10 February 2013

Second and Third Order Effects

Often I will hear, "Well once we start targeting their wives and kids that will knock the snot right out of them!" which is both simplistic and wrong.  You don't win wars by killing civilians, you win wars by making the enemy military inconsequential to the outcome (in an insurgency you make the military inconsequential by winning the hearts and minds of the populace).  You can do that by destroying their Army, or by dropping Nukes on their industrial base, but simply killing civilians has never been a major factor in winning a war.  The London Blitz and the firebombing of Dresden should give you an idea of how ineffective targeting civilians for lethal effects is in the history of war.

On the flip side, targeting civilians for non-lethal effects can produce amazing results.  The peace movement in the US during the Vietnam war was the Communist second front.  The attitudes of the British citizens during Ghandi's peaceful crusade is another good example.

Do you want to know how to make a fanatic?  Someone who will devote their life utterly to the cause of destroying you?  Take something irreplacable from them, like their wife or children.  But it is a second/third order effect.

Cause 1: Wife and kids assassinated.
Effect 1: Jack Booted Thug very angry.
Cause 2: Jack Booted Thug very angry.
Effect 2: Jack Booted Thug works harder to punish those he feels responsible.
Cause 3: Jack Booted thug works harder to punish those he feels responsible.
Effect 3: Less freedom of movement and maneuver for insurgent forces.

When you are trying to figure out second and third order effects, the primary effect becomes the secondary cause, which causes a secondary effect, which becomes a third order cause.  You could follow this down the rabbit hole as deeply as you want to go, but generally the third order is as far as anyone wants to look into the foggy crystal ball.

On the flip side, there is the law of "unintended consequences" which basically states that every time you plan to get an effect that is advantageous for you, you run an equally high risk of creating another effect that is negative to your cause.  And because you aren't smart enough to predict what that is, it will blindside you because you didn't have the information in you needed to avoid that consequence.

Imagine the negative consequence if that wife of the Jack Booted Thug was a well loved volunteer at the local Veteran's Hospital who took her kids in to play checkers with those in recovery?  Unintended consequence becomes that the insurgents are viewed as murdering scum and the JBT is viewed as a legitimate victim who has a reasonable passion to bring justice to the villains who wounded his heart.

Now imagine if you inserted pro Freedom arguments in the head of the wife, and pro freedom arguments in the heads of the children?  Can you measure that effect as the JBT has to argue his position at the dinner table that he really isn't a bad man?  No, you cannot measure that effectiveness in terms of enemy killed or material destroyed.

But winning the war isn't about destruction, it is about making the enemy irrelevant to the outcome.  You can do that by destroying the Army, but that rarely happens in an insurgency.  We never defeated the British Army in our Revolution, we simply defeated the small portion that was stationed on the Continent.  The British eventually took their ball and went home until the War of 1812.

You can apply the 2nd and 3rd order effect methodology to any tactical mission, and sometimes you can see strategic consequences arise (think Abu Ghraib or Mai Lai).   Sometimes they aren't so clear cut and you have to give your best guess into the murky reactions of the enemy to try to optimize outcomes in your favor. 

I have seen the consequences of military units that focused solely on lethal battlefield effects.  They create more insurgents than they kill, and they manage to kill a lot of them (or so they think, insurgent corpses look an aweful lot like civilian corpses).  The units that focus heavily on non-lethal effects, and use lethal effects to enhance security where only absolutely needed have been much more successful.


Disciple of Night said...

An excellent series of points that conveniently gets left out of every war movie. Soldiers are people too, with hearts and minds.

Justin said...

Very good.

Very good indeed.


Yank lll said...

I think that a large portion of that negative effect those actions have had on us as a nation were do in large part to a turncoat media.

If you extrapolate that intro today's situation our best, most productive move would be to eliminate that part of the equation up front and foremost. If it wasn't paraded hourly for days on end and the quisling media impact removed the overall effect would be greatly reduced.

I'm not agreeing with committing those criminal acts just using them to highlight the impact of propaganda and the benefit of neutralizing it..

Yank lll

LT Prepper said...

I absolutely agree - while there will be plenty of situations where lethal force is the rule of the day, if that's the only tool in the shed, we're not going to win.

We're on a battlefield, and thus everything is in play, all the time: fear is a tool; hate is a tool; the desire for revenge is a tool; but you must understand what it is which *you* can do to take that tool out of enemy hands. You must also know which tools never to pick up...because not all suicide bombs come wired into a vest. Ultimately, if you want to achieve a return to peaceful 'normalcy' you are going to need to know how to recognize that 'vest' and deal with it - please read this for some additional thoughts on the coming violence, it's potential 3rd order effects - http://ncrenegade.com/editorial/escalation-to-confiscation-and-beyond/

Looking to understand what the prog's have done in the way of effective propaganda, it is an excellent tool, and we must reverse engineer that; take the media voice back. This blog is a good example of UC 'warfare' in the realm of information... but ultimately we *will* need to possess some of the mainstream outlets.

Herman Snerd said...

In his book, In Retrospect the tragedy and lessons of Vietnam, the late Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara admits none of the Ivy League whiz kids who ran the US during JFK and LBJ understood that VN was about the Vietnamese seeking to throw centuries of imperialists out of their country. China, Japan, the French and the US. Communism had nothing to do with it. They bought their arms from the reds because they couldn't buy them from us.

The "kill a commie for Christ" green machine followed its brain dead orders. Didn't know what it was doing. Didn't care. Apparently you still don't. Congratulations. 58,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of other people died for absolutely nothing. The official version of history is almost always wrong. Be careful that the "collateral damage" your military action causes isn't raping and murdering our liberty or that of other nations.

OldProspector said...

Good article. Also remember that Mr. JBT also has economic interests. So you cultivate him with a few favors, then go to outright bribery. All captured on video .... then he is yours-forever.
Retired detective, LA, Calif.

OldProspector said...

Also remember Mr. JBT also has economic interests; So you cultivate him with a few favors - then move on to outright bribery. (which is how the KGB recruited R.W. Miller of the Riverside, CA, office of the FBI)
Retired detective, LA, CA