The National Defense University was pleased to join with the RAND Corporation in sponsoring the symposium on Complexity, Global Politics and National Security in November 1996. I believe that these proceedings have much to offer, particularly to those of us who are associated with the profession of arms.
Gregory Treverton of RAND, in his welcoming remarks at the symposium, described the confusing times in which we live by paraphrasing Churchill's comment following an undistinguished meal, that "The pudding lacked a theme." Treverton went on to ask how without a theme, do we apprehend, how do we understand this world?
In trying to answer that question, I think it is fair to say that the intellectual response to the end of the Cold War has tended by-and-large to focus on what is called the Revolution in Military Affairs. This is driven by advances in technology, primarily information technology. The discussions about the Revolution in Military affairs are interesting and important. However, to my taste, what emerges is a "pudding without a theme."
We have given less attention to what our colleagues in the arenas of physics, biology and other New Sciences have to say. They suggest that neither technology nor the Newtonian principles of linearity are sufficient to deal with the increasingly complex world in which we find ourselves. Complexity theory contends that there are underlying simplicities, or patterns, if we but look for them. These provide us with insights, if not predictions and solutions. Such an effort, if successful, promises to help us find the theme in the pudding.
I believe that we have done some things and made some progress, thanks in particular to the U.S. Marine Corps, in the application of nonlinear principles to the battlefield and operational art. Hopefully that progress will continue. But we need to devote our focus and concerns about the impact of nonlinearity on the arenas of strategy and international relations, as well. These proceedings help to move us in that direction.
As I urged the symposium's audience, I now urge the proceedings readers, "Kick off your mental shoes, and let your minds stray out of the boxes into which we normally find ourselves." See if among these papers there is a theme in the pudding.
Ervin J. Rokke
Lieutenant General, U.S. Air Force
President, National Defense University
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