Effects-Based Operations: A Military Application of Pragmatical Analysis

Article excerpt

Editorial Abstract:

Dr. da Rocha presents a Brazilian perspective of the relationship between pragmatical analysis and effects-based operations (EBO), showing how the former encompasses the latter's typical features and provides insights into some aspects of EBO. He notes that any set of connected purposive actions is a collective work and must be considered from multiple standpoints. A successful planner must be aware of these different frameworks and their interrelationships.

THE CONCEPT OF effects-based operations (EBO) is key for the US military. Arguably, one can trace its roots back to World War II, perhaps even earlier.1 In a sense, this should not surprise us because planned actions, in war and elsewhere, are supposed to be rational and purposive-and every rational, purposive action purports a foreseeable effect.2 This comment, however, is not trivial. Even though purposive action is connected to its effects, many questions arise regarding an action's true effect and awareness of undesirable side effects that could accompany the desired effect. Perhaps the key issue lies in determining an action's true effect because-as Lt Col Antulio J. Echevarria II points out-actions always have "first- and second-order effects."3 The very important issue of determining the truly desired effect-critical to military planning-differs from determining an action's true effect. However, because the desired effect depends on how the repercussions of first- and second-order effects change the environment-political, economic, military, and sociocultural-both issues are intertwined.

The relevance of "effects" for military purposes, both regarding their connection with the actions that are supposed to generate them and considering their contribution toward a final goal, prompted Col Edward Mann, Lt Col Gary Endersby, and Mr. Tom Searle to call for "a fully developed theory grounded in effects-based thinking."4 One could expect the conception of such a theory to follow two different trends. The first and more obvious one would involve creation of a comprehensive military theory of planning and warfare grounded in and permeated by effects-based thinking. Military thinking is already developing such a program, mainly in the United States. A second view would draw from research on the theoretical foundations of effects-based thinking. Even though this type of theoretical approach might seem less practical, it could prove useful when one applies its principles and findings to military issues.

This article takes the second approach, suggesting that effects-based thinking can apply to any planning of social actions, including military actions; it is embedded in a broader theory whose philosophical roots owe much to the tradition of American philosophical thought. This approach is not a mere academic exercise. By displaying the typical pattern of rational-purposeful acting, it can help distinguish between military and nonmilitary entities in an effects-based view of war.

During my tenure at the Brazilian National War College from 1986 through 1992, I developed a theory called pragmatical analysis. Even though it never became part of the methodology used at the college, one can apply it to governmental development policies to understand why many such policies that should have succeeded did not. The theory's usefulness became apparent when I presented a paper on Brazilian education, specifically using pragmatical analysis as a tool, at the VI National Forum held in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1993.5 This article discusses the relationship between pragmatical analysis and EBO, showing how the former encompasses the latter's typical features and suggesting that it could possibly shed light on some aspects of EBO studies.

Effects-Based Operations: Concept and Essential Features

Maj Gen David A. Deptula describes EBO as a "campaign-planning philosophy [through which] the military planner uses superior knowledge to avoid attrition encounters, applying force at the right place and time to achieve specific operational and strategic effects" (emphasis added). …