Beyond surprise: a cybernetic approach to special operations
Johnson, James O.
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Special operations, which generally employ small units against numerically superior forces, are exceptionally vulnerable to the frictions of war. Because the success of special operations is often of critical political or strategic importance, their degree of dependability must be as high as possible. Toward that end, this study develops a cybernetic approach to special operations. The central element of this study is the deliniation of a 'cybernetic advantage,' which amounts tn a relative differential in the speed, accuracy and effectiveness of implementation of decisions made by opposing commanders, and the efficiency of conversion of combat potential to combat power. Surprise is an important element in the conduct of all types of warfare and is generally considered to be critical to the success of special operations. Yet history is replete with examples of special operations that have been successful without surprise. The cybernetic approach, which draws from the classic theory of control through feedback, provides an explanation for the success of these operations. Additionally, the model based on this theory attempts to operationalize the tenets of the cybernetic approach in a manner that can be utilized as a tool for planning and analysis. This study proposes that a small force can achieve and maintain relative superiority as long as a cybernetic advantage is maintained. Furthermore, the study proposes that the cybernetic approach, when employed in conjunction with other principles of special operations, can act as a force multiplier. This approach can, in theory, be employed to some degree by any size force at any level of warfare. However, special operations forces are especially suited for the use of this tool.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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