Academic journal article Military Review

Janusian Thinking and Acting

Academic journal article Military Review

Janusian Thinking and Acting

Article excerpt

The authors maintain that the current US approach to military operations-strategic, operatioal and tactical--is too linear for today's contemporary operating environment. They argue that future warfighters must move beyond linear thought and action to a realm of thinking and acting that recognizes and accepts paired yet opposite ideas and actions: "Look before you leap" and at the same time understand that "he who hesitates is lost."

... for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

-Proverbs 1:6

THINGS DO NOT LINE UP like before. Traditionally, a nation-state attacks another with military force, and the response is rather predictable. Today, the qualities of nation-states are no longer required to initiate attacks; attacks may not even have traditional military qualities; and prediction is just not as calculable as before. Some military theorists have dubbed these new conditions "asymmetric warfare," giving the impression that postmodern conflict is all about one-upmanship associated with hitting the enemy's vulnerability with a different scale of means.1 Some postulate that the problem of asymmetric conflict is at the strategic level. The underlying assumption of modern military thinking and acting is that we can address asymmetric problems with hierarchically directed linear thinking, as strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war represent. The argument is that the strategic, operational, and tactical paradigm exists because it enables the military to adapt through echelonment. The danger is that structure ends up driving response instead of needed capabilities and values driving organizational response. While the concept of asymmetry has been presented often in professional literature, it remains ill-understood from the strategy::operations::tactics paradigm because this paradigm considers that we need better, not necessarily different, thinking and acting.

A Better Way of Thinking

What we really need is an alternative paradigm that gives us a new and better way of thinking and acting. The new approach should provide a range of insights that enable commanders to instantly conceptualize a pattern of multidimensional possibilities that lead to breakthrough concepts and values because the traditional strategic linear way of thinking and acting is inadequate, given the nature of the postmodern era. The preferred new paradigm must have several characteristics that set it apart from the strategic paradigm:

* It must have a fractal quality that allows us to take simultaneous full-spectrum looks at human information processing, the sine qua non of thinking and acting.

* It should not reject traditional levels of analysis such as strategy, operations, and tactics but should relegate them to secondary concepts.

* It must emphasize concepts such as simultaneity of paradoxes (complex reasoning), comprehending activities in multiple time orientations (polychronicity), and embracing environmental complexity (unpredictability) as a normal condition.2

The preferred paradigm is Janusian, named after the Roman god Janus who looked four ways simultaneously.3 The Janusian paradigm cannot be explained as a logical result of the post-Cold War world because it is not really new. As the quote at the beginning of this article reveals, this wisdom has probably existed for thousands of years and requires reawakening.

Military leaders tend to look for doctrinal answers, but the solution this article proposes is not a prescription for what to do; rather, it is a description of how to think. Some may argue that increasing the speed of linear decisionmaking will address the chaotic nature of unfolding events, but that is not the case. The overarching issue of the post-modern predicament is fundamentally metaphysical: how do humans process information? Linearly focused (schismogenic) thinking and acting-the methods of the current strategic paradigm-- explains and rejects alternative hypotheses purposefully and sequentially. …

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