From 9/11 to London: The Need for Virtual Battle Space Maneuver Doctrine
Stefan J. Banach
The New Normal
The ability to generate global influence by maneuvering one civilian population against another, along Virtual Battle Space Avenues of Approach, to produce catastrophic physical effects is a significant transformational change for warfare. This phenomenon first occurred in the 21st Century on 9/11, when 19 foreign civilian terrorist fighters from the Middle East, attacked the United States. The buildup to the strike on 9/11 was conducted largely in virtual space to set the conditions for the terrorists’ success in physical space. This new form of global Virtual Battle Space Maneuver (VBSM), created significant detrimental physical space effects and was demonstrated a second time during the Arab Spring in 2011 and with similar success as exhibited by ISIL. The myriad terrorist attacks since 9/11 to the June 2017 murderous acts in London, underscore the point that this virtual scheme of maneuver is no longer an anomaly; rather it is the norm in the world today.
What we see as apparent problems, are often merely symptoms of deeper issues. These problems possess their own dynamics and relationships in both virtual and physical space. The sources of novelty and complexity that the U.S. military experiences everyday are derivatives of technological revolutions and ideological influences that have driven adaptation for millennia. The U.S. military is now confronted with a mounting number of strategic and operational negative externalities, given the growing cognitive dissonance relative to VBSM and Physical Battle Space Maneuver (PBSM), in an unprecedented 21st Century global conflict space. The velocity and viral nature of these evolving dynamic factors often overwhelm existing industrial-age cognitive processes and leadership approaches, which are proving to be inappropriate for contemporary complex problem-solving.
The most notable global system propensity challenge is the viral growth in trans-regional terrorism, in both virtual and physical maneuver space. This activity is sponsored by nation-state actors and is also carried out by transnational criminal organizations and radicalized Islamic individuals. These situations require unprecedented coordination, synchronization, and continuous planning within the U.S. military, the private sector and with countries and actors with our shared interests. These emerging realities require new transformational leadership solutions, anticipatory authorities, novel systemic mental models and a new Virtual Battle Space Maneuver doctrine that provides a whole of government solution. To achieve transformational change, the west must divorce itself from the notion of “Lone Wolves”, which is a political “cop out” strategy. Many terrorist actors are in fact “Known Wolves”, who are not apprehended as they reside in western Islamic Sharia Law enclaves and are enabled daily by the veil of political correctness.
The Strategic Imperative
The U.S. military has made significant progress in cyber awareness over the past five years. Those advancements are the foundation for a reframe that is required to produce a new synthesized VBSM strategy and doctrine. The requirement for the U.S. Armed Forces is to design a new integrated VBSM strategy and doctrine for 21st Century warfare that will ensure successful PBSM on modern battlefields. These actions are necessary to position the United States in an anticipatory stance relative to its global System of Opposition.
The current System of Opposition is defined as everything that is working against the attainment of U.S. policies and objectives. The System of Opposition is a complex global entity that is at war with the United States every day in Virtual Battle Space and, at times, in Physical Battle Space. The System of Opposition to the United States is growing in power and now includes nation-state actors, global companies, radical organizations and technically capable individuals who are all “virtual combatants” that collectively outgun the U.S. military in Virtual Battle Space. The U.S. government must mobilize the industrial base of the country to combat the VBSM threats that are emerging across the world today by a growing carte du jour of actors. If the aforementioned national mobilization does not occur, a “Virtual 9/11” will indeed follow.
The System of Opposition to the United States is using asymmetric approaches to leverage the seam between traditional warfare and the law enforcement activities of the United States and her allies. These threats to the United States will soon achieve VBSM dominance, as the decisive effort in war, which will portend success in Physical Battle Space Maneuver, as a supporting effort, on modern battlefields. Many of the empowered threats engaged in combat and illicit activities today employ complex combinations of physical and virtual space maneuver activities that produce unprecedented horrific psychological and moral challenges in disproportionate ways that are not often understood by the monolithic western archetypes – at least not initially.
