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The Big Answer


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In Athena's Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age

a book by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt

(our site's book review)

This book is a collection of analyses from some of the most brilliant analysts of future war and conflict that exist. It contains a foreword by the Tofflers that gives it a broad context—tying it to Third Wave realities.

Both the Tofflers and the authors of this book are concerned with the speed with which the U.S. armed forces are integrating these new Information War/Third Wave War realities into the ongoing RMA (revolution in military affairs). The old guard conservative forces of the Second Wave, as usual, cling to the old ways as long as they can. But, as the Tofflers say, “At some point, as the new system develops and spreads, new elites associated with it demand and fight for change.”

War was transformed as a result of the use of gunpowder in cannons, initially, and in rifles and handguns, eventually
War was transformed as a result of the use of gunpowder in cannons, initially, and in rifles and handguns, eventually

The book’s authors like to use the terms cyberwar (which means information focused Third Wave military battle) and netwar (which means information-focused Third Wave social conflict). The book’s title refers to replacing Mars—the God of War—with Athena, the goddess of wisdom, skills and warfare, an apt substitution considering the way war is transforming into an information-heavy science in the 21st century. The authors make the point that information isn’t just about “smart” technology in weapons. They find that it is at least as important for the users of Third Wave weapons to do so from an organization that has been revamped for the Third Wave, as it is for these war makers to use these high-tech smart weapons themselves. In other words, smart weapons imbedded in a Second Wave military structure will give a bit of advantage for a couple of decades, but this configuration will prove quite inferior to Third Wave-organized military opponents, in the long run. Military satellites are for spying and communications, but the global positioning satellite (GPS) system is for both military and civilian use.

The global positioning satellite system
The global positioning satellite system

The hierarchy is the Second Wave organizational form and the network is the Third Wave organizational form. The authors concede that a certain amount of hierarchical structure will still be needed in most businesses and armed forces organizations to make sure things work right. But the major part of successful 21st century organizational forms in business, government and the military will be network forms. This is no longer the age of authoritarianism; it’s the age of knowledge. Hierarchies are authoritarian Second Wave forms; networks are knowledge-based Third Wave forms. The former embody the power of force, threat and fear, while the latter employ the higher quality power source: knowledge. The Tofflers and these authors agree upon these points, and much more. Many of them cite the Toffler books War and Anti-War or The Third Wave or Powershift.

The authors warn that the U.S. military needs to have smaller units of maneuver and look beyond its present Airland Battle plan, incorporating instead the concept of “swarming.” This means small groups of soldiers in incredibly precise and constant networked communication that carry lethal weapons; these groups spot enemies in their grid and suddenly swarm against them from all directions, catching them off guard, eliminating them, and then immediately double-timing it back to their dispersed grid formation, ready to strike again. No one weapon can harm this grid very much, due to their dispersal, and since the opponent has been blinded so command and control is defective, there’s no good way to detect and destroy a significant number of these dispersed forces so as to prevent them from succeeding with their missions. If this info-intensive strategy is combined with the author-recommended tactic of flooding the enemy area with sensors so that our troops can always detect enemy movements, the game becomes an info-guided search and destroy mission of deadly effectiveness.

We have the needed relationship knowledge to empower parents to relate excellently and have kids whom they raise excellently
We have the needed relationship knowledge to empower parents to relate excellently and have kids whom they raise excellently

The four most important words in this book are a quote from an acknowledged war expert, Carl von Clausewitz: “KNOWLEDGE MUST BECOME CAPABILITY.” This should be the guiding phrase that leads us through the Third Wave realities of the 21st century. But it’s more than just a catchphrase for military, corporate and governmental organizations. In our opinion, ultimately the most important application of all for this Third Wave axiom (it would be only a theory or an ideal except for the fact that the 20th century established it as a profoundly critical fact, so it’s now a truism for the enlightened and the informed) is in the lifestyle area, in which relationships, interpersonal communication and parenting must drop their reliance on traditional, 19th century operational practices and conformist, other-directed, 20th century operational practices and instead rely upon the capability that comes from knowledge-based operational practices. Our cultures cannot afford to operate any longer from a position of ignorance and inadequate training in these critical, basic areas where we have the necessary knowledge but simply are not utilizing it. And the reason we cannot afford this is simple, and has everything to do with the subject at hand—military and social conflict:

By not empowering relationships, parenting and communication with the existing wisdom on the subject, we help to create a world in which the proclivity for win-lose violent solutions involving war-forms is strong and preordained, and the proclivity for win-win solutions involving peace-forms is muted and unlikely to result in a peaceful world, since the basic character structures of the citizens have been misguidedly conditioned to reflect only win-lose mind-sets. See Flat-gradient Nurturance versus Steep-gradient Nurturance.

