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Operationalizing the Science of the Human Domain in Great Power Competition for Special Operations Forces

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Operationalizing the Science of the Human Domain in Great Power Competition for Special Operations Forces

Aleks Nesic and Arnel P. David

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. -- Alvin Toffler

Woven through contemporary debate are threads of different schools of thought that cross but lack a central thread which closes the seam.  One school of thought sees a return of great power competition and argues for an emphasis on lethality and warfighting competency. Another sees a change in the character of conflict and competition where adversaries pursue their ends in the space between peace and war. Above all, and critical to stitching multiple paradigms together, is the one which is eternal in all war and immutable—the human domain. War is always a political act done by humans. Regardless of which school of thought gains the most currency in national security debates, Special Operations Forces (SOF) must continue to build capability and capacity to scientifically understand, accurately interpret and effectively influence human behavior. It is the SOF operator who will be on the ground early, working with an indigenous populace, learning to understand a given situation in order to provide critical context to both civilian and military leadership. SOF must be able to navigate complex social systems and operate at a speed that creates critical decision space while ensuring their actions don’t make matters worse.

Recent history in Iraq and Afghanistan have illuminated critical gaps in this capability. In his book No Good Men Among the Living, Anand Gopal points out special forces’ activity early on in the war that not only helped the wrong people, but rather, perpetuated a deep sense of injustice that fueled an insurgency and undermined the mission.[1] With a poor understanding of the local dynamics between families and tribes, SOF were manipulated in targeting different warlord competitors and not real threats to the state. The mere mention of Al Qaeda and a target packet was built to action the next period of darkness. In The Thistle and the Drone, Dr. Akbar Ahmed, concluded that many times these targeted groups or actors may have been mislabeled as terrorists when in reality they were actually championing peace and fighting repression.[2] Ahmed attributes the failure of the United States and Pakistan to deal with transnational terrorists to their ignorance of tribal lifestyles, patterns of behavior, and customs.[3]

SOF performance improved over the years but shortfalls in training and education remain. The current level of understanding in the complexity of the human domain lacks true scientific depth and application.  Education in the emerging multidisciplinary science of the human domain will enhance SOF’s ability to gain indigenous knowledge and enable improved performance in the conduct of warfare in the 21st century across all domains and throughout the spectrum of conflict.

This article highlights the essential components of the science of the human domain currently in development and lays out an analytical framework that SOF can use to develop these new skills. It begins with (1) methods to analyze the operational environment by leveraging both big and thick data to map human geography then (2) reviews ways to navigate a kaleidoscope of complex psycho-social and cultural landscapes, and (3) concludes that these new skills from conflict science to assess complex social dynamics among people cannot be sacrificed for the pursuit of the changes only in the physical domains. While many in the defense department continue to chase technological panaceas, scientists and scholars have declared that the social sciences are the science of the twenty-first century.[4] One general warns that we are entering an epochal shift where the controlling amplification of competition and conflict will be human and biological rather than organizational or technological.[5] The essence of complex modern warfare continues to occur among the people and will continue to be driven by the people. As such, SOF will always need the scientific ability to understand, work with, and influence, people. 

Big Data or Thick Data?

Information is exploding. The amount of information available exceeds human capacity. Enter big data. The in-vogue concept of big data appears to be the solution to many problems facing business, industry, and the military. Big data may be useful but alone is insufficient to address the complexities of the human domain. Scholars and development practitioners find an “eclectic combination” of diverse theoretical perspectives and research methods improve the chances of revealing hidden connections and dynamic patterns not visible with a single theoretical lens.[6] Improved explanatory power is the result of using both big data and thick data.

The world is entering an age of data driven decision-making. An increasing surplus of digital breadcrumbs are becoming more available for analytical consumption.[7] These large data sets of patterns, preferences, and other variables enable an examination of society in more fine-grained detail.[8] Moreover, the combination of data and machine learning is drastically improving predictive analytics. The choices of groups and decision mechanisms of masses help explain human behavior and at times, forecast emergent trends. Pentland claims this collective intelligence is behind dynamic social effects that influence our individual decisions and drive economic bubbles, political revolutions, and the internet economy.”[9] In the Merriam-Webster dictionary big data is defined as an accumulation of data that is too large and complex for processing by traditional management tools.

From predicting teenage pregnancies to stopping the spread of diseases, big data is rapidly changing the world in a significant way.[10] The effects of these changes are yet to be fully recognized. In 2012, the World Bank declared the “pace at which mobile phones spread globally is unmatched in the history of technology.”[11] In studying areas of limited statehood, scholars found that the information communications technology (ICT) is filling voids in governance.[12] The use of ICT and the spread of information prevented governments from controlling the narrative. For example, Moscow was unable to cover up the crisis of the 2010 wildfires given the publics’ awareness of mortality rates and the ubiquitous communication mediums to share this information widely. ICT enabled a non-state collective response and undermined the state’s attempt to present a rosy account of the situation.[13]

In addition to mobile phone and ICT, the proliferation of other sensors, provides a torrent of data and enable collective action. Web connected cameras, bio-sensing devices, and the confluence of other technologies aid in the collection of critical data which have aided in the accountability of government to reduce corruption, limit abuses of power, conduct crisis-mapping, strengthen civil society, and improved responses to humanitarian crises.[14] Big data is a powerful tool to understand what has been happening through quantitative explanation but thick data is a complimentary method to explaining the why.

Thick data is qualitative information that provides insights into the everyday emotional lives of people. It goes beyond big data to explain why people have certain preferences, the reasons they behave the way they do, why certain trends stick and so on.[15] Thick data is derived from experts adept at observing humans’ behavior and underlying motivations. They span the fields of anthropology, ethnography, and must grow to include SOF. Analyzing thick data illumines emergent human dynamics not immediately visible with big data alone.[16] Military forces can be more effective by understanding the emotional and visceral context in which indigenous populations interpret their activities if they are educated and trained to operationalize the conflict science which will enable them to properly collect and analyze this enormously complex context of human dynamics.

Just like in business, organizations want to build stronger ties with stakeholders, and they need stories to connect. Stories contain emotions and narrative.[17] No large quantitative data set can deliver this context. It takes specialized and patient applied researchers to provide this critical insight which allows units and organizations to adapt as circumstances change. SOF need this capability.

The outsourcing or ceding of complex problems to machines renders an incomplete sight picture. Multi-method approaches using thick data and big data empower successful strategies. The table below shows the characteristics of both kinds of data approaches.

