Friday, June 22, 2007

Fog of War (Part II)

(continued from Part I)

4. Maximize efficiency

A significant wastage of efforts ensues when decisions are on live-wire and desperate moves seem to be the last resort out. Inefficient planning will not only delay the achievement of the objective but also put heavy drain on resources thereby significantly altering the strategic advantages. It s imperative to look at the efficacy with which success is being achieved. A brute force method is only good so long as micro-management is not required. Otherwise, somebody has to hard-sell an efficient solution, which defies established thumb rules, to his/her superiors.

During WW-II, the Allied forces were initially using China as the airbase for its Japan bombing operations. The B-29 bombers were being flown in from Kansas, USA to Arunachal Pradesh, India. They would then be loaded with fuel and fly across the Himalayas to China airbases. The fuel would be off-loaded for creating reserves for mainland Japan bombing operations. The Chinese air-field were constructed by manual labor. The whole operation was insanely inefficient. It was only when the action arena was transferred to Pacific (and Mariana) theater that a swift progress was made by US against Japan. The decision of transferring entire war-machinery from one theater to another would have required great conviction as well as convincing.

5. Proportionality should be guideline in war

Every war has its own magnitude of what is acceptable as "collateral damage". However, both parties should adhere to the limits of this number. A mindless action by one party (maybe another manifestation of "brute force") could blow apart this unwritten rule of war. Killing of civilians, women and children has always been deplored when the winner tramples over the vanquished. But as human race builds better and better weapons of mass destruction, the idea of proportionality of destruction has been buried by the desire to win (and experiment) in the minds of military leaderships.

US dropped two atomics bombs on Japan after they had destroyed some 67 Japanese cities to the tune of 50% to 90%. On a single night of fire bombing (using "incendiary bombs") on Tokyo, more than hundred thousand people were annihilated. Tokyo was then primarily a wooden city and fire bombs wreaked havoc. Dropping two atomic bombs after causing so much destruction was an act completely out of proportion to whatever had been the scale of US-Japan war , unarguably the most brutal war in the history of mankind.

6. Get the data

The most obvious deductions don't require geniuses to figure them out. But, even the not obvious ones need not wait for geniuses to unearth them. Relevant data can be the crucial differentiating factor between circuitous, futile analysis of problems as opposed to hitting the bull's eye. Data can put into perspective the subjective judgments and give a replicable framework to arrive at insightful conclusions. In the wake of missing data, a successful decision will appear a lucky guess in retrospect. However, a word of caution - data without proper tools and methodology to analyze is no good than junk.

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