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Thursday, September 10, 2020

The three types of adversaries

 This is an interesting article on the strategy of conflict with antifragile adversaries by a Czech student of military history. While I don't agree with all of Antifragile Adversaries: How to Defeat Them, particularly his dismissal of the strategic significance of the distinction between state and non-state actors, and I suspect his attempt to work back from metaphor to application will not provide him with the answers he admittedly does not have, he does offer an admirable clarity of analysis that is very useful to anyone involved in any form of conflict:

The spectrum from fragility, to resilience to antifragility captures how strategic performance affects the three basic types of adversaries. The first ideal type is the fragile adversary. In this case, the strategist’s performance degrades the adversary’s military capabilities. Fragile adversaries are arguably the most common types across strategic history. The Greek king Pyrrhus and the Carthaginian general Hannibal in their respective wars against Rome come close to the ideal type of fragile adversaries. Roman strategic performance, though often flawed or even disastrous, gradually degraded military capabilities of both adversaries. More modern examples include the Swedish king Charles XII during his war against Russians and the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Both the Russian and the Union’s strategic performance destroyed their adversaries’ military capabilities despite suffering initial setbacks. The logic of defeating fragile adversaries is straightforward. If the strategist is less fragile than the adversary, he has a high chance to succeed with any strategy. Indeed, as the examples above illustrate, the strategist can even suffer a string of defeats and still be successful in the long term. Fragile adversaries do not pose any unique challenge for strategists.

The second ideal type is the resilient adversary. Strategic performance does not affect the capabilities of this adversary in either way. Actors who have access to large pools of military resources and adequate mobilization procedures fall into this category. Typical examples include the Roman republic or the Russians (Soviets), especially in the 20th century. The Romans suffered many defeats in their countless wars but they were always able to recover and deploy fresh troops to replace their losses. The Russians were able to recover from the initial shocks of the German impetus and to field overwhelming numbers of forces throughout the Second World War, first stopping and then reversing the German advance into their territory. Nonetheless, the logic of defeating the resilient adversary does not differ significantly from the previous case. Ultimately, military means are always a finite resource. Therefore, the strategist can defeat resilient adversaries by becoming more resilient himself. If he possesses more resources than the adversary, then in the end he will prevail through the simple process of attrition. Of course, not every strategist has easy access to additional military resources. For this reason, resilient adversaries may pose a considerable challenge for most strategists.

The third ideal type is the antifragile adversary. For this one, strategic performance serves as a stimulus for the growth in his military capabilities. This happens when the adversary with antifragile predispositions faces regular challenges appropriate to his current capabilities. Of course, what is “regular” and “appropriate” is context dependent. Antifragile adversaries are less common in strategic history. This is so because they manifest themselves only in instances when their predispositions match with the favourable character of the strategist’s attacks. One historical example that comes close to the ideal type were the Thebans in their wars against the Spartans (395-362 B.C.). The two polities fought each other regularly during the first half of the fourth century. The continual engagement in strategic performance made Theban forces stronger from one major battle to another. Though first suffering a defeat at Nemea (394 B.C.), Thebans fought Spartans to a standstill at Coronea (394 B.C.), routed them at Tegyra (375 B.C.), and slaughtered them at Leuctra (371 B.C.) and Mantinea (362 B.C.).[vi] Over the course of the wars, Thebans enjoyed gradually increasing morale, explored innovative echelon tactics and developed new kinds of military units. Therefore, by their own efforts as well by the repeated violent interaction with the Spartans, the Thebans fulfilled their anti-fragile potential. Seeing this development in practice, one Spartan sarcastically congratulated his own king that by the repeated attacks against Thebes, he had taught his adversary how to fight.[vii] Antifragile adversaries are not an artefact of a distant past. In fact, as David Betz and Hugo Stanford-Tuck argue in their recent piece, even the contemporary West has often pursued a way of war “which through one’s own efforts leaves the enemy stronger at the end than at the beginning.[viii]” Antifragile adversaries are universal and so is the unique challenge they pose.

The main challenge in facing antifragile adversaries is that what does not kill them makes them stronger. This is a bit of exaggeration, but in general it does apply. To start with, most strategies seeking to attrite that adversary do not work. Worse, these strategies work for the antifragile adversaries. Actively seeking out the antifragile adversary and trying to attrite his military capabilities by frequent engagements is a reliable receipt for making him stronger. This may not seem like a big deal when the other strategies are available. The problem is, most of the other strategies eventually turn into some sort of attrition contest as well. Strategists too often envision quick and decisive wars of annihilation and get prolonged wars of attrition instead. Others, who start out with terrorist attacks and guerrilla raids, turn to attrition once they develop sufficient military capabilities to have a reasonable chance of success. Not all the strategic options lead to attrition but too many of them do. It follows that most options for dealing with the antifragile adversaries convey high risks of failure.

This is important for everything from Qanon and the Antifa/BLM color revolution to the current conflict with Patreon. The problem that every responsible strategist is trying to solve is how to make a resilient adversary less resilient and how to make an antifragile adversary more fragile.

To provide one non-military example of attacking antifragility, Patreon tried to get consumer arbitrants declared not-consumer, then tried to convince the arbitrators to rule that the consumer protection laws and arbitration rules did not apply. They also tried - with limited success - to expand the battleground from arbitration to the courts in order to put pressure on their opponents' resources. That this particular expansion turned out to be a serious tactical blunder that has already backfired doesn't change the fact that their strategic instinct in the situation was correct. In strategy, it's not at all uncommon to do the wrong thing for the right reasons; there is no perfect strategy since timing, execution, and Sun Tzu's "Heaven" principle always matter.

Anyhow, it's an intriguing article and I'll put up another post later reviewing his proposed approaches to finding the answers to defeating antifragility. However, the fact that he cites Echevarria and not Van Creveld doesn't tend to bode well for success in that regard.

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44 Comments:

Blogger Kevin September 10, 2020 6:11 AM  

Hezbollah is an example of an antifragile adversary. The problem for a strategic point of view is that it is difficult to classify a new adversary. As Hezbollah formed and grew in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, who could have known how antifragile Hezbollah would turn out to be. It is a form of evolution. And at some point an antifragile entity can evolve into a fragile one.

Blogger Troy Lee Messer September 10, 2020 7:16 AM  

Cool, new stuff to learn. So to an anti-fragile adversary, combat is like exercising a muscle? As long as you don't over do it, you get stronger. growth from tiny slices of destruction.
if so, then the recently given advice to tactically withdraw from antifa riots is good advice as counter-protesters, of whatever politic stripe, are just giving blm/antifa training opportunities, intelligence, etc.

the left and the federal govt seem anti-fragile. The Italian government [waits 20 minutes], the New Italian government is fragile. what makes them anti-fragile and they control the levers of government and I'd guess make up the large majority of state, local, federal governments employees. the feds can destroy you, then print up more money to pay for it.

Blogger Pathfinderlight September 10, 2020 7:27 AM  

An essay with the full attention of the Dark Lord and multiple posts of criticism HAS to be good.

Blogger Hammerli 280 September 10, 2020 7:35 AM  

I'd add that it's probably worthwhile to track the fragility and antifragility of your military, government, and public support separately. And quite possibly to track Army, Navy, and Air Force as separate items unto themselves.

For example, the American Army is famously antifragile - Rommel's comment that American soldiers started poor but learned quickly is dead on the money. But the American people...are famously willing to support serious fighting for 36 months and the time to the next election. After that, they demand to see either victory in sight or a disengagement being attempted.

I'll also add that fragile does not necessarily mean defeated. It merely constrains your strategy. Ask George Washington...who took a fragile force and beat the British, mostly by being very, very good at force preservation.

Blogger Thad Tuiol September 10, 2020 7:41 AM  

How does the Revolutionary War fit this analysis? Were Washington and Co. antifragile with or without French help?

Blogger [Redacted] September 10, 2020 8:42 AM  

Ideally you make the adversary fragile while constantly propagandizing their new fragility as a strength so that they, in turn, protect it.

Haunting.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd September 10, 2020 10:18 AM  

[Redacted] wrote:... while constantly propagandizing their new fragility as a strength ...
Diversity is our strength. Your diversity is our strength.

Blogger thesystemdisconnect September 10, 2020 10:29 AM  

To give an example of what [Redacted] said,

The left sees "freedom of speech" as a fragility. It has no basis in truth.
The right and gatekeepers for the right scramble to defend this "right".
The left attacks and slaughters those who defend it.

Vox, good strategist as he is, has been trying to find our own fragility for a long time so that we don't protect the wrong things and can spend our energies on the offensive instead.

Blogger tuberman September 10, 2020 10:56 AM  

Part 1

Fragile/anti-fragile is a great 4Gen warfare addition to strategy. This is at least somewhat inherent in Sun Tzu, yet a very good breakout concept to dig deeper. You still need to know your side well, and know your opponent even better. The fragile/anti-fragile perspective will help.

Best not to jump to conclusions though...example:
>> ...the left and the federal govt seem anti-fragile.

Two things may be off about that, but not completely off (this is not an attack, just trying to discuss):

First, these two are only sometimes part of each other. Part of the federal government is in bed with the left, but not all.

Obviously, (the Fed) is not monolithic. Yet most of DC, almost all of some three letter agencies are rogue, and part of the shadow government.

Second, AntiFA/BLM situation now appears anti-fragile, yet it's fragile nature is from it's dependencies.

They are dependent on many things, which may not hold up under different circumstances.
* Money Backers
* Blue City/Blue State territories, which gives them police, DA's, Mayors, Governors, and often a population base on their side. Include the MSM and most international companies (and most organized sports) promoting them.
* An old, highly scripted semi-military organization allied with the MSM for optics. Yes, this organization been loosely around since the mid-19th century, and was highly developed by the early 1930's.

Blogger tuberman September 10, 2020 10:57 AM  

Part 2

So, how would AntiFA/BLM's dependencies turn them fragile, as their position appears very strong.

They are burning/looting/murdering in Blue territory, therefore making the ordinary supporters into their victims, and this includes some of the fool mayors and such. These cities become weaker without the right having to attack them.

It IS quite likely that any such organizations are at the very least taged, with all the players being known, and also infiltrated, the infiltrators waiting for the the correct time to be fully activated.

Even if you don't believe the above, it's obvious that all the on-the-ground structures have been revealed from several viewpoints such as command and control, down to who is assigned to what tasks. If those are known, then it's also likely that the money trails have also been followed back, including who supplies what to these groups.

This is all heavily fragile, but with much being just logical speculation. We will see.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia September 10, 2020 11:03 AM  

Very interesting piece.

For most of the modern era of war, resilience goes hand in hand with geography. The Germans were great at what Victor Davis Hanson in his book Second World Wars called "border wars." The Low Countries, France, Greece. But the minute they extended themselves geographically, North Africa and then Barbarossa, they were in trouble. They didn't have the resilience.

So the question that still is apropos today -- can you project power at distance? And does your distance from the adversary protect you?

In the Pacific War, the US had both the protection of distance, and resilience to make the fight bigger and bigger, closer and closer to the enemy and further away from the homeland, while the Japanese did not.

You'd think that distance wouldn't matter today, given intercontinental missiles, satellite space warfare, and cyber attacks that can move across the globe at the speed of light.

If two technologically sophisticated powers square off -- let's call them Chine and the USA -- will the ability of to project force at a distance matter? In the first round of such a conflict, assuming it's non-nuclear, probably not.

But once the smoke clears, and the rubble stops bounding, both figuratively and literally -- as it will for BOTH sides -- then what? Which side is resilient enough to project force at distance? And which side has the will and the resources to bounce back and do so?

We may find out.

Blogger AL Tru September 10, 2020 11:22 AM  

" Nuke the site from orbit..only way to be sure "
- Sun Tzu
ps: Trump will use 14th amendment
Section 3.
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Blogger ThatWouldBeTelling September 10, 2020 11:41 AM  

@4 Hammerli 280:

I'd add that it's probably worthwhile to track the fragility and antifragility of your military, government, and public support separately. And quite possibly to track Army, Navy, and Air Force as separate items unto themselves.

