealand forum of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.

“2012 will be a big year for me,” Major Wineera says. “I start with this incredible invitation to deepen my understanding of US national security policy and it will continue as I embark on a PhD. By total coincidence my doctorate will examine New Zealand’s approach to international security and will compare it to other nations, including the US.”

And also covered in the Manawatu Standard.

Good luck to Josh on his latest excursion – a real coup for a local lad and for Massey’s Centre for Defence Studies – expect to see a new face on the domestic commentator scene on his return to New Zealand…

Josh and I attended the Irregular Warfare Summit is Washington last year to come up to speed on contemporary thinking on the irregular environment. It was a long way to go from the quiet (but windy) Manawatu and we weren’t too sure what we were getting ourselves into. I think that many of the other participants probably felt the same but once the ice was broken, engagement at all levels was frank and honest. There weren’t any great epiphanies for either of us and the main lesson that we brought home was probably that everyone is facing the same essential problems and that no one has the monopoly of solutions for the way ahead.

Lunch was provided for the main days of the Summit. The first day was funny: there was no seating plan (probably part of the mix and mingle ice-breaking strategy) and so people just sat where they could find a seat. As the Kiwi delegation (all both of us) approached a table, we could see two guys on the other side eyeing us up with some quite animated conversation. Uh-oh, maybe we shouldn’t have taken the last of the coffee from the urn! One says “Are you THE Josh Wineera?” Josh looks at me, turns back “Well, the only one I know…” “The one who briefed at the COIN Centre a couple of years ago? Wow, we’re using some of your stuff in out school…!” Turns out these guys are contractors providing training on the COE to the US Army. Just like Steinlager: They’re drinking our beer reading my stuff there…

Josh with Colonel Dan Roper

....and with Dr Rich Kiper...

Col Roper (who had just retired as Director of the COIN Center at Fort Leavenworth, KS) and Rich (who’s on the staff at the Centre) were staying at the Marriott as well – While they weren’t in Kansas any more, these guys were great hosts to two Kiwis a long way from home and we had some significant post-dinner networking sessions…

Do you ever wonder…

…how things come about?

If you’ve ever wondered how all twelve colonies in Battlestar Galactica squeeze into a single system, here’s an explanation…


…how hard work and dedication might pay off? I’ve just seen a quick note welcoming Massey University’s Josh Wineera (Interbella et al) to membership of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP). The CSCAP website hasn’t been updated yet with the new membership but I imagine there may be some Rommel?  Gunner Who? moments coming up the first time Josh takes a seat at the (pretty high-powered) table…always nice to see a mate doing well…

I’m back in the office this week and because I haven’t had remote access in to the network, have a mountain of issues to clear before I head home tomorrow – this has eaten into blog productivity time quite a bit but I have a couple of items on the boil for next week. in the meantime, I found this in an interesting discussion over at Small Wars Council on battlespace ‘ownership’. Inter-service jabs and rivalries aside, there are some interesting insights here:

Rules of Combat


1. Bring a weapon. Preferably, bring at least two. Bring all of your friends who have weapons. Bring their friends who have weapons.

2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.

3. Only hits count. Close doesn’t count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.

4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough, nor using cover correctly.

5. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)

6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a big weapon and a friend with a big weapon.

7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of calibre, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived and who didn’t.

8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running.

9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting is more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the weapon.

10. Use a weapon that works EVERY TIME. “All skill is in vain when an Angel pisses in the flintlock of your musket.”

11. Someday someone may kill you with your own weapon, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

12. In combat, there are no rules, always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.

13. Have a plan.

14. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work.

15. Use cover or concealment as much as possible. The visible target should be in FRONT of YOUR weapon.

16. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.

17. Don’t drop your guard.

18. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees.

19. Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see them).

20. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.

21. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

22. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.

23. Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

24. Your number one Option for Personal Security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

25. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with a “.4.”