VBSM, as practiced during the past 16 years by the United States’ System of Opposition, has led to maneuvering elements of one civilian population against another along Virtual Space Avenues of Approach to achieve alarming physical space terrorizing effects. The attacks on 9/11, London, Manchester, Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Orlando, the Ohio State University, Fort Hood, and the 2011 Arab Spring are VBSM examples that support this rationale; and accentuate the emergence of a new form of unprecedented indirect maneuver and power in our global system. VBSM heuristics began to emerge in 1989. The security imperative for the full spectrum of conflict now is complete control of every aspect of VBSM as the decisive operation to achieve desired shaping effects while conducting PBSM.
Defining Virtual Battle Space Maneuver
Virtual Space is a man-made parallel ecosphere that now dominates all meaningful activity in Physical Space. Virtual Space, via the World-Wide Web (WWW), has been weaponized since its inception in 1989. The Internet is the primary virtual weapon system that is employed by the System of Opposition against the United States and its allies.
VBSM is an asymmetric systems approach that employs offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, social media, information operations, artificial intelligence and stealth technologies. These five pillars of VBSM are often viewed and exercised in isolation. When synthesized, these means will create a powerful new capability to achieve decisive global virtual influence. VBSM is much broader than merely offensive and defensive cyber operations.
VBSM provides the ability to generate pervasive indirect global influence at a fraction of the investment and also reduces risk to the mission and “assaulting forces”. VBSM eliminates traditional tyranny of distance challenges relative to strategic and operational reach as well as theater-level access and early entry conundrums that are associated with traditional PBSM. VBSM is an indirect global capability that has surfaced by way of the Internet that delivers virtual munitions on demand and helps to achieve desired affective, cognitive and physical dislocation effects against a rival. Protected VBSM avenues of approach should be a top national security priority. VBSM has tremendous power and potential to achieve national policy objectives that are perceived to be untenable in China, North Korea, Russian and Iranian security scenarios via PBSM strategies. VBSM has and will continue to change international law, vis-à-vis what constitutes an act of war.
The Singularity is Near
Ray Kurzweil’s book, “The Singularity is Near”, comes the closest to describing what the U.S. military must achieve as it moves forward in virtual battle space. In 2005, Kurzweil wrote about the fusion or “Singularity” of biological intelligence and artificial intelligence in global societies. He opined, “The Singularity will represent the culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and the existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but that transcends our biological roots. There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between physical and virtual reality.”
Finding the leaders who are capable of operationalizing “Kurzweil’s Singularity” concept using both VBSM and PBSM to produce a new unifying non-standard doctrine will be paramount to directing U.S. warfighting efforts for the foreseeable future. The U.S. military’s future prowess hinges on how well and fast it interprets emerging technological and VBSM patterns of threat activity. The leaders, teams, organizations and countries that are most capable of swiftly reframing in these areas will win all future virtual and physical battle space engagements and wars.
Revolutions in Military Affairs
The U.S. military has framed and named four Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMAs) in the past 118 years. These RMAs included the Root Reforms circa 1899-1904, the 1919-1939 Interwar Period Reforms, the Post-Vietnam Reforms and the Post-Desert Storm/Desert Shield precision strike advancements. There is now an evolving 5th RMA that has been thrust upon the U.S. government and its military establishment, and it has yet to be framed and named.
The newest RMA emerged over the past 28 years. The 5th RMA’s asymmetric and technological advancements are exponentially more powerful than any of the previous paradigms that have changed the schema for waging war over the past century. This new development in capability and global reach will likely prove to be more powerful than the four previous RMAs combined. None of the four previous RMAs produced amorphous global groups of civilian terrorist hackers and attackers in both virtual and physical space. The previous RMAs were not driven by a radical ideological impetus that is perpetually conveyed at an increasing speed by individuals and groups over the Internet. The System of Opposition against the United States is using the Internet to propagate and perfect an unprecedented steady cadence of tragic international physical terror effects that are made possible along VBSM avenues of approach.