 

Thick Data

Big Data

Relies on human learning

Relies on machine learning

Reveals social context of connections between data points

Reveals insights with a particular range of quantified data points

Accepts irreducible complexity

Isolates variables to identify patterns

Smaller in scale and scope

Large sample and scale

Table 1: Comparison of Big Data and Thick Data[18]

 

Leveraging thick and big data unlocks explanatory power leading to detailed causality and a richer quantitative and qualitative understanding of the human narrative.  Christakis and Fowler assert the linking of the study of individuals to the study of groups help explain the human experience.[19] Their research reveals how social networks drive and influence virtually every aspect of our lives, many times in a subconscious way. Understanding the implications of these connections and networks are becoming more important for both civilian and military organizations. Most importantly, it is becoming abundantly clearer that successful use of these data approaches will require increased cooperation and engagement across the enterprise and with unusual partners.

In her book, Peers Inc., Robin Chase emphasizes the value of cooperation and engagement amongst non-traditional partnerships forming a new collaborative economy.[20] She explains how the best of corporate power (industrial capacity and resources to scale) combines with people power (localization, specialization, and customization) to harness resources in new ways and creates new rules for value creation. Chase’s company Zipcar and Uber are examples of these types of businesses. Cooperation is key.

The talent and skills to effectively harvest the vast oceans of data is not immediately available or evenly distributed across defense. Hence, engagement and cooperation with external elements is crucial for future interventions and requires mutually beneficial relationships. There must be incentives for outside agencies to partner with DoD and this leads to a key recommendation. SOF must leverage every opportunity to connect and collaborate in open source mediums with civilian and military organizations to gather the data needed to foster a deeper understanding. It is this level understanding that will enable one to navigate the kaleidoscope of complex psycho-social and cultural landscapes.

The Interdisciplinary Science of the Human Domain

As emphasized earlier in this article, one common element across all warfighting domains is the people. Behind every element and at every level of the warfighting enterprise is a complex domain of human beings and their multifaceted psychological, emotional, social and cultural identities. This human complexity requires accurate understanding and analysis. The only way for such understanding to be developed and effectively employed in the battlefield, is to utilize an interdisciplinary applied social scientific approach. Interdisciplinary—because not one single discipline is capable of providing comprehensive understanding of human behavior, and applied—because data collection and analysis of individuals and groups in conflict should be applicable within the reality of the conflict context, rather than theoretically orientated toward how things ought to be.

This complex reality of the conflict context was recently illustrated via term “durable disorder” in Sean McFate newest book The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder.  McFate argues that “Durable disorder is what’s left behind after the Westphalian system of nation-states retreats. It’s not anarchy, but a global system that contains rather than solves problems. It is the new environment for war, and we are unprepared for it. Old strategies fail, and armed conflicts smolder in perpetuity. Warfare is changing but we refuse to recognize this new reality—or adapt to it. We buy, train, deploy and fight according to rules that don't apply anymore, and then are frustrated by the outcome.” [21]

Arguably, the Westphalian system of nation-states has already retreated in many places around the world, and in many places, it has never been effectively implemented. Decades of conquest and colonization of tribal areas within the Global South has been nothing short of multiple unsuccessful experiments of socially, culturally and politically engineering nation-states from within the tribal and indigenous systems of governance. These traditional i.e. indigenous systems were deemed illegitimate, namely because they did not resemble the West, and therefore needed transformation. But this transformation came at a costly expense and unsustainable future as many of them resisted, continue to resist, and are still not ready for such rapid and massive transformations.

The grand failure in our approach to rapidly transform and centralize these political and economic systems continues to be driven by the classical realist and liberal political science theories that dominate the strategic direction and the rules of engagement. This creates strategic and operational failures in predicting and preventing the ongoing outbursts of violent interplays between state and non-state actors, violent extremist ideologies that continue to spread through fractured and vulnerable societies—the same vulnerabilities that our state adversaries such as Russia, China and Iran continue to cleverly exploit.

One of the main reasons for our lack of understanding the complex system of the human domain is our overreliance on the classical realist and rational actor frameworks, the trademark theories of Western political science. By relying mainly on the rational actor theory, political scientists have failed to help those intervening in violence (government and military) to understand the seemingly irrational motivations and behaviors of different actors in conflict and their delicate interplay. We have failed to understand the nature of the human element outside the comforts of the rational-actor framework because no political science theory has ever been able to accurately explain variables most prevalent in unconventional warfare--fear, hope, trauma, dreams, and myths i.e. the covert drivers of conflict that power up, drive and sustain violence.

What McFate alludes to as “old strategies” is actually an ontological and epistemological mistake in its original design, that is, we started with a wrong theoretical premise and formed a hypothesis based on a misunderstanding of what we were experimenting with—the human condition. The importance for SOF to understand the human condition in warfare, i.e. the human domain, is to expand its current education and training and to include psychology, sociology and cultural anthropology as the foundational disciplines that can explain the variables of irregular, unconventional and/or asymmetric warfare. Political science and rational actor theories are futile in the face of the human domain in current and future warfare.

In 2017, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) published a remarkable report titled The State and the Future of GEOINT in which it featured a commentary by Patrick Biltgen et al. that describes how to utilize Activity-Based Intelligence (ABI) in developing an understanding of “Patterns-of-Life”. They argued that standard statistical methods, regression techniques, and models are almost always based on the assumption that the variables are independent, but people are not. “People are not lifeless particles governed by Brownian motion or Kepler’s laws; we are complex entities whose activities are constrained and influenced by geography and other societal, relational, biographic, historic, and preferential constraints as outlined in the three axioms. For these reasons, human activities are not entirely random processes. Seemingly unrelated activities and behaviors cast as a spatiotemporal narrative expose the previously undiscoverable threads of motivation, purpose, and implication. Integrating and studying historical data that describes the activities of an entity across time and space improves an analyst’s understanding of that individual’s pattern-of-life. Adding the set of constraints and likely outcomes produces a model of what the analyst thinks will happen and a series of hypotheses that can be tested with real-world observations.” [22]

This delicate interplay of individual and groups’ pattern-of-life can only be accurately assessed if psychology and sociology, curated by cultural anthropology, are employed and taken seriously if we are to succeed in the great power game. The ultimate aim of developing this understanding and knowledge is to instill a capacity within deployed SOF teams to achieve a capability to effectively act, react, and intervene within the conflict communities’ psychosocial, emotional, cultural and physical spaces.[23] This necessitates understanding complex internal, indigenous or traditional cycles of decision-making processes and psychosocial mechanisms of the target audience for non-lethal targeting and engagement, and ultimately create tactical effects within the population that will increase strategic effects on the battle space.

How much do we know about traditional societies? How much do we know about indigenous governance systems? How do we build resilience and social movements? How do we prevent counter-governance? How do we instill courage and self-sacrifice in the partner forces’ soldiers? Who, what and how is influencing the partner nation soldiers and their families? Can we predict the effects of trauma on the partner nation forces soldiers and their families? What does heroism look like in the partner nation force? Do we understand the psychodynamics of psychological message construction? Can we locate and include cultural object symbology into messages in order to produce visceral emotional response?  Can we accurately and effectively describe the psychological, sociological, and emotional processes that violent extremist and criminal organizations use to weaponize civil society? Can we accurately describe the psychosocial-emotional process used by VEO/Criminal organizations to create suicide weapons? Do we know how violent extremists and criminal organizations access and use indigenous knowledge and communication to support insurgent and terrorist networks? 

To find the answers to these critically important questions for SOF operators, three primary disciplines that SOF must utilize simultaneously are psychology, sociology and cultural anthropology, as their nexus allow us to understand and deconstruct the individual and his/hers psychological organization, i.e. how identity is constructed, how the mind and memory works,  how an individual is contextualized and how it functions within a complex socio-cultural system, how such systems organize and sustain individuals and groups within them. The social science map of cultural conflict above depicts the intersection of these fields of science as they apply to the SOF operating environment. [24]

1

 

Culture vs Human Domain? SOF must move beyond the simplistic understanding of “culture”, and build the capacity and capability where “culture” is understood as a set of complex psycho-social and emotional realities and dynamics of the host nation target audience. This level of analysis will enable SOF to become more effective in conducting pre-mission analysis and research, and develop an understanding of how to successfully message, navigate and engage the factors and conditions in the human domain that directly influence operations within each combatant command area of operation (COCOM AOR). The Framework for Mapping and Analyzing Overt and Covert Conflict Drivers in the Human Domain developed by Dr. Christian and Dr. Nesic (2016) for the US JKF Special Warfare Center and School could enhance and deepen other SOF tools, such as PMSII-PT, ASCOPE, and target audience analysis.[25] This tool enables SOF operators to produce thick data during pre-mission analysis and employ such knowledge in the field in order to not miss the underlying (covert) conditions that fuel violence and conflicts. There are slight variations in tailoring the education and training in the human domain for Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations.

To support the requirements of Special Forces for host nation and militia forces training, tribal engagement, village stability operations, and operational preparation of the battlefield (environment), the knowledge must target ongoing SF challenges with insider threats, ability of host nation/militia forces to grasp basic military training, and their subsequent willingness to fight against non-state actor forces in the field. This knowledge will help build culturally relevant combat capacity within host nation combat forces as the content focuses on the nexus between the host nation partner force train, advise, assist, and accompany missions and the civilian community that the host nation partner force soldiers are a part of. The aim of this knowledge and capacity development is to address the central question that the SOF have always struggled with and continue to do so: how to build conditions of courage, heroism, and willingness to self-sacrifice within volunteer or conscripted soldiers of host nation security forces so that they are willing to fight as tenaciously as their adversaries? This training ensures that the host nation partner forces build acceptable levels of fighting capability that increases their willingness to engage VEO combat power without resorting to abandonment of the SF team advising, assisting, and accompanying them. Deeper psychosocial-emotional variables of FID and UW mission tasks focus on civil society’s role in population intelligence and material support as well as VEO enablement and concealment within the population.[26]

For every example of an SF ODA figuring this out intuitively, there are hundreds of examples where we did not figure it out, at least not fully. Most importantly, SF ODA/ODB teams who did intuitively figure this out, cannot transfer that success to other teams in a predictable scientific manner that can actually be replicated on demand. Major Jim Gant’s book One Tribe at a Time is deemed a success in the type of engagement needed, yet his success was based on personal experiences and intuition, not scientific accuracy in targeting and engaging the Pashto tribes in Afghanistan.  Simply put, it is not enough to know what worked, we must know why it worked, and how to recreate tactical success in all human domain environments at the family, village, tribe or clan level by NCOs and junior officers who man the frontline teams. We must enable their operational success by giving them the tools to know what they would say and what they would do to produce predictable results. 

To support the requirements of Civil Affairs missions to building resiliency in cultural conflict communities to resist violent extremist and criminal organizations’ ideological messaging, recruitment, and subsequent organizational spread through the population (target audience), the knowledge must be based on effectively and accurately diagnosing and repairing the damaged cultural-social systems of failing local governance structures that gives rise to violent extremist organizations (VEO) and/or criminal counter-governance. The Civil Affairs capability must include the science of how indigenous/traditional societies operate, how to socially engineer and re-engineer them and how to engage by, with and through the traditional governance structures.[27] This knowledge must focus on teaching the Civil Affairs teams to locate and understand the psychological organization, sociological structure, and emotional conjugation of indigenous, traditional societies or communities residing outside the capital cities where the structure of social authority and the integration of leadership, social purpose, survival, and health – both mental and physical combined—are the critical human domain areas for the Civil Affairs teams to understand and engage with.

This application of interdisciplinary social sciences can help Civil Affairs develop the knowledge of the deepest underlying psychosocial-emotional needs of the conflict communities and teach how those needs are met outside of violent conflict; as a precursor to understanding how conflict societies attempt to meet their needs within violent conflict. Civil Affairs should be able to understand in detail how exactly societies are broken and weaponized by extended violence, loss of membership, intentional VEO and criminal weaponization, as well as the epidemiological spread of violent extremist ideology and trauma conditions. This learning could be accomplished through the use of specific field approaches to targeting (data collection and analysis) and engagement that rely on scientific assessments and analytical tools, such as the Assessments of Indigenous Social Systems and Traditional Governance Health and Resiliency developed by Dr. Christian and Dr. Nesic.[28]

To support the requirements of Psychological Operations (PO) missions that are tasked with communicating psychological messages that use object symbology in message construction that achieves emotional elicitation to desired actions, the science must be used in a way that it teaches Psychological Operators how the ego-self (identity) is constructed, how it operates, how it creates thought, meaning, and emotion, as well as, how to access meaning and emotion in message construction. In addition, Psychological Operators must understand how the subconscious ego-self becomes destabilized from personality malformation, trauma, abuse, identity disintegration, and even how terror works in messaging, as well as how to identify symbolic objects within each culture; how to assess the emotional power of each symbolic object; and how to incorporate and build their psychological message around key or central cultural symbolic objects.[29]

Knowledge of the psychological, sociological, and emotional variables of target audience analysis and message construction are currently missing in many PO lines of effort, hence the lack of understanding the ‘how’—how  memory is created and used by the subconscious mind, and how memory becomes collectivized, destabilized and weaponized by VEO and political leaders. In order to design effective messages and/or counter-narratives, we must be able to first understand and illustrate how the ego-self engages in storying and narration as a basic structure of thought and how individuals and groups of human beings become psychologically extremized as a precursor to becoming behaviorally radicalized and subsequently recruited into violent extremist organizations as fighters and suicide weapons.[30] There is a clear scientific method to this process and SOF needs access to this capability. 

