China’s national strategy of military-civil fusion is provoking some anxiety in Washington. There are concerns the United States could be challenged, or even outright disadvantaged, in technological competition relative to the more integrated approach to innovation Chinese leaders are attempting to achieve. It is important to recognize both the parallels and distinctions between American and Chinese concepts and approaches that can clarify the character of this competitive challenge.
The degree of which humans can control the physical space will always be constrained by physics. However, the creative thinking that derives energy from the chaos of war to turn chance into opportunity is not bounded. The success of maneuver warfare is less dependent on the tools available, and more dependent on the creation of new ways to generate and exploit of tactical effects given all the tools available. Unsurprisingly, the major pivotal successes of the application battlespace technology have been the results of ingenious warfighting techniques that maximize the benefits of technological tools.
Art is what allows America to create extraordinary futures out of chaos. And art, once again, will allow America to achieve policy and military success out of science. America embraces and disciplines chaos to create strength and power. For “liberty is power,” John Quincy Adams said. “The nation blessed with the largest portion of liberty must in proportion to its numbers be the most powerful nation upon earth.” An artist who begins with a vision and nurtures and disciplines the power of chaos with a lightness of being and a firmness of mind, will be rewarded with the surprise of creating something that exceeds his or her original vision at the end.
Weinberger’s history of DARPA is an enthralling read and especially recommended for professionals in acquisition or research areas. It should appeal far beyond the defense community, it is perhaps the best institutional case study in innovation management and adaptive organizational design available.
The essence of war is a competitive reciprocal relationship with an adversary possessing the capacity to make choices in battle. It is impossible to anticipate and predict with precision the contours of all future conflicts and the opponent’s strategy and discrete choices on the battlefield. Recognizing the need to adapt and implement the requisite changes is therefore inherent to the nature of war. The clash of arms is, therefore, also a competition in cycles of learning, reaction, or counteraction. The side that reacts best, and perhaps faster, increases their chances of success.