Military Applications of Complex Systems

Author: Alex Ryan

Abstract: This chapter presents the science of complex systems that had a significant impact on the way Western militaries understand and operate within exceedingly complex and dangerous environments. With the development of new methodologies, tools and techniques within complex systems, current military practices have been re-examined, and many have been found to be consistent with complex systems theory. In this case, complex systems provide theoretical support to explain why best practice works. Complex systems theory may also provide clues as to what changes in the context would cause current best practice to fail. In other instances, complex systems challenge the status quo. Agent-based models of combat help reveal the limitations of mechanistic, detailed, physical war games as representations of battlefield dynamics. Adaptive Campaigning challenges the military transformation advocates’ concept of information dominance, by arguing that armies will have to continue to fight for, rather than with, information. According to Adaptive Campaigning, acting on the basis of incomplete information will always be necessary to stimulate the system and assess its response. Whether or not it aligns with current practice, complex systems provide a valuable contribution to military theory.

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