--SWJ comment posted 10 March 2009.
Future conflicts will introduce an array of threats that defy simple categorization. We have at times tried to categorize threats in discrete operational themes such as conventional or unconventional, regular or irregular, high intensity or low intensity, traditional, terrorist, or criminal. However, the world is just not that accommodating. The security challenges we face are complex, and we have every reason to believe—based on our own experiences and on other conflicts we have recently observed—that our enemies will seek to employ a variety of threats in confronting us. Our model of the spectrum of conflict in FM 3-0 can be somewhat misleading in that it implies gaps among the different operational themes. What our model does not portray is the affect that time has on conflict and the likelihood that our enemies will seek to migrate among these themes. We cannot expect that we will have the option of selecting a category of conflict and then implementing a strategy confined to that category—the enemy gets a vote."
Hybrid, networked threats further blur the space among operational themes adding even greater complexity to the current and future operating environment. In response, our units and leaders in theater adapt from one theme to another frequently, sometimes day by day, often mission by mission and location by location. This occurs at all levels from the tactical to the strategic.
The hybrid threats we face are also increasingly decentralized in execution. Their objective is to exploit us by decentralizing operations and employing information operations as a weapon. In the book The Starfish and the Spider by Rod Beckstrom and Ori Brafman, the authors examine business models that provide insights into how open and decentralized systems operate: when attacked, a decentralized organization becomes even more open and decentralized....open systems can easily mutate."
The point is that the threat doesn't confine itself to a single operational theme. The enemy adapts to leverage their strengths and to exploit our vulnerabilities. I believe LTG Stan McChrystal—one of our truly innovative senior leaders—had it right when he said, to defeat a network, you have to be a network." So our challenge is to adapt our institutions and develop our leaders to confront the complexity and decentralization inherent in the future operational environment.
We must avoid either-or constructs about conflict and how we organize, train, and equip ourselves in anticipation of conflict. When we commit our campaign-quality" Army to a sustained operation in the future operating environment, it will need to be versatile enough to respond to all forms of contact. Even more important, it will need to be led by leaders agile enough to deal with complexity and anticipate the changes inherent in an extended campaign.