Moving to

I'm moving to Mostly.

I plan to use that site as a "self-marketing website" of sorts and to manage content in a way that I would otherwise not be able to do on blogger alone.

This blog will stay, ostensibly for more provisional ideas prior to refinement. I'll be gradually moving content (I still like) over to the other website. =)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ramblings on "Capabilities" and Aggression

It is somewhat interesting to note that the Roman Empire had little or no naval capability until the beginnning of the second phase of the First Punic War, which was marked precisely by the build up of a non-trivial naval force. Circular and somewhat uninformative definition aside, the Romans were extremely pragmatic in their military build up, especially given that its military consisted mainly the upper crust of Roman society who probably would not have liked to be assigned command of forces with no prospect of prestige through victory. Prior to battling Carthage across the ocean, Roman wars were land based and did not necessitate the use of naval power.

(Disclaimer: These are musings of a half-awake engineer on the way to work. I have not read Clausewitz or any military treatises and am not at all familiar with "the literature" in so far as it pertains to this.)

This interesting tidbit led me to think about the "capability" thought revolution in militaries around the world. It seems to me that almost every capability that people speak of are damage inflicting or coordinating. It seems that defensive capabilities such as detection and recovery (under a given damage loading) are a bit of a second thought. Perhaps the popularity of discussing "capabilities" began in the Cold War's era of deterrence where game theoretic response matching was the calculus of choice. The utility/benefit functions used naturally related to the amount of damage one could inflict on a foe and how much that foe might inflict on one. Those functions were typically dominantly based on (offensive) capabilities with little consideration of those of the defensive sort. This is the narrative that arises from the records of recorded discussions on the "first strike" and "second strike" capabilities of both sides and how they generated the uneasy equilibrium.

The view of a military "capability" as an offensive one by default is interesting in view of the fact that it was a defensive capability that won the Cold War for the USA. By largely neutralizing Soviet strike capabilities, the Soviet Union was left naked and with the two options of investing heavily in strike or investing heavily defence. The lack of economic capacity of the Soviet union and the pursuit of heavy investment... you know the rest.

It strikes me that the synonymous relationship of "capability" and "strike" is a manifestation of the aggressive tendencies of a military caste (or those with warrior pretensions). However, we should be aware of the historical record and the need for both a spear and a shield. Thankfully, there are those in Singapore who are interested in "resilience". I shall not talk about where we are at, however. (I don't even pretend to have a complete picture.) My own interest in the topic are in measurement and my view of may be summarized as comprising of enemy action, impact on resources, their reallocation to support "capabilities" and the corresponding impact on the performance of those "capabilities".

While we invest heavily in strike capabilities, we should be aware of the perennial defender's advantage (which can be neutralized by less tasteful forms of warfare, that in turn would probably provoke a very heavy handed international response). The defender's advantage is precious and should be bolstered. For instance through the ability to bust out of a blockade (the modern day seige). Investment in a good defence requires far more investment in offence to overcome. (This differential is lessened in computer games to prevent too much turtling.)

It is at this point where I must conclude these ramblings. And quite abruptly.

No comments: