Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 39

COMPLEX WORLD (Photo illustration by Michael Hogg) understanding for the commander and the organization is a core intelligence function, but the Army’s current intelligence doctrine is too myopic and rigid to support commanders in this regard. For the Army, the current default analytical model for generating understanding and supporting the military decision making process is intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB), defined by the U.S. Army as “the systematic process of analyzing the mission variables of enemy, terrain, weather, and civil considerations in an area of interest to determine their effect on operations.”4 By virtue of being an analytical model, IPB eliminates consideration of certain paradigms while restricting the framing of thinking upfront in order to produce consistent and predictable results under specified conditions. One resulting fundamental problem with using IPB in the COE is that it was designed for well-structured problems of the past and not the “wicked problems” of today.5 In other words, IPB was designed to support commanders against a relatively well-known enemy in a conventional combined arms maneuver fight. In such a capacity, IPB served the Army exceptionally well. However, as intelligence professionals look out into today’s sea of uncertainty and increasingly complex environments, they must ask themselves if IPB—their primary modus operandi—is best suited MILITARY REVIEW  March-April 2016 to support commanders operating in the COE. IPB is, at best, suboptimal for employment in complex environments because it is conventional-enemy centric and fails to contextualize environmental variables over time, thereby potentially concealing the root causes of conflict and instability. Better alternatives to IPB are systemic operational design or similar systems theory approaches because they focus on environmental systems. Such alternative approaches give the commander and organization a more in-depth understanding of the operating environment and problem than does IPB. To put this is in mathematical terms, IPB solves for x and design solves for y. Therefore, it makes little sense to attempt to solve for y using the x model. To draw on the work of English philosopher Karl Popper, his analogy between “clouds” and “clocks” illustrates the point.6 Popper asserted that the world was broken down into two categories, clouds and clocks. Clocks are well-defined and systematic, and are easily disassembled and reduced to parts. One result is that, most often, there are correct, well-defined solutions for repairing or maintaining clocks. On the other hand, clouds are amorphous, messy, and ill-defined. Compared to the predictable functions produced by the precision construction of clocks, clouds cannot be disassembled in any similar way to clocks and are highly unpredictable. 37