The Nature of War
The nature of warfare has remained the same since its inception in 2700 BCE in Mesopotamia. How war is conducted has dramatically changed and the U.S. military’s doctrine must keep pace. The U.S. military should reframe its enterprise-wide warfighting approach from its current Industrial Age model to a new paradigm that will win wars now and in the future. The capacity to win wars will be achieved by gaining and maintaining continuous global indirect effects, against the System of Opposition to the United States, through the design, integration and deployment of a new VBSM strategy and doctrine.
The U.S. military’s challenge going forward is to win wars using both VBSM and PBSM in a timely, synchronized and anticipatory manner. Wars are increasingly being fought by armies of civilians. How will the U.S. military cause one opposition civilian force to maneuver on another in the future? The U.S. remains engaged in over 15 years of attrition warfare with no end in sight for the ongoing global war. The U.S. military has not innovated and adapted in a timely manner for a number of cultural reasons. U.S. laws and authorities, which were divined in the previous warfighting paradigm, are hindering the U.S. military’s ability to win the Nation’s wars today. The current process centric and classic predictive planning models are also collapsing under the weight of new non-predictive complex problem situations.
Winning 21st Century Wars
The U.S. military has the best people available in its ranks. There is no other fighting force in the world that trains and equips its combat organizations at a higher level of readiness. There is no other country in the world that has spent more money waging war since the tragic events that occurred on 9/11. There has never been a more competent conventional fighting force in the history of the world. Unfortunately, having the best trained conventional military forces in the world that fights optimally and predominantly in Physical Space with Industrial Age doctrine is no longer sufficient to win America’s wars. The clear and undeniable feedback signal, from the global System of Opposition to the United States, is more than 15 years of attrition warfare. This fact demonstrates that the doctrine the U.S. military now employs is not working well enough to decisively win the Nation’s wars. The U.S. Armed Forces imperative, going forward, is to create a new non-standard VBSM doctrine with revised PBSM tactics, techniques and procedures. The objective is to design a completely new amalgamated doctrine for the successful conduct of war in our time.
All future wars will be “won” by operating within agreed upon Zones of Acceptability that address precise Limits of Tolerance that must be met and maintained over “the long-war”. One of the fundamental imperatives for the U.S. military and our global allies, to achieve this end, is to develop a new doctrine and future fighting force that possesses the individual core competencies, which are resident in U.S. cyber teams. These actions will help prevent U.S. military personnel from being hacked, identified, targeted and killed quickly in future battles.
The development of advanced stealth techniques and technologies will be critical to the survival of U.S. personnel in the future. If a U.S. Service Member can be seen, detected and located on a battlefield, they will die or will be rendered completely combat ineffective, as evidenced today in the Ukraine. U.S. Service Members in the very near future will carry a Virtual Weapon System and a Kinetic Weapon System in order to survive future wars. Similarly, the U.S. government must improve cross boundary agency, private sector and international coordination and decision making to prevent adversarial elements of one civilian population from maneuvering against a U.S. civilian population along Virtual Space Avenues of Approach.
The Way Ahead
The VBSM strategy and doctrinal design effort will take several years to develop. Numerous design evolutions will have to occur with the right teams of corporate, interagency, military, law enforcement, civilian experts from academia and our allies to master the complexity that is before the United States. This unprecedented design requirement will enhance the U.S. military’s ability to win our Nation’s wars and will help to prevent a Virtual 9/11, which if left unchecked, is imminent. The U.S. government and its military must design the virtual future it desires before it is overcome by a virtual future that will cripple the United States of America.
About the Author(s)
Warlock: You said:
"A 'System of Opposition' implies a coordinated effort amongst many actors -- a 'U.S. against the world' construct that smacks of monolithic view of the communist threat in the '50s, which ignored significant fractures between elements."