For example, the American Army is famously antifragile - Rommel's comment that American soldiers started poor but learned quickly is dead on the money.


But that ended very abruptly after WWII. Read "Proud Legions," a chapter in This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness by T.R. Fehrenbach about the Korean War, also in one of the There Will Be War anthologies which Castalia House reprinted. About Face by David H. Hackworth covers this extensively for the Vietnam War.

The US Army made a major post-Vietnam effort to up its game, I don't know how that's really gone, and it's hard to figure out because starting with Vietnam the civilian and military leadership of the Army has hamstrung it to the point it generally ends up losing in the long term. In the first Gulf War, explicitly denied a real victory.

Or another example of the misuse of a proxy group, the Bay of Pigs. JFK and his best and brightest changing the location of the invasion and not allowing them to use the organic air support we'd furnished them with ensured it would end in an abject failure (which then encouraged Khrushchev's adventurism to the point we and the USSR came the closest to using nukes in anger).

Not sure about the Navy in WWII, and it hasn't fought even a vaguely peer enemy since then, but today it's so deprived of resources, from maintenance to competent men (one of the Aegis Arleigh Burke-class collisions in the Pacific happened in part because two women were not talking to each other, one in the CIC, one on the bridge), it's hard to imagine any part of it other than perhaps the Silent Service from being fragile as things stand today. That we've not lost a single nuclear sub in a very long time suggests not all is lost in this arena, and while they can't fulfill the keep the seas open mission, with proper positioning and ROE they can deny the seas to adversaries, something the CCP has to factor into their invasion plans for Taiwan.

Not sure what lessons could be learned from the Army Air Force and then the Air Force, too new as a really effective thing in WWII, but Vietnam has some lessons, and they're very bad. For example, literally using a WWII prop fighter flying formation, so a nearly identical Navy plane like the F-4 Phantom II had roughly 4 times the combat capability as an Air Force one. See Clashes: Air Combat over North Vietnam, 1965–1972 for all the details. Including the fact that requiring visual recognition of enemy fighters before attacking them was actually a very necessary part of our ROE, and not an example of "tying one hand of our boys behind their back" (TL;DR almost all the planes in the air were ours, and only luck prevented several beyond visual range missile attacks from shooting down our own planes).

Blogger Doom September 10, 2020 11:43 AM  

For the antifragile, you need inside players. A color revolution does nicely, for example. It has to be from inside and outside. I love it when people suggest, the problem with that, is there are no outside forces. There are always outside forces. Often, the worst of them, are what are considered allies. Women just don't get along. And states are women, much as churches are. Brides, of various suitors. Or whores.

Blogger Andrew Jackson September 10, 2020 11:43 AM  

Soviet Union put 14,000,000 men thru basic training before the German attack.This was not known to Hitler and was fatal. Stalin threw army after army at the Germans inflicting massive losses they couldn't make up in 1941. The Wide Awake movement which put Lincoln in the White House was a ready made army which subdued The border states,this was a massive strategic defeat for the Confederacy.

Blogger tuberman September 10, 2020 11:49 AM  

4. Hammerli 280

>> I'd add that it's probably worthwhile to track the fragility and antifragility of your military, government, and public support separately. And quite possibly to track Army, Navy, and Air Force as separate items unto themselves.

Your speculation is about one country against another, but this is mainly about 5th column infiltration (in the military too) with foreign countries helping the shadow government, but also helping the patriots. There's not adequate info to judge much of anything from ordinary person viewpoint right now.

I'd say keeping up good moral is most critical for patriots, digging for full truths, and backing whatever is best for Western Civilization and real Christianity.

Much of the military is weak, due to being overused (so all countries know USA military's structures), but also all sorts of infiltration.

Yet, currently, the majority of the USA military is being considered Legacy, meaning dated, and not dependable. There has been all sorts of work-arounds to come up with an effective defense force to keep opponents at bay. The marine corps, for example, is being completely reformed into a new way of fighting, into almost all being divided into small, almost special ops type teams, backed by fast-tracked tech, using 'skunk works' divisions in companies to get this stuff out much better and faster then previously, and without needing pentagon input to feather the wrong pockets.

No, way to be sure about how fragile these new approaches will be until tested fully. The Legacy Military is very fragile, and the USA will still be part-way dependent for a time.

Blogger ToTheRightRon September 10, 2020 11:53 AM  

If all of us on the right individually eliminated our personal fragility, pursued robustness wherever possible and identified areas of potential antifragility the right, corporately, would easily deflect the tactics and attacks of the left.

The political/cultural right in the USA is fragile. Become antifragile or at least, robust!

I cannot wait for VOX to elaborate on this article. The above article will be my lunchtime reading so I can follow VOX's train of thought when he posts.

Blogger ThatWouldBeTelling September 10, 2020 11:54 AM  

@11. KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia

If two technologically sophisticated powers square off -- let's call them Chine and the USA -- will the ability of to project force at a distance matter? In the first round of such a conflict, assuming it's non-nuclear, probably not.

See my awaiting moderation comment on our Silent Service. As long as the PLAN can't find them, including avoiding traps from potentially even more silent lurking diesel subs, our attack subs can project substantial force, torpedoes that'll kill most anything afloat or underwater, fire anti-ship and land attack missiles, and lay mines, the latter an all too often neglected capability.

So the PLAN has to for example plan on one or more of our attack subs denying them free use of the Taiwan Strait in an invasion scenario.

Blogger tuberman September 10, 2020 11:55 AM  

12. AL Tru

This 14th amendment stuff could come to pass, yet is highly speculative at this point. More amusing rhetoric than real. Probably freaks the left out, so has value.

It does exist. It can be used like suggested. Because it exists, doesn't necessarily mean it's the best tactic to use. Sounds too much like a PLAN Z. Only to be used in the last resort. We'll see.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd September 10, 2020 11:58 AM  

tuberman wrote:They are dependent on many things, which may not hold up under different circumstances.

* Money Backers

Financial assets are trivially easy to seize, if the will is there and if you can control the regulators.
tuberman wrote:* Blue City/Blue State territories, which gives them police, DA's, Mayors, Governors, and often a population base on their side. Include the MSM and most international companies (and most organized sports) promoting them.\
As you say in your part two, the Left can only cause chaos and destruction, and only in areas they already control.
tuberman wrote:* An old, highly scripted semi-military organization allied with the MSM for optics.
Huh? Not sure what this is?

Blogger Ominous Cowherd September 10, 2020 12:17 PM  

AL Tru wrote:ps: Trump will use 14th amendment
Section 3.

From your keyboard to Trump's policy, God willing.
AL Tru wrote:But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
This is how the GOP cucks would try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If Trump takes this route, he needs to be very sure to jail the GOP traitors along with the Dem traitors.

Blogger pyrrhus September 10, 2020 12:18 PM  

Interestingly, in the ancient Chinese game of GO, currently the biggest money board game in the world and played by China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan, it is generally the case that attacks make the opponent stronger...Hence encirclement is usually the winning strategy...

Blogger pyrrhus September 10, 2020 12:23 PM  

"The marine corps, for example, is being completely reformed into a new way of fighting, into almost all being divided into small, almost special ops type teams"

The marine corps has loaded up on women who can't do three pull-ups or meet any physical standard, so that ain't going to work...

Blogger PJW Gent September 10, 2020 12:36 PM  

tuberman wrote:Part 2...it's obvious that all the on-the-ground structures have been revealed from several viewpoints such as command and control, down to who is assigned to what tasks. If those are known, then it's also likely that the money trails have also been followed back, including who supplies what to these groups. This is all heavily fragile, but with much being just logical speculation. We will see.

Your example illustrates a point I would like to make: anti-fragility is logistically dependent (relative to the designated mission). Early on the Germmans were unstoppable where they had sufficient logistical support, as was Napoleon before them (this is not the case with depleted forces - the collapsing Eastern defense or at Waterloo). So, I would argue, the primary way to attack an anti-fragile enemy is to disrupt their logistical train, whether that is people or resources or both. This can be done indirectly without direct confrontation with the enemy in force.

Blogger tuberman September 10, 2020 1:44 PM  

@OC,

tuberman wrote:
* An old, highly scripted semi-military organization allied with the MSM for optics.

Huh? Not sure what this is?

Look under Lessons learned, VD's article, and follow up with the link he has, and it will go over the way AntiFA is organized.

Blogger tuberman September 10, 2020 1:46 PM  

24. PJW Gent

Yes, good idea, a number of ways.

Blogger Canadian Warlord September 10, 2020 2:40 PM  

"Most categorizations of adversaries are of little relevance to our understanding of strategy. The popular distinction between state and non-state actors has no bearing on the capacity of the respective actors to behave strategically. The labels of asymmetric or symmetric adversaries only convey that the two sides are somehow different from each other. Dividing adversaries into insurgents and counterinsurgents only reveals that the former fight to change governmental policies while the latter fight against the former."
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"They can decrease the adversary’s capability/will to fight, leave these variables unchanged or increase them. A proper categorization of adversaries helps the strategist orient himself in the logic of these three scenarios."
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This is the kind of thing that makes Islam a more dangerous enemy than perhaps is perceived.

Fragility: Weak political structures loosely based on Islam are entirely too easy to infiltrate and subvert politically. The Turks ruled them for centuries, other conquerors sprinkled in there. I'm sure textbooks of the future will show the great American Empire as a purple blot throughout the region, certainly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Islam's countries are easy to conquer politically from the outside, but that kind of power is not the dominant major presence in everyone's lives there. Islam goes beyond government, everyone knows that, and various tribal identities are not too tied to political structures imposed from the outside. It's always one dominant minority tribe or identity, against the masses. Alawites in Syria, Sunni tribes in Iraq, house of Saud, are examples. The borders of the mideast are just how England and France decided to carve up the Ottoman former possessions.

It's too tempting a target for the West, where political structures are centuries old sometimes and pretty solid-feeling in comparison. Why not dominate them politically? This opens a door. During Gulf War Part One, my school in Mackenzie B.C. of all places had to bend over backwards and find the only Muslim family in town. A slurpy Muslim lady gave our 7th grade class a big sermon about the peacefulness of Islam, for some reason, even though we were on the side of Saudi Arabia. I suspect that Islam leadership bought in sometime early in late modern history, at least back to the 80s, maybe way before.

I do realize that events of the scale of 9/11 are not possible by ragtag terrorists living in caves with cell phones and laptops and kidney dialysis machines. But, there is no denying the criminal intent of this strategic actor. Islam wants to do these things. Islam needs to. Being a fragile enemy politically is just the "in," so we as a civilization can meet its resilient, anti-fragile aspects: unlimited conscription forever (resilient), continuous tribal warfare allowing technological aid / financing of military hardware that somehow ends up in opposition to its creators (anti-fragile). Continually picking a side in the non-stop conflicts actually toughens up the region as a whole, by adding in more and more surplus or brand-new weaponry. "P2OG" style "infiltrations" or "subversions" must make their spook authors feel so clever. "Stimulating" terror so it can be exposed and destroyed is, when watching longer term, just arming your enemy.

Blogger Troy Lee Messer September 10, 2020 2:43 PM  

: anti-fragility is logistically dependent (relative to the designated mission).

what annoys me is, for lack of a more accurate term, not only the vertical integration, or heriarchal top to bottom but side to side.
i.e. all these mayors and county official acting in unison. they are like spider webs that add to the anti-fragile even if u cut one, the load will just get distributed.
infrastruce seems very fragile. deny the enemy his infrasture. they need roads, i dont. they need phones ,i dont.
Every Smaug is missing a plate somewhere.

Blogger xevious2030 September 10, 2020 2:49 PM  

“If two technologically sophisticated powers square off -- let's call them Chine and the USA -- will the ability of to project force at a distance matter? In the first round of such a conflict, assuming it's non-nuclear, probably not.”

You’re asking the equivalent of “if a car has brakes, does car insurance matter?” Understandable to ask the question, but it is structured on the possible combinations of encounters, meaning projection of force, to be far fewer than they are, and much more narrowly defined, than it is.

Put it another way, China, with the touting of ship killers, has built the largest navy. Variety of ways to look at that.

In the antifragile terms: Chinas weakness is not to force, and the US weakness also is not to force. Chinas weakness is to time, and the US weakness is to indirect action.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd September 10, 2020 3:38 PM  

PJW Gent wrote:Early on the Germmans were unstoppable where they had sufficient logistical support, as was Napoleon before them (this is not the case with depleted forces - the collapsing Eastern defense or at Waterloo).
The Krauts and the Frogs lost when they outran their very limited logistics. Anti-fragile is orthogonal to that: if every defeat means that you can recruit more troops and more resources to equip those troops, like Hezbollah, then you are anti-fragile.
If Israel kills enough Arabs so that Hezbollah no longer has a population from which to recruit, Hezbollah is suddenly fragile.
If Israel makes alliance with enough Arab states that Hezbollah can no longer get funding or recruits from them, Hezbollah is suddenly fragile.
Anti-fragile is partly a matter of scale, both of resources and of attacks.

Agreed that attacking sources of supply can be a deathblow to almost any enemy. In our current straits, asset forfeiture attacks against Soros and his fellow billionaire revolutionaries would strangle this color revolution in its cradle.
Does Trump have enough control over DoJ to make that happen?
Are the revolutionaries cutting their own throats so that he should wait, let them have enough funding to finish the job?

``Trump can't strike our enemies'' makes for exactly the same inaction as ``Trump shouldn't strike our enemies.''

Blogger map September 10, 2020 3:58 PM  

So, to summarize: A fragile opponent is one whose military capabilities degrade with each encounter with an enemy. A resilient opponent is one who faces no degradation of military capabilities with each encounter with an enemy. An anti-fragile opponent is one whose military capabilities improve with each encounter with an enemy.

As noted by others, the latter to strategic states are probably the result of logistics. A resilient/anti-fragile enemy has the resources to play an iterative game with its opponents. At the same time, since it takes at least two to play the game, the antagonist must also be somewhat of a resilient and/or anti-fragile player himself.

The question is, why is anyone engaging in this type of game with a resilient/anti-fragile player to begin with? Either it is not known that a player is anti-fragile, or the true reasons for engaging the player are hidden.

Hezbollah, for example, may not really be anti-fragile. It's just that the likes of Lapdog Mattis don't really fight them, merely engage in combat to serve the MIC. Likewise, with Hitler's invasion of Russia. If the Suvarov theory is correct, then the invasion was necessary to stave off a future attack. It failed because Russia had already equipped logistically for war.

In fact, it's quite possible that anti-fragile dynamics occur because of both logistics and a benign enemy, benign, because a fifth column is running its forces (see Mattis.)

Blogger Hammerli 280 September 10, 2020 4:13 PM  

@13: The Army made MASSIVE changes after Korea and Vietnam. Vietnam, in particular, was run on a "spread the pain" political doctrine that called for quick troop rotation and even quicker officer rotations. And a policy of replacing individuals, not units. Which was a disaster, of course.

The point I was getting at was that the Army has historically had the tar beaten out of it in the early battles...but learned very quickly.

As for the force forged under Reagan, they were a professional fighting force. I don't think people appreciate how razor-sharp the American military was in the late 1980s. A decade of decent training funding and serious investment in training facilities paid off in spades.

Blogger Hammerli 280 September 10, 2020 4:15 PM  

@18: Yup. SSNs are a major advantage that we hold...and mines. The South China Sea isn't very deep, I expect it to be a wall-to-wall minefield in a shooting war.

Blogger Hammerli 280 September 10, 2020 4:26 PM  

WRT fragility, it's worth comparing and contrasting the Jacobite forces in 1745-46, the American forces in the Revolutionary War, and the Confederate forces (especially the Army of Northern Virginia) in the Civil War.

All three were fragile. Limited manpower, usually limited logistics, sometimes uncertain domestic support. Two went to defeat...but Washington won, big. Why?

When you take a look at the operational plans, Washington put force preservation as his top priority. He'd withdraw rather than risk a battle that would destroy his army. Washington understood that as long as he had an army in the field, the American Revolution survived.

Both the Jacobites and Confederates ignored that principle.

The Jacobites fought hard (although they neglected both intelligence and propaganda preparation of the battlespace), but wound up fighting at Culloden when they should have withdrawn. They had ONE army. When it was defeated, Prince Charles Edward Stuart was a wanted fugitive, his cause utterly crushed.

I respect Lee's character, but his generalship I consider to have been second-rate. He won battles...but at a cost the South could ill afford. I'd have to rate Fredericksburg as the only battle he actually WON.

Blogger ThatWouldBeTelling September 10, 2020 4:31 PM  

@32 Hammerli 280:

@13: The Army made MASSIVE changes after Korea and Vietnam....

The point I was getting at was that the Army has historically had the tar beaten out of it in the early battles...but learned very quickly.


But not to my knowledge to a significant degree during Korea and Vietnam.

As for the force forged under Reagan, they were a professional fighting force. I don't think people appreciate how razor-sharp the American military was in the late 1980s. A decade of decent training funding and serious investment in training facilities paid off in spades.

Which was preceded by a lot of combat vets thinking hard about what to between the end of Vietnam and Reagan's funding reaching them. Carter also provided some object lessons. Early terrible mistakes in Reagan's administration were followed by reforms like creating an attack plane school, sane doctrine for it to follow, etc.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan September 10, 2020 4:33 PM  

"The will to fight" probably the more interesting topic though hardware is always a sure bet to draw in those interested in military manners. I'm surprised Steven Davenport hasn't chimed in with the Wunderwaffen Update.

Blogger Troy Lee Messer September 10, 2020 5:26 PM  

"A decade of decent training funding and serious investment in training facilities paid off in spades."

Oh so your froze your balls off at Grafenwoer too?

Blogger thethirdcoast September 10, 2020 6:20 PM  

Hammerli 280 wrote:As for the force forged under Reagan, they were a professional fighting force. I don't think people appreciate how razor-sharp the American military was in the late 1980s. A decade of decent training funding and serious investment in training facilities paid off in spades.

Oh, I think that razor-sharpness was more than evident when the US completely dismantled the Iraqi military during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

I'm basing this on the laughably low US losses versus the immense damage they inflicted on all parts of the Iraqi military.

Blogger Silly but True September 11, 2020 12:03 AM  

Regarding the will to fight: Afghanistan was the “good war,” now has some 50% of population gating or not understanding it and is into year nineteen.

Iraq was the “bad war,” and we’re in year 17 of current belligerence, almost year 30 if we start from Gulf War unconditional surrender.

Syria took nearly a decade to unwind from when US first started arming al Qaeda without having any legal basis to even have acted to begin with.

Kosovo and Serbia just finally formally made peace after NATO illegally began bombing Serbia twenty years ago.

Everyone tends to underestimate the US’ propensity to keep fighting wars just for the sake of keeping to fight wars.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd September 11, 2020 11:42 AM  

Silly but True wrote:Everyone tends to underestimate the US’ propensity to keep fighting wars just for the sake of keeping to fight wars.
Those ``wars'' aren't wars, they're excuses to keep the MIC procurement grift flowing. The citizens of the empire don't care, because there is no civilian involvement beyond the thank-you-for-your-service silliness.

If the imperial armies take a few tens of thousands of casualties over the years to keep it going, so what? They're just peasants, and even the peasants don't care as long as they get their bread and circuses.

Blogger Alex Sorensen September 11, 2020 12:57 PM  

"Everyone tends to underestimate the US’ propensity to keep fighting wars just for the sake of keeping to fight wars."

Because sooner or later the US will pay the price for this massive stupidity, and it has already started

Blogger Canada78Bear September 11, 2020 6:45 PM  

Rock, Paper, Scissors by another name, but good title for the work.

Blogger Estelle Evangeline September 12, 2020 3:31 PM  

I think this may be related to Sun Tzu's idea of "knowing your enemy." If you don't know your enemy...you might hit them in such a way to make them stronger. So, I think you could beat an "antifragile" opponent if you would make sure to follow Sun Tzu: know yourself and your enemy.

Blogger brbrophy September 15, 2020 10:41 AM  

One way to combat an anti-fragile enemy could be to form a generation long peace treaty with them and then use that time to culturally subvert and fragilize their population.

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