Providing for the Common Defense; Report of National Defense Strategy Commission, Part 2

We continue from  Providing for the Common Defense; Report of National Defense Strategy Commission, Part 1. Our goal is to undermine it.

The report consists of findings, not arguments against a hypothetical assertion that current defense allocations are sufficient. The geopolitical goals are also stated, not argued. These come out of a broad consensus that is wrong in certain areas. Wrong, not because the goals are not worthy, but because no reasonable, sustainable projection of power could achieve them.  One of these goals, maintenance of the international status of the China seas,  forces an exposed flank.

This is not the fault of military science. It is the result of a consensus that compels nonviable commitments. There is an honorable exception in the reluctance to commit U.S. soldiers in land battle. But the game of deterrence can be as deadly with sudden, greater casualties. The  authors of “Providing for…” are committed to a game of chance. Such games can be studied with rigor, with a demonstration later in this series.

Arguments come in different quality grades:

  • In the lowest category reside arguments about religion, politics, and the rights of man. The issues are supremely important, but data is not analyzed by anything resembling science.
  • The social sciences and psychology are in the next  category. These fields make use of data in a scientific way, but produce conclusions that are consistent only in their inconsistency.
  • Medicine is in the middle, a mix of modern miracles and pseudoscience. Application and abuse of the scientific method.
  • The physical sciences are close to the top, with rigorous application of the scientific method. Argument remains an intermediate phase,  reduced by the method to an essential residual of doubt.
  • The pinnacle is occupied by mathematics, which is not a science. It has an advantage over  the others, because it is about itself.  Instead of arguments, we have proofs. Kurt Gödel showed there is a flaw. But it’s the best we can do.

Military science has highs and lows.  The design and simulation of weapon systems is highly scientific. But strategy and command retain highly intuitive inputs. The military have a “can-do” attitude, an essential in the fight. But it provides no brake on the tendency of geopolitical strategists to build risk into policy.

Since “Providing for…” proclaims goals, it can’t be contradicted by antithesis. That results in shouting matches.  But there is an alternative. It’s common experience to choose between two opposing arguments that do not intersect. You choose the one that “sounds better.” If not due to prejudice, you have chosen the argument that appears to be of higher quality.

To argue against “Providing for…”, on the same low level, we would have to issue our own contradicting proclamations.  Instead,  we provide a better argument, meaning, we move up the list. Our argument will take the form of an objection, in the form of a problem that cannot be circumvented. It has roots in a subject that came to prominence in World War II, Operations Research.’

“OR” seems to have gone missing  in current discussions. I find no reference to it in the papers think tanks are currently pushing. Perhaps this is because OR was developed in the UK to solve problems for which there is already operational data, not hypothetical ones that may arise from bad strategy.

If you want to know, statistically,  how many tanks an Apache helicopter will destroy before being destroyed itself, that’s an OR problem. (The answer is about 21.)  Ship convoy strategy, developed during the Battle of the Atlantic, is a classic. The slightest, indirect reference to OR in “Providing for…”  is the note of inadequate inventory of certain precision guided munitions. The stockpile is ludicrously low, perhaps 1/20 of a reasonable number. It is low because unlike dumb bombs, smart weapons have a shelf life and require expensive periodic overhaul.

Although not historically used for the purpose, OR can also be used to identify problems, consequences of strategy, that are not remediable. This we shall shortly do. In the meantime, have a look at Pivot To Asia; Force Projection, Part 3. It’s about power projection. We will elevate the argument above  “Providing for…”  by drawing on OR.

There’s gonna be some math, but it will be accompanied by a wordy, intuitive explanation, so as to make the math somewhat optional. We’re going to use the Kolmogorov equation on Markov chains. It’s going to be highly portable, so you can take it around to your math buddies for 2nd, 3rd, and nth opinions. If you are math inclined, the calc can be done on multiple cocktail napkins.

It will be a little sand in the gears. It might be fun to take your stack of napkins around to policy meetings, wave them and say, “But this calculation shows we can’t do it”, and enjoy the mute stares.

Don’t worry, I got your back.

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