Le’ Notes #24: Models of the Revolution in Military Affairs

Continuing from the previous post (Note #23), this post introduces the major models of the RMA.

The previous post discussed the historical origins and the definitions of the revolution in military affairs. Now, let us take a look at the major models that seek to explain the RMA. The theories introduced range from Alvin and Heidi Tofflers’ “Wave theory” to the business-as-usual model.

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Le’ Notes #23: Introducing the revolution in military affairs

This post introduces the origins of the revolution in military affairs.

We are said to be in the middle of a self-conscious revolution in military affairs, or RMA for short. This assumption is grounded in the breakneck pace of technological advancement that’s happening almost on a daily basis. Every now and then, someone in Silicon Valley or DARPA or some whiz kid somewhere comes up with a new thing that promises to shake up or “disrupt” the entire world as we know it. Tesla Motors, for example, is trying out driverless cars. The South Korean military showcased their LEXO exoskeleton systems, which they had been developing since 2013. Suidobashi Heavy Industries have already marketed their Kurata robot, which was unveiled in 2012. The robot, which is basically just a bigger and capable exoskeleton, can be fitted with rapid-firing weapons. Although Suidobashi claims the Kurata only comes with BB guns, in the future, that may change to live ammo. However, the RMA is not just about technology. In the US.

 

Final_Four_Jaegers.jpg
Hell yeah, future warfare

 

However, the RMA is not just about technology. In the US, the Department of Defence has been constantly trying to implement their Third Offset Strategy, which (at the risk of oversimplifying) basically wants to use a combination of technology and operational art to gain an edge over America’s adversaries and maintain their alliances. With President Trump in office, America might just be great again, although the alliances part might not be.

Sure, the future looks amazing. And bleak at the same time, considering we’re developing weapons of war. But, let’s step back for a moment and reflect on this RMA phenomenon. What is it? How did it start? How did we get here?

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Le’ Notes #21: The Rubicon theory of war

This post discusses the Rubicon theory of war — where leaders fully commit to war after crossing the Rubicon River as Caesar did.

In role-playing games, it’s known as the “point of no return“, where you can no longer save your progress and have to fully commit to battling the game’s final boss, either in sequence like Kefka’s epic finale in Final Fantasy VI or alone, like Izanami no Ookami’s true ending battle in Persona 4. The fact that you can no longer save or go back to finish your unfinished business in the game world triggers this mindset that sorta goes “Since I can’t go back, might as well get this over with”.

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Le’ Notes #20: Heuristics and biases

This post serves as an introduction to the heuristics and biases school (HB) and how it might be applied in assessing war decisions.

One of the features of the naturalistic decision-making (NDM) school is their belief that people can be trained to make better decisions by becoming experts and developing better mental models. The rationalistic school already assumes that people are similar to robots, i.e. they make sound, rational judgments based on the availability of information at that given time.

However, the HB school would beg to differ. People are inherently biased in making decisions, mostly due to their reliance on intuition, which stems from a number of heuristics that we have developed as a part of the evolutionary process.

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Le’ Notes #19: Naturalistic decision making, part 2

This post visits the Battle of COP Keating in October 2009 as a case study in seeing naturalistic decision making at work.

The previous post discussed the foundations of naturalistic decision making. Let’s see whether or not the framework works. I’ll be using only the account of Jake Tapper [book] as the main historical reference. I know this limits the playing field a bit since we need a lot of information to do case studies. However, this is simply an exercise and not intended to be a research paper. Furthermore, I simply don’t have the capacity to peruse so many resources.

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Le’ Notes #18: Naturalistic decision making, part 1

This post departs from the rationalistic school to the naturalistic school of decision-making, where assumptions of rationality are thrown out of the window.

We’ve discussed at length about rational choice theory (Part 1 and Part 2). So far, I’ve come to the conclusion that rational choice theory is kind of detached from reality and tends to ignore the small things that make us human such as our habits, culture, etc.

Now, we visit the naturalistic decision-making (NDM) school that has a different set of core assumptions. Also known as “recognition-primed decision-making” (RPD for short), this school of decision-making believes that the rationalistic approach does not hold when humans are observed in a “natural” setting, such as in a real crisis or actual wartime setting.

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Le’ Notes #17: Rational choice theory, part 2

This post continues the discussion on rational choice theory from Note #16. Now, I explore the core assumptions of rational choice theory and their application in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Previously, we’ve seen an application of game theory in assessing a wartime decision and a bit of the debate surrounding the rational choice theory school. Now, let’s dive in deeper into the rationalistic school and explore the core assumptions, which include bargaining theory, brinkmanship, and miscalculations/misperception.

Of course, this means borrowing a lot from behavioural economics, so we’ll have names such as Von Neumann and Thomas Schelling.

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Le’ Notes #16: Rational choice theory, part 1

This post discusses the rationalistic approach to war decisions and application of game theory in Napoleon’s Battle of Waterloo.

Why do people go to war?

There are a number of approaches that attempt to explain how people, especially political and military leaders, make decisions. I focus on wartime decisions: the decisions to start, wage, and end wars.

In the study of war decisions, the first we stumble upon is rational choice theory. This theory assumes that when making decisions, humans are completely rational. Of course, there are certain caveats. A person can only be rational so far as the amount of information they have at a given point in time. Remember, hindsight is always 20/20.

I present the views of Fearon and Kirshner in regards to the rationalistic approach of war. We’d see that the rationalistic approach does have its merits and drawbacks in assessing war decisions. And to cap it all, I’ll present Mongin’s application of game theory in assessing the feasibility of Napoleon’s decision in the Battle of Waterloo.

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Le’ Notes #15: The Indonesian Way of Guerrilla Warfare

This post is a collection of notes on reading A. H. Nasution’s Fundamentals of Guerrilla Warfare.

While most scholarship on guerrilla warfare gravitates around Mao and Giap, the name “Nasution” does not pop up that often. Which is quite unfortunate, considering Indonesia (and by “Indonesia”, I also include colonial Indonesia, though, at that time, Indonesia was yet to be conceived) has had a long history of fighting guerrilla wars against colonists. However, it was not until circa 1928 when the resistance started to consolidate. Prior to 1928, there were only local kings and sultanates organising localised resistance against the Dutch. The experiences of fighting guerrilla wars then became ingrained in Indonesian military thinking, and Nasution’s treatise, Fundamentals of Guerrilla Warfare, was part of that process.

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