Concluding Thoughts and Way Forward

Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) work in diverse and complex operational environments where psycho-social, emotional and cultural variables within the human domain present ongoing threats to regional stability and USG interests.  A population-centric approach is key to ARSOF operations due to the fact that the majority of negative actors (state and non-state) use the human domain to: conduct influence operations to recruit and control populations; enhance freedom to maneuver and control key areas; derive manpower and logistical support, and ultimately achieve military and political goals. At this time, ARSOF is inexperienced in understanding and utilizing a population-centric approach and thick-data, and have little knowledge of the complex socio-cultural factors and variables associated with the geographically aligned lines of effort.  Without developing a proper understanding of the operating environment and the means by which the enemy conducts operations, ARSOF will be unable to achieve long term mission success.

Employing interdisciplinary social science of the human domain will enable ARSOF to 1) Develop a better understanding of the psychosocial, emotional and cultural variables of various regions of the 5 COCOM AOR to strengthen analysis, mission planning, and operational execution; 2) Achieve comprehensive knowledge of how state and non-state negative actors utilize the human domain and create and exploit vulnerabilities to achieve military and political objectives, 3) Establish initial guidance to update or improve LOE campaign plans to better address the importance of the human domain and psychosocial & cultural factors; 4) Develop concepts that utilize human domain practices necessary for population compliance; 5) Improve cross-cultural understanding and intercultural skills and techniques to enhance communication within 5 COCOM AOR and 6) Enhance ability to achieve long-term mission success.

The opinions, conclusions and recommendations expressed or implied above are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of any organization or any entity of the U.S. or U.K. governments.

End Notes

[1] Anand Gopal, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes (NY: Metropolitan Books, 2014).

[2] Akbar Ahmed, The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam, (Washington DC: Brookings, 2013) 1-42

[3] Ibid

[4] https://www.nature.com/articles/445489a

[5] http://armedforcesjournal.com/clausewitz-and-world-war-iv/

[6] Rudra Sil and Peter J. Katzenstein. 2010. “Analytic Eclecticism in the Study of World Politics: Reconfiguring Problems and Mechanisms across Research Traditions.” Perspectives on Politics 8 (2). Cambridge University Press: 411–31.

[7] Charles Duhigg, The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business, (New York : Random House, 2012).

[8] David Lazer, Alex Pentland, Lada Adamic, Sinan Aral, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Devon Brewer, Nicholas Christakis, Noshir Contractor, James Fowler, Myron Gutmann, Tony Jebara, Gary King, Michael Macy, Deb Roy, and Marshall Van Alstyne, “Life in the Network: The Coming Age of Computational Social Science,” Science 323, no. 5915 (February 6, 2009): 721-723.

[9] Alex Pentland, Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter, Reissue ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 184.

[10] Charles Duhigg, The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business, (New York : Random House, 2012).

[11] The World Bank, “World Development Indicators 2012,” Washington D.C.: The World Bank.

[13] Gregory Asmolov, “Natural Disasters and Alternative Modes of Governance: The Role of Social Networks and Crowdsourcing Platforms in Russia,” in Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood, ed. Steven Livingston and Gregor Walter-Drop, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[14] Steven Livingston and Gregor Walter-Drop, Ed., Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[15] Jess Cook, “The Power of Thick Data,” BIGFish Communications, http://bigfishpr.com/the-power-of-thick-data/

[16] Tricia Wang, “Big Data Needs Thick Data,” Ethnography Matters, http://ethnographymatters.net/blog/2013/05/13/big-data-needs-thick-data/

[17] Mikkel B. Rasmussen and Andreas W. Hansen, “Big Data Is Only Half the Data Marketers Need,” Harvard Business Review, 2015.

[18] table derived from Tricia Wang’s website: https://medium.com/ethnography-matters/why-big-data-needs-thick-data-b4b3e75e3d7

[19] Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, Connected: How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do, (NY: Back Bay Books, 2009).

[20] Robin Chase, Peers Inc: How People and Platforms Are Inventing the Collaborative Economy and Reinventing Capitalism (NY: Public Affairs, 2015).

[21] McFate, S. “The West is Losing Today’s Infowars and it Must Hit Back Hard”. The Economist,  https://www.economist.com/open-future/2019/02/05/the-west-is-losing-todays-infowars-and-must-hit-back-hard

[22] Biltgen P. (2017) Activity-Based Intelligence: Understanding Patterns-of-Life. In The State and Future of GEOINT. USGIF. https://usgif.org/system/uploads/4897/original/2017_SoG.pdf

[23] Christian P.J., Nesic, A. (2017), Foundations of the Human Domain in Unconventional and Irregular Warfare, Valka-Mir Conflict Science Series: US Army SOF Textbook: USAJFKSWC&S, Fort Bragg, NC

[24] Ibid

[25] Ibid

[26] Ibid

[27] Christian, P.J., Nesic, A. (2017) Indigenous Social Re-Engineering & Traditional Governance Engagement: Preventing the Rise of VEO Counter-Governance in Conflict Zones, Valka-Mir Conflict Science Series: US Army SOF Textbook Civil Affairs Edition, Fort Bragg, NC

[28] Ibid

[29] Christian, P.J., Nesic, A. (2018) Psychosocial-Emotional Variables of Target Audience Analysis: Achieving Emotional Elicitation in PSYOP Messaging through Cultural Object Symbology, Valka-Mir Conflict Science Series: US Army SOF Textbook, Fort Bragg, NC.

[30] Christian, P.J., Nesic, A., Sniffen D., et al. (2018) The Origins and Epidemiology of Violent Extremism & Radicalism, in Countering Transregional Terrorism, Edited by Dr. Peter McCabe, and Forward by LTG Michael K. Nagata, National Counterterrorism Center, Joint Special Operations University, United States Special Operations Command, Tampa, FL

 

About the Author(s)

Dr. Aleksandra Nesic is Visiting Faculty for the Countering Violent Extremism and Countering Terrorism Fellowship Program, Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), USSOCOM. As well as Visiting Faculty, US Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School and Senior Researcher, Complex Communal Conflicts, Valka-Mir Human Security, LLC.

Lieutenant Colonel Arnel P. David is an Army Strategist and Civil Affairs Officer serving in the British Army as the U.S. Special Assistant to the Chief of General Staff and a member of the newly formed Strategic Analysis Branch. He is a coauthor of the book Military Strategy in the 21st Century: People, Connectivity, and Competition. He is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College Local Dynamics of War Scholar Program.

