Reflections on "War as a Rational Business"

By T. A. Brooks

To believe that technology will dispel the fog of war and provide you perfect knowledge while denying knowledge to your enemy not only flies in the face of history and reason, but lacks believability when it is premised on a complex system-of-systems that must perform flawlessly even in the chaos and confusion of the battlefield. No system has ever delivered such performance. It borders on the irresponsible to assume that Joint Vision 2010 will be the magic bullet and to assume "total information dominance of the battlefield," as a key underpinning for strategy development and force planning.

In the final analysis, it always will be the Sailor, Soldier, Airman, or Marine who will win the war. He must be trained and equipped to fight and prevail at the most elemental, violent, and personal level—right down to hand-to-hand combat. If then the great "system of systems" works as planned and technology eliminates the need for American blood to be shed, that would be wonderful. But if the system fails to deliver and our forces are dependent upon it and unprepared to fight without it, that would be tragic.

All the technology envisioned as part of Joint Vision 2010 is admirable and desirable; also, much of it probably is attainable. But even in its most perfect combination and orchestration, it will not work in all scenarios and at all times. War always will remain a messy business and fog and friction will be with us as long as human beings are involved. Plan for it.

Admiral Brooks is Government Markets Vice President for AT&T. He retired in 1991 as the Director of Naval Intelligence.


Rear Admiral Brooks was a career naval intelligence officer who served as J-2 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1985 to 1988 and Director of Naval Intelligence from 1988 to 1991.

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