Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Simplest Thing is Difficult

From Junger’s War - -

For every technological advantage held by the Americans, the Taliban seemed to have an equivalent or a countermeasure. Apache helicopters have thermal imaging that reveals body heat on the mountainside, so Taliban fighters disappear by covering themselves in a blanket on a warm rock. The Americans use unmanned drones to pinpoint the enemy, but the Taliban can do the same thing by watching the flocks of crows that circle American soldiers, looking for scraps of food. The Americans have virtually unlimited firepower, so the Taliban send one guy to take on an entire firebase. Whether or not he gets killed, he will have succeeded in gumming up the machine for yet one more day. “Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult,” the military theorist Carl von Clausewitz wrote in the 1820w. “The difficulties accumulate and end up by producing a kind of friction.”

That friction is the entire goal of the enemy in the valley; in some ways it works even better than killing.

Friction is a good term to describe our current security situation - - where security is not an isolated good, but just one component of a complicated transaction. It costs money, but it can also cost in intangibles: time, convenience, flexibility, or privacy. In the age of terrorism - - security is about preventing adverse consequences from the intentional and unwarranted actions of others. The definition has two important embedded parameters - - our collective ability to intelligently access security trade-offs and our collective ability to understand and manage friction. The Israeli commando raid of a flotilla this week in the Mediterranean Sea clearly demonstrates the complexities and ideas embedded in security trade-offs and the accumulation of security difficulties that end up producing friction.

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