Spatial Terra and Silent Weapons

August 18th 2012 in Publications

By Dr. Terry Tucker, PhD

Editorial Note: this article was first published by Read-Online.Org the US based Think-Tank. (http://read-online.org/about-us). The new edition of it was submitted to Ideas That Shape (ITS) by Dr. Terry Tucker (PhD) and published on Saturday, August 18, 2012. Ideas That Shape (ITS) hopes that this article would lead to constructive debates and studies about the issues highlighted and addressed within the context of the article ‘Spatial Terra and Silent Weapons’.

Spatial Terra and Silent Weapons

By Dr. Terry Tucker, PhD

Increasingly, the tone, texture and tempo of unrest grows. There is global discontent and grievances mount; Arab Spring, Occupy, Eurozone, unemployment, Syria, Iran and US-Pakistani relations are a few of the events and places that are prominent in the news. The risk from one of these events would be severe, from a confluence of several, legion. The themes of discontent resonate, there are multiple simultaneous revolutions in social media, politics, economics and cultures. Seemingly, for every problem identified there seems to have been a solution, so why then the constant rumble of instability?

The silent weapons of globalization have several converging elements.

  • Globalization is not the same as a World Economy
  • Ideologies offer attractive, but unworkable solutions to cultural dynamics
  • Economic dislocation, or a global financial crisis is not a traditional (security?) problem.

Current dominant economic activities do not all mesh with social or political  activities.  Some of these activities are eroding, others emerging, and a need to bridge strategic plans with tactical unification at the local level requires the integration of three distinct realms into strategy planning:

  • Social structure
  • Political system
  • Culture

The US Army, along with NATO and Coalition Partners, appears to be the Global First Responder and has recently declared the squad as the foundation for decisive force, yet NATO  calls for developing the true “civ-mil soldier;” Is this a doctrinal divergence; a difference of terms?  Understanding needed capabilities is important. Understanding where is also important.   Training those capabilities to mesh with these merging dynamics is a critical silent weapon crucial to present and future success.

Understanding the human environment has been a military quest in Afghanistan and Iraq. The creation of special teams such as, Cultural Support Teams (CST’s), Female Engagement Teams (FET), and Human Terrain Teams (HTT) is organizational proof for the need for this capability. Although much discussion still centers on definitions there is a clear divergence and  [the] definition established by NATO was sufficiently broad in scope to accommodate the various perspectives presented. However, this was also part of the challenge, with the established definition being so broad that the discussions often lacked the focus necessary to develop the foundations for a narrative that supported the intent of effecting institutional change.  The US Army appears to be headed in the same ambiguous direction as it emphasizes the “Pacific-pivot” and transition to stability operations in the CENTCOM Area of Operations (Horn of Africa and Afghanistan primarily).

Clearly, the strategic plan requires tactical unification and training the linkage with multiple skill sets to enhance the totality of “Knowledge Sets” to implement this unification.  Will the move towards developing the squad as the decisive force, or the true civ-mil soldier, be capable of  operating within these converging elements, and across and within the distinct realms of planning?

Organizations understand how to use the technology and all the tools of digital influence; do they understand the data to information to knowledge linkage? How to transform data and information to a “skill” and capability?  Will the modern global first responders  be able to synthesize the silent weapons for success? Can we develop the critical cognitive kills necessary for success?

A recent MSNBC report on academic attrition of veterans would appear to indicate that although we have the technology, there has been a significant atrophy of critical cognitive skills. The military is not an academic institution, yet if the numbers in the article are representative of the military population, then the gap between military and civilian education is widening. This also appears to be the case as reported in the Decade of War lessons learned study by JCOA.  Perhaps not so for senior levels of Professional Military Education (PME), but, its soldiers, NCO’s and Jr Officers that do most of the “interacting.”

There have also been a number of articles lately on disruptive thinking over at the Small Wars Journal. Many of these articles look at this as a “gap” that needs to be narrowed in academic, business and military organizations. They pronounce that this knowledge and skill set will enable organizations to greater heights. But will this build agility? Resilience in your networks?   Will it build the cognitive skills to operate across these multiple dynamics and multiple realms

Looking at the trends of change, this disruptive thinking that wrenches organizations to new innovation occurs on the “fringe” of your networks, of your “Spatialterra,” and not in your headquarters.  The gap between process, innovation, and decision making starts with identifying training in the interdependence of multiple “knowledge sets,” and not just the tools of technology.

Corporate success is truly an effect-based approach. Percentage of market share and profit are the dominant metrics used to assess performance. Yet, many directives and policy appear to use pattern and trend analysis to produce either impressionistic or deterministic understandings; understandings that are linked up to the strategic vision but not linked down with tactical unification. Linking strategic vision with operational unification and objectives with tactical tasks is more than the difference between competitive intelligence and a business plan assessment. The eleven overarching lessons in the decade of war study clearly demonstrate this lack of tactical unification, and as importantly, the lack of training in these interdependencies.

This is not just a military problem, but a problem in civilian industry as well.