Might we consider that a "System of Opposition" may not, in fact, imply "a coordinated effort amongst many actors" -- but only a common cause and a common mission, such as:
a. "Containing" and "rolling back" communism" back-in-the-day? And/or
b. "Containing" and "rolling back" market-democracy today?
Herein, it being understood that the individual components of these "Systems of Opposition" might work to achieve their common goal independent of one another and, this, as per their own available strategies, and their own [often vastly different] means, methods, opportunities and/or resources available to pursue and support same?
None of this negating the fact that:
a. A "System of Opposition" had, in fact, become manifest and that
b. The "expansionist" states and societies (monolithic or no) -- seeking to, for example, "advance communism" or "advance market-democracy" throughout the world -- these such "expansionist" states and societies would need to (1) acknowledge and (2) move to address same?
(This, across all applicable and relevant "battle space?")
If people are paying to listen to this, it's more proof that P.T. Barnum was right. A "System of Opposition" implies a coordinated effort amongst many actors -- a "U.S. against the world" construct that smacks of monolithic view of the communist threat in the '50s, which ignored significant fractures between elements. The "global Islamist threat" is even more fractured across a dog's breakfast of groups, most evolved from regional factions, and thus retaining their regional focus. Dangerous? Certainly. Capable of "crippling the United States"? Not convincing.
Talking about virtual battlespace maneuver is very Gibsonesque, but it's like talking about Interstate Highway System maneuver. This is still a communications network connecting data storage and processing nodes, some of which are able, through executable instructions, to produce effects in the physical world. Isolate a physical device from the network, and it can't be touched in the "virtual battlespace".
All the rest of the mystical "Zones of Acceptability", "Limits of Tolerance", and trying to make lone actor events spread over several years look like a coordinated campaign is hooey. The power of the Internet is the ability to rapidly and widely disseminate information and ideas -- that's the connectivity between New York, London, San Bernardino, etc. Individual initiative is unfortunately not limited to the good guys.
Yes, no "System of Opposition" facing the Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War of yesterday and re: their expansionist designs back then and, likewise, no "System of Opposition" facing the U.S./the West and re: our expansionist designs today...at least, not in the all-encompassing sense the article describes.
It's certainly true both sides promoted their ideologies and bad-mouthed the other's. But the "systems" of action -- promotion or opposition -- revolved around geopolitical interaction. NATO and the Warsaw Pact weren't set up to promote ideology. Soviet and U.S. actions were primarily to secure and sustain political influence and economic access for sovereign states and their client subjects.
Warlock: You said:
"That's very convenient ... if you're not actively with us, you're actively against us."
Your quoted item here, this seems to imply that those occupying a, shall we say, "neutral" position (they neither work to help the U.S./the West achieve its policies and objectives nor do they work to help prevent the U.S. from attaining its such goals); that these such "neutral" entities MUST somehow be included in the "everything that is working AGAINST the attainment of U.S. policies" system or group.
This would not seem to work -- unless -- also for example:
These exact same occupying a "neutral" position entities (neither helping nor hindering the U.S./the West from achieving its policies and objectives); these such "neutral" entities MUST also be included in the "everything that is working FOR the attainment of U.S. policies and objectives" system or group. (Thus, a "if your not working against us then your working for us" logic?)
Either that, or these "neutral" folks cannot be considered as part of either of these systems/groups. Yes?
Last to ask whether, indeed, the description of a "system"/a "complex global entity" fails if such cannot prove/substantiate BOTH (a) "ORGANIZATION towards a common purpose" (thus, not simply having a common goal -- such as containing and rolling back communism or market-democracy -- but coming together and planning and organizing so as to best pursue this goal) AND, indeed, (b) PLANNED AND COORDINATED actions/initiatives/activities undertaken (for example: by various diversely located and various diversely capable entities -- such as both great nations and small and both state and non-state actors); this, in such a "common purpose's" name?
