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Asymmetric Thinking in the Military

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Taking the Next Steps

Courses of action that offer “possibilities” for increasing the military’s ability to deal with asymmetric threat include:

Demonstrating personal benefit of an education in Asymmetric Thinking to military policy makers themselves.

Applying Asymmetric Thinking in mission planning and analysis to develop asymmetric courses of action.

Using Asymmetric Thinking as a calming effect in stressful situations.  i.e., rapid and unexpected reactions by soldiers to immediate threats.

Assessing officers and providing special education to those already having aptitude for Asymmetric Thinking.

Training a cadre of Asymmetric Thinking “coaches” who could be assigned to units in the field as needed.

Designing special programs for use in War Colleges and other training Centers.

Training Military Trainers in the skills necessary for Asymmetric Thinking.

Training leaders to find their way through the “blind spot.”

The Cost of Inaction

But what if we don’t incorporate Asymmetric Training into our military?   What are the costs?  They are many, including:

Emotional cost in low morale of soldiers having to stay in Iraq.

Political cost at home of having troops picked off one by one in a Guerilla war.

Financial costs way beyond what was predicted (at least in public).

Military cost in getting ‘stuck in Vietnam’ (vs. the Revolutionary War, in which we seem to have had the edge over the British in Asymmetric Thinking and presenting asymmetric threat)

These costs of getting stuck in a reactive mode are often unnecessary. Asymmetric Thinking can be taught. By doing so we strengthen our already-excellent military, making it more agile and effective in dealing with asymmetric threat. To ignore improvements in Asymmetric Thinking when the technology is available and trainable, is dangerous.
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Postscript

The other day, we heard a friend tell of going to his fiftieth high school reunion.  In the final game of his1952 football season, in view of 30,000 spectators in Harvard Stadium and millions on local television, he dropped a short pass in the end zone. At the time, the game outcome was uncertain, and it seemed an incredible error. No one talked to him. His parents had no comment. He was embarrassed and ashamed. In the years afterward, he was, for himself, the guy who dropped the ball and there was no way he would become that public again.

On the first evening of the reunion, he met Chris, the quarterback who threw the ill-fated pass. They were both visibly happy to see one another. There was immediate trust, personal presence, and connection between them.  Suddenly, out of the blue, Chris said, “I’ve wanted to apologize to you for fifty years. It was a lousy pass. It was behind you and there is no way you could have caught it. Sometime, I’ll show you the game films and you’ll see. I know you must have suffered with this over the years, and so have I. Even though we won the game, this has stayed with me.”

Fifty years of history, limitation, and non asymmetric thinking, dissolved in a rush of new possibilities for each of them. Our friend’s wife said later that, in that moment, Chris completed the pass, for both of them.

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