Snip from Cheryl Rofer, commenting:
That is, do the same conditions apply to war overall, to engagements, battles and on down?
In my mind, when I look at the essence of conditions, I see fractal qualities. If I were king, benevolent of course, I would have my visionary thinkers and information disseminators begin their work from this premise: War is an act of force, an instrument of policy. Complete comprehension of war is to be found in a trilateral communication–a communal sharing of thoughts and feelings, policy and action– of the people, the government, and the military.
Propostion: War is fractal.
For me, as benevolent king, thinking as such allows for policy/action interventions, appropriate to the dynamics of extremes.
Postscript: Before I made myself benevolent king, I was captain of a ship. It sank, without a trace. But that’s another story, less I digress…
5 thoughts on “Clausewitz, On War: Book 1-Proposition: War is fractal”
That’s an interesting concept which makes me wish I understood how to do fractal geometry.
Fractal patterns occur in many different aspects of nature, just as network structures make appearances in a diversity of environments. As network structures develop in social systems the idea that social systems or systems in conflict might have an underlying fractal pattern to their evolution is an intriguing hypothesis. There’s a logic to this leap.
Unfortunately, I do not have the scientific background or mathematical skills to take this line of thinking any further. As Freeman Dyson is not available maybe Shane or Cheryl can tackle this one ?
Fractal geometry patterns display the same characteristics at any scale. That’s all you need to know for this discussion, Zen.
I do nature photography, and occasionally a photograph of detail on a rock or a leaf looks like it must be much bigger or smaller than it actually is because natural patterns are fractal, so a small detail of a leaf may have the characteristics of the leaf itself.
That’s the concept I intended when I asked if war is fractal. Do the same sorts of requirements, patterns, expectations, failures occur for grunts in the field as for the middle ranks as for the generals directing the battle? Which aspects of war are fractal in this sense and which are not? Friction, for example, occurs at all levels. Bad weather affects everyone, as do communications breakdowns.
Yes, but not necessarily a set of mathematical notations. I am a simple man, armed with two equations– one for comprehension, one for topology.
“Fractal geometry patterns display the same characteristics at any scale,” sees Cheryl. “Do the same sorts of requirements, patterns, expectations, failures occur for grunts in the field as for the middle ranks as for the generals directing the battle?”
For each, at their level of influence, I believe their experience may be unique, yet similar in essence of detail. Perhaps resonance is the expression I’m reaching for?
The answer may be hiding, cloaked in friction, to be resolved by a genius chain of command: Commander in Chief Obama > U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff > …. > Col. Jeffrey A. Sinclair > Lt. Col. Steven Miska > Captain Brian Weightman >1st Lt. Mike Miller > SFC Philip Jarvis.
The benevolent king has spoken and now must retire to his day job, where, if he can think on his feet, he will mull the remarkable trinity as three prime conceptual characteristics–people, government, miltary…
While fractals appear increasingly complex at smaller and smaller scales, Cheryl is correct that they are “scale invariant” — that is, the deeper you look, the more they look the same.
So perhaps you mean that, rather than fractal (i.e., scale invariant), war — like complexity — is fundamentally influenced by scale. To wit, if a phenomenon appears random or unpredictable at a fine scale, it can be predicted at a large scale. Hence the “rationality” of policy, with an expansive perspective.
Conversely, for the soldier, the tumult of war is inherently chaotic and unpredictable.
This echos Zen’s lucid Book I post, noting how Carl von was ahead of his time in so many ways. Add complexity science to the list.
“Do the same sorts of requirements, patterns, expectations, failures occur for grunts in the field as for the middle ranks as for the generals directing the battle? Which aspects of war are fractal in this sense and which are not?”
This question by Cheryl goes to the heart of the “Strategic corporal” and “Three Block War” concepts. In a Clausewitzian world, you do not have “strategic corporals”.
Gen. Charles C. Krulak – http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/strategic_corporal.htm
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