Herein to suggest that accordingly, and for example, the Soviets/the communists, in the Old Cold War; these folks could not suggest -- and they certainly could not prove or substantiate -- that they faced a "System of Opposition?" This, re: their goal, back then, of transforming the outlying states and societies of the world more along alien and profane communist political, economic, social and/or value lines?
This, because either one -- or both -- of the required criteria noted above could not be proved and, thus, the thesis fails?
Bottom Line Question:
Thus, no "System of Opposition" facing the Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War of yesterday and re: their expansionist designs back then and, likewise, no "System of Opposition" facing the U.S./the West and re: our expansionist designs today?
(Likewise, no practical value, for either the Soviets/the communists back then and/or the U.S./the West today, in [a] portraying these, respective, "conflict environments" in this ["fictional?] manner and/or in [b] organizing, ordering and orienting oneself so as to overcome one's "resisting transformation" enemies -- in this [fictional?] manner -- anyway?)
They also describe the System of Opposition as "a complex global entity", implying, as does calling it a "system", some organization towards a common purpose. That's a bit at odds with "random and uncoordinated".
"The current System of Opposition is defined as everything that is working against the attainment of U.S. policies and objectives." That's very convenient...if you're not actively with us, you're actively against us. That's so simplistic that it incorporates portions of the U.S. political establishment -- certainly many of the interest groups sending lobbyists to Washington -- into the System of Opposition! (Consider: U.S. policies are not always consistent with objectives.) Reality is just not that simple. Lots of different entities have lots of different reasons for actively opposing, passively opposing, trying to modify, or just ignoring the U.S. That doesn't make them all members of the Illuminati, and treating them as members of a monolithic threat will neither eliminate opposition or enhance our progress.
Warlock: You said:
"But random, uncoordinated events perpetrated by sympathizers of varying commitment and objectives are a long way from a 'System of Opposition' as described by the authors."
In this regard, consider the following from our author above:
"The current System of Opposition is defined as everything that is working against the attainment of U.S. policies and objectives."
Would not our author above's such description of the "current System of Opposition" thus, in fact, definitely include such things as "random, uncoordinated events perpetrated by sympathizers of varying commitment and objectives;" especially if same were determined to be capable of -- and/or actually did -- "work against the attainment of U.S. policies and objectives?"
In this regard, to consider the author's follow-on thought:
"The System of Opposition ... now includes nation-state actors, global companies, radical organizations and technically capable individuals who are all 'virtual combatants' that collectively outgun the U.S. military in Virtual Battle Space."
Thus, these such random, uncoordinated actors -- and the random and uncoordinated activities and events perpetuated by same -- these seem to easily fall within the parameters/the defined lines of "EVERYTHING working against the attainment of U.S. policies and objectives" -- outlined by our author here -- and re: his definition/description of the current "System of Opposition. Yes?"
Still not buying it. The Cold War was not just a collection of like-minded countries pushing Marx and Lenin in their own way, and another collection resisting those ideas in theirs.
Among the few globally-focused groups, one could argue an attempt at top-down coordination, simply by broadcasting information and ideas to the world at large -- any actor that picks them up is acting in the principle's interest. But random, uncoordinated events perpetrated by sympathizers of varying commitment and objectives are a long way from a "System of Opposition" as described by the authors. While it's every revolutionary and resistance leader's dream that "the people", suitably indoctrinated, will spontaneously rise up and act effectively, reality is a quite a bit different. If you want a more modern example, look at the failure of many of the Arab Spring movements -- whipping up a mob with Twitter looks impressive, but as a force for change, has to be backed by more than common discontent.
The current System of Opposition is defined as everything that is working against the attainment of U.S. policies and objectives. The System of Opposition is a complex global entity that is at war with the United States every day in Virtual Battle Space and, at times, in Physical Battle Space. The System of Opposition to the United States is growing in power and now includes nation-state actors, global companies, radical organizations and technically capable individuals who are all “virtual combatants” that collectively outgun the U.S. military in Virtual Battle Space.
