The Missing Operational Level

CAAT and Red Team

ISAF has a Counter Insurgency Assistance and Advisory Team (CAAT) as an in-theater think tank about the conduct of COIN. This CAAT could provide the vital link between the conduct of the campaign and the appropriate theory and doctrine behind COIN, in order to point out the lack of a cohesive operational plan. Instead, the CAAT conducts courses for low level coalition force commanders in COIN tactics, as noted above. This is no doubt influenced by the conclusion that COIN, in its current conception, is only a tactic, lacking an operational aspect. CAAT thus becomes a lessons learned and teaching center for tactical level COIN.

The red team, of which one is attached to IJC, analyzes operational plans in order to identify critical and decisive points, and to point out those where the risk or the consequence is highest. The analysis of the plan is still based on the soundness of the general plan and concept, not questioning the approach as a whole, but rather identifying the points of severe risk. All analysis is based on the premise that assumptions and facts of the original order are correct. The Red Team can thus not alter or suggest changes and flaws in the overall campaign concept, but only point at individual parts of the plan that are associated with risk or grave consequence at failure. This stays well in line with the rest of IJC focus on singular efforts and tactical level operations.

Where the CAAT and the Red Team effectively could have provided a sanity check to the overall concept, or pointing out the lack of cohesion in plan and the lacking overall operational plan, it becomes, rather as the rest of IJC, predominantly focused on individual, isolated efforts.

Not only a “sanity check”, but the gaming between the CAAT and the Red Team (which is really what the above article is talking about) produces a re-orientation of anyone Observing.

The Destruction, caused by the feed-forward of critical and decisive points not Observed by CAAT, by the Red Team, combines with theConstruction, caused by feed-back of the advantage observed by the Red Team, by CAAT’s Action of  re-orienting to that advantage (the D&C in the OODA loop).

As the above narrative in quotes is telling us that there is no reorientation by CAAT in the environment of the game. My guess is that this is not a mistake, but a tactic.

In other words, the Small Wars Journal isn’t explaining a flaw in the plan, but a tactic in the strategy of those Observing the environment of the war.

For whatever the reason, those observing don’t want the CAAT to reorient. This tactic (of limiting the Destruction and Construction in the processing of the OODA loop) is a way of controlling reorientation in the operation of the war.

via The Missing Operational Level | Small Wars Journal.

Strategy: Winning or Calculation?

Mark asks, on my twitter feed, a good question. I presume he made it after reading the post to the link in the tweet Critt also made on my feed:

Here is the post:

“What is strategy? A mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.

John Boyd

This quote comes from Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, Frans Osinga. Pg.13.”


While Boyd describes the essence of strategy, he does leave it open to Mark’s question. Is the essence of strategy about winning or is it in the calculations?

I don’t know Boyd that well to quote him accurately, but in essence he said that if you are not willing to take the steps to winning, then you should think about joining the other side. Clearly to Boyd winning is everything.

From Boyd’s quote: strategy is a bunch of steps structured as a mental tapestry that is mentally changing at different tempos and focus. At the end of the structuring process clarity is found in the forms created.

As the three domains of war are Honor, Interest, and Fear, out of the “many contending interests”, Boyd was building the structures for  the center domain “Interest”. Strategy builds a structure of form where none was before. Boyd was building interest out of human morality, and his Ends, Ways, and Means was through the OODA loop.

So the essence of strategy is not about winning, but about the calculations needed to create (build). In Boyd’s definition of strategy he is creating interest through calculations.

However, Boyd is not building a structure or domain to go to war on. To Boyd winning is everything which also means losing According to Boyd, winning might mean joining the other side, which, like the son of Genghis Khan found out, is losing.

With interest, the possibility of losing is taken out of the “bewildering events”, because a structure is created in the past (the beginning of the “End”) to build Honor on; and there is less to Fear, because a structure is also created in the future (the end of the “End”) that can be seen.

While building interest where interest was not before is a simple thought, I am sure that strategy is, in essence, simple.