I just finished a draft chapter in my book, and I thought I’d add to my set of running thoughts with a new post. So far, it’s involved quite a bit of reading and integrating, and it helps me to push aside the stacks of books and think about exactly what it is I think I’m learning.
Now that I’ve said I’m sympathetic to Clausewitz’s portrayal of war as a complex system, I have to balance that by saying that I believe the traditional Eastern strategists possess a superior understanding of systems-in-action. What’s more, they aren’t bound by the more structured Greek modes of thought and the Western bias for direct action. Because of this, Eastern strategies and stratagems tend to be more artful than those we find in the writings of Clausewitz, Jomini, and, indeed, most modern Western strategists. Not surprisingly, the Western strategists who do exhibit Eastern shrewdness (Liddell Hart, Boyd) borrowed heavily from the East.
My issue with the traditional Eastern strategists is that they largely dismiss the potentially ravaging effects of uncertainty. They believe that their philosophy and methods eliminate uncertainty. By flowing with the system and nudging it when necessary, they deem to manage it. The question is whether they can. I’ll explore that question in my book.
I mentioned in the previous post, that my RTJ output has declined because I’ve been working on a book. Although I won’t be serializing it here on RTJ, I will from time to time share some things I’ve learned along the way.
So far, one of the biggest lightbulb moments for me has been my reassessment of Clausewitz. I’ve long been familiar with his main contributions as well as some of the more common criticisms of his work. It wasn’t until I started digging more deeply into the Eastern way of war, though, that I began to fully appreciate the value of the “Clausewitzian” perspective. Read on …
Regular RTJ readers have no doubt noticed that posts have been infrequent lately. The main reason is that I’ve been very busy writing a book. I’ll talk more about it soon, but for now I’ll say that I’ve been immersed this past couple of months in the writings of Clausewitz, Jomini, Luttwak, Sun Tzu, Sun Pin, Mao, Jullian, Liddell Hart, Boyd, and others. It’s been absolutely fascinating, but it’s absorbed all the time I would have otherwise taken to post here. I’ve actually started—and nearly completed—a couple of posts only to fold them into the book. If I find the time, I might run a short online class later this fall on the similarities and differences between the Eastern and Western perspectives on strategy. Stay tuned …
In May, the U.S. Department of Defense published Joint Doctrine Note 1-16, “Command Red Team.” If you haven’t read it yet, you should. One of the more interesting aspects of the document is how it divides red teaming into four activities. We’d like to learn which of these types you perform, but first, take a minute to review the definitions:
Read on …
You’ve probably met the red teamer who believes that red teaming cures all ailments without introducing any side effects. Beware this red teamer.
Seasoned red teamers understand that mismanaged red teaming can potentially introduce just as much uncertainty as it claims to reduce (if not more), leading to a very real and potentially dangerous false confidence. Read on …
I bought a Go board a decade ago. Every year or so, I’d dig it out of the closet, dust it off, and invite the kids to learn how to play along with me. In fact, the phrase “Mandatory Go Meeting” gained the status of “Just another thing that dad says that never happens”—until last week: yes, we finally held our first Mandatory Go Meeting. Read on …
Like most of the red teaming myths, this one applies mostly to non-practitioners, those who have never engaged in red teaming and know little about it. To them, red teaming is just a security practice. So while many current red teamers understand that red teaming can apply to much more than security, current data suggests that red teaming as a defined practice continues to remain limited primarily to security and military issues.
Here’s a restatement that pushes the myth much closer to reality: Most current red teaming focuses on security and military issues, but the practice need not be limited to these. Indeed, the practice—when done prudently and well—offers tremendous value to non-security practitioners, and it’s no exaggeration to state that anyone who makes consequential decisions should engage in some form of red teaming or challenge analysis. Read on …
Last year, we planned to launch an online discussion community called The Polymetis Group. The idea was to host a regular WebEx session for persons interested in improving red teaming. Here’s the original announcement:
We plan to launch a monthly webinar discussion on red teaming methods (dubbed “The Polymetis Group” for now). We’d like to start with a relatively small group, limited to government, military, and law enforcement professionals in the “Five Eye” countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) as well as the RTJ advisors and editors. The first question we would like to address is “How must the practice of red teaming advance if we are to stay ahead of our adversaries?” If it goes well, we’ll consider expanding the membership to additional countries and participants.
Life got in the way, and we never launched the group. Life has stepped aside, and we’re finally launching it on 15 June. It will be limited to pre-approved members, although we are expanding the criteria to include not just government, military, and law enforcement members but also those who red team for them. (We might consider others case-by-case as well.)
27 July Update: Due to the positive response to this announcement, we are closing the group to new applications.
We enjoy hosting free events for the red teaming community and encourage anyone interested in a Webinar or book club discussion to sign up and join us. We do ask you to complete the basic registration form, which includes your name, job, and location. Just so you know, we’ll reject registrants who don’t bother to complete the form or include only initials for a name or “NA” or “Something” for a job. (“Student” is acceptable.) For what it’s worth, we don’t do anything with your registration info, although the WebEx system uses your email to send you session login details. In other words, you won’t be receiving marketing emails from us.
Also, only about half of the registrants have attended recent events. Space is limited with our current WebEx account, and we often have people on the event waiting list. If you know you won’t be able to attend an event for which you’ve registered, we encourage you to cancel through WebEx. In the future, we’ll reject registrations of serial non-attenders who fail to cancel. We’re not trying to be jerks, but we do want to ensure that people who want to attend aren’t prevented by registrants who consistently register but fail to attend.
I encountered the following quote from Waverley Root last night when starting Peter Tompkins’ 1965 book The Murder of Admiral Darlan. I was unable to find the full quote on the Internet and felt obliged to post it here. I present it without excessive comment, only to note (1) how relevant it is to current debates and (2) how closely the classic concept of the intrepid journalist maps to the irrepressible spirit of the superior red teamer (bounded, of course, by appropriate rules of engagement!).
It is the business of democratic journalists to try to turn the light of day into the dusty corners of secret diplomacy, and to expose to the view of the people the machinations which seek to dispose of them, even in the republics, in defiance of the principle which states that the people should decide their own fate.
Such journalists are therefore engaged in an unending war against secretive officials. They seek to expose what the officials seek to hide. If they [the journalists] win, the officials of the future will be of a new stripe (of whom we have some already), who will carry on their activities in the full view of the public, hiding nothing from them.
If the keepers of the secrets win, there will be no more journalists in the future al all, only scribes setting down slavishly what they are told to write. We have some of these already, too.