The basic character structures of U.S. citizens have been misguidedly conditioned to reflect only win-lose mind-sets
The basic character structures of U.S. citizens have been misguidedly conditioned to reflect only win-lose mind-sets

The authors and the Tofflers have all dovetailed on the preference for peace rather than war, but being Third-Wave-ready for war if it comes. Our contribution to this peace mind-set not only dovetails with preferring peace but being ready for war, but also adds the following: We needn’t feel that culturally imposed character structures are a deterministic given and that we must operate within the parameters of this given. Because, in the Third Wave 21st century, if we diligently apply Clausewitz’s “knowledge must become capability” axiom to the task of nurturing win-win character structures rather than win-lose ones, we will have partially abolished the preconditions for war in that we have partially eliminated the conditioned tendency to solve conflicts with authoritarian, force-based solutions, opting instead to nurture into our offspring the tendency to cooperate, communicate, negotiate, learn, and apply wisdom in a win-win context. This, of course, is the type of character structure that empowers the Third Wave to be less of a reason for conflict and more of a reason to communicate and find win-win peace-forms that solve problems the more benign way. This type of character is, in short, the type of character that is appropriate for Third Wave civilization.

A hierarchy
A hierarchy

Third Wave network forms of organization are operating more efficiently and effectively than are Second Wave hierarchical forms, even though a small amount of the latter will be necessary to oversee all the networks in the 21st century. Civil-society actors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) are multiplying their power and effectiveness by building far-flung networks that transcend national boundaries and connect and coordinate for collective action as never before. Terrorist organizations are doing this as well.

Another effect of the information revolution is the shamrock organizational structure. At the top is a professional core that is seen as the most valuable, gets paid the most, and receives the most company benefits—this specialized core consists of the only permanent workers, so they have the job security and get the most benefits. The two other types of workers are temps and contract workers. The latter get some benefits and are sometimes semipermanent. The former must look elsewhere for their benefits and job security—they have no career path and can expect no promotions or benefits.

The shamrock organizational strategy allows companies to shrug off the social burdens they accepted before the information revolution and global markets were in full swing. The economic efficiency for the company is significant: it costs less to get more from fewer people. This has reduced the value of many manual labor positions. Large sections of the U.S. (and other nations) are not going to like these new realities very much. But they’ve been warned about all this for years by news items on TV and books by the Tofflers, Reich and Naisbitt, to name just a few.

If people do not take the responsibility for their careers seriously—learning and training—then they'll have to settle for burger flipping
If people do not take the responsibility for their careers seriously—learning and training—then they'll have to settle for burger flipping

If they still have not realized that they are responsible for their careers, their learning, their training, their potentials for advancement and their future, and if they still haven’t taken it upon themselves to learn enough so that companies will consider them essential personnel with important skills, then they’ll simply have to make do with a lowered economic position and fewer benefits.

People that act like we’re still in the 1950s will find that the 21st century will seem harsh and unfair. People who’ve kept current with reality and change, kept their computer/fax/email skills and knowledge up-to-date, and are ready to demonstrate how vital they are to the companies they work for, will do well in the information age. We don’t need social engineers to construct welfare states to somehow provide for those anachronistic people who have not responsibly kept up with the realities of the information revolution. Instead, we need great communicators in schools and on TV who will ensure that our society as a whole knows what it needs in order to have the quality of life it wants to attain.

We need great communicators in schools and on TV who will ensure that our society knows what it needs in order to have the quality of life it wants
We need great communicators in schools and on TV who will ensure that our society knows what it needs in order to have the quality of life it wants

Those that slack off or fall behind should not be given extra supplementary funds. Their frustrations need to serve as a natural consequence of irresponsibility, and these frustrations are perfect to motivate them to get their acts together. But if the social engineers interfere—as if they’d learned nothing from the last half century of welfare state experiments—and prop up those that are falling behind, then the best aspects of the American capitalist system gets gummed up and fails to work smoothly, and the society gets cursed with innumerable well-meaning welfare bureaucracies that spend money that isn’t there for benevolent-sounding purposes that actually undermine the natural motivations of our citizens. The safety net should be only for those who are doing their best to work and be responsible, or for the old or disabled.

