Thursday, April 26, 2007

Review Excerpt: Fog of War

Some thoughts on Every War Must End.

I've heard the fog of war in reference to bureaucratic screw-ups, or as an excuse for friendly fire and other tactical mishaps. Here Ikle uses it to refer to the uncertainty at the top.

Strategic decisions have to incorporate a ton of data: friendly and enemy troop strength, reserves, and the potential for outside parties to intervene. Obviously a great deal of this information is unknown, it must be estimated based on a variety of sources. That layer of interpretation is the true fog, data interpretation follows self reinforcing assumptions. If we are tired they must be tired because ultimately we must win, therefore we will win. This ties in with the tendency for politicians to be to aggressive (if they lose a war they lose office- whether they leave their country intact or in ruins). Tyrants are actually more likely to make rational decisions about ending war then democracies, assuming the tyrant stays in power. Saddam Hussein in the first gulf war provides an apt demonstration.

Ikle makes the point that relatively little attention is paid to big picture strategy. When Rumsfeld talked to himself about whether we were creating more terrorists then we destroyed, that was taken as exceptional. Actually it was a very rational and very rarely asked question: Are we achieving our objectives?

I wonder how they process and present decision making information within the military? Any better then an insurance company?