Assessments should inform and influence in both directions. Tactical unification requires a degree of flexible decentralization. Your operations, like your dynamic pricing and marketing campaign, is a mosaic of a strategic vision that is regionalized, even localized, to meet the specific nuances of your operating environment.  It means having a layered contextual analysis. It means that your outliers, your “fringe,” is probably on the cutting edge of what is locally, or regionally “disruptive” thinking and innovation.

For example, why do your tactical subordinates appear to argue that their personal analysis is more than just whim or opinion? Why do we use the data to question the theory, business plan, or perceived market reality?  Should we instead, question the data or information?  Social media, and social and digital influence is the norm. Like the Occupy Movement, it is here to stay. Narrowing the gap, and building a true civ-mil soldier means training interdependencies between tools, technology and human environment skills to obtain a “cognitive dominance.”  Narrowing the “gap” between organizations and institutions requires many levels of Ouroboros; the ability to re-generate and adapt to the new, it is what all organizations say they strive for.

This gap, like social media rests on three elements. Reach, Relevance and Resonance. For an analogy, think “Occupy”   Reaching your objective and narrowing the gaps requires multiple parallel steps. The CEOs reach is a different “reach” and “resonance” than the local program manager.

“…there is no mention of tools in these pillars (Reach, Relevance  and Resonance). This is because, tools and platforms do not dictate what the pillars are and are only helpful in supporting the intent of an outcome. Measuring influence… is always a means to an end and never an end  itself.”

Global interconnectivity means local-local relationships directly affect strategic direction. It is not enough to develop strategic policy as an instrument of top down change. Appreciating the nuance of the local environment, and developing the mechanics to influence and steer the social environment with tools capable of measuring impact and change, is an essential capability in the current operating environments. Social movements are no longer driven primarily by ideology, but are instead driven by the emotional reaction to information via social media exchange.

Big companies are treated differently from smaller companies

Generally speaking, if a person wants resources and stability they seek a large organization. If they seek innovation and entrepreneurship they look to small and private organizations in the Silicon Valley.  Applying the elements of  social and digital influence above, market segmentation/micro-segmentation is understood from this perspective:

  • Market segmentation on a global level that can be maximized offers the potential to expand influence and outreach capabilities into previously non-aligned or identified areas. Local-local relationships and influence on this level becomes a strategic concern/ outcome. To apply this to product sales, for example, being able to sell to a digital social network of 10 participants has little impact on sales. However, being able to develop an understanding of the social entry points and influencers as well as the common entry points and influencers, to a point where 1000 digital social network sites of ten people is now connected to a common product, local-local becomes strategically significant.
  • Market segmentation is a defining concept of the social narrative terrain. However, that does not necessary demand complex market segment analysis. Basic needs in emerging cultures are key points of entry and by themselves can address the basic criteria of market segment analysis: homogeneity (common needs within segment), distinction (unique from other groups), and reaction (similar response to market). Fundamental needs such as clean water, electricity, and food, can eclipse the analytical conventions of market segment analysis. A center point of influence is often achieved by addressing these most fundamental needs.
  • This enables a staff and local managers to analyze and produce assessments and make decisions that directly impact vision and design, but just as importantly, emphasizes tactical execution in context with the local operating environment.

The cost of failure for the military, business and academia is different, but arguably they are connected. Especially for the advocates of Unrestricted Warfare/Asymmetrical Warfare.  Additionally, the goal is not to make each organization mirror each other but to synthesize and integrate strategy with tactical unification in a meaningful way.

Conclusion

Linking this vision with execution is embracing concepts you are already familiar with. It means planning to organize, organizing to compete, organizing to lead, and shaping the internal and external environment. It means that the CEO and the local crew is a “weapon system” and has the power to shape success or failure in everything they do.  Additionally, it means that each one of these assets, and everything in between, has inherent limitations and strengths. It means that the weapon system you employ is an acknowledgement of some element of the economic-political terrain that requires shaping.  The political terrain takes on gross dimensions when it involves not just managing local actors, but internationally competing governments and multi-national businesses.  Geo-politics, the tactical implications of geo-politics, and how those assessments translate to operational and tactical execution can no longer be ignored.

The traditional methods of a hostile takeover, or corporate raid remain essential tools in the kit bag, but increasingly, the existential risk and threat to profit and loss comes from this widening gap between education, institutions, tools, technologies and the interdependencies in this “spatialterra.”

Dr. Terry Tucker (PhD) is a Senior Consultant for Spatial Terra Consulting Group, a contributor to Wikistrat, a Global Marketplace for geopolitical analysis, and a Department of Defense Analyst. In addition, he is an academic and professor of history. Dr. Tucker was formally a Department of Defense Analyst  for Yorktown Systems Group, Cubic Applications and MPRI, an L3 Communications Company; a Stability/Counterinsurgency Advisor; trainer to the Royal Saudi Arabian Land Forces;  and was Director of Material Logistics and Planning, and implemented total supply chain solutions for numerous Fortune 500 Companies while he was at National Oilwell-Varco, W.W.Grainger and Prosero.