(See our article above and, therein, the major subsection entitled: "The Strategic Imperative.")
Question: Could we say that this description corresponds -- generally if not specifically -- with my thought here:
In order to better understand "threat networks" -- in the "expansionist" mode that the U.S./the West seems to find itself in today -- might we benefit from considering how "threat networks" might have been perceived of by the similarly "expansionist" Soviets/communists during the Old Cold War? To wit: as:
a. Any connection (important: real or potential)
b. Between any states and/or non-state actor entities
c. Which deliberately/intentionally -- or -- unintentionally/unwittingly --
d. Tends to/might tend to -- in any way, shape or form --
e. Prevent, delay, marginalize, thwart, stimi or otherwise get in the way of
f. The transformation of the outlying states and societies of the world more along the "expansionist" entity's -- often unusual and unique -- political, economic, social and value lines.
(Thus, along Soviet/communist lines in the Old Cold War -- and along modern western lines today. ... )
Thus, in the Old Cold War of yesterday -- and again today -- these Rest of the World "resisting unwanted transformation" entities (identified in the first quoted paragraph above as "the System of Opposition?"); these include, in both instances, both great nations and small and both state and non-state actors -- all of whom, it would seem, together and/or separately, work against:
a. In the Old Cold War of yesterday, the attainment by the Soviets/communists of their political, economic, social and value expansionist policies and objectives? And likewise work against
b. In the current era, the attainment -- by the U.S./the West in this case -- of our political, economic, social and value expansionist policies and designs?
("The Need for Virtual Battle Space Maneuver Doctrine," thus, to be consider in this exact such "expansionist entities versus containment/roll back entities" strategic context -- which appears to be common to both the Old Cold War and, indeed, our current era?)
From our article above:
The current System of Opposition is defined as everything that is working against the attainment of U.S. policies and objectives. The System of Opposition is a complex global entity that is at war with the United States every day in Virtual Battle Space and, at times, in Physical Battle Space. The System of Opposition to the United States is growing in power and now includes nation-state actors, global companies, radical organizations and technically capable individuals who are all “virtual combatants” that collectively outgun the U.S. military in Virtual Battle Space. ...
The "battle space" the U.S./the West finds itself in today seems to resemble -- to a significant degree -- the "battle space" that the Soviets/communists found themselves in during the Old Cold War, to wit: a unifiedly hostile, to unwanted state and societal transformation, conflict environment.
Thus, is it in this regard (hostility to unwanted state and societal transformation, more along alien and profane political, economic, social and/or value lines) that we might view today the "global System of Opposition" that our author -- re: the U.S./the West and our strategic objectives today -- describes above?
To wit: a "global System of Opposition" very similar that which the Soviets/the communists faced back in the Old Cold War? Wherein, in both instances, this such "global System of Opposition" consists of both great nations and small and both state and non-state actor entities. (In this regard, see the quoted paragraph above.)
Thus, to ask:
If my comparison above is accurate, then should we be concentrating on -- not (a) the global "Virtual Battle Space Maneuver" (VBSM) or, indeed, (b) Physical Battle Space Maneuver (PBSM) -- but, rather on (c) on the offensive (rather than defensive) employment, of all our instruments of power and persuasion; these, for the specific purpose of:
a. Advancing our way of life, our way of governance and our associated values, attitudes and beliefs; this,
b. In the "uniformly hostile" (rather "welcoming") to this idea/this initiative conflict environment noted above?
A conflict environment that we -- like the Soviets/the communists before us -- seem to find ourselves in today?
(As to how the Soviets/the communists "offensively," rather than "defensively," employed all their instruments of power and persuasion -- to achieve their similar-to-our "expansionist" strategic objective in such a [common?] "uniformly hostile" conflict environment, see the following: