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International Conference on Complex Systems (ICCS2006)

About the Bears and the Bees: Adaptive Responses to Asymmetric Warfare

Alex Ryan
Defence Science and Technology Organisation

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     Last modified: May 11, 2006

Conventional military forces are organised to generate large scale effects against similarly structured adversaries. Asymmetric warfare is a game between a conventional military force and a weaker adversary that is unable to match the scale of effects of the conventional force. Operation Iraqi Freedom is a paradigmatic example where the US-led coalition is opposed by the Iraqi insurgency, composed of at least a dozen guerilla organisations. In asymmetric warfare, the insurgents' strategy can be understood using a multi-scale perspective: by generating and exploiting fine scale complexity, insurgents prevent the conventional force from acting at the scale they are designed for. In order to match the complexity of the adversary and the environment, conventional forces must be able to change their organisation. This paper presents a complex systems approach to the problem of asymmetric warfare, which shows how future force structures can be designed to adapt to environmental complexity at multiple scales and achieve full spectrum dominance. Implications for Network Centric Warfare and Effects Based Operations are discussed.

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