Friday, October 9, 2009

Pet Peeves: Military Strategy Edition

FLG has very little time for corporate strategy jargon, but he has almost as much disdain more much of the military strategy community's as well.

Case in point: Battlespace and all its derivatives -- Battlespace preparation, battlespace digitalization, battlespace denial, battlespace awareness, battlespace operation.

FLG has mentioned this before, but Adam Elkus who writes some awesome stuff and maintains a very thoughtful blog. He just needs to be aware of his use of jargon. Often in any intellectual community, including the international security one, jargon can become overpowering if left unchecked by writers.

Battlespace, while a horribly pretentious term is readily understandable and may be useful in some situations, but, my current personal favorite military jargon term, "Full Spectrum Operations" is just terrible.

What's Full Spectrum Operations? Glad you asked. According to the Army Field Manual:
Army forces combine offensive, defensive, and stability or civil support operations simultaneously as part of an interdependent joint force to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative, accepting prudent risk to create opportunities to achieve decisive results. They employ synchronized action—lethal and nonlethal—proportional to the mission and informed by a thorough understanding of all variables of the operational environment. Mission command that conveys intent and an appreciation of all aspects of the situation guides the adaptive use of Army forces.

For fuck's sake, who writes this shit? And, more importantly, how do they sleep at night?

Now, many of you may be asking, what's the big deal? Hasn't the military had it's inaccessible and esoteric acronyms forever? They make communication more efficient.

Well, there are several problems with this new jargon. First, unlike shortening High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle to HMMWV or saying Humvee, which is a tangible thing, battlespace and full spectrum warfare are somewhat amorphous concepts. Second, like all jargon it serves to distinguish between an in group and out group. People who use terms like Battlespace are in the in group. Those who have no idea what it means are in the out group. Given that we should be getting good ideas from whomever comes up with them when it comes to something as important as military strategy, erecting linguistic barriers is counterproductive. Third, jargon is too often used in place of thought. This happens in corporate as well as military circles. The corporate MBA-type who simply repeats mindless phrases like "we must utilize best practices to add value to our customer experience as an integral aspect of our strategic, organic growth plan" and the military officer who says "the US military must engage in dynamic full spectrum operations to prevent battlespace denial by indigenous forces using asymmetrical warfare tactics during low intensity conflicts" are just as likely to be dumbasses with sawdust for brains who are covering up their stupidity by parroting memorized, buzzword-filled phrases. This brings me to my last problem. Since the terms are amorphous and often new, people either have difficulty distinguishing idiots parroting meaningless phrases from thoughtful analysis. Moreover, many people are too afraid to call bullshit on the bumbleheads because they're worried that they'll look stupid asking what exactly the author or speaker means by their jargon.

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