1. See USMC Rules for combat

2. Add 60 to 90 days

3. Hope the Marines already destroyed all meaningful resistance


1. Spend three weeks getting somewhere

2. Adopt an aggressive offshore posture

3. Send in the Marines

4. Drink Coffee

5. Bring back the Marines

Air Force

1. Kiss the spouse good-bye

2. Drive to the flight line

3. Fly to target area, drop bombs, fly back.

4. Pop in at the club for a couple with the guys

5. Go home, BBQ some burgers and drink some more beer

The New War #5 the new intelligences

…the game of chess, even three-dimensional chess, is simplicity itself compared to a political game using pieces that can change their minds independently of other pieces…” ~ Mr Spock, Garth of Izar, Pocket Books, 2003.

It being the twins’ birthday the weekend just gone, I was offline most of the weekend and it was only last night that I  saw a Stuff report of the contact involving Kiwi personnel in Afghanistan on Saturday “…a group using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades attacked a combined New Zealand and US patrol from the New Zealand provincial reconstruction team in the northeast of Bamiyan province…the patrol returned fire, driving the insurgents off after a 15-20 minute engagement…

There’s not much information in the Stuff article but with the recent changeover of Operation CRIB (the NZ PRT) contingents this might be simple cases of the local likely lads testing the mettle of the newest kids on the block – although ‘newest’ may be a bit of the stretch as some of these troops will be on their third or maybe even fourth deployment in this theatre…chatting with a colleague yesterday, the conversation turned to ‘what is an insurgent?‘ and ‘who says so?‘.

Obviously a lot of information on this contact has not been released but one wonders what confirmation there has been that the instigators of this attack were actually insurgents i.e. activists seeking to render political change through acts of violence. Or were they were something else? Perhaps…

a couple of lads out to impress some local lasses with their courage and prowess…?


some bored locals seeking to spice up a small ISAF patrol because they could…?


an attempt at ‘accidental insurgency’ to meet local quotas for attacks on the ‘infidel invaders’…?

As it appears in the Collateral Murder story released by Wikileaks last week, if you go out in the badlands looking for insurgents, then ‘insurgents’ are what you find, often with significant second order effects at both strategic and tactical levels. In all fairness, those who engaged the combined NZ/US patrol on Saturday may very well have been insurgents of some sort, possibly even more focused than accidental…but as attacks go in this theatre, it was in “…good country for ambushes…, “‘…driven off...” in “…15-10 minutes…” and was all over before air support arrived on the scene.

In places like Afghanistan, carrying an AK or an RPG does not necessarily an insurgent make, not does arcing up in the general direction of an ISAF patrol. So if the shooters have been confirmed as insurgents, which would be a an outstanding intel flash to bang noting the time between the attack and the NZDF media release, well and good…if not yet proven, then perhaps some less martial language would be more appropriate.

As David Kilcullen proposes in The Accidental Guerrilla and is further discussed in The New War #4 – Normalcy, the birth of an insurgent is a direct reaction to actions of host nation or foreign interventions…we need to understand not just the process of ‘accidentalisation’ but the local nuances and catalysts that often make incidents of  ‘accidentalism’ so distinct and different between different areas and groups.

I was interested to read in Wired that the UK is deploying its Defence Cultural Specialist Unit (DCSU) to Helmand Province. This may be an example of learning from the experiences of others, specifically the US Army’s Human Terrain Systems teams that have been operating for some years now. I was intrigued by the last paragraph in the Wired article “…the US Human Terrain System has seen its fair share of controversy. It will be worth watching this initiative as well to see if it provokes backlash among British social scientists…

I did some research into the HTS teams after mention of them appeared in one of the Interbella briefs. From what I saw then, I rated the HTS as a damn fine idea that’s time had definitely come; more so when it appeared to be a logical  consequence of Michael Scheiern’s platform- to individual-based transition model.

So, I was quite surprised to find the degree of active resistance within the anthropological community, or certainly a very vocal element within it, to the employment of HTS teams in operational theatres like Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve yet to find a copy of Roberto Gonzalez’ Human Science and Human Terrain [note: I reviewed it later]. Gonzalez is reportedly critical of the US Army’s adoption of anthropological techniques to aid in the understanding and interpreting of contemporary operating environments. In all the reviews and articles I have read in the last day or so that support Gonzalez, I can find few threads of logic; instead I get a very real feeling of rampant prima-donnaism amongst what is really quite a small and relatively insignificant strand in the broader carpet of science. Indicative of this content are Fighting militarization of anthropology, The Leaky Ship of Human Terrain Systems, and The Dangerous Militarisation of Anthropology.