Comments

As this thread begins to leave the, shall we say, "front page," of our Small Wars Journal -- and fade into the background -- let me leave you with this additional item, which may help support my arguments below:

BEGIN QUOTE 

Senator Benjamin Tillman, in discussing the Philippine Insurgency, would address the U.S. Senate on February 7, 1899, he would read aloud three stanzas of “The White Man’s Burden” and suggest that U.S should renounce claim of authority over the Philippine Islands. To that effect, Senator Tillman asked:

"... Why are we bent on forcing upon them a civilization not suited to them and which only means in their view degradation and a loss of self-respect, which is worse than the loss of life itself? I am nearly done. Nobody answers and nobody can. The commercial instinct which seeks to furnish a market and places for the growth of commerce or the investment of capital for the money making of the few is pressing this country madly to the final and ultimate annexation of these people regardless of their own wishes. . . .

END QUOTE 

http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/gilded/empire/text7/tillman.pdf

As an American Southerner, who had lived through the American Civil War, Senator Tillman, above, clearly understood what he was talking about here.  This being, of course, the relationship between:

a.  Efforts being made by a government (for the sake of "markets?") to force upon populations (both at home and abroad) "a civilization not suited to them." And:

b.  "The degradation and loss of self-respect" -- which "was worse than the loss of life itself" -- that thereby ensued.  (This, of course, leading to "war" -- both at home and abroad -- during Tillman's time.  In this regard, see the American Civil War and the Philippine Insurgency above.)

Given the similar "war"-like status of the world today (at home, think the Brexit and the election of President Trump; abroad, think the Greater Middle East),

A "war"-like status which, once again, seems to relate to government efforts to "transform" states and societies (their own and others) against their populations will,

Given these such (common) scenarios, what is it about human behavior, yesterday as today, that we can and should learn from these phenomenon?

Apologies:

Re: The "Catholic University of America" excerpt -- that I provided in my "conclusion" comment immediately below -- note that this such excerpt begins on Page 698 of this document.

There also, beginning at Page 643 in this case, is the overarching government, business and political elite's (national security?) idea and justification -- for moving to embrace such (necessary?) political, economic, social and value "change" -- in both the Global North/the West and in the Global South/the Rest.

BEGIN QUOTE

"In taking this course, the Court has increasingly aligned itself with the prescriptive views of American business and political elites, for whom globalization is understood "not merely [as] a diagnostic tool but also [as] an action program." 

From this perspective, globalization "represents a great virtue: the transcendence of the traditional restrictions on worldwide economic activity.., inherent" in the era of Nation States.  Proponents of this vision of a globalized economy characterize the United States as "a giant corporation locked in a fierce competitive struggle with other nations for economic survival," so that "the central task of the federal government" is "to increase the international competitiveness of the American economy."

END QUOTE

(This, obviously, being the "central task of government" position that has given rise to resistance, revolt and, in certain cases, violent extremism -- in both the Global North/the West and in the Global South/the Rest -- this, by those that understand that their beliefs -- and their wants, needs and desires -- these have been/may be "thrown under the bus" -- exactly by [a] this such "central task of government" theory and [b] related "action plans?")

To conclude my thoughts on these matters, let us:

a.  First look to the "conclusion" of our article above:

"Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) work in diverse and complex operational environments where psycho-social, emotional and cultural variables within the human domain present ongoing threats to regional stability and USG interests.  A population-centric approach is key to ARSOF operations due to the fact that the majority of negative actors (state and non-state) use the human domain to: conduct influence operations to recruit and control populations; enhance freedom to maneuver and control key areas; derive manpower and logistical support, and ultimately achieve military and political goals. At this time, ARSOF is inexperienced in understanding and utilizing a population-centric approach and thick-data, and have little knowledge of the complex socio-cultural factors and variables associated with the geographically aligned lines of effort.  Without developing a proper understanding of the operating environment and the means by which the enemy conducts operations, ARSOF will be unable to achieve long term mission success." And:

b.  Next look to an excerpt from an article, by the Catholic University of America, entitled: Moral Communities or a Market State: The Supreme Court’s Vision of the Police Power in the Age of Globalization.  

BEGIN QUOTE 

Even more telling than its use of elite opinion in "Lawrence" was the Court's unembarrassed reliance on elite views to determine the scope of a highly contested constitutional antidiscrimination norm in "Grutter."

Relying extensively on amicus briefs submitted by elite corporate, military, and educational authorities, Justice O'Connor, writing for the majority, asserted the following:

"[Major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed though exposure to widely diverse people cultures, ideas, and viewpoints. What is more, high-ranking retired officers and civilian leaders of the United States military assert that, "[based on [their] decades of experience," a "highly qualified, racially diverse officer corps ... is essential to the military's ability to fulfill its principle mission to provide national security." The primary sources for the Nation's officer corps are the service academies and the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), the latter comprising students already admitted to participating colleges and universities. At present, "the military cannot achieve an officer corps that is both highly qualified and racially diverse unless the service academies and the ROTC used limited race-conscious recruiting and admissions policies."

Moreover, universities, and in particular, law schools, represent the training ground for a large number of our Nation's leaders. Individuals with law degrees occupy roughly half the state governorships, more than half the seats in the United States Senate, and more than a third of the seats in the United States House of Representatives.

In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity. All members of our heterogeneous society must have confidence in the openness and integrity of the educational institutions that provide this training." 

In short, the Court based its constitutional reasoning on the contention of a group of the Nation's key corporate, political, and military leaders that the Nation's prospects of success in the face of international strategic threats, as well as the continued stability and perceived legitimacy of its domestic political institutions, required racial preferences in elite formation through our major educational institutions.

END QUOTE 

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

Given the Brexit and the election of President Trump, should we not now admit that:

a.  The "psycho-social, emotional and cultural variables within the human domain (which) present ongoing threats to regional stability and USG interests;" these, in fact:

b.  Are present in the Global North/the West also?  And, thus,  

c.  Are not so "diverse and complex" as has been suggested?  This, given that: 

d.  All such matters seem to stem from a common cause, which is:

1.  Government and business elite (see The Catholic University article above) 

2.  Who are seen by their populations as serving the (singular?) wants, needs and desires of such things as globalism, globalization and the global economy; this,

3.  At the expensive of their own populations (much more diverse and parochial?) wants, needs and desires?  This,

4.  In both the Global South/the Rest -- and in the Global North/the West -- leading to rebellion?

(Seen in this light, is "operationalizing the science of the human domain in great power competition for special operations forces" really all that entailed and difficult?)