Hunger is perfect to motivate lazy slackers to get their acts together (or they won't eat)
Hunger is perfect to motivate lazy slackers to get their acts together (or they won't eat)

The authors discuss the drug problem (and the reduction in citizen safety and the increase in crime that it causes), concluding than unless supplies can be cut back, demand will never be reduced. But since this is clearly a next to impossible task, and the drug marketers are experts, a better way to evaluate the drug demand is to realize that if people were raised to be secure, wise, well-nurtured people with strong identities and strong character, they would be hopeless targets for drug pushers. (Think MC. See Why Register for an MC?.)

Drug addiction
Drug addiction

The most dangerous terrorists are the “religious terrorists” and members of various dangerous religious “cults.” They have, in the past few decades, either attempted or pursued the idea of: poisoning U.S. water supplies, dispersing toxic chemicals via building vent systems, blowing up holy religious shrines in order to start holy wars, staging indiscriminate, wanton simultaneous bombings of busy, crowded urban centers, and contaminating food in public restaurants. “Whereas secular terrorists usually consider indiscriminate violence immoral and counterproductive, religious terrorists regard such violence as both morally justified and a necessary expedient for the attainment of their goals. . . . the religious terrorist contemplate[s] far more destructive and deadly types of terrorist operations than secular terrorists and indeed embrace[s] a far more open-ended category of ‘enemy’ for attack: basically anyone who is not a member of their particular sect or religious movement.” The authors expect such terrorists to eventually use a weapon of mass destruction against innocent civilians.

The authors expect terrorists to eventually use a weapon of mass destruction against innocent civilians
The authors expect terrorists to eventually use a weapon of mass destruction against innocent civilians

One needs to ponder the type of people who are willing to commit mass murder against their fellow man, regardless of the rationalizations they use, the cults they join, or the grievances they strive to address. People of good character will help defend themselves or others when they are being attacked, but will not find themselves ready to ethnically cleanse, rape, enslave, torture others simply because of differences of belief. There would be no candidates for radical sects which put no value on life if there were no upbringings full of authoritarianism, pain, fear, hate, indoctrination into bigotry, etc. Such lives are ugly, unhappy lives. (If an MC movement shows that people can have happy, win-win lives that respect all people and that manifest good character and tolerance for other’s beliefs, then it can serve as an example to emulate so that so many of the citizens in the world don’t join factions with authoritarian methods, win-lose contexts, lack of tolerance, hostility, bigotry and little respect for the rights of others.)

People of good character will help defend themselves or others when they are being attacked, but will never enslave other humans
People of good character will help defend themselves or others when they are being attacked, but will never enslave other humans

The authors disagree on one point: Some expect the future to be bloodier because of the proliferation of amateur terrorist groups, the growing sophistication of professional groups, and the radicalism of various religious sects. Others expect the future to be less bloody but more disruptive, as netwar warriors strike at the communications nodes of other countries’ militaries, economic centers, and at power grids, while they simultaneously pursue info-war.

The systems view—as well as the new, ecological paradigm—is once again validated as Fritof Capra’s work is cited and networks are seen as the critical new form of organization. However, we are cautioned that hierarchies are not therefore on the way out; instead, they must learn to blend with networks in such a way that the whole (the blend) is greater than the sum of its parts (networks and hierarchies).

A network
A network

There is significant advocacy of a guarded openness policy from these authors. In certain international situations, and in national security areas, it’s important to limit openness according to the security needs of the situation. They also advocate the “knowledge strategy” of the Tofflers, who say that: “Peace at the dawn of the twenty-first century requires the surgical application of a less tangible [than force or economic measures] but frequently more potent weapon: knowledge.”

A final word from the authors: “Finally, we see a possibility that informational resources and capabilities, judiciously employed, may actually prevent the outbreak of conflict. Our vision of a ‘revolution in diplomatic affairs’ might thus be seen as a call for the rise of a global civil society devoted to ‘peace through wisdom’—an endeavor that would surely attract Athena’s full support.” (The MC movement sees itself as a peace-through-wisdom movement as well, believing that knowledge, judiciously employed in society not via social engineering but via individual lifestyle decisions of a society’s people, may prevent the outbreak of the development of the character-based proclivities for war and conflict, which will in turn prevent many conflicts. This gets to the root of the matter better than other ways, since people who have the proclivity for win-lose conflict resolution will eventually resort to war-forms since the win-win nature of many peace-forms will not suit them. See Why Register for an MC?.)

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match