Another finding of the New Zealand COIN doctrine review was that intelligence in the complex environment will need to transformed to closer resemble police-style criminal intelligence (CRIMINT) focussed on a. individuals and b. providing fast and accurate response to an initiated action. This would require a clear shift, transformation even, from traditional military intelligence that is…

…focussed on conventional platforms and groupings, and

…driven largely by predictive philosophies.

Science and warfare have always gone together in an alliance that is both logical and inevitable. Eight years into the war on terror, there seems no reason why the CRIMINT finding does not stand true. We should also accept that sciences like anthropology offer us useful tools to assist with the uncertainty and complexity of the contemporary environment.

The moral objections of Manhattan Project scientists are somewhat strained when these same scientists were remarkably silent on such topics as the firebombing of German and Japanese cities, actions which causing far more civilian deaths than the atomic bombs ever did. The ‘do no harm‘ stance of Gonzalez and his fellow bleating liberal anthropologist cronies is sickening in both its naiveté and its preciousness. If this group really cared about those most likely to be harmed through misuse of social sciences, then surely they embrace the HTS concept as a practical and employable means of promoting greater precision of both information and effects in current theatres of operation?

Tied into the need to transform towards individually-focussed CRIMINT, was a need to better integrate operational analysis (OA) techniques into contemporary intelligence systems. These techniques would enhance and evolve pattern analysis processes to better grapple with the greater amounts of information in far greater detail than conventional intelligence systems were ever designed to manage. Unfortunately this finding seemed to die a death when the term ANALINT developed a perverse life all its own, alienating a proportion of the OA community.

In the last two decades, we have spent too long declaring war (lower case) on every real or imagined threat to western society that we have become somewhat blase and have forgotten what actual War really is. While the generation that sacrificed 5000 of its members in Afghanistan and Iraq may lead the way in remembering what War really is, it’s influence has yet to be felt…War is not nice, War is not safe…War is not a game…War is not something where we can artificially pick and choose based on what is convenient or suits at the time…

To artificially deny the utility of science like anthropology in winning the Wars we are in, to discard tools that save lives on BOTH sides, to dignify self-centred egotists like Gonzales is an insult to every one of those 5000…

Local news

Paper Modelers is back up again but has lost 2-3 weeks of contributions…

Carmen and I visited the big smoke of Palmerston North on Monday. I had an assessment test as part of a job application at 9AM which made for an early start – and a longish drive as there was quite thick fog along the route, made more interesting in some parts by the various resealing projects along both highways: nothing quite like a grey-out when suddenly you loose your points of reference to the side of the road due to the fog, the road markings have yet to be repainted…and you can’t only hope you are still heading to where you should be going and not the ditch or oncoming traffic…The assessment test was a breeze_ I had hyped myself up about it…can I make a credible effort on 80 questions in 40 minutes? As it turned out, 25 minutes was all it needed, giving 15 for checking and changing my minds on a couple…don’t want to get too cocky yet til I get the debrief though.

Bit the bullet and invested in a proper Freeview decoder to replace the crappy one I got off Trademe before Christmas – it craps out on a regular basis, especially during must-watch programmes like Coro…so after resetting it every couple of minutes during Bones on Sunday night we decided to spend the money for peace of mind – just wish we had UHF coverage here for so we could have the HD option as well…think twice before buying a DS200 satellite TV decoder – that there are no contact details anywhere for the manufacturer should have been a warning for me…

Had a brief catch-up with the lads at Hawkeye UAS and then an interesting chat at the Centre for Defence Studies at Massey University – Carmen is still rubbing it in that I got lost finding the right office on campus whereas she found it first time when she when to look for me after I missed our RV in the car park…didn’t help my case for GPS though…

In November 2009, I along with many others, was less than impressed when it was announced that the NZ Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) had a NZ$12 billion + deficit and planned to increase levies to cover the loss. I am a big believer that if things like this annoy you, then in order to have a right to bitch about it you need to be prepared to say your piece and state your case more broadly than just whining into your latte with your mates. I raised my concerns with Dr Nick Smith, the Minister for ACC, via the Parliamentary email system and was most impressed to find a response in the inbox when we got home on Monday night…and a lot more than ‘thank you for raising your concerns and we will take them in to consideration‘: a two page letter no less, with some additional information. I can only imagine who the Minister’s inwards files must have been like over that period so more power to him for making the effort to acknowledge correspondence on this difficult and contentious issue. Good on you, Nick Smith, and more power to you!!


Should I be concerned when WordPress tells me that people are using the search term ‘stupid‘ to find this blog? It is often quite interesting to see what terms that people are using that bring them here…

There is a steady trickle of searches for Interbella which is good as it shows that a few people out there are starting to get the message that we need a new way of thinking to truly grasp complexity and uncertainty.

There is a lot of interest in the UK’s training simulation JCOVE that I mentioned in Microcosms – I never did get around to reviewing this, or even playing it that much – I simply don’t have time at the moment between job-hunting, blogging and doing the work I do have. I am hard-pressed to consider spending too much recreational time in front of the PC. Hopefully I will get over this, possibly when the weather packs up for winter, and I do enjoy sims and have done since my first Sega system in 1988. Sims and training still have a long road to ride together.

At least one person has been feverishly beavering away looking for a paper model of the mighty TSR.2. I can help there as there are four that I know of: the first three are fairly simplistic and should be easy enough to find online. The fourth is a magnificent creation in 1/33 by Waltair at – unfortunately there seem to have been some issues with the design and he has put it back on to the back burner til maybe this year…


Note: Waltair’s TSR.2 released a year or so later…it’s a beauty!!! is still down. It’s been four days now and I think that this is the longest that I have ever known a website to be down for technical reasons. Apparently the problem is that the back-up is very large (very graphics-heavy at a guess) and won’t upload properly. Best laid plans of mouse and men etc but I wonder what liability forum and blog hosts actually have when something like this happens. If this site can not be recovered, an incredible amount of knowledge (on a narrow topic) will be lost. We used to laugh when the Army went to an online personal records system in the early 90s and all the clerks had to maintain paper records of all transactions: there was actually more paper produced and stored than under the old paper-based system! Looking back, maybe they weren’t so dumb after all…?

I have done something to my back that kicks in whenever I sit at my desk in the study, especially in the evenings – any more than an hour or so at the keyboard and it becomes quite uncomfortable. The upside is that it goes away if I keep moving about so in the day I guess it is a good motivator to do some work outside…so today’s rehab has seen part of the vege garden dug up and replanted with beans, the goats and sheep set to work cleaning up the edge of the front lawns, and a start made on a Colditz fence so they can level all the crap that has grown at the top of the back garden without breaking out and obliterating the garden.

I have a few less options after dark but stretching out on a couch seems to help so I’m off to finish watching The Wild Geese, a favourite from wayback – should I feel old when I remember seeing this when it was first released in 1978…?

wild geese

The CoGs in the war go round and round…

Anyone with small children knows how invasive and persistent THAT tune is…

In Do Ideas Matter? Some thoughts… I commented on Adam Elkus’ paper on interpretation and application of the Centre of Gravity construct, and Adam and I have batted some comments back and forth since.. This has had me thinking more and more about centres of gravity, both generally and in specific regard to the complex environment. I think that we are wrong to consider a centre of gravity as a point of strength.

Many years ago, in the good old days (and they were!!) when I was a young soldier and we maintained a substantial presence in Singapore, I stumbled across a UK-based military book club that accepted overseas subscribers and offered a flat rate for shipping. The deal was that you had to buy so many books each year and – much like my current approach to Audible – I would get busy and let my obligation lapse until the last safe moment when I would have to make some snap selections from whatever was available in the most recent catalogue in order to stay in the club. As a result, I built up quite an eclectic library. One of the books that I acquired was David G. Chandler’s The Military Maxims Of Napoleon (Greenhill Books, 1987, ISBN 0947898646) It contains all 78 Maxims, the original 19th Century commentary and a new commentary by David Chandler applying “…the 20th Century perspective of two world wars, Vietnam, the Falklands and other conflicts…“. At the time, I read it, thought it of minor interest and it’s been on the shelf ever since. However one point, not even from the Maxims, has stuck with me in the succeeding two and a bit decades.

It regards what Chandler describes as one of Napoleon’s best known sayings “The principles of war are the same as those of a siege. Fire must be concentrated on a single point and as soon as the breach is made the equilibrium is broken and the rest is nothing.” The commentary in the book offers that most who seek to apply this ‘rule’ get it wrong in that they fixate on the word ‘point‘ and miss the whole implication of ‘equilibrium‘.

Chandler offers that it is highly probable that Napoleon actually meant the ‘joint’ or ‘hinge’ of enemy dispositions. There will always be issues of translation and interpretation when we seek to learn from those who gone before, especially when there is a significant temporal air gap – poor old Clausewitz and Mahan suffer in the same manner as does Douhet, when I ever get round to reading The Command of the Air.

Sometimes we fixate a little too much on the purity of original text and not enough on the actual content of the interpretation – to quote one of our Principles of Lessons Learned “Focus on what is being said and less on who is saying it“. One of the greatest examples of this is the Clausewitzian Trinity which is popularly accepted as ‘the people, the action arm, and the leadership’ – the actual Trinity from the original texts, as Adam and others have pointed out is much more ethereal. Regardless, the popular version of the Trinity still holds true, remains applicable today and, when you get right done to it, is probably more useful as a model than the original.

The modern definition of ‘centre of gravity’ is, according to FM 3-0,:

The source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act. The center of gravity is a vital analytical tool for designing campaigns and major operations. It provides a focal point for them, identifying sources of strength and weakness at the strategic and operational levels of war. Centers of gravity are not relevant at the tactical level; the tactical equivalent is the objective. At the strategic level, the center of gravity may be vulnerable to an operational-level approach; at the operational level, the center of gravity may be vulnerable to tactical actions. The enemy may shift a center of gravity to protect and sustain a source of power. Similarly, changes in the operational environment may cause centers of gravity to shift. Therefore, analysis of friendly and enemy centers of gravity begins during planning and continues throughout a campaign or major operation.

This is very much a Fulda Gapist definition and even then, in the context of Third World War, Red Storm Rising-like, high intensity conventional conflict, it is somewhat flawed. It neither states nor implies any of the characteristics one might expect of a centre of gravity like pivot, balance, or equilibrium. In describing the centre of gravity as a ‘source of power’ and equating it with a tactical objective, it logically but incorrectly follows that the centre of gravity is something that is struck. While it may be correct that centres of gravity apply only at the operational and strategic levels in conventional conflict, this does not apply in the much higher fidelity/granularity microcosms of the complex environment where influence may be applied at all levels. Now compare the military definition of a centre of gravity with an aeronautical one based upon the Archimedean centre of mass principle:

The center-of-gravity (CG) is the point at which an aircraft would balance if it were possible to suspend it at that point. It is the mass center of the aircraft, or the theoretical point at which the entire weight of the aircraft is assumed to be concentrated. Its distance from the reference datum is determined by dividing the total moment by the total weight of the aircraft. The center-of-gravity point affects the stability of the aircraft. To ensure the aircraft is safe to fly, the center-of-gravity must fall within specified limits established by the manufacturer. When the center of gravity or weight of an aircraft is outside the acceptable range, the aircraft may not be able to sustain flight, or it may be impossible to maintain the aircraft in level flight in some or all circumstances.

Placing the CG or weight of an aircraft outside the allowed range can lead to an unavoidable crash of the aircraft. When the fore-aft center of gravity is out of range, the aircraft may pitch uncontrollably down or up, and this tendency may exceed the control authority available to the pilot, causing a loss of control. The excessive pitch may be apparent in all phases of flight, or only during certain phases, such as take-off or descent. Because the burning of fuel gradually produces a loss of weight and possibly a shift in the center of gravity, it is possible for an aircraft to take off with the center of gravity in a position that allows full control, and yet later develop an imbalance that exceeds control authority. Calculations of center of gravity must take this into account (often part of this is calculated in advance by the manufacturer and incorporated into CG limits).

‘Strike the weak joint‘ is the defining point that I took away from Napoleon’s Maxims all those years ago and it has stood me in good stead since. During my very junior intelligence training ( which occurred as DESERT STORM was flashing across our screens, adding a whole new real-time perspective to intelligence doctrine), a common CCIR was to identify the boundaries between enemy elements. The answer to questions regarding the ‘why’ behind this was that it helped determine unit identities…but why? I’d ask again – I got to spend a lot of time sitting in the corner…

A few years later, on the Infantry Minor Tactics (so what? I like the old name!!) course, the other guys (this was before we had guyesses in the Regiment) ‘got it’ and we always paid extra attention to the boundaries between elements as potential weaknesses.

Consider the CoG construct against Napoleon’s advice to strike the weak point to break the equilibrium and the physical definition of a centre of gravity. You find a model that is considerably more robust and applicable to both conventional high-intensity traditional conflict and the complex microcosms of the COE. The centre of gravity is NOT a source of power, nor is it a weakness per se – it is an area that might be influenced by one of a number of simultaneous or sequential actions that create a higher potential for instability.

The effects may be incremental as those of Keenan’s theory of Containment or as immediate and catastrophic as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand or the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In chaos theory, this is also known as the Butterfly Effect where the slightest flap of the butterfly’s wings in time leads to unexpected and unpredictable results. Newton’s law of equal and opposite reaction does not apply as it is unlikely that there will be a direct proportion correlation between the size of the action and the subsequent effect(s).

Influencing one or more centres of gravity creates a tipping point, the physical definition of which is “…is the point at which an object is displaced from a state of stable equilibrium into a new equilibrium state qualitatively dissimilar from the first…” Although some definitions of tipping point consider the point tipped when the new state of equilibrium becomes permanent or irreversible, achieving and maintaining this state can not be taken as a given. Sometimes the effects are temporary, either because the influencing actions have ceased prematurely, because of other influences having a contrary effect, or simply because the inertia of ‘normalcy’ is too great to be overcome long term.

Even though a nuclear device might achieve critical mass, there are any number of factors that may prevent a full detonation. In COIN, there is a temptation to perceive positive change as steady state, and withdraw the critical influences before the changes in equilibrium and environment have fully taken hold. Hence, one of the core truisms of COIN and peace support operations is that success takes time, probably generations, before it can be safely said that peaceful equilibrium has been achieved.

A more practical definition of centre of gravity may be:

The point which, when subjected to influences or actions, effects change in the equilibrium or balance of an object, group of individual. The center of gravity is a vital analytical tool for designing campaigns and major operations. It provides a focal point for them, identifying sources of strength and weakness.

Centres of gravity may not be static and some may be in a state of constant flux. Similarly, changes in the environment may cause centers of gravity to shift. Therefore, analysis of friendly and enemy centers of gravity begins during planning and continues throughout a campaign or operation.

To achieve the desired ultimate effect, it may be necessary to be influence multiple centres of gravity sequentially and/or simultaneously.

The second point is important in all types and levels of activity and is endemic of weaknesses in intelligence apparatus. A snap shot of centres of gravity is only as current as the time it was taken; current apparatus are probably adequate for maintaining current pictures of centres of gravity in conventional platform-based activity but they have yet to adapt in any significant manner to the much higher granularity, global scope and complexity of individual-based activity and operations.

The final part of the definition requires a perceptional adjustment in how centres of gravity have been defined previously. While still holding true in traditional platform-based activity, it becomes vital in environments of complexity and uncertainty. Traditionally we speak of THE centre of gravity; now we must think and talk in terms of centres of gravity. Consider many cogs rotating in a machine: by applying subtle influences to specific cogs at specific points in their rotation and relationship to other cogs, the machine can be made to run faster, or smoother, or slow down or fly apart catastrophically…

Or, using the planetary model in Interbella, significant effects can sometimes only occur when the planets are in alignment….

Friends in High Places – review

The cover raised such expectations

Friends in High Places – Air Power in Irregular Warfare was published in July 2009 by the RAAF Air Power Development Centre. It has been edited by Dr Sanu Kainikara, a former Indian Air Force pilot who is now the Air Power Strategist at the Air Power Development Centre in Canberra. Including the preface and glossary, the book has 267 pages divided into nine sections:

  • Foreword. Group Captain Rick Keir, AM, CSC. July 2009.
  • Introduction. Dr Sanu KainiKara. July 2009.
  • The War of the Running Dogs: The Malayan Emergency. Air Commodore Mark Lax, CSM (rtd). An edited version of the paper originally presented at the RAAF History Conference in Canberra, 1 April 2008.
  • Offensive Air Power In Counterinsurgency Operations: Putting Theory Into Practice. Wing Commander Glen Beck. An edited version of Air Power Development Centre Paper #26 published in August 2008.
  • Air Power and Special Forces: A Symbiotic Relationship. Wing Commander David Jeffcoat. An edited version of Air Power Development Centre Paper #14 published in February 2004.
  • Taking It To The Streets: Exploding Urban Myths About Australian Air Power. Wing Commander Gareth B.S. Neilsen. An edited version of Air Power Development Centre Paper #23 published in October 2007.
  • Air Power and Transnational Terrorism: The Possibilities, Advantages and Limits to using Australian Air Power in the ‘War on Terror’. Mr Sam Gray-Murphy. An edited version of Air Power Development Centre Paper #20 published in October 2005.
  • The Role of Air Power in Irregular Warfare: An Overview of the Israeli Experience. Dr Sanu Kainikari.
  • Conclusion. Dr Sanu Kainikari.

My initial visual impression of this book was “Yes! the Aussies have ‘got it’!”: the cover very positively shows a C-130 at low level over a Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicle and not the F/A-18 and M-1/ASLAV combination that might be indicative of a conventionally focused publication. Unfortunately this warm buzz did not last beyond the second page of the foreword which notes the ‘…predilection towards precision strike…‘ in the collected papers as ‘…one of our key asymmetric capabilities against a typically asymmetric foe…(1)’

These comments set the scene for the remainder of the book. While various CIA(2) truisms appear through the papers, they are not supported by the text which largely drives towards supporting the maintenance and further development of current air power capabilities with continuing focus upon kinetic operations. Although it makes a case of a balanced spread of air power capabilities, the truth today is that only a very small number of nations can actually do this – the rest of us have to make some tough decisions about what capabilities we need to maintain nationally and what we may have to give up to do so.

Friends In High Places does not consider the lessons of allies and partners in coalition operations since WW2. Its conclusions focus on what was i.e. offensive kinetic air power and not upon what is and will be: a blended mission-specific capability mix drawn from national and coalition military, government and civilian sources – to use an obsolescent but appropriate term: Joint, Inter-agency, Multi-national and Public (JIMP)(3).

This publication has been written around a pre-assumed conclusion: that traditional kinetic air power will remain as the premier ADF air power output. While this may or may not be the case, by approaching this publication with that belief as a given, all the content is badly skewed from the reality of the COE. A more effective approach would have been to consider the COE and what makes it different from  the more comfortable traditional forms of warfare and then apply these findings to the employment of air power. Applying an open mind to the complexities and nuances of the COE may have produced a volume that lives up to the promise of its cover.

Although the foreword notes the minimal consideration of air power in contemporary COIN doctrine like FM 3-24 and LWD 3-0-1, there does not seem to have been any attempt to engage the COIN/CIA(2) community of interest (COI) in Australia or offshore. This is doubly disappointing as agencies like Force Development Group in Puckapunyal, the NZ Army’s Interbella Group, or the COIN Center at Ft Leavenworth could have added considerable value to relevant aspects of this book without detracting from its air-centric theme. As a result, both the land and CIA aspects of this book are very weak. Similar comment can be made regarding the Special Operations and Urban Operations chapters.

The editorial staff has not included any discussion of maritime considerations, from general or air-specific perspectives which is a significant omission for a nation surrounded by water, which is reliant upon the sea ways for trade and industry, and whose major military operations are far more likely to be expeditionary than domestic.

In considering how air power can best operate in a CIA environment, there has also been no mention of the aviation branches of either the Australian Army or RAN apart from a couple of inaccurate paragraphs on ARH (the Eurocopter Tiger Attack Recon Helicopter adopted by the Australian Army). There is also no mention of integration with other government or civilian air assets or those of likely operational partners like New Zealand or Singapore; nor any acknowledgement of the vital role of all sources fusion when discussing aspects of ISR.

The papers included in this collection do not have a good nor consistent grasp of the irregular environment and thus any conclusions they may draw are developed on a somewhat shaky foundation. By the time that the original portions of this book were drafted i.e. those that are not rehashed staff papers, vast quantities of analysis, comment and intellectual horsepower had been expended on defining the COE. Had these resources been tapped, Friends in High Places would be a must-read. As it stands at the moment, its most effective message is the cover photo.

(1) Page xii
(2) The UK term Countering Irregular Activity (CIA) is used instead of the more popular but less accurate term Counterinsurgency (COIN) to describe the complex Contemporary Operating Environment (COE).
(3) I think that I may have inadvertently helped kill off this term a few years back when I made a number of public comments along the lines of ‘Bring out the JIMP‘ from Pulp Fiction.

Manage is a good word

This is a picture of happier slower days.

Those happier slower days have gone now and we need to adjust to a new environment, one in which we must manage more information at far higher levels of resolution than ever before. I use the word ‘manage‘ deliberately – it has had a bit of a thrashing over the last decade or so, especially in the military, where management is a term reserved for stuff that people out of uniform do e.g. ‘…they’re just a manager…‘ Well, girls and boys, if you can’t manage, then it is unlikely that you will ever be much chop at command or operations. Here’s what one source thinks ‘manage’ is:

In 2005, the USMC’s Michael Scheiern posited a shift from platform-based tracking to individual-based tracking and was pretty positive that, in terms of the complex contemporary operating environment, tracking at the individual level was realistically achievable. But, here we are in 2010 already, with knashing and wailing over yet another failure of intelligence. The problem, as I see it, is that we simply don’t want to change: despite the thousands of lives and billions of $$ expended in this war, too many people are still too wedded to the nice safe days of the Fulda Gap and nowhere is this more apparent than in military information  management (which, by the way, is NOT the realm of the 6 community any more than it is that of the 2 weenies).

Over on the CAC COIN Blog (which I have been somewhat remiss in not visiting more often), there is an article entitled I Know Something You Don’t Know: Intelligence and COIN which touches on this topic, inspired by the 25 December Undies Bomber. Not only should we ensure “…every civil servant/diplomat/aid worker a collector…” in addition to “…every soldier a collector…”, we should be extending this to ‘every one an analyst‘ as well. This means that everyone out in their respective field must be sufficiently  trained and aware of their environment to act, when needs be, upon that information that, so far, we only want them to collect. And, by the way, “…every soldier a collector…” is not a theory as stated on the CAC blog – it is doctrine and as such should, indeed must, be part of the training regime.

One of the reasons that we are still not getting into this (after EIGHT years of war!!) might be those alluded to here on Coming Anarchy, or more specifically, this Wikipedia page referenced in the CA article. I’d never heard of Baconian method (not that that means much) – I have heard of bacon jam though – but it identifies four obstacles (idols) in considering a problem:

  • Idols of the Tribe (Idola Tribus): This is humans’ tendency to perceive more order and regularity in systems than truly exists, and is due to people following their preconceived ideas about things.
  • Idols of the Cave (Idola Specus): This is due to individuals’ personal weaknesses in reasoning due to particular personalities, likes and dislikes.
  • Idols of the Marketplace (Idola Fori): This is due to confusions in the use of language and taking some words in science to have a different meaning than their common usage.
  • Idols of the Theatre: This is the following of academic dogma and not asking questions about the world.

Sound familiar? Seen any of these in YOUR work place? Perhaps even subscribed to one or two yourselves…?

This is the problem – we talk up the need for learning organisations, lessons learned, better information and intelligence but here we are – having just bumbled through someone trying to blow up a plane with his undies…

But as much as the intelligence world may be long overdue for a shake-up, we also need to have a good hard look at the rest of the organisation and ask ourselves just why it is that we have to rely on the ‘2’s (sounds a bit like Battlestar Galactica: the 2s versus the 6s….) for analysis instead of applying some common dog common sense ourselves…uh-oh it’s that old Information Militia thing again. The intel weenies and command geeks together need to get out on the streets and see what police officers do and how they do it in thinking things through on the spot…what was it we found in the COIN Review? Oh, yeah…intelligence in the COE may be closer to CRIMINT than that required for conventional high-intensity operations e.g. the Fulda Gap…

Interbella asked the question: What’s in the price of bread? Changing how we look at intelligence may help with the answer…