Having suggested that, of late, the "kind of efforts" that our governments (both at home and abroad) have been "embarked upon;" having suggested that these such "kind of efforts" have, in fact, been of a "revolutionary" nature (see Kilcullen in my comment immediately below). 

Efforts, thus, which were designed to alter the way of life, the way of governance, the values, etc., of states and societies (including our own?); this, for example, so as to better deal with the challenges that are being presented by such things as globalization.

Having made this such suggestion, let us consider two things:  

First, from the beginning of the "Introduction" to the recent book "Military Strategy in the 21st Century:  People, Connectivity, and Competition" -- co-written by one of the authors of our article above:

"Over the long term, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory.  Non-military efforts -- these tools of PERSUASION AND INSPIRATION -- were indespensible to the overcome of the defining ideological struggle of the 20th Century.  They are just as indespensible in the 21st Century -- and perhaps even more so."

                                                                         Robert Gates: US Secretary of Defense

("Persuasion and inspiration" capitalized by me above for emphasis.)

And, next, from the 1962 article "Unconventional Warfare: American and Soviet Approaches" -- by Slavko K. Bjelajac, US Army Reserve: 

"Communists, although champions of materialism, have succeeded in perfecting a method of exploiting human factors, which they correctly regard as being of primary importance. On the other hand, the Free World, inherently less materialistic, tends to think and act more in terms of the material elements of a given situation and less out of consideration for human factors. As a result, Westerners operate under a self-imposed handicap and thus engage the Communists inadequately prepared. Their troops and means which are much superior in numbers and organization show themselves impotent in front of an enemy which, by all outward appearances, looks inferior.

The offensive employment of unconventional warfare -- to extend political and strategic positions -- has been almost solely the weapon of the Sino-Soviet bloc in the Cold War. The Communists follow a pattern of active and aggressive promotion of their goals, while the United States and allied countries have used unconventional warfare primarily for the protection and safeguarding of their interests. 

Among the techniques used (by the communists) to implement revolutionary warfare strategy and to attain their goals, the selection of cadre, organization, deification of the masses and psychological impregnation are the most important. Leaders, speakers, propagandists, activities, organizers, officers, volunteers and others are trained. Revolutionary cells are established to control different circles and organized groups in all sections of society. Parallel communists hierarchies are organized starting with the cell of a local committee to the central communist party. This becomes the party's invisible machine by which unions, sport, and cultural associations, veteran societies and others are controlled. The conflict embraces all segments and groups of society and, in fact, is concerned with every single aspect of social activity. It is and must be a fight for the minds of the people. That side which is victorious in this aspect of the struggle is virtually assured ultimate victory.  (Anyone see Sun Tsu's "victory without fighting" here -- a major theme in our article above?) 

It must be understood that the success of the revolutionaries is not due to the application of new principles of warfare, or psychological warfare, or to the technical efficiency of the revolutionary forces and their tactics, or to the terrain, in spite of their importance. These factors, no matter how favorable, would not be sufficient for success. The number of warriors armed with rifles and hand grenades also is not the decisive factor. The decisive factor is more in the nature of power. And the success of the revolutionaries, in this regard, can primarily be attributed to two extraordinary factors, namely, their closeness and appeal to the populations -- that is their ability to win over the populations -- and their ideological conviction."

(Items in parenthesis above are mine.)

http://www.jstor.org/stable/1034145?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents 

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

If "selling" and "indoctrination" are, in fact, the actual jobs-at-hand/the actual "name of the game" (see SECDEF Gates and COL Bjelajac thoughts above) -- both at home and abroad. 

(Herein, our governments massively failing in these such "selling" and "indoctrination" endeavors of late -- both at home and abroad -- as such things as the Brexit, the election of President Trump and the disasters of the Greater Middle East seem to confirm?)

What then will be the non-material"/"ideological" (see COL Bjelajac above) "tools of persuasion and inspiration" (see SECDEF Gates above) that SOF (et. al) will be issued -- and be trained to use -- ; this, so as to:

a.  Overcome the disasters of the recent past and

b.  Win the current and future fight for the minds of foreign populations anyway/inspite of same? 

(Herein, we must consider -- with regard to these populations lack of trust for us now [?] -- such terms as "once bitten/twice shy" and "to be fore-warned is to be fore-armed?")

Bill C.

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 12:47pm

From our article above:

"To support the requirements of Civil Affairs missions to building resiliency in cultural conflict communities to resist violent extremist and criminal organizations’ ideological messaging, recruitment, and subsequent organizational spread through the population (target audience), the knowledge must be based on effectively and accurately diagnosing and repairing the damaged cultural-social systems of failing local governance structures that gives rise to violent extremist organizations (VEO) and/or criminal counter-governance."

Consistent with my thoughts in my comments below -- and in an effort to make sure that we do not get our heads screwed on backward here, let us consider, re: such things as "failing local governance structures that give rise to violent extremists organizations (VEOs)" --  how Kilcullen, in his "Counterinsurgency Redux" seems to have:

a.  Defined "damaged cultural-social systems of failing local governance structures"

b.  Whic give rise to violent extremists organizations (VEO) 

c.  As those such systems and structures which have been designed, and are being employed, to "modernize" one's state and societies; this, against the will of the populations.  

(This resulting, as one would expect, in the rise of such things as resistance, revolt, rebellion and such things as "violent extremist organizations" employed in the service of same.)

BEGIN QUOTE

... Galula asserts that "whereas in conventional war, either side can initiate the conflict, only one — the insurgent — can initiate a revolutionary war, for counterinsurgency is only an effect of insurgency".  Classical theorists emphasize the problem of recognizing insurgency early. Sir Robert Thompson observes that "at the first signs of an incipient insurgency…no one likes to admit that anything is going wrong. This automatically leads to a situation where government countermeasures are too little and too late".  But, in several modern campaigns — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chechnya, for example — the government or invading coalition forces initiated the campaign, whereas insurgents are strategically reactive (as in "resistance warfare"). Such patterns are readily recognizable in historical examples of resistance warfare, but less so in classical counterinsurgency theory. 

Politically, in many cases today, the counterinsurgent represents revolutionary change, while the insurgent fights to preserve the status quo of ungoverned spaces, or to repel an occupier — a political relationship opposite to that envisaged in classical counterinsurgency. Pakistan’s campaign in Waziristan since 2003 exemplifies this. The enemy includes al-Qa’ida (AQ) linked extremists and Taliban, but also local tribesmen fighting to preserve their traditional culture against 21st century encroachment. The problem of weaning these fighters away from extremist sponsors, while simultaneously supporting modernization, does somewhat resemble pacification in traditional counterinsurgency. But it also echoes colonial campaigns, and includes entirely new elements arising from the effects of globalization.

END QUOTE 

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e7f3/f7fd5e525d6dfe177357a894839bc770348b.pdf (See the bottom of Page 2 and the top of Page 3.)

As can clearly be seen from the above, Kilcullen suggests that:

a.  It is the GOVERNMENTS who, today, are the INSURGENTS.  (This, because, as he notes above, only the "insurgent can initiate a revolutionary war"/work to implement massive political, economic, social and/or value "change.") This, of course, causing us to understand that, in the ("modernization"/"globalization"?) context provided by Kilcullen above:  

b.  It is the POPULATIONS who, today, are in fact the COUNTERINSURGENTS.  (To wit: those that seek -- in the face of these such government assaults -- to retain the political, economic, social and/or value status quo -- or to reinstate a status quo ante; this, if too much unwanted change is thought to have already taken place.)

Thus:

a.  Once one comes to see and understand the Global North/the West's current "resistance to unwanted change" phenomenon (see the Brexit and the election of President Trump) in this exact same manner, 

b.  Then it becomes much easier to see, and to understand, 

1.  Exactly what "failing government structures" actually look like (to wit: those that are designed for and are being employed to "modernize" a state and society -- against the will of the populations) and:

2.  How such unwanted government activity can easily lead to resistance, rebellion and VEOs in the service of same (this, even in the Global North/the West)?

(SOF, thus, needing to consider and understand the -- potential -- "all enemies foreign and domestic" aspect of this such analysis?)

Bill C.

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 12:55pm

So let me attempt to sum up my thoughts below.  In this regard, let us consider the following from the first paragraph of our article above:

"Woven through contemporary debate are threads of different schools of thought that cross but lack a central thread which closes the seam.  One school of thought sees a return of great power competition and argues for an emphasis on lethality and warfighting competency. Another sees a change in the character of conflict and competition where adversaries pursue their ends in the space between peace and war. Above all, and critical to stitching multiple paradigms together, is the one which is eternal in all war and immutable—the human domain. War is always a political act done by humans. Regardless of which school of thought gains the most currency in national security debates, Special Operations Forces (SOF) must continue to build capability and capacity to scientifically understand, accurately interpret and effectively influence human behavior."

In this regard, let us consider that:

Our opponents, both great nations and small and both state and non-state actors -- these such opponents may have already won the war upon which both "we," and indeed "they," have recently been embarked upon. 

This, given that our such opponents -- with such things as the Brexit and the election of President Trump -- have now "influenced human behavior," in both the Global North/the West and in the Global South/the Rest, in such an amazing and significant way, as to:

a.  Cause the governments of these such entities (in both the Global North/the West and in the Global South/the Rest) to:

b.  Significantly cutback, curtain  and/or indeed formally abandon

c.  Their efforts to further "modernize"/to further "reform" -- both their own states and societies -- and those of the Rest of the World.    

In the alternative -- and here due significantly to the "influence" efforts of our opponents -- what we actually see today are nations in much of the world (and for sure in the Global North/the West):

a.  Emulating the Islamics; this, by

b.  Standing in the way of such things as (necessary?) political, economic, social and/or value "change" and

c.  Pursuing a "status quo ante" agenda instead. (Re: the Global North/the West, think Britain's "Brexit" agenda and President Trump's "Make American Great Again" effort.)

Question:  What is the common -- "local dynamic" -- that our opponents today (much as we did in the Old Cold War versus the Soviets/the communists) have "cleverly manipulated and exploited" -- in both the Global North/the West and in the Global South/the Rest -- in this recent such "war" effort?

Answer:  The common threat (and associated exceptionally RATIONAL fear?) that such things as "progress"/"modernization"/ "change" brings to the "Old Order."

(An "Old Order" which currently has -- or in the recent past previously had -- a familiar and reliable way of life, cosmology, worldview, etc., and significant status, protection, wealth, priviledge, etc. associated with same -- all of which are now either already gone -- or are likely to be gone -- if their governments continue to pursue a "progress" and "modernization" agenda.)

Thus: 

a.  As "Special Operations Forces (SOF) continues to build capability and capacity to scientifically understand, accurately interpret and effectively influence human behavior."

b.  Should not Special Operations Forces (SOF) keep this such understanding well in mind/at the very top of their "understanding human behavior" rucksacks? 

From the second paragraph of our article above:

"With a poor understanding of the local dynamics between families and tribes, SOF were manipulated in targeting different warlord competitors and not real threats to the state."

Question:  

Given my thoughts below -- which generally suggest a commonality between, shall we say, "the insurgents" of the Global North/the West and "the insurgents" in the Global South/the Rest; a commonality that indeed is ripe for "clever manipulation and exploitation" by one's enemies (great power and/or other) --

Given my such thought, can we find similar "local dynamic" (see the quoted item from our article above) -- that might help explain BOTH of these such (overwise exceptionally different?) (a) "conflict environments" and (b) related "insurgencies?"  (Again, that of the Global North/the West and that of the Global South/the Rest.) 

In this regard let us:

a.  First look at an excerpt from the 2009 Matthew Hoh U.S. State Department resignation letter -- which identifies a long-running, insurgency-causing, "local dynamic" -- found, in this case, in the Global South/the Rest:

"If the history of Afghanistan is one great stage play, the United States is no more than a supporting actor, among several previously, in a tragedy that not only pits tribes, valleys, clans, villages and families against one another, but, from at least King Zahir Shah's reign (Afghanistan's first "modernizer?"), has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional.  It is this later group that composes and supports the Pashtun insurgency". (Item in parenthesis is mine.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/hp/ssi/wpc/ResignationLetter.pdf   

b.  Next let us look, for comparison, at a 2009 Harvard University study -- which identifies a (similar?) long-running, insurgency-causing, "local dynamic" -- found, in this case, in the Global North/the West: 

"Rising support for populist parties has disrupted the politics of many Western societies. What explains this phenomenon? Two theories are examined here. Perhaps the most widely-held view of mass support for populism -- the economic insecurity perspective -- emphasizes the consequences of profound changes transforming the workforce and society in post-industrial economies. Alternatively, the cultural backlash thesis suggests that support can be explained as a reaction against cultural changes that threaten the worldview of once-predominant sectors of the population. ... Overall, we find consistent evidence supporting the cultural backlash thesis. ...

The conclusion highlights several main findings. First, the results of analyzing the demographic and social controls confirm that populist support in Europe is generally stronger among the older generation, men, the less educated, the religious, and ethnic majorities, patterns confirming previous research."

(Google: Harvard University's "Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash" and see the Introduction and the Conclusion at Page 29.)

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

Thus, might the "local dynamics" -- that we must be most cognizant of (see the quoted item, from our article above, at the top of this page) -- might these such "local dynamics" be the "modern versus traditional" cleavages/conflicts that I have identified above; which seem to produce virulent "insurgencies" in both the Global North/the West and in the Global South/the Rest?

Herein, to note the similarities (rural living, less affluent, more religious, less educated, more-traditional, ethnic majorities, currently dominant but now threatened, etc.) between these two groups of -- otherwise distinctly different -- "insurgent groups?" (Those of the Global North/the West and those of the Global South/the Rest.)

Herein, the "enemy" of BOTH of these such insurgent groups (for example, those of the Greater Middle East and those of the U.S./the West today also) being: 

a. "Modernization"/the requirements, the values, etc., of a new and current age? And:

b. The urban, the affluent, the secular, the educated, the modern, etc. -- and indeed often the ethnic minorities -- who seem to thrive, rather than flounder, within this such "modernizing" construct?

Thus:

a.  The "threats to the state" (again, see the quoted item from our article above at the top of this page) that we might need to be most concerned with,

b.  Which would indeed seem to be found in both the Global North/the Rest and in the Global South/the Rest, 

c.  Might these such "threats to the state," in fact, be:

1.  Those "foreign and domestic" individuals and groups which

2.  Now stand in the way of "progress?"

(Defined today as political, economic, social and/or value modernization "change" -- which is designed to, for example, better provide for such things as [a] globalism, globalization and the global economy and [b] those that benefit most from same?)

This, after all, being the "local dynamic" -- which is now being experienced worldwide -- that our opponents are using (also worldwide) against us?

In addition to my thoughts below (or possibly as a compliment to them), note the Reverse Cold War character of today's great nation conflicts; which, for example, might be illustrated by:

a.  Our great nation opponents of today (Russia, China and Iran)

b.  Much as the U.S./the West did versus the Soviets/the communists during the Old Cold War

c.  Seeking to "cleverely manipulate and exploit" certain of the (exceptionally rational?) "resistance to unwanted change"/"return to the status quo ante" elements/movements that I have identified below.

(Which, interesting enough in both cases, are to be found:

a.  Both within these "transformative"-driven great nations themselves [within the Soviet Union and China back-in-the-day and within the U.S./the West today] and

b.  Within the Rest of the World nations that these such "transformative"-driven great powers sought/seek to "modernize"/to "transform" [for example within Afghanistan -- then as now].)

Here, now, is a sobering thought:

Given the Brexit and the election of President Trump, can we not say that:

a.  In the Reverse Cold War of today

b.  Our opponents have already won?

This given that, much like Deng and Gorbachev before them, May and Trump have now abandoned the dominant "revolutionary" raison d'etre of their nations' character?

"This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/theresa-may-donald-trump…)

"The strength of a great power is diminished if it ceases to serve an idea."

(From Raymond Aron's "Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations.")

(Of course, with the U.S./the West abandoning the "human domain" in this manner, one must understand that our opponents -- both great nations and small and both state and non-state actors -- will:

a.  Now have the confidence needed to move forward to (a) finish the job and (b) "fill the void?" 

b.  Herein continuing to "cleverly manipulate and expoit" the "resistance to unwanted change"/the "return to the status quo ante" elements/movements that they have helped bring to fruition -- BOTH WITHIN THE U.S./THE WEST -- and indeed elsewhere?)

From our article above:

BEGIN QUOTE

Arguably, the Westphalian system of nation-states has already retreated in many places around the world, and in many places, it has never been effectively implemented. Decades of conquest and colonization of tribal areas within the Global South has been nothing short of multiple unsuccessful experiments of socially, culturally and politically engineering nation-states from within the tribal and indigenous systems of governance. These traditional i.e. indigenous systems were deemed illegitimate, namely because they did not resemble the West, and therefore needed transformation. But this transformation came at a costly expense and unsustainable future as many of them resisted, continue to resist, and are still not ready for such rapid and massive transformations.

The grand failure in our approach to rapidly transform and centralize these political and economic systems continues to be driven by the classical realist and liberal political science theories that dominate the strategic direction and the rules of engagement. This creates strategic and operational failures in predicting and preventing the ongoing outbursts of violent interplays between state and non-state actors, violent extremist ideologies that continue to spread through fractured and vulnerable societies—the same vulnerabilities that our state adversaries such as Russia, China and Iran continue to cleverly exploit.

One of the main reasons for our lack of understanding the complex system of the human domain is our overreliance on the classical realist and rational actor frameworks, the trademark theories of Western political science. By relying mainly on the rational actor theory, political scientists have failed to help those intervening in violence (government and military) to understand the seemingly irrational motivations and behaviors of different actors in conflict and their delicate interplay. We have failed to understand the nature of the human element outside the comforts of the rational-actor framework because no political science theory has ever been able to accurately explain variables most prevalent in unconventional warfare--fear, hope, trauma, dreams, and myths i.e. the covert drivers of conflict that power up, drive and sustain violence.

END QUOTE

This argument seems to missed what may be an exceptionally important point; this being that:

a.  With the Brexit and the election of President Trump,

b.  Major elements of the Global North/the West have joined -- now formally it would seem -- with major elements of the Global South; this, in a worldwide "resistance to unwanted rapid and massive transformational change" movement.  (See the first quoted paragraph from our article above).   

(Thus it is, in fact, this "global" resistance" movement -- that now clearly includes the Global North/the West -- that is being "cleverly manipulated and exploited by our opponents" -- such as "Russia, China and Iran?" [See the second quoted paragraph from our aticle above.]  For example, as the recent investigations into the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election confirm?) 

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

Given this such knowledge/this such understanding -- of the now "global" nature of these such rebellions/this such resistance to unwanted "change" movement (which now clearly includes major elements of the Global North/the West) -- should we still:

a.  Be looking for IRRATIONAL reasons, motivations and behaviors -- of the different actors involved -- explained by such things as "fear, hope, trauma, dreams, and myths, i.e., the covert drivers of conflict ...?" (See the third quoted paragraph from our article above.]  Or, in the alternative, should we:

b.  Be looking for more RATIONAL reasons, motivations and behaviors instead -- such as those associated with retaining one's status, place, privilege, protection, profits, etc. -- as is now being provided for by the status quo? 

(Or which is thought to be provided for by a status quo ante; this, if too much unwanted "change" is thought to have already taken place.  In this such regard, consider the similarity -- and the significant appeal -- of both the "Caliphate," and the "Make America